Tried and Tested Ways to Cultivate a Community and Thrive on Instagram

By Rhiza Oyos on February 21, 2016
Rhiza Oyos

If you or your business are not on Instagram, what kind of rock have you been hiding under these past years? It's time you consider getting on board (or start doing it right!). Here are some reasons why:

  • 400 million users as of September 2015
  • 115% increase in organic reach since 2012, versus Facebook's 68%
  • 58% more user engagement than Facebook
  • 70 million photos posted on an average day (in 2015), with the "heart" button being hit (or yes, double tapped) 2.5 billion times.
  • Follower counts and frequency of posts by top brands have skyrocketed last year, with an average of 1 million followers on Instagram

On a personal note, I'm so relieved that I'm just one of millions who have incurred this crazy double-tap addiction. It's always good to know that you're not alone, you know what I'm saying?

The thing is, there's something about Instagram that makes it the social network of choice for the hipster crowd, artist communities, and people who just love to connect with kindred spirits. That's what I personally value most about Instagram.

Also, branded content on Instagram doesn't seem to come out as hard selling as compared to Facebook's (at least for now), which IMO users really dig. True enough, data proves that brand interaction on social media is also highest on Instagram, with about 4.21% interaction compared to Facebook's 0.07% and Twitter's 0.03%, among others.

And now that we have established that, let's talk about how to effectively reach your target market on Instagram.

1. Community First

Instagram has successfully built a strong platform for communities to thrive, precisely why it has seen remarkable growth in the past 5 years. Whether for individual use or for business, one has to see Instagram as a place to build and cultivate community.

Take for example Socality.


What started out as one individual's desire to connect with people on Instagram birthed a global community of like-minded people. The first thing you notice with #socality is its very artistic and beautifully curated feed, attracting artist types, travelers and creatives around the world.


Socality's Instagram Feed

All within two years, the community grew from just Instagram feeds into offline relationships, and into local communities around the world who uphold a united cause. Socality has made so much influence online and offline, resulting to thousands of photography enthusiasts wanting to improve their craft, and a myriad of discussions about community and authenticity. And well, you do remember Socality Barbie, yes?

There's more to say about this but the point is, if you want your brand to thrive on Instagram, focus more on Community Building than Marketing.

Read: 5 Traits That Make a Great Community Manager

2. Use hashtags intentionally

Hashtags are intended for grouping content that is similar to each other, allowing users to easily search for related themes, events, products and ideas. Then again, what was meant for good are often abused and misused.

Let's be honest. Many of us misuse hashtags, whether stuffing photo captions with them, using popular hashtags that are totally not related to your post just to get exposure in those categories, or #hashtagging #all #the #words. I mean, come on guys. Being a hashtag junkie won't do the trick.

Focusing on 1-3 relevant hashtags per post is good enough, won't come off as annoying, and in fact more beneficial for your overall brand identity.

So, instead of misusing hashtags, use them strategically and intentionally:

  • Brand specific hashtags. These hashtags are particularly helpful to easily find posts that are unique to your brand. Including your business name to your hashtag are also good for marketing campaigns and IG contests.
  • Trending hashtags. To be clear, we don't suggest you just jump in and use whatever's trending, even if it's not related to your post. (You don't want others misusing your branded hashtags too.) Depending on your niche, you'll find trending hashtags that already have an existing community or following. Some of my favorites are #onthetable (photos of anything on the table), #whiteaddict (photos that are predominantly white), #fromwhereIstand (photos of anything you can see from where you are standing, usually a birds eye view of your feet and where you're standing).

Read: 6 Ways People Misuse Hashtags

3. Post photographs your market can relate with

Consider Instagram as an opportunity to practice creativity in promoting your brand. Instagram users love carefully curated feeds. Invest time and effort in assuring that you post photographs your market can relate with, while staying true to your brand identity.

Take a look at Cheerz, a photo printing service that lets people print their Instagram, Facebook, and mobile phone photos.


Cheerz' Instagram Feed

One look at its feed and you'll know that Cheerz really puts careful thought on its posts, making sure to attract the right audience—particularly, Instagram and social media junkies who would most likely consider printing out their digital photos.

And then there's Ben and Jerry's. These guys have become so good at posting attractive and yummy photos of their product and letting the photos speak for themselves, without the awkward hard selling.


