EP46 – Introduction to Instagram

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To watch the video recording of this episode, click here

As Carter and I forecasted in our last episode, today’s conversation is about marketing on Instagram. I know next to nothing about Instagram, but the subject is right up Carter’s alley because his team has recently launched a marketing campaign on the platform.

Those of you who have been living under a rock (as I apparently have) may not know Facebook acquired Instagram in April 2012 for the sum of $1 billion.

In the year following this acquisition, Facebook grew by only 3%, but Instagram grew by 23%. And Instagram has only gotten more popular since then.

Right now, Instagram is reminiscent of the good old days of Facebook when there weren’t a lot of marketers and the platform didn’t feel so spammy. It is a fantastic social networking platform that can also utilize Facebook’s powerful ad targeting tools, which makes it promising territory for internet entrepreneurs.

So What is Instagram, Anyway?

If you’ve never used Instagram before, the short answer is it’s a photo sharing site. When the website launched, all the photos were square and meant to imitate old-school Polaroid photos. You could easily apply filters to uploaded photos, which everyone loved.

Image credit: Mackey Saturday, https://dribbble.com/shots/1054954-Instagram-Logo

The platform has become a way to share your life without the annoying and opinionated stuff you see on Facebook posts. You don’t have to put up with other people’s rants, and the photo-based nature of the platform reinforces the idea that it is all about sharing moments.

Instagram only allows one link out of the website per user, and you have to place that link on your profile page. Any images you post cannot contain hyperlinks. This is a genius idea because it essentially eliminates spam.

Sharing and posting links on Facebook has become so common that each link is no longer worth anything. Limiting the number of links you can share makes that one link all the more valuable, and people are more likely to click it.

If you’re a good marketer, you can update the link on your profile page according to new content or a promotion on your external website.

When someone goes through the effort to visit your profile and click the link you list, it indicates you have delivered something they want to see. At this point they are a very hot lead.

Marketing Theory for Instagram

On Instagram, you tell a story with your posts by sharing moments. A lot of companies share quotes, tips, photos of their team members or offices, and so on.

You can use photos to give an inside look into your brand and make a real connection with your audience. You can give away a lot of value and develop a relationship that is not defined by annoying, spammy posts. Then you can go for the sale.

Of course, this strategy can also work on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites, but many of those other platforms contain so much marketing spam that people are savvy and wary of being sold.

There is much less of that stuff on Instagram, so people who interact with your brand get the genuine feeling of being part of your club. This gives them a positive opinion of your brand and makes them excited to do business with you.

Practical Marketing Strategies for Instagram

If you are familiar with Facebook’s advertising tools (a topic we discussed in Episode 41), then you may know about their Power Editor platform, an extremely useful tool for online advertising.

For several years, advertising on Instagram was available to only a select few corporations. But about two months ago, Instagram began allowing small businesses to run ads on their website.

Since Facebook owns Instagram, you can now run ads through Power Editor and have them appear on Instagram. You can leverage the outrageous amount of data the Facebook platform provides on another platform that has more attention than Facebook and is more genuine.

Pretty much everything available in Facebook Power Editor works for Instagram, including ad retargeting. It’s also important to know that ads on Instagram can contain a clickable link to an exterior site, which makes ads the exception to the “one link” rule.

Videos were recently incorporated into the platform, but they can be no longer than 15 seconds. In addition to uploading a standard video capture, you can take rapid-fire snapshots with your camera and have Instagram stitch them together into a slideshow-like video.

Carter encourages you to first build an authentic following by giving value before beginning to roll out ads. Don’t go overboard with tons of ads all at once, or you will risk alienating your audience.

For example, Carter’s team just got serious about building their Instagram following, and they are not even thinking about running ads until mid-December at earliest.

How Do I Deliver Value and Build a Following?

We will use United Business Leaders as an example to explain how to accomplish this task.

Their target audience consists of business leaders, entrepreneurs, marketing directors, and the like. They have researched a lot of simple business hacks and 2-cents quotes they can use for their posts that will resonate with business owners. They also suggest of “Book of the Day.”

In summary, they are serving up information that is useful and appealing to business people, offering little tidbits of value. Over time, this builds a community in an authentic way.

But how do people find your page in the first place? The biggest way is through hashtags. Carter’s team does a lot of research on what hashtags will give them the best results.

Don’t be spammy with your hashtags, either. For their “Book of the Day” posts, Carter’s team will typically hashtag the author, “business books,” and “Saturday reading” (the last two are popular hashtags that get a lot of clicks).

Aside from hashtags, you can also attract interest to your page by following other users, liking and commenting on their posts, and generally interacting with the community and your audience. Show interest to receive interest in turn.

Building Your Brand with Instagram

If you want to use Instagram to build your brand, the first step is to ask yourself what your avatar would want to hear about, and then brainstorm ways to tell that story as a visual experience.

Creating visual material is not as intimidating as you might think. You can simply use stock photos with text overlaid, but you must be careful about copyright laws if you use this approach.

You could use the simple design app Canva to create all your posts if you wanted. Alternatively, Wordswag allows you to take photos on your phone and then add text, potentially eliminating the need to purchase stock photos (but this app is only for Apple products).

You don’t have to be fancy with your posts; you just have to deliver value. It’s easy and fun to create content that your audience will like. In fact, if you aren’t having fun, then you may be doing it wrong.

You will have to decide whether you want to build a personal brand or a corporate brand. The debate over personal vs. corporate branding continues to rage, and both approaches have pros and cons.

Carter prefers the corporate brand because it allows him to escape for a week or two while his team runs the business in his absence. The downside of corporate brands is they take longer to grow than personal brands because people connect better with personal brands. But really, you can make it work with either approach.

The bottom line about Instagram is it’s a platform on which people are spending a lot of time and which is not yet ruined by spammy marketers. Carter encourages all our listeners to get on Instagram and start providing value to their potential customers.

Carter’s Book and App of the Week

Book: The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor. This book contains a lot of quantitative data and research about little work-related things you can do that will drastically increase your overall happiness. It explains small adjustments you can make in your thinking and your daily routine that free up your mind and improve your mood. It’s an easy read filled with enlightening case studies.

App: Instagram, obviously. Go download it if you don’t have it. You may not know it’s primarily a mobile app: you can access it on a desktop computer, but you can only post in the mobile version.


Thanks for listening, watching and/or reading this week’s episode of the Coders’ Startup. As always, we hope you learned a few tips you can use to improve your business.

In future episodes, Carter would like to dive into more advanced Instagram marketing tactics, including real-world results and case studies. I’m also interested in discussing webinars, since I just finished my first one and I now have a lot of tips about how to run them successfully. Stay tuned to see which direction we go in first.

In the meantime, visit United Business Leaders’ profile on Instagram and follow them for great entrepreneurial tips. You can also follow me at @tenaciously__t.



The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor