With hundreds of millions of daily active users, Instagram is one of the best free tools for reaching your target market. But you can’t just plunge into a posting palooza and expect results. Yes, posting regularly is important, but it should be part of a larger strategy for promoting your Instagram account. The more familiarity users have with your brand on this platform, the more trust you can garner and the more effective the rest of your marketing efforts will be.
What’s great is that there are plenty of ways to promote your Instagram account—all for free. So in this post, I am going to walk you through 20 such strategies. I’ll cover:
- How to cross-promote your profile across other channels
- How to use relationship-building to organically promote your account
- Native Instagram features that can help promote your profile
- Content-driven methods of getting more eyes on your account
I even threw in a few [not as free] bonus strategies for if you have the budget. Regardless of the strategy, you’ll find the overarching theme of this post to be that of promoting your Instagram account to the right audience. After all, what good does it do to have people who aren’t a good match for your business following and engaging with you?
Reasons to promote your business via Instagram
Promoting your business in general is a no-brainer, but for the sake of this post, let’s talk about why promoting your Instagram business profile particularly is worth your time. Here’s what you can accomplish by promoting your IG:
- Exposure: Instagram is the second-most downloaded free app in the Apple app store (Source: Apple)
- Reach: Instagram is the third-most-popular social media platform in the world, with 1 billion monthly active users and 500 million daily active users (Source: Instagram).
- Connect with your audience: Instagram is the most gender-neutral of the social media platforms, at 50.9% female to 49.1% male, which means that your promotions are useful for connecting to both segments of your target audience (Source: Statista).
Customers: With such a large user base, you can pretty confidently conclude that you are reaching a large percentage of your target market on Instagram. And conveying value, earning trust, and building relationships on such a widely-used app will help you to attract and keep more customers.
Before you start promoting your Instagram account
Let’s first make sure that you are set up to get the most out of your Instagram account promoting. This involves having a business profile, making it public, and completing your bio.
1. Make sure you have an Instagram business account
Before you start attracting more people to your Instagram account, make sure your Instagram account is that of a business profile. If you’re using a personal-use Instagram account for your business, switching to a business account is actually very easy. At the bottom right of your home screen select the person icon, then the wheel in the screen’s top right corner. This will take you to the “Options” screen where you can select “Switch to Business Profile.”
2. Complete your profile
Being such a visual platform, incomplete Instagram profiles are extra unattractive; to the point where It would be better to have less people discovering a complete profile than to have more people arriving at an incomplete one. To complete your business profile, include useful details about your business, use a high-quality profile picture, and make sure your Instagram bio is written in your brand voice. Also, include a link to your website or a designated landing page in your bio.
3. Make yourself visible
You can’t promote your Instagram account and earn more followers if they can’t find you! So just run a double-check to make sure your profile is public. Otherwise, only those who are already following you can see your posts.
Okay, now that we have those fundamentals taken care of, it’s time to discuss how to promote your Instagram account effectively, without spending a dime.
Cross-promote your Instagram account
Digital marketing does not refer to one channel in particular. An effective strategy employs multiple channels at once, and through content consistency, creates a cohesive system that synergizes to bring you the best results. Here’s how to use your various other marketing channels to promote your Instagram account for free:
4. With email
It may be helpful to include the social media icons of your most-used platforms in the footer of your marketing emails—or even in your signature for regular emails. This of course does not outwardly promote your Instagram account, but it gives your audience yet one more point of access to your profile. Plus, I’d imagine that there are certain segments of your email list that are either loyal customers or highly qualified leads, so the chances that they may arrive at your Instagram account through one of your emails are higher.
You can also send out marketing emails that do directly promote your Instagram account. If you’re running a contest, giveaway, or event, you may want to direct readers to your Instagram profile so they can participate.
