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Instagram Marketing: A 13-step guide for beginners (2023)

13-Step Instagram marketing starter kit plus unlocking Instagram autoreply and other extended features

Calling for Instagram influencers! Or shall we say, ‘calling for Instagram business influencers’? If you’re running a retail business, how you showcase your brand through Instagram is crucial to influencing your consumers' future purchasing decisions. In fact, with over 1.478 billion active users - roughly 31% of which are aged between 25 and 24 years and over 200 million business Instagram accounts - it's definitely a wise decision to spend some effort into unlocking the revenue-driving power of Instagram.

Most popular social networks worldwide

Instagram’s basic features might be good enough for the early start. But if you want to get ahead of the others, you need to unlock some extended features by integrating Instagram with some other platforms. That’s where we at SleekFlow come in.

But first, let’s look at the different types of social media and what they do for you. You can also fast-forward and scroll to the bottom to Step-13 to see the extended features!

Types of social media accounts

When it comes to social media for business, there are three channels that all marketers should know: Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

While they’re all essentially projecting your brand to your online presence, they’re all different in nature. Here’s a quick comparison for your reference:

More effective for retail B2CEffective all-roundersMost effective for B2B
Visuals-heavy with “feel good” emotions as keyGood mix of push-pull and visuals-copywritingMore on corporate communications
Supports online shopSupports online shopDoesn’t support online shop
Growing in popularityStable popularityCommercial focused

Combining this with the fact that Instagram is getting more and more popular, it’s now time to come up with a good Instagram marketing strategy – this is especially true if you want your brand to be seen as relevant and trendy. After all, it’s what the customers like that matters.

Baby girl

Why is everything so complicated?

It’s quite self-explanatory that building an Instagram presence will help you boost your business prospects, but like everything else in life, you need a plan to succeed. Now, how do we actually start marketing with Instagram? We’ve compiled 13 key steps for you. Fret not, let’s go through them one by one.

Read more: Brands that found success with WhatsApp and Instagram Marketing

First and foremost: set up a business account

You may already know that businesses need to set up a Facebook Business account. Instagram is no different. As long as you have an Instagram Business account, you’re already set on achieving the first step of your killer Instagram Marketing grand plan. Congrats!

To do that, go to your Instagram account, choose “Setting” with the gear icon, then choose “Account”. Then, select “Switch to Professional Account”, and you’re set.

Simpler than you think, right? You can also check out the detailed instructions from Facebook.

Instagram interface

And since Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can later integrate your Instagram Business account with your Facebook counterpart, so you have all accounts in one place.

Step 1: Establish your brand style and tone

Creating an Instagram marketing strategy inevitably involves branding and content. Suppose you want a distinct brand positioning that your customers and readers can relate to. In that case, you need to decide on your content strategy and brand style. For example, do you want to adopt an upbeat or a more somber tone? What kind of visuals do you want to post? And most importantly, how do you want to be remembered, and who’re you targeting?

Step 2: Keep a content calendar

Marketing on Instagram, just like content marketing, is all about planning. So having the right content calendar will help you a lot.

Find a calendar template for the whole year, and think about how frequently you want to post, and whether you have any upcoming campaigns that you specifically want to talk about.

As a rule of thumb, less is more. Instead of flooding your account, launching 4 posts per week is fine. If you like things organized in one place, you can use tools like Later to help you with the scheduling.

Step 3: It’s brainstorming time!

Now that you’ve got your Instagram marketing directions and content calendar, it’s crunch time! Start writing away and create your killer brand content. If you have any witty phrases or nice photo ideas in mind, feel free to include them too.


Step 4: Be your own graphic designer

Instagram marketing is all about graphics, right? If you’re worried about going broke over hiring photographers or graphic designers, we have good news for you. 

Make the most of Canva, and you can create stunning visuals with minimal effort. Add your shades, maybe some words and filters, crop a little, and voila!

Step 5: Never ignore your audience (we mean never)

There are many factors determining your post visibility under Instagram’s algorithm. How well you interact with your audience is one of them. Replying to their DMs as soon as you see one or responding to their comments will go a long way. And again, if you care about your customers, they can feel it. 

If you need help with responding to every meaningful direct message or comment, SleekFlow can help as an all-in-one messaging platform. See how we do it with WhatsApp Business API, and you'll be able to do more or less the same with Instagram once you have integrated with our platform. 

Automate your Instagram interactions with the powerful comment auto reply feature from SleekFlow.

Step 6: Try out affiliate marketing

Like influencer marketing, affiliate marketing helps you open new doors to new audiences in an authentic manner. With your friends sharing your brand and any discount codes you want to offer, you can be sure that their friends and followers will become leads and even first-time customers. With a specific promo code, you can track clearly which campaign is the most successful. 

If you want to track better with your promo code campaign, you should unlock some features with a social messaging CRM platform. For instance, if you have integrated with the SleekFlow platform, and your campaign plans to trigger people to DM you with the promo code, you can set an automation rule of labeling those specific DMs with that promo code. At the moment the potential clients send you a promo code, and their conversations are labeled on the SleekFlow platform for later remarketing or measuring the campaign's success. 

