It’s late at night. I’m already in bed, doing a last-minute scroll down my Instagram feed. I’m always amazed at how easy it is for us to believe people care about our pictures and lives, but here I am — liking a tender, cheese-topped burger a friend from high school posted. If you can’t beat them, join them, right?

In 2014, Forrester analyzed and found that Instagram posts had the highest per-follower engagement rate, surging way past Facebook and Twitter. Much of this has to do with the way marketing has evolved. It’s no longer enough to simply copy and paste text onto your business Facebook account. Marketing is changing, so should you. And with numbers like these, it’d be silly for businesses to skip this much-loved social media channel.


So, What’s the Deal with Instagram?

Visual marketing isn’t just a buzzword. Well, it is — but it’s an extremely important one. Incorporating images and visuals into your campaigns will make your marketing strategies more compelling and sticky with your audiences. And that’s where Instagram comes in.

There are an estimated 300 million users on Instagram a month. 300 million users. That is an incredibly huge number, no matter who your target audience is. As a social media platform concentrating solely on publishing visual materials, Instagram offers businesses and organizations a pretty straightforward channel of reaching their audiences. Granted, it does take a lot of legwork.

Of course, I should add an addendum: it’s not like print marketing is going anywhere. Creating engaging content is still crucial for successful campaigns. Just think of Instagram as a new branch of your content strategy!

An Ulterior Motive: Targeting Millennials

Millennials represent a huge and growing portion of the purchasing power in the United States, an estimated $1.3 trillion. Although we can be a finicky bunch, marketers shouldn’t panic. The questions you ask about any other consumer base—how to inspire them, build brand loyalty, and, yes, get their money — are still the same.

Like a lot of marketing campaigns, you should never do them just to do them. Be strategic. Studies show millennials are more visually inclined and tend to align themselves with brands they personally identify with. As millennials continue to hold more influence, businesses have to interact with them on their terms to be successful, making visual marketing a must in your business’s outreach efforts. And here is where Instagram comes in: according to the Pew Research Center, more than half of adults ages 18 to 29 use Instagram, topping out at around 53%.

Creating visual materials that inspire and engage will be crucial to your strategy of targeting millennials and gaining their support. Fortunately, being a photographer is not required. I’ve put together a handy list of tips and tricks you and your brand can incorporate today to boost your Instagram campaign and build your audiences.

5 Tips for Successful Instagram Campaigns

1. Share Quality Images

It’s no brainer that quality images will generate quality engagement. But you don’t need to be a genius at photography to capture winning moments. There are just a few things you should keep in mind. First off — I know it sounds like a drain — but really take your time. Instagram users won’t respond well to images that are out of focus, blurry, have less than ideal lighting, or are just generally uninteresting. Taking multiple shots will ensure you have a good batch to choose from.

If you ever need some creative assistance, there are hundreds of third party editing apps that can elevate your images. Personally, my favorites are Snapseed for general correcting and VSCO Cam for more stylistic editing. A word to the wise: always err on the side of less dramatic editing; your pictures should look natural and clean. Think of editing apps as the cherry on top that will take your picture to the next level.

2. Tell Your Brand’s Story

The pictures you share should tell a compelling story about your brand’s identity. I work for a creative web agency that prides itself on work culture, so the pictures I decide to post strategically reflect that story — whether I’m posting shots of team collaboration or summer grilling days. Don’t sweat, though. Highlighting your story isn’t just about sharing photos of the people you work with. If you are a product-based company, for example, Instagram is the perfect channel to showcase your products in a creative way. Take a look below to see what brands feature their products right!

3. Use Hashtags

No, hashtags aren’t just annoying little phrases teenagers use. They actually serve an extremely important function of getting your pictures seen. There are two kinds of hashtags you should utilize: popular hashtags and industry-related hashtags.

Popular hashtags are “trending,” or topics that are most shared in the social world. Hashtags like #tbt (Throwback Thursday) or #photooftheday are excellent beginning points to get your posts seen. A quick search of popular hashtags will give you ample results, just make sure the hashtags you use are relevant.

Industry-related require more research, but will give you access to a more niche audience of people and businesses like you. On Instagram I like using the hashtag #agencylife to connect to other agencies and give them an inside look at what we are doing.

4. Aim for 2 to 3 Photos a Week to Start

When you are starting out, focus on quality over quantity. Although one study estimated you should post 1 photo a day, it’s better to concentrate your efforts to crafting great images and building your strategy, rather than rushing in. Once you find what works for you, then you can start increasing the frequency of your posts.

5. Like and Comment on Photos

So, the key to engagement is not just fantastic images alone. I know it’s a little strange, but think of your social channels as living beings. The things needed for strong friendships — communication, openness — are also needed for strong business-consumer relationships. Make some time during your day to like and comment on other people’s photos and reply when people drop comments on your own photos. Just be sure to explain to your boss that you’re doing this for work!

Brands Who Do It Right


I don’t have a GoPro, but GoPro’s Instagram makes me want one. Granted, my lack of athleticism will be my downfall, but their Instagram is a shining example of how a company can blend their actual product with the product’s function. What you get are engaging and quite beautiful photos that tell a story about the kind of consumers GoPro has, while also enticing audiences to want to buy one.

GoPro Instagram

Birchbox made some extremely smart choices about the pictures they chose to share on Instagram. Tapping into lifestyle marketing not only showcases their range of beauty and cosmetic products. It allows users to visualize themselves using the actual products, making them much more likely to subscribe to their services.

Birchbox Instagram
Charity: Water   

If you are a nonprofit, you are in the perfect position to utilize Instagram to highlight your causes. Charity: Water, a nonprofit that brings clean water to developing countries, does a wonderful job of sharing beautiful, engaging images to support their mission. They another fantastic example of an organization telling its story through imagery. More importantly, they are establishing a clear value proposition for what they do, which is essential for building support.

CharityWater Instagram