5. On your website
At this point, consumers expect social media icons to be on a business’s website, typically at the bottom in the footer, so be sure to add those icons and links to your handles. In addition, if your business is highly dependent on visuals (like before-and-after photos, beautiful landscapes, interior designs, etc.); if you’re a photographe or even planner with a gallery; or if you have a product feed on Instagram, you may want to have a page where your Instagram feed is embedded. Here are three free ways to connect your website page to your Instagram feed:
- Instagram’s own free embed feature if you are tech-savvy.
- Free plugins for those who use WordPress, like Smash Balloon.
- Free tools like EmbedSocial’s Forever-Free Instagram Widget for Websites
6. Via other social networks
If you have large followings or high engagement rates on other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, use these platforms as cross-promotional tools for your Instagram account. You could do this by using direct CTA’s, promoting the link to your Instagram bio, or sharing your latest Instagram photos and videos on those platforms. Since many people are active on more than one social network, you can likely persuade some to follow you on Instagram as well.
Use relationship-building to promote your Instagram account
The below strategies are win-win because they help to promote your Instagram account but also build a sense of community around your brand and give your followers a voice.
7. Start with your family and friends
This tip is particularly useful for small or local businesses, or those just starting out with their Instagram marketing. Connecting with family and friends will help you to garner some initial engagement, and they will (hopefully) be more than happy to promote your account on their own networks. Even if they don’t directly promote your account, their engagements with your profile will show up in their feed and their followers can discover you that way.
8. Prioritize engagement
Perhaps the best way to promote your Instagram account is through genuine engagement. Consumers like to feel heard, so the more you engage back with their comments, the more comments and exposure you will get. But don’t just be reactive with your engagement; proactively like and comment on the posts of your supporters, and follow them back. Each of these engagements organically promotes your Instagram account while at the same time strengthening your relationship with your audience and building trust.
9. Request and share user-generated content
User-generated content can boost your Instagram engagement while also promoting your business. There’s no better form of promotional content than that of real customers. Plus, when you share their content, they will likely repost it for their followers to see, further amplifying your reach.
A lot of user-generated content will occur organically, but you can also directly request it—through a challenge, a contest, or any simple and fun engagement activity. For example, ask your customers to share photos of themselves using their favorite product of yours, or supporting a cause that you care about. Especially with contests, this strategy could inspire (or even require) your followers to tag others who aren’t yet following your Instagram account. Just make sure that your efforts result in gaining followers that are interested in your business.
Just make sure that your efforts result in gaining followers that are interested in your business.
17. Follow and engage with Instagram influencers
Running an influencer collaboration can really boost your exposure on Instagram, but you can also simply engage with them in a way that supports their brand while also affording you added exposure. Don’t just like their posts; repost them and thoughtfully comment on them in a way that adds value to the post or the conversation. Be sure to take some time to completely familiarize yourself with an influencer‘s brand, audience, and content throughout the web so you can ensure you are fully aligned.
A bonus perk of this strategy is that regularly interacting with influencers can help you stay up-to-date with industry information and popular trends within your niche.
Use content to promote your Instagram account
At the heart of any good digital marketing strategy is content—informative, authentic, high-quality content that informs, engages, and satisfies your customers’ needs. Here’s how to incorporate content marketing into your Instagram promotion efforts.
10. Publish useful posts
This is one of the tried-and-true ways to promote your Instagram account for free—or rather, promote your business as a whole via Instagram. Attractive, interesting, and useful content gives users a reason to follow you. Here are some ideas and tips for useful content:
- The classic blog post post (not a typo): This is an Instagram post containing the title or a brief summary of a blog post and then the link to it.
- Long-form excerpt posts: Extract the key bullet points from your top-performing blog posts and include them in an Instagram post with a corresponding visual.
- Content from other sources: Share industry stats via charts, graphs, and other attractive visuals, being sure to tag the original source.
Keep in mind that you don’t always have to link back to your website in your Instagram posts. This is a great way to drive website traffic, but when you think about the number of posts in your followers’ feeds that contain links, a simple, a digestible tidbit post is like a breath of fresh air for them—something they can take in and feel a sense of completion as they scroll through their endless feed.
