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How to Be Clever about Promoting Your Product on Instagram

Kenny Novak • Updated on September 13, 2014
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Right now, we are in the midst of a gold rush.  Instagram has been outed as home to one of the most engaged audiences on the Internet by a long shot.  Businesses are flocking to the site to try to make use of this engagement potential before it’s gone, before the crush of businesses drives user interest down and the average user grows jaded with classless marketing.  Now is the best time short of last year to get involved with Instagram.

The thing about Instagram is that you really need to learn and understand the site.  If you’re playing it using stale marketing tactics, you’re going to have a bad time.  Rather than make things harder than they need to be, do your research.  Here are a whole bunch of ideas to help you market on the site in a clever way.

Follow the Instagram for Business Blog

This blog is provided by Instagram in response to the influx of businesses looking to use the site for marketing, which proves that the staff – if not many of the users – are perfectly fine with the trend.  You can find a lot of useful news and information about marketing trends and tools through this blog.

Post a Variety of Images

Categorize your images when you post them.  Post a picture of your employees having fun outside of your office; tag it internally with data about its contents, and file it away.  Check back later to see what engagement it received.  Post another picture of a customer’s pet, do the same thing.  Do this with every image you post, branded or not, to find out what users like best.  This will help you determine what kind of images you should focus on for maximum engagement.

Use the Best Hashtags

Hashtags on Instagram are similar to how they work on Twitter.  You need to pick a few hashtags for each image you upload.  Don’t forget to use a branded hashtag, to give your users a place to chat about you.  If you’re interested in what the most popular hashtags are, you can use this list at Webstagram.  Some are generic, some are more applicable to other countries and some won’t work for your business.  Others just may be perfect.


Try to do some keyword research and compare the keywords to hashtag popularity lists.  Identify a handful of branded hashtags you can put to use, 15-20 hashtags that relate to your product or business, and another handful of local tags if applicable.  Don’t use them all at once; pick a couple to go with each picture.

Edit Your Photos

Some people seem like they can take professional photos effortlessly.  Others put a lot of work and thought into composition, lighting and editing, all to make it look effortless.  Don’t delude yourself into thinking every picture you take is perfect; tweak the colors, saturations, lighting and borders in your images to make them really pop.  Etsy is a great source of ideas for putting this tip into action.


A huge part of the power of Instagram is the fact that it’s a truly social network.  Facebook claims to be a social network, but when you really look at it, the majority of what you see is one-sided posting into a semi-interested void.  On Instagram, even the most vocal, successful businesses frequently take the time to like photos from their users, share photos that interest them regardless of branding and generally keep up their end of the social bargain.  In essence; treat yourself as a user, not as a business.

Be Human

A huge part of the power of Instagram comes from the ability to humanize your brand.  Even more than any other social network, you can put forth a very compelling human face.  You can share candid photos and behind the scene images that show the inner workings of your business.  You can show how-it’s-made style insider pictures of your products.  You can put forward news and exclusive content driven by people, not just branding.

Use Filters

Instagram filters are a way to apply an image effect to your pictures without relying on Photoshop or image manipulation skills.  They’re quick, they’re easy and they have a surprising effect on engagement.  According to TrackMaven, the three best filters to use are Mayfair, Inkwell and Walden.  However, don’t worry about not using a filter.  In fact, when given the option, no filter is better than most other filters, with only Mayfair holding a higher level of engagement.

That’s not to say you should blindly follow the recommendations of a website you read one time.  Instead, test out various filters and monitor the feedback.  You might find that your users love when you post pictures under Willow or Rise, more so than Amaro or Walden.  Discover what your audience likes and take advantage of it.

Stalk the Competition


Your competitors, if they have a presence on Instagram, are a benefit to you.  This may sound counter-intuitive, but you can leverage their success.  Stalk their Instagram account and build a list of everyone who follows them.  Go through that list and follow them, like a picture they have uploaded and comment on that picture.  Your competitors might not even realize you’re pulling the rug out from under them.  You can do this on Twitter as well, for that matter.

Make Use of Video

Vine has exploded in the past year as a great place for humorous videos and micronarratives.  Instagram responded by introducing their own video system, with videos nearly three times as long, the addition of filters, image stabilization and more.  You can see a full list of the differences here.  Instagram offers numerous perks if you can make short videos to capture the attention and love of your users.

Use Apps

Instagram is an app, but it has several other apps made to present it in a better light, with more features, or as companion apps to help streamline your Instagram experience.  You can do anything from see new photo browsers, search based on tags, use it on desktop, create prints and much more.  Make use of any of these apps if they might help your experience.

Use Instagram Elsewhere

Instagram links quickly and easily with your website, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other profiles.  When given the option between uploading a photo natively or linking to it through Instagram, you should probably use the Instagram option.  You can use this for contests, promotions or just general usage.


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