(Scroll down to Step 13 to see the extended features of Instagram API!)

Step 7: Leverage influencers and KOLs

No one can take on the world alone. And for this reason, you need Instagram marketing influencers. Having influencers will give credibility to your brand and also help you open new doors to new audiences. Imagine you suddenly have access to thousands of potential viewers.  

One tip is to host an Instagram takeover, letting an influencer take charge of your Instagram account for a short time. It’ll give authenticity to your page and also offers something new. 

If you’re running out of ideas, AI-powered marketing tools like Cloudbreakr can help you with an influencer marketing strategy tailored to your business.

Step 8: Try out all features, but do try out stories and IGTV

One key feature of Instagram is its algorithms. The Explore function prioritizes almost entirely on new accounts and whether users “like, share and save” the content, so trying out different features, like stockers and stories, to get your users’ attention is important. 

Also, IGTV is mostly shown to users who interact with you the most, so take time to create some high-quality videos to retain your customers. Video is a powerful visual you should leverage, please check out our 6 video marketing tips

To add an extra layer of engagement to your Instagram content, consider incorporating Instagram text to speech features. This innovative addition allows your audience to not only see but also hear your content, providing a more immersive experience that aligns seamlessly with the platform's dynamic environment.

Step 9: Ace your hashtag game

If you’ve ever been on Instagram, hashtags shouldn’t be anything new for you. And yes, hashtags aren’t just for random tagging. They do help you gain visibility and discoverability. While you can use up to 30 hashtags, it’s best to not flood your post and stick with 5 to 9. There are lots of hashtag generators in the market. But after all, hashtags that are niche, brand-relevant, and don’t directly prod for the following work the best. It’s all about striking a balance, man!

HashTag Generater result of food

Step 10: Build a community

Instagram is all about people. If people know about and like you, you’re in for a smooth ride. So, whenever someone comments (given it’s not spam), do remember to reply in a witty way. 

Also, if you find any other relevant accounts, do go in a comment on their posts. This way, you’d get the visibility and memorability you need. No one cares about a boring brand, and your business shouldn’t be one.

Step 11: Burn some money (invest!)

Though now your Instagram marketing strategy is already in a fairly good position, it never hurts to boost a post or two to get some extra visibility. If you have some better-performing posts, give them some budget and boost them for different segments. Think about what demographic follows your posts and pick the relevant audience to boost. Your competitor’s followers' profile can be a good reference. 

When the boost is over, spend some time understanding the analytics. They’ll give you clear insights into what works and what doesn’t. 

If you want to know more about setting up Instagram marketing ads, read our ultimate Instagram advertising strategy guide!

Step 12: Set up an IG shop

Now, you have a pretty robust Instagram marketing presence. Why end there when you can set up an IG shop directly? Verified page owners can go to “settings”, choose “business”, and then set up your own catalog. 

If you’re looking for a way to market to your followers directly, now you have it. 

Step 13: Unlock all the Instagram API features with SleekFlow's newest product update (July 2023)

Respond automatically to Instagram DM messages

If you are not new to WhatsApp Business API, Instagram API is also no rocket science. With SleekFlow you can effortlessly set up an auto-reply and automation rule for your WhatsApp Business, it is also applicable to Instagram inbox. 

A typical usage can be an automatic away message. “Hello there! Thank you for your DM. However, our opening hours are from 10 am to 7 pm. We will reply to you tomorrow when we are open. For Español, please enter ESP”  .

You can also see how SleekFlow Instagram set the automation rule below.

SleekFlow IG Giphy

Grouping your Instagram DMs automatically

By connecting your Instagram with the SleekFlow CRM platform, whenever there is a new coming message, that message sender’s profile will be automatically recorded onto the SleekFlow CRM. You can easily label and segment your customer.

For instance, if you are an education center, you can add labels like high school programs, elementary school programs, etc. Furthermore, SleekFlow can detect certain wordings and automatically add and label them according to an automation rule you set before. When there is a DM about the Mathematic class, a “Mathematics” label will be attached to the conversation without further action.

See how our happy customer, Afterschool (an up-and-coming education online platform) leveraged SleekFlow to engage with their students.

Moreover, if you are a Salesforce user, you can also integrate the Salesforce CRM into SleekFlow's all-in-one inbox to track the buying journey of your Instagram customers!

What's new in SleekFlow: auto reply for Instagram comments

Comment auto reply on Instagram

The level of engagement from your followers tells Instagram whether your post is worth showing to more people. If you’re a business trying to promote or sell your product, you should actively try to improve your engagement rate by responding to comments on your posts. 

With SleekFlow’s latest update, you can now automatically reply to Instagram comments to strengthen your customer relationships. For example,

An extension to the automation settings on Instagram DMs, some key features include: 

  • Automated comment replies to enhance organic impressions and reach unique audiences

  • Keyword-triggered initiation of conversations

  • Personalized messages to existing contacts for remarketing campaigns

  • Embedding payment links in-chat for direct checkout

There you have it, a 13-step guide for setting up your Instagram presence. Want to take it further? 

Unleash your potential of Instagram for business today!

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