A digestible tidbit post is like a breath of fresh air for your followers—something they can take in and feel a sense of completion as they scroll through their endless feed.
You may not see an immediate spike in engagement or followers with this method, but it is an absolute must. If you consistently provide education and high-quality content over time and in your unique brand voice, your Instagram account is sure to gain a solid reputation and a relevant following.
11. Post captivating, high-quality images
I know, this is no earth-shattering revelation. But contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a professional photographer or have expensive equipment to produce attractive and captivating images for Instagram. There are plenty of free photo and video editing tools available through Instagram itself and other apps to help you create eye-catching, and quality images, such as Canva or Layout.
Kristin Damstetter’s vibrant Instagram feed proves that good-quality images are easier than you think.
Pro tip: For some businesses, it may be helpful to reserve your permanent feed for your quality images, gallery items, and more evergreen posts; and to save your raw, timely, and spontaneous content for your Instagram Story, which we will cover soon.
12. Post at the right time
It’s important to post regularly and consistently on Instagram, but you won’t be doing much to promote your account if you’re not posting at the right times. The “right time” varies according to your target audience, business type, and more, so you’ll need to put some thought into this.
For example, if your target market is made up heavily of executives, the best time to post might be at the close of work, around 5pm, or during their morning commute. But if your audience is primarily mothers of young children, your most opportune time is likely going to be late morning, once they’ve dropped off their little ones at school. Experiment and look at your analytics to find out the time during which posting will be most effective in promoting your Instagram account.
13. Ask questions in your posts
Using captions or polls to ask a question relevant to your niche is a great way to increase engagement, gain more exposure and boost your Instagram growth. Think about questions that will be fun to answer or about topics that matter to your target audience; just steer clear of anything too personal or controversial, as the resulting engagement could take an ugly turn.
You can also ask questions through Instagram Story Highlights (we’ll get to those later).
14. Always use #hashtags
When it comes to promoting your Instagram account, hashtags are essential. Use relevant hashtags in your posts and Stories to help your account stand out. And by relevant, I mean:
Location-based hashtags. These help you to build brand awareness in your local community, and to get discovered by nearby customers (think #bostonbrunch). ((Speaking of getting discovered by nearby customers, are you ranking as high as possible on Google Maps?))
Industry-specific hashtags. These hashtags can help your Instagram account stand out to people near and far who may be interested in your business’s content in general. This will help you to build authority in your space and even connect with influencers.
Popular hashtags: Interesting hashtags like #nofilter and creative hashtags dedicated to days of the week are good to use in conjunction with your more targeted hashtags. These kinds of posts give you ways to express your unique brand voice and help to promote the more human side of your business.
You can use up to 30 hashtags in your posts, but that doesn’t mean you should. Stay focused on the ones that will promote your account to the right audience. Plus, a post with a gazillion hashtags can be a bit overwhelming and even come off as desperate. You can always include just two or three in your post and then comment on your post with the rest of the hashtags you want to use—this helps you get the same exposure while maintaining tasteful (and less aggressive) posts.
You can use up to 30 hashtags in your posts, but that doesn’t mean you should. Stay focused on the ones that will promote your account to the right audience.
Use Instagram’s features to promote your account
Between Stories, Story Highlights, IGTV, and more, Instagram has plenty of features within its own platform to help you build and promote your profile. Here are a few free strategies to try:
15. Regularly post to your Instagram Story
Instagram Stories are like little albums for your business that can contain pictures, videos, stickers, polls, and more. The content refreshes every 24 hours so it’s a great place to showcase the the more raw and transparent content that helps to make your business relatable. Users love Instagram Stories, so using this feature regularly is a way for your account to self-promote. You can use Instagram Stories in a variety of ways. For ideas, check out our Instagram Story hacks.
