Instagram Do’s and Don’ts (from an Influencer)

Instagram is a great tool to promote awareness of your brand and engage existing consumers. Most businesses now recognise the importance of utilising the social media platform as part of their marketing strategy; but how can you stand out from the crowd? Work experience student Jess Dodwell has some great insights… 

With an estimated 2.35 billion users as of January 2023, Instagram offers a huge potential audience for your message or product. However, the sheer number of accounts that the app now hosts inevitably increases competition for user interest.  

Brands are having to become increasingly creative in the ways that they create content as a result, which presents an exciting challenge to anyone hoping to integrate social media into their marketing plan. 

But why should you take it from me? As well as having recently completed work experience at Shooting Star, I run a food and wellness account on Instagram which has amassed over 26,000 followers in two years. What started out as a lockdown passion project has become a valuable asset which I’ve been able to monetise and use as a testimonial to my experience. I’ve worked with brands such as Manilife peanut butter, Monty Bojangles and Love Raw to increase exposure for their products. 

What’s more, I’ve never paid Instagram a dime. There’s no hard and fast rule that equates growing a social media presence with shelling out tons of your budget on paid ads. It helps, of course, especially if you have limited time or want to grow quickly – but there are ways around the algorithm. 

I’ve collated a few of the most effective (and ineffective!) strategies I’ve tried and seen below, but a little experimentation of your own is also important – as is remembering that social media should be fun! Trying to shoehorn a corporate agenda into your Instagram posts will feel curated, faceless and manufactured. People use Instagram to unwind and destress with a bit of escapism. There’s no one-size-fits-all rule, but the better you can help them to do this, the better they will engage with your content. 

Do: post consistently  

The Instagram algorithm is inherently self-interested, and it doesn’t like accounts that aren’t contributing to the app’s own success. If you post sporadically, Instagram won’t see your account as adding value to their site, and your account won’t be prioritised on the Explore page (which is where popular posts are showcased to new audiences).  

Do: prioritise quality 

When it comes to trying to gain traction on social media, you’ll need both quality and quantity. Consistency is key, as outlined above, but if your posts aren’t relevant or visually appealing then they aren’t going to attract anyone to look at them.  

People chasing that dopamine hit from Instagram (which, let’s be honest, is basically everyone) aren’t looking for bland, corporate stills; they want colours and text and moving animations. Better still, if you can co-ordinate the colours that you use on your feed, you introduce coherence, which in turn reinforces your brand identity and makes you more recognisable to the consumer. 

Don’t: underestimate the use of influencers and ambassadors 

The fact is that people follow people more than they follow brands. Luckily, there are work-arounds in the form of influencers – people who have large followings and are happy to promote your product on their socials for a fee. Or, in many cases, just free products. Especially if you deploy micro-influencers, with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers; their services are often relatively inexpensive (trust me – I am one).  

Working with influencers who target a niche audience that’s aligned with your customer base effectively increases your visibility and is more likely to increase your follower count. One example comes from Gymshark (5.7 million followers), who collaborate with ambassadors to produce clothing lines, host events and run social media takeovers. Much of their success comes from the cross-promotion that they receive from these accounts, who are often athletes or people who work in the fitness industry.  

Don’t: forget about meaning  

Personalising your Instagram will help people to connect with the brand. Whether that means roping in your staff or reaching out to famous faces who can lend credibility to a campaign, people like to be able to ‘put a face to the name’.  

If your posts feel anonymous, or your brand voice is difficult to relate to, people will quickly unfollow. Using Q&A features on your stories lets the customer know that you’re willing to listen, and has the added benefit of giving valuable insight on their wishes and/or concerns. People often forget that stories are often just as important as posts in engaging your audience. 

But, be careful! There’s a fine line between being interactive and being unprofessional. Keep in mind that, as an organisation, your page wants to be slick and appealing as a business prospect. As a young person who consumes a lot of social media, I’d avoid any pages that post too many boomerangs and filters. This isn’t the kind of meaningful content that will resonate with followers and help to elevate a brand’s social media presence. Supporting and marking initiatives such as Earth Day, International Women’s Day etc. through socially relevant posts will help evidence your humanity in a more professional way. 

One final thing… 

There’s a huge amount to say about Instagram and how it can be used as a business tool. It’s entirely possible to go on day-long deep dives or find yourself down a Google rabbit-hole when researching this kind of thing. The truth is that growing an organic following is difficult, and often very unpredictable. The trick is to not be disheartened if you find yourself in a rut. Instagram is, above all, a very dynamic platform and new trends are constantly surfacing that your business can use to its advantage. 

For even more tips on social media strategy that you can start implementing straight away, check out our ‘Instagram for Business’ blog post.