The First Steps to Building a Brand on Instagram

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In 2018, Instagram hit 1 billion monthly users. Not bad for a social media platform made up of square images, text and hashtags.

Over 80% of Instagrammers follow at least one business. Yet, only 36% of marketing professionals tap into Instagram’s potential for brand growth.

For businesses, the brilliance is in the simplicity of the platform. It is not a screaming ground for adverts, like other *cough* Facebook *cough* social media platforms. Instead, businesses who provide genuinely useful and entertaining content are rewarded with user engagement.

Why Instagram is the perfect tool to promote your eCommerce brand

Although Instagram’s growth is impressive, it’s still a far cry from Facebook’s 2 billion users.

So why should you bother with Instagram at all?

Well, if you’re looking to target an audience under thirty, Instagram is the place to be. Since 2012, Facebook’s organic marketing has seen a decrease of 63%. Over the same period, Instagram has increased by 115%!

A lot of this comes down to the extremely pleasing visual arrangement. It’s a great platform to show off your product and capture your brand’s personality.

Statistica reports expect Instagram ad revenues to jump to $7 billion in 2018, up from $5 billion just two years ago. Companies investing at this scale proves Instagram is a seriously lucrative marketing tool.

The Instagram algorithm

Before the Instagram algorithm, the platform was running to keep up with their own growth. Their problem was the chronological order of feeds. As Instagram's content increased, users began to miss out on loads of content - as much as 70%.

The algorithm organises feeds to push relevant content up to the top, the three main determinants being interest, timeliness and relationship. This brings good and bad news for online stores.

Instagram continually tweaks the algorithm to improve the UX. These shifts make it harder for businesses to cement a plan that consistently favours the algorithm’s preferences. Generally, the posts with higher engagement fair better. But there are so many other factors - from posting time to captions - influencing your brand’s visibility.

Instagram for Business

This beast is very different from personal Instagram accounts. With an Instagram for Business account, you have access to extra special features, including:

Instagram Insights

This is an essential tool to measure your company’s performance. This analytics software tracks impressions, reach, views, followers and website clicks.

Instagram ads

Whether it’s photo, video or carousel ads, use them to drive brand awareness and provide viewers with incredible content that makes them want to tune into your account.

Post from a desktop

Earlier in 2018, Instagram released their API which stated that business users can now post content through selected third-party platforms.

Add extra info on your profile

This may not seem like a huge deal, but it is! You can even include directions and an email address. Without the business setting, your potential leads have to actively search for contact information. Every extra click in the customer journey affects conversion rates.

How to build your eCommerce brand on Instagram

Set goals

  • Have a few clear goals: what do you want to achieve with your profile?
  • Segment them into milestones
  • Track your success with Instagram Analytics
  • Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

You have the power to grow your community, spread brand awareness, acquire new customers and boost traffic to product pages. You can harness your Instagram account to strengthen an endless list of factors within your Shopify store.

Remember that although there’s a lot you can achieve with Instagram, you can’t do it all at once. By trying to tick every box, your overall profile will be cluttered and detract from your brand’s image.

Identify successful competitors

To do this, it’s best to look out for KPIs, for example; the number of followers, user engagement, mentions and follower growth within the last year. These will give you an idea of what accounts are doing well.

Next, you can start drilling down into which posts get them the most engagement. Which content attracts the most comments, likes, reposts, and mentions. You can also research which posts get negligible reactions from followers and try to identify which components of the post are responsible for this.

You should also research the metrics of success in your industry: who’s winning those hashtags and what are they doing differently? How can you replicate this success while retaining your brand’s image? Once you find the answer to this, you’re well on the way to creating an account that entices your target audience on Instagram.

Decide on a theme/style for your Instagram feed

It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it needs to scream personality and ooze brand identity. Think about the mood you want to portray and the subject of your photos. Colour palettes are another wonderful way to add consistency to your feed and text, and of course, a way for you to craft your brand personality.

Go-To Skincare is a perfect example of an Instagram account with a strong brand identity and colour palette:

Consider posting inspirational images on your account. This can be those familiar Pinterest-style posts which are so shareable - you’ll constantly see friends send links with #goals to each other. It’s a great technique to extend your reach.

New businesses should do some research to identify their customers. Look to your competitors’ accounts and analyse which factors cause engagement rates to soar or plummet.

Make a list of which particular themes incite a positive reaction from their followers and play around with colours, borders, filters, and objects in the pre-publishing phase, before committing to a consistent, professional theme for your feed.

Craft a brand tone of voice

An eCommerce brand that projects a consistent voice exudes confidence and authenticity. Once you have a tone that clicks with your target market, you can work towards creating a community: a group of people interested in your next post, competition, or story.

Reformation employs a colloquial, quirky and often humorous tone of voice. Here's an example:

When your images, captions, replies and bio align, you're projecting your best self to the world. Your brand is like a character in a movie; it needs to be fully formed to be believable.

Make sure you’re active

There’s no quick way to gain traction on Instagram. Random spurts of activity don’t boost engagement. So rally the team together and map out a social media calendar.

Between replying to comments, commenting on others’ profiles and researching the latest trends, there’s a lot of maintenance work behind the scenes.

Glossier does a great job at staying active by regularly responding to users' comments on their posts:

While it’s most important to have relevant, engaging content, you should also ensure you are posting regularly. According to Crowdfire, the average brand posts between 1-2 times per day.

It’s not only how often you post, you’ll also need to track when your audience is most active, and this really depends on your industry. This increases engagement rates which gets the Instagram algorithm on your side!

Make sure you put your brand out there and get networking. One thing you can try is engaging with other relevant brands on Instagram.

It’s a tough gig, but one that’s worth the investment!

Connect with influencers

Influencer marketing has been ruling the roost in 2018. Choosing an amazing influencer for your brand boils down to whether or not they captivate your target market. You also need to find someone who is capable of representing your brand in an organic, enticing manner.

If you’re looking for some strategies and top tips for finding an influencer, check out this post.

Use hashtags

Look to your audience, competitors and industry leaders. What hashtags are driving engagement? Vague hashtags such as #fashion contain 556 million posts. You are seriously unlikely to capture attention and build loyalty by stretching your net this wide.

Now that there’s the option to follow hashtags, they’ve got more impact than ever to boost your posts’ visibility.

Helm Boots uses a combination of common hashtags along with hashtags more specific to their product and location to increase their brand visibility:

Keep in mind that Instagram penalises accounts that appear to use a bot to generate hashtags. Also, be sure not to use banned hashtags as Instagram take down posts featuring these. This initiative has led to less spam-like content, meaning better UX, so you have nothing to lose by sticking to the rules!

Create a hashtag specific to your brand

Try creating a branded hashtag, one that is unique to your business. This way, you’re effectively making your customers your influencers as they can show off your trendy products on their feed and tag your account!

Beardbrand uses their branded hashtag, #Beardbrand, in every one of their posts:

Here's another awesome example from Allbirds. They've come up with a fun branded hashtag, #weareallbirds, that they feature in each of their posts:

Once again, it's important to look at your competitors’ hashtags for inspiration. There is usually an industry-specific formula to create a winning hashtag!

Using third-party tools with Instagram

You can use a simple scheduling platform such as Later, or others that offer more advanced features such as Sprout Social & Iconosquare.


Later is one the most popular Instagram scheduling apps. Using Later, you can drag and drop your preview content and set posting times. If you commit to this on