16. Use Instagram Story Highlights
Instagram Story Highlights are curated collections of content you’ve posted to your Instagram Story in the past. They are typically referred to as “albums” and can be grouped into different categories. What’s so great about Instagram Story Highlights is that they don’t disappear like Stories do; they live permanently on your profile, right underneath your bio section and above your regular feed.
There are many ways to use Instagram Story Highlights to promote your Instagram account, such as to:
- Showcase products
- Promote events
- Share your latest work or product updates
- Run interactive polls
- Answer follower questions
- Feature product tutorials
- Announce sales and discounts
- Start a series
- Highlight your best customer testimonials
…all of which make up quality and useful content, ensuring the implementation of strategy #9 above.
Using IG Story Highlights to showcase testimonials.
17. Use IGTV
IGTV (Instagram TV) operates similarly to YouTube and regular TV, in that users can swipe through channels of their favorite accounts or topics. With video content being such an effective means of reaching your audience, this is a great way to turn more of your video-inclined fans on to your Instagram account.
There is also minimal work needed for this. Uploading your first IGTV video will automatically create your brand’s unique channel. Plus, you can repurpose or even repost Facebook and YouTube videos you’ve already created—getting in front of potentially an entirely new segment of your Instagram following.
18. Make use of Instagram Live
Running tutorials, workshops, and Q&A sessions through an Instagram Live session is another great way to promote your account. Be sure to let your followers know ahead of time that you’ll be running a live session, so they can help spread the word and you can boost your number of viewers. Seeing you or someone in your company talk or demonstrate something is an effective way to build trust and put a face behind your brand.
More free ways to promote your Instagram account
These last (but not least) strategies involve keeping your audience up to date, joining popular conversations occuring on Instagram and elsewhere, and (if you’re into it) advertising. Let’s take a look.
19. Announce updates and sales promotions
If you’re running any sort of sale or deal, launching a new product or service, or want to announce that a popular item is back in stock, post these to your Instagram feed or Story. When customers and fans come to know that you use this channel consistently for can’t-miss information, they will more frequently check your feed and will likely share your account with others they know would want to be in the know.
Just be careful not to have too many promotional posts on your feed, is this can have an exhaustive effect on your audience.
Just be careful not to have too many promotional posts on your feed, is this can have an exhaustive effect on your audience.
20. Take advantage of a trend
Speaking of trends, these can be powerful tools for promoting your Instagram account. A trend could be something as simple as using a new Instagram feature, as fun as doing the latest viral challenge, or as philanthropic as supporting societal changes.
Putting out tasteful and quality posts about trending topics will likely result in your followers reposting on their networks, expanding your reach even further and helping to solidify your brand’s core values. Don’t forget to use the associated hashtags!
A not-so free way to promote your Instagram account
Let’s talk about Instagram advertising. No, this is not a free tactic, but I’m still including it here because if you set up your campaigns properly, you can get your account in front of a massive yet highly targeted audience of people who otherwise wouldn’t know you exist— while also driving leads and revenue. A few more benefits of running great Instagram ads:
- Because these are visual ads, you can promote your business to your audience in a tasteful way that builds brand awareness at the same time.
- Instagram ads often look like regular posts. This isn’t always a good thing, since users can often feel tricked into clicking on an ad, but from a user experience standpoint, it does make for a more seamless feed-scrolling experience.
- You can also run Instagram Story Ads or make use of Instagram Shopping if you have the budget for paid promotion strategies.
Start promoting your Instagram account now
Now that you have some ideas on how to promote your account, why not develop a plan? Choose one or a few of these strategies and a time frame, set some quantifiable goals, and see the tangible benefits.
Promoting your Instagram account will help you to build a quality audience of followers who can benefit from your products and services, but who can also provide useful feedback and spread the word about your business. This type of engagement will ultimately help you to win trust and more customers through your Instagram marketing strategy. The trick is to be patient and consistent with your efforts and your content, and over time you will be rewarded with a strong social media presence and sustained growth.