5 Steps to a Winning Instagram Strategy

winning instagram strategy

The number of active users of Instagram is huge, engaged, and growing. In 2021, there were 1.21 billion active Instagram users, comprising 28% of all internet users worldwide. The same source predicts that, by 2025, over 31% of all internet users (1.44 billion) will be active on Instagram. Some sources place the number of engaged users at 2 billion making this platform an even bigger opportunity for your brand. With this number of eyeballs, it’s no wonder that companies around the globe consider Instagram a great tool for reaching prospective buyers, especially younger consumers. Today, we’ll focus on developing a winning Instagram strategy to help you capture your share of this growing marketplace.

Below, you can see the advertising reach for Instagram among various age groups, although you should note that GenXers are the fastest growing group on Instagram, by age. Interestingly, nearly all Instagram users also participate in other social platforms. Hence, you should consider this factor as you develop future Instagram strategies. For today, we’ll focus on building a winning Instagram strategy for your business or optimizing your strategy if you already have one.

winning instagram strategy
Image courtesy of Hootsuite

The Instagram platform

Instagram, just like other platforms owned by the parent company, Meta, evolved over time. Instagram started as a photo-sharing app for the iPhone in 2010 before its acquisition by Facebook (now Meta) and a transition that included Android devices to maintain its focus on mobile viewing in 2012, although users can now access the app using desktops via an iOS and Windows interface.

From its origin, Instagram was a visual social platform featuring square images (that grew larger over time) that were easily edited with filters and shared using hashtags and location services to attract followers. Not without controversy over security, privacy, and inappropriate content, Instagram grew rapidly to become the 4th largest social media platform today.

Building a winning Instagram strategy

To build a winning Instagram strategy, let’s start by understanding the features embedded in the platform and how to use them properly.


Images are still the core of a winning Instagram strategy, just as they were in the beginning. However, evolution over time brought the ability to use multiple images (for instance a carousel no longer restricted to squares), stories (a story told with multiple pictures that each disappears after 24 hours), and reels (short videos designed to compete with TikTok). Reels now account for the most engagement on the platform and led to declining engagement for posts.

More recently, Instagram added a LIVE feature.


Choosing the right hashtags and including the right number of hashtags is the key to reaching your audience. The Instagram creators account recommends somewhere between 3 and 5 hashtags per post, which is much lower than Instagram’s recommendation of 8-15. You should choose hashtags related to your content as well as those that resonate with your target market (see below). I commonly use a combination of hashtags related to my content with a large number of followers and hashtags related to my brand.


Instagram posts allow for a short description (actually you can use a longer one but long descriptions don’t do much for your engagement and may even hurt it). Keep the description pithy and include a link to your content, such as a web page with more information or a storefront (although you can’t include a clickable link in your descriptions until you reach 10,000 followers). The workaround for this limitation is to add the link to your profile and change that link with subsequent posts. which isn’t ideal.


Obviously, you want comments as a means to spread your message to new users. But, don’t just sit back and expect users to comment. Give them explicit instructions on the types of comments to post and give them something to comment on. For instance, post an image that stops users in their tracks as they scan their feed then ask them to comment on the post such as posting a caption for the weird image.

Getting your Instagram strategy right

While there are lots of elements to include in your Instagram strategy, we decided to pick out these 5 as they offer the biggest bang for your buck. To learn more about building a digital marketing strategy, check out this post.

1. Know about your target market

The first step to creating a winning Instagram strategy, or any marketing strategy for that matter, is knowing your target market in detail. This is the most crucial step of every marketing strategy. When you know who your target market is, you can aim to generate better conversions from among your Instagram followers, gain followers, and reach more users.

Building a marketing persona for each target market helps you determine what to post, when to post it, and helps you laser focus on content that your market finds interesting. Below, you can see a template for building a persona or personas representing each of your target markets. While this reflects a B2B customer, you can easily adapt this to end users.

crafting personas
Image courtesy of Buffer

2. Be flexible and alter your content to fit your customer’s needs

Once you know the needs of your target market, providing what they expect becomes much easier. Make sure the entire team is committed to altering the contents as per the requirements of your ideal customer or customers as reflected in the persona(s).

A place to start is an evaluation of your existing Instagram followers to gain insights into who they are, what they respond to (and what they don’t), and how they respond to the content you post, such as how they frame comments. Once you know that, you can start to dig deeper to understand Instagram-specific habits, buying habits, engagement habits, and the problems they face. You can fabricate your content by stressing these specifics to serve your customers and prospects better.

3. Use customer-generated content

User-generated content, or UGC, has an enormous impact on both reach and engagement, as well as increasing brand trust and buying intentions. Before making a purchase, an average customer reads at least ten reviews about the product. Products with 5 reviews have conversion rates 270% higher than products without any reviews, according to the same source. Obviously, a customer trusts your current and old customers’ reviews about your brand.

But, reviews are only one form of UGC and all forms result in positive benefits for your brand such as reaching new users in your target market.

Encouraging UGC isn’t as simple as just waiting for someone to feel motivated to post something. You can use contests as a means to encourage UGC, such as the local dentist who asks patients to post images of themselves wearing a t-shirt given to new patients in their travels. He awards prizes each month to those patients deemed as producing the most interesting post. You can offer discounts for sharing your coupons with other users or offer customers a coupon when they share something on Instagram about your brand.

Using influencers is a means to encourage UGC although you must use care that these posts don’t appear overly promotional or something done to get paid. A good influencer has significant user engagement from their following, not just a large following, and can promote your brand without appearing like a commercial message.

4. Strictly follow specific customer engagement strategies

For the fast growth of the follower base on Instagram and to retain the existing loyal customers, you must step into a long-term commitment that puts your community first. Your strategies should not only revolve around sales; instead, concentrate more on posting value consistently. To adapt the right balance, consider implementing the 80/20 rule. Under this rule, 80% of your total posts should be value-oriented content. The primary goal of such content is to educate and enlighten your ideal customers.

Who doesn’t love gifts and discounts? So, make your post viral and contemplate hosting a giveaway, flash sales, and challenges that would magnify customer engagement. Inspire and vitalize your customers to ask questions by inviting them; this way, your post-engagement level will shoot up manifold.

5. Measure, analyze, repeat

No matter how much experience you have and how well your campaigns performed in the past, you need to monitor your performance using key metrics related to your success such as engagement and conversion. Using tagging as a tool to track the performance of individual posts or campaigns all the way through your website to conversion provides a better understanding of what types of content work best with your market. Armed with this data, you can optimize performance using insights gleaned from past performance.


Building a winning Instagram strategy takes time, as it may take 6 months or more before you see the fruits of your labor so don’t jump from one tactic to another without giving your existing campaigns time to prove their worth. Over time, you’ll see a vast improvement in performance by following these 5 steps to building a winning Instagram strategy.