Instagram Marketing 101: A Definition with Context

Go back to basics with and learn the fundamental motivations behind effective Instagram marketing.
what is instagram marketing?

Published on  January 9, 2019

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Instagram has officially taken over the world.

It seems like everywhere you look, you see people ‘doing it for the gram,’ museums popping up in every city designed to give you a backdrop for the perfect selfie, and all kinds of businesses are looking to cash in on the ‘instagramification’ of their brick-and-mortar spaces, from once-struggling independent bookstores to diner bathrooms…yes, diner bathrooms!

Instagram is a truly a wild and wacky cultural phenomenon that has grown exponentially in influence and power over the past few years. In this article, I’ll provide some context for Instagram’s takeover and the power it holds for businesses. Then, I’ll share with you the four core motivations behind effective content marketing and why Instagram can be an integral piece of your digital marketing puzzle.


Yes, even I have done it for the Gram.

Instagram is a Unique (and Beautiful and Temperamental) Beast

With its rise in popularity, business, brands, entrepreneurs, and bloggers alike have flocked to the channel to reach their target audience. But once they arrive, they likely notice this one thing: you can’t treat Insta like any other ol’ social media platform. It needs unique tender loving care.

Instagram isn’t like its big brother Facebook or its quirky cousin Pinterest or even its contentious neighbor Twitter. Instagram is more like that fickle teenage girlfriend who you hate to love and love to hate but is always the life of the party. So basically, Instagram is Regina George from Mean Girls (yes, I went there).

In simpler terms: Instagram is ever-changing, evolving with trends while at the same time setting them. It has transcended its form as a social media platform and led a full-on cultural shift in how people interact with each other, their physical environment, and of course, with businesses.

Where does Instagram’s influence and power come from?

From a user’s perspective, the answer is simple: people LIKE Instagram.

They enjoy the simple experience – swiping, double-tapping, and commenting is easy and fun, and there are amazing visuals to loop through with mindless joy. The average person spends around 30 minutes a day doing just that on the platform. For me, it’s more in the range of 4-5 hours, but I’m above average 🙂

Plus, just look to Facebook – Instagram’s parent company – to see a platform consistently embroiled in political turmoil, polarization, and privacy concerns. No wonder so many people (1 billion as of June 2018) have turned to Instagram as their main social channel for a simpler, more serene experience.

The amount of people on the platform combined with the high engagement rate is a gold mine for businesses looking to connect with their audience more directly through Instagram. Let’s look at some stats straight from Instagram itself:

Instagram for business

It’s clear that users on Instagram aren’t just taking photos of what they ate this morning or just interacting with their friends. They are actively engaging with businesses on a daily basis. Plus, they have some high standards…

They want direct relationships with their favorite brands.

They want businesses to give them a peek behind-the-scenes and break through facades.

They want to discover new businesses that align with their core values.

They want to see the human element behind everything.

They don’t want to be sold to, they want to connect.

All of this means that it’s more important than ever to learn the fundamentals of Instagram marketing and how it can work for your business.

That leads me to the definition I promised you in my title. It’s a 2-parter, so bear with me….

  1. First, you must understand the motivating factors behind TRUE content marketing (NOT traditional advertising).
  2. Then, I’ll tie a bow on all of this and share with you how Instagram can be a key piece of the puzzle in your holistic digital marketing strategy.
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4 Core Motivations Behind Content Marketing

How Instagram fits into a successful and holistic digital content strategy can be described in just four simple statements:

  1. People buy from businesses they LIKE.
  2. People like businesses they feel they can TRUST.
  3. RELATIONSHIPS build trust.
  4. CONTENT builds relationships.

Let’s break this down, because if you understand this, you understand the whole game of content marketing. And trust me, I’ve spoken to and worked with the gamut of brands – big, small, and corporate – who STILL don’t get this. You’ll have a leg up on them!

instagram marketing definition

1. People buy from businesses they LIKE.

Look at your own purchasing behavior. Whether you’re buying a product, hiring a service, or even donating to an organization, you aren’t going to give away your hard-earned Benjamins unless you like said organization. Because, well…. you’re human after all.

Likability is HUGE in the online world, so let’s unpack where it comes from…

instagram marketing definition

2. People like businesses they feel they can TRUST.

Now more than ever, we as consumers are voting with our dollars. We don’t just want a good quality product or a good quality service; we want an amazing TOTAL EXPERIENCE with a brand.

The business that provides that above-and-beyond kind of experience from the beginning to the end of a consumer’s journey with them gains their TRUST.

instagram marketing definition

3. RELATIONSHIPS build trust.

So, how do you build trust in the digital world? With good old analog RELATIONSHIPS. The more of a relationship you build with your audience, the more trust is built, and that trust can lead to a long-lasting, profitable interaction.

How do you build relationships in the online space? I’m glad you asked…

instagram marketing definition

4. CONTENT builds relationships.

Every piece of content you produce can be the start of a new relationship with a potential client or customer. Every blog post, every ad, every Instagram post can be an entry point into your business’ universe if it helps them address their needs or solve their problems.

Let’s reverse engineer these steps so this really lands:

Great content builds relationships online. Relationships build trust. Trust builds likability. And likability is what is going to bring you new customers and keep your old customers coming back for more.

Now, here we are folks: what you’ve been waiting for. Drumroll please….this is my definition of Instagram marketing and how it should fit into your holistic digital marketing strategy.

The Definition of Instagram Marketing

Instagram marketing is a curated visual experience of your brand that is creatively presented and strategically planned in order to build a relationship with your audience.

instagram marketing definition

More business and more revenue will always be the end goal, but the winning marketing strategy on Instagram is first and foremost about relationship building, about telling the story of your brand’s purpose and mission, and forging an authentic connection with your target audience where they like to hang out online.

Finding the Balance Between Art and Strategy

While I’ll save an in-depth look at both the art and strategy side of Instagram for their own dedicated articles, I’ll leave you with this:

To create success on Instagram for your business, you must find the sweet spot of balance between ART and STRATEGY.

You can’t just have “pretty pictures” without a strategic foundation, and your strategy has to be aligned with your overarching marketing and business goals AS WELL as the content you produce.

“Creatively presenting” your Instagram entails…

  • Documenting a visual strategy
  • Creating visual guidelines and aesthetic
  • Using different content formats and storytelling methods
  • Creatively engaging your audience
  • Planning out your grid visually

“Strategically planning” your Instagram entails…

  • Understanding the key components of the Instagram algorithm
  • Knowing your best times/days to post
  • Planning ahead with a dedicated scheduling tool
  • Researching and creating a library of hashtags
  • Digging deep into your performance analytics and ROI

Instagram has changed the way brands interact with their customers and prospects, and it’s truly become one of THE best platforms to grow authentic relationships with your audience. It shows no sign of slowing down, so now is the time to master these Instagram marketing 101 fundamentals.

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1 Comment

  1. Bruce Hargrave on February 24, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Quinn,

    Thanks – very informative! I noticed a typo – ‘paln’ instead of ‘plan’ towards the end of your tools and strategy pdf freebie. Yes – probably my OCD kicking in! Anyway, just thought you might like to know…

    All the best,

    Bruce (@brucehargravephotography)

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