10 Pro Tips for Instagram

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 “In an effort to cut through the noise that will come with Instagram’s new advertising push, brands need to adopt a more strategic approach to their investment in social media. Marketers must delve deeper into their social audiences to further enrich audience profiles, improve messaging and targeting strategies and finally, boost the relevancy and performance of their campaigns.” – Javier Burón, SocialBro CEO and Co-founder

“There’s no explanation on how to use Instagram for promoting a business.” Amy Geans, Founder of Event Solutions Intl.

Instagram is impressive. It boasts the highest engagement of any social network (4.21 percent engagement per post compared to .07 percent for Facebook), and it is the fastest growing (larger) social network. Images get attention, and Instagram has found the secret formula to effectively present visual content to a social audience.

Despite all the unique features of Instagram, businesses still have questions about what to make of it. Paid options for Instagram don’t (yet) exist for everyone, and the leap of faith for small- to medium-sized businesses to commit resources to a visual social network like Insta without the ad targeting features of Facebook is (as Geans describes) pretty huge.

In this post, I want to share 10 Instagram tips from the experts. These are people who are effectively using Instagram to communicate with and to engage their audience. I didn’t just ask everyone I spoke with to give me tips about Instagram; I asked them to give me their best tips about Instagram. Hopefully their insight will give you some ideas about how you can improve your Instagram presence.

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1. Optimize your hashtags

Hashtags - Instagram for PR and marketing

Possibly the most well-known and important secret about gaining distribution and exposure on Instagram is to use hashtags liberally. Instagram hashtags are rivaled only by Twitter in their capability to categorize and classify social posts, and to aid discovery.

Beth McShane, Executive Director of the non-profit Northwest Autism Foundation says that hashtags can be a far more effective tool for reach on Instagram than only posting to your organic audience. She also says that researching hashtags is key to finding your most effective reach:

“Hashtags rule! On Instagram more than Facebook or Twitter. I’ve received more followers through best hashtag practices than from any photo. Be sure to do a trial run and see how many followers a particular hashtag has before you decide which hashtags are the best fit.”

Branding expert Emmelie De La Cruz says that hashtag research is critical to reach your desired audience on Instagram:

“With the new Instagram update, one thing that I do to increase exposure for the accounts I manage is use the Explore page to inform me of what hashtags are popular and that I should be using. I will either create content around those tags or tag already existing photos with any hashtags that may be relevant.”

Marketer Charmian Solter says that the Instagram’s convention allowing 30 hashtags per post allows brands to add more searchable context to content:

“One of the best ways to promote your business or online persona on Instagram is through use of hashtags posted under the images. I have never seen more hashtags used at one time than on Instagram. These tags will categorize your image and bring it up in more Instagram searches, thus increasing your business exposure.”

PR expert Ancita Satija says that too many hashtags often obfuscate the context of a post:

“What I have observed is the use of way too many hash tags people use and not sure how so many hash tags help.”

Social Media Examiner contributor Eric Sornoso agrees with Satija, recommending that brands apply no more than five hashtags to any Instagram post.

Writer Nikhil Devgan Beebom says that adding hashtags to your comments contextualizes your post for search the same as if you added hashtags to the post:

“Instagram does not allow us to edit what we have written in our posts like Facebook does…. what you can do is that you can post those required hashtags in a comment below your post. They’ll work in the same way as your hashtag in the description works.”

If you’re going to be an Instagram power user – you need to harness the power of the hashtag, especially with Instagram continuing to improve its search features.

2. Customize your bio

Everyone knows the benefit of creating a memorable bio, but when it comes to Instagram some bios seem more extraordinary than others.

Writer Aaron Lee writes that creating a bio in Word is a helpful trick to add unique formatting to your Instagram profile:

“Write your bio in a separate Word doc then copy & paste it onto your Instagram account.”

3. Match the message to the medium

Like any community, Instagram has its own unique rules and culture. A heavily hash-tagged photo may be appropriate for Instagram but look out of place on Facebook or Twitter.

Charmian Solter says that segmenting your digital audience across platforms can help you to cater your content:

“Segmentation, knowing where your targeted audience lives in the digital space will help you decide what is the best social media platform on which to focus your online presence.”

Marketing expert Randy Bowden says that repurposed “bumper” advertisements as well as other produced videos are a low-cost way for brands to use Instagram video:

“When using Instagram make the message fit the platform. It is easy to repurpose a 15 second bumper advertisement but a specific produced and edited piece will grab attention in one’s stream. Look for creative that gives a personal feel.”