Ben and Jerry's Instagram Feed

In all honesty, I have been many times victimized by ice cream photos on my feed, making me run to the nearest store to get myself some. You don't have to say it, but I know you have too.

4. Connect with influencers

I cannot emphasize more how important it is, whether for Content marketing or Social Media, or even SEO for that matter, to get some Influencer Marketing going this year. I know, "influencer marketing" sounds like another marketing discipline you need to master. Worry not, basically it's just a fancy term that means getting to know your niche, finding relevant social circles, and building relationship with the leaders and influencers there.

Many will remember the huge social media blitz pulled off by Lord & Taylor early last year, where they commissioned 50 fashion influencers to post a photo of themselves on Instagram wearing the same dress, all within the same hour.

Lord and Taylor Instagram blitz

It was, indeed, what many would recall as one of the most memorable Instagram campaigns of all time. The dress was sold out within a week, Lord & Taylor has successfully promoted its Design Lab collection, gained thousands of new followers, and left a mark in the industry forever.

And all it took was the right investment in the right influencers.. and a couple of dresses.

Anyone dare to beat that?

Read: 7 Ways to Maximize Social Media's Full Potential this 2016

5. Be creative with Sponsored Ads

Sponsored ads are here to stay, and no, it's not a bad thing. The obvious truth is, Instagram has 400,000 million users who collectively post over 70 million photos every day. While many of the early adapters have already positioned themselves and built a solid community of followers, more and more brands are just beginning to see the value of this platform.

Growing your Instagram following organically is a tough call. Sure it can be done but competition is tough and progress is most likely slow. However, with the right investment and a strategic sponsored ad campaign, you can expedite the growth of your community efficiently.

What's good about Instagram is, sponsored ads easily blend into its feed without the annoying pop-ups, sidebar ads or distracting layout. Then again, it's also easy to dismiss ads in one scroll; therefore you only have a very small window of opportunity to draw your market in and deliver your message.

Here are some recent (Philippine based) examples of Instagram sponsored ads.


What makes these ads by Nesfruta and Globe effective is how they used images that look like normal "instagrammable" moments. Except for the small Nesfruta logo and the label that says "Sponsored", these images don't look like ads at all.

In creating Sponsored Ads, take note of the following best practices:

  • Stay relevant to your target market
  • Make your photo AND caption clear and engaging
  • Use relevant hashtags, as mentioned above
  • Have a clear call to action

6. Create unique links that are easy to remember

One of the known dilemmas about Instagram is how it has kept third-party links un-clickable. Meaning, URLs placed on photo captions or comments do not automatically lead visitors to the page you're linking to, unless of course you're tagging another Instagram account. This is often frustrating for us marketers, but in a sense, this has protected Instagram from the inevitable flood of link spams.

The only area on Instagram where you can place a link is on your profile.


That said, make the most out of that space.

I have seen many bloggers link up their most recent posts there and include the phrase "link on profile" on their photo captions to direct traffic to their sites. This works, sometimes. Still, it's quite a challenge to direct Instagram traffic to your website, much more to track visits and behaviors from Instagram.

So here are some suggestions:

  • How to incorporate URLs to your photo caption: Create a landing page on your website and then use to create an easy-to-remember URL that you can use on your captions. Even though others can't click the link, they can easily remember the link and type it onto their browsers directly.
  • How to easily track traffic coming from Instagram: Create a unique Instagram landing page on your website, make sure to incorporate Google Analytics, and place the unique URL on your profile. Don't use this link anywhere else other than on Instagram. Here's a quick guide on why and how to do this.

Are you on Instagram? If yes, how are you making the most of it this year?

Topics: Social Media, Content Marketing

Rhiza Oyos

About Rhiza Oyos

Riz is Spiralytics' resident blogger and Inbound Marketing person. She takes pride in being around pre-Penguin and Panda days, investing the past 12 years of her life figuring out SEO, blogging, inbound marketing, and a bit of front-end development. She also holds the record for being the first hired employee of Spiralytics. She did manage to get a life outside of work, get married, and give birth to twin girls. In between work and mothering, you'll likely catch her watching Friends' gag reels on Youtube, or listening to Harry Styles.

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