how to use instagram to grow your business


Instagram: We eat, breathe, live, and love the app. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Plus, it’s an invaluable tool for marketing whether you’re managing ads, photographing content, or carving out a marketing strategy for one of your clients.

You better believe whenever Instagram comes out with a new feature, we’ll be the first ones testing + optimizing and sharing our findings via a blog post.


IG takeovers film easy how to best of

Instagram (IG) Takeovers: Our favorite way to form lasting brand-to-consumer connections. Inviting a guest to take over a brand’s Stories for 24 hours helps viewers put a face (and personality) to the brand and expand their reach exponentially.  

It can happen between any two users: founders of a company sharing what a day in their life looks like, an influencer endorsing a brand, or a customer sharing their overall experience with a product. 
Now, we’ve compiled a few of our recent finds to share with you! Plus, we’ll speak to why this varied marketing approach elevates each brand’s overall strategy.

1. Bustle – Be My Guest
Lead consumers to website (to purchase)!

Bustle’s Be My Guest IG Takeovers “[take] you inside cool homes so you can gather design and decor inspo for yourself.” Each IG Takeover is linked to an article that Bustle has published on their site, including this one featuring Summer Rayne Oakes’ luscious plant house.

We love this IG Takeover because it serves viewers a digestible version of a larger piece of content while enticing users to move away from Instagram (an outpost) and onto Bustle’s site (their homebase, where content and ad distribution is fully theirs).

2. Belletrist – STACKED (show your shelf)
Individualize offering + nurture customer loyalty. 

Belletrist is, “an online platform that celebrates great books and the people who read them,” hosted by co-founders Emma Roberts (kweeen!) and Karah Preiss.

They promote their newest book of the month by welcoming the author to share their book collection via an IG Takeover. This not only puts a face to a name, but adds a human element back into this remote book club experience (a service that competing book clubs may not offer).

To stay in the loop, users are encouraged to join the Belletrist email list that features more original interviews as well as “promos and recommendations of things we think you will enjoy.”

With brand loyalty obtained through the exchange of free content, users will more readily subscribe and participate in those promotional offers (free author interviews = soft lead magnets).

3. Serenity Kids – Parents Share
Boost credibility (and retention).

Serenity Kids recently welcomed @mamaknows_nutrition onto their Insta Stories – a Toddler Dietitian whose Insta feed mostly consists of educational infographics. Results were twofold – 

1) Brand awareness: lead Kacie’s +104k audience to Serenity Kids baby food.

2) Boost credibility: With her reputation for thoughtful, educational content, Serenity Kids got a big stamp of approval that will live on their Instagram Stories Highlights for any new consumers to view overtime.

4. Birch Benders – Leanne Vogel
Educate audience. Promote unique product.

Birch Benders has quite the varied SKU of nutritionally dense pancake and waffle mixes appealing to diet-specific audiences in particular (paleo, keto, and vegan consumers).

Inviting Leanne of @healthfulpursuit to lead an IG Takeover focused on her positive experience with a ketogenic lifestyle speaks volumes to viewers searching for a healthy diet – specifically those who’ve already tried vegan or paleo diets with so-so results.

In this way, consumers are directed from one of Birch Benders products to another. They’ve covered all their bases and leveraged Leanne’s experience to drive existing purchasers to their keto-specific mix.

As you can see, Instagram Takeovers do everything from emphasizing a brand’s credibility to individualizing one’s services. Like the cherry on top of a sundae, it’s fine if you leave it aside – but, will you really have the best dessert without it?

If you’re ready to boost your overall marketing strategy with an IG Takeover of your own, we just came out with a guide that’ll cover all of your bases (email templates and infographics included for FREE) – check out The Complete Guide to Running Amazing Instagram Story Takeovers: Use Influence to Attract New Customers.

So you wanna engage like a pro? Or, you’re wondering what the value of engaging across social media platforms really looks like. We’ve seen firsthand how it can make waves, so we’re excited to provide you with a breakdown that we personally apply on the daily!

Engaging with users shows people that you’re a real brand: You care about your customers and want their business. You wouldn’t let a customer service email go unanswered – right?! Same thing here – if someone mentions your brand or floats a question, it’s essential that you step in and field those mentions. People you’re engaging with will start to perceive your brand as friendly, reliable, and trustworthy. This translates to an increase in followers, substantial brand loyalty, and lifetime customers.

Plus, it’s a compounding strategy to gain more clients or sales as social channels favor posts that have more likes, comments, and shares – that’s the social media algorithm at work! When you consistently show up, more people end up seeing your brand and how well you interact with others.So, play nice!

Through years of trial and error, we’ve boiled down our tried-and-true strategy to three points that fuel impactful engagement: Listening, Engaging, and Interacting.

1. Listening

There are two core arenas that we recommend you pay special attention to: 1. the web and 2. all social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.).

For the web, here’s how to setup a Google Alert.

How to Set Up Google Alerts
  • Log in. Visit
  • Select keywords unique to your brand
  • Select the frequency – real time or when I have time. If you want to receive notifications in close to real time, select “as it happens.”
  • Choose your sources. Google Alerts doesn’t cover social media, but you can choose whether to track news, blogs, videos, or books.

For most brands, Facebook and Instagram are the two giants that you’ve got to have your brand tapped into. Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are a tad more nuanced. If you’ve got extra time, research how similar brands are engaging on those platforms to understand if your brand has a community that it could also support there.

To be a good listener, you have to remain present. This means getting on the choice platforms for your brand Monday through Friday, even popping in over the weekend, to see what your audience is talking about + how they’re engaging with your recent posts. You may choose to set up various notifications via Google, Instagram, and Facebook, so you’ll receive an alert relevant to hashtags, other brand accounts, or influencers that are in line with your brand.

We include a short activity to get you thinking more about who you should be listening to here: “Engaging with Social Content”.

Engaging on Instagram

2. Engaging

Take note of positive and negative comments.

If the comment is positive, find a natural way to respond that feels genuine. Record especially good testimonials to utilize in future marketing materials.

As is the way of the internet, negative commenters are inevitable. You’ll have to decide if the comment is customer service related and needs real attention or just a troll trying to get the best of you – in which case, we’d suggest ignoring it, hiding it, or blocking the user if future harassment seems likely. If it’s a true customer service complaint, take care to reply on the platform the user commented on, letting them know you have DM’d or emailed them so you can move the conversation off your public channel into a private channel.

3. Interacting

Create a few hashtags related to your brand. If you’ve got a long brand name, consider abbreviating it. You could also employ an adjective related to what the brand’s experience is or the mission behind it.

For example, the brand @hailmerrysnacks created their branded hashtag #sinkyourteeth, because it’s more relatable and more likely to be used by fans.

  • Include branded hashtags in every post, encouraging users to tag their own content with said hashtag.
  • Comment and like those using your hashtags – thank them for being a fan!
  • Interact with other hashtags that relate to what your brand does. For a gluten-free snack brand, this could be #healthyeats or #whole30.

Users that click in to your custom hashtag will view a plethora of posts with your product front and center.One of the most challenging aspects of engaging is knowing how much time to pour into the different relationships you’re building. We like to focus on these three core relationships:

  • Influencers – an individual who has the power to impact purchase decisions of others because of their established following. This could be at a micro (less than 5k followers) or macro (more than 5k followers) level.
  • Like-Minded Brands – brands with similar qualities to your own, oftentimes prospecting the same audience. Careful not to interact with a direct competitor (example: you both sell matcha-based energy bars).
  • Potential Customers – your ideal demographic in age and interests.

Start to schedule time in your day for engagement, dividing how you engage based on which relationships matter most to your brand. Experiment with different ratios, like half an hour for influencer + like-minded brand relationship building versus an hour sifting through relevant hashtags. It can get pretty complicated, so we did include a timetable that breaks down how + where to invest your time in our   Create a Winning Instagram Giveaway: And Get Tons of High Quality Followers! 

And that’s it! We hope you found this overview helpful to jumpstarting your brand’s ongoing engagement strategy. Get out there and learn how to best engage with your audience one comment at a time.

So you want to learn how to create an Instagram giveaway – and not just any Instagram giveaway, but one that’ll earn you authentic followers truly interested in your brand.

We’ve been there and asked the same questions we’re sure you’ve got, like what kind of Instagram giveaway rules do I set or how do I connect with other brands? In this post, we’re giving you a free taste of all the juicy goodness packed into our agency’s in-house guide:   Create a Winning Instagram Giveaway: And Get Tons of High Quality Followers!

1. Pick A Goal

Do you want to grow your follower count, email list, or something else entirely? Free advice: If you’re starting at follower count zero, building out your follower pool is the way to go. Then, you’ll have a greater network to interact with if you’d like to collect emails in the future (product familiarity alone often sways users to forfeit their email in the hopes of a potential discount).

2. Find Brand Partners

If you spend anytime at all on Instagram, you’ve likely got a handful of potential brands you’d love to partner with. Start there and see what happens. There are SO many ways to build out a list of brands – this is just a jumping off point, but we’ve got a few more suggestions within our guide as well.

3. Make Contact

Start with a simple DM. Show a little love for the brand you’d like to team up with and share important details regarding the kind of giveaway you intend on hosting as well as when you plan to launch it. If you’ve hosted a giveaway before, take care to hint at past areas of success.

4. Take Photo + Create Copy

Whether you buy participating brand’s products on your own, have free product shipped over, or design some sort of graphic that represents those brands, now is the time to snap a photo or pop into Photoshop. Situate all the subject matter so it fits inside of a square to look good in the feed, use natural lighting, or invest in some photography lighting to ensure products are adequately lit. Use bright color backdrops when you can to make the image shine!

Then, get to typing up a killer caption. The main thing here is that you state instructions for participants in a very clear manner with a call to action while including a gentle disclaimer that protects the brand you represent from legal allegations.

You can borrow our Instagram Giveaway Legal Disclaimer Template:

We’ll randomly pick a winner next week. Open to US residents only. Must be 18+ with a public profile to win. By entering you acknowledge that this giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by Instagram and release Instagram of all responsibility. Good luck!

5. Set Dates + Amplify Reach

Nail down a date. We bet you’re wondering: “How long should I run an Instagram giveaway?”

The optimal length of time may vary, but three to five days is pretty standard. We share more info like this in our guide.

After you launch your giveaway, it’s time to promote it accordingly. Share it via Stories – add it to a highlight. Then, budget for the dollar amount you’d like to put behind boosting your post. Note: boosting often makes a HUGE difference! Take care to optimize your post by sending people to “Your Profile” and select Target Audience to “Automatic” – we’ve tested this and got the highest amount of new followers this way!

6. Choose a Winner

Contact the winner(s) and obtain their address, ensuring they receive their prize.

Take time to appreciate your newly acquired followers – follow up with a discount code or email to solidify a connection.

Don’t forget to share the giveaway results with the brands you’ve partnered with! They’ll be eager to learn about the results + you may want to work together again in the future.

As mentioned, we’ve got so much more info to share on planning, launching, and wrapping up a giveaway. We dive into the details – little nuggets of giveaway planning gold – AND think picture by providing you with essential resources: checklist, organizational spreadsheet, and messaging templates.

We’ve spent YEARS and TENS of THOUSANDS of DOLLARS perfecting giveaway strategies. And before you ask, we’ve used these strategies across multiple verticals (from supplements to kimchi) – and it proves effective every time!

We put in the work to save you time and money – purchase our guide to grow your brand today:   Create a Winning Instagram Giveaway: And Get Tons of High Quality Followers!


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