Want even more Instagram tips and best practices? Click here to get your free Instagram tip sheet now!

4. Theme

Social media expert Hannah Clark writes that many high-interest Instagram profiles have an overarching theme or point of view that makes them compelling:

“Many successful Instagram accounts have a certain theme that carries throughout each of their photos. Ask yourself, just what is my thing? This could mean you are completely location based, like NYC-based photographer@alice_gao. Or maybe you are a small restaurant that wants to highlight its delicious menu—if that’s the case, find inspiration from @tattebakery.”

5. Take better pictures

Instagram Tips for PR - Better Pictures
Instagram is an image-based social platform, meaning that content is high-interest by design. Social Media Marketing Consultant Dorien Morin-van Dam says that if you’re using a mobile device to take an Instagram photo, you should only use the best of the two cameras:

“Stop using the front-facing camera (the one people use for selfies). The rear-facing camera is much better; it takes pictures at a much higher resolution. If you want to make your pictures stand out, get someone else to take your picture and ditch the selfie, or try ‘shooting blind’ with the rear-facing camera.”

Learning a few basic photographic techniques can help to give novice photographers a leg up on Instagram. And if your photographer is a pro, all you have to do is worry about the hashtags…..

6. Focus on the entire post, not just the image

Hannah Clark says that captions shouldn’t be overlooked when posting to Instagram. The image may be the star, the hashtags may offer context, but the caption helps to tell a specific story:

“Captions are an incredibly important element of your photo. Telling a story with your captions gives your followers a little bit of insight into you as an expert, and the context of the photo.”

7. Don’t just use the mobile app

Just because Instagram started as a mobile app doesn’t mean that you have to process your images or even create posts from the app anymore. For instance I like to use Retrica filters on my photos and then send them to Instagram.

Marketer Fiona Stoop says that she processes her Instagram images using Squarer:

“The app I use most for Instagram is Squarer. My picture fits perfectly in the insta frame. It has awesome lay-outs and is simple to use.”

Instagram also has two organic apps: Hyperlapse and Layout. Hyperlapse shoots time-lapse videos from your phone, and Layout helps to combine multiple photos into one post.

Writer Karen Tumbokon writes that app gifshare will help you to post popular gif files to your Instagram page. She also writes that her preferred photo-editing apps for Instagram have no affiliation with Insta:

“While Instagram offers a good selection of filters, there are plenty of photo-editing apps like VSCOcam, Snapseed, and Adobe Photoshop Express that will really make your photos stand out and take them to the next level. Within those apps you can find the best filter that works for you, so you can really make your photos pop.”

Popular blogger Jeff Bullas writes that he uses AfterLight to process his Instagram photos.

Writer Tereza Litsa writes that managing Instagram from your desktop can offer some advantages over the mobile app:

” It is very convenient to check Instagram’s web version when you have to reply to a comment or check your images at a bigger screen. We all use our smartphones constantly, but it feels better typing from our laptops, right?”

8. Embed your Instagram posts

Your Instagram posts are portable to your other digital properties using the Instagram embed code feature. Like this:

We love our new Koozie. What do you think? #koozie #swag

A photo posted by Cision (@cisionglobal) on

9. Keep your profile consistent by using shortlinks

Marketing manager Maebellyne Ventura recommends maintaining a consistent profile by managing redirects with a link shortener. She says that this allows marketers to change campaigns frictionlessly to their digital audience:

“If you’re promoting a new blog post or landing page, direct your followers to a live link on your profile. You can use a service like bit.ly or tiny.cc to create a custom short link, for example: cisi.on/instagram. But instead of changing the link on your profile each time you have new content to share, simply log on to your chosen service and edit the underlying URL the short link points to.”

10. Build community

Since Instagram is a social network and not a one-to-many publishing platform, the final tip has to do with bringing the social aspect of Insta full-circle. Beth McShane says that community building on Instagram is a matter of paying attention and interacting with people on the platform:

“Create a true community on Instagram by following those who regularly like your content, and comment on those photos that you appreciate.”

CMO Keri Jaehnig says that interacting on Instagram is a key aspect of success for brands:

“Post and re-post images that show your product or service in use. And use hashtags to be visible in conversation where your optimal follower will be. Be sure to comment on photos using hashtags that are appropriate for your brand, and these three things will lead to Instagram success.”


Instagram is a high-engagement, growth platform that for many businesses remains an enigma. For communications professionals, an image-based communications platform may be a bit foreign to your PR training. For businesses, Instagram may be just enigmatic enough to dismiss. Hopefully these tips help to curb your Instagram anxiety. Also this:

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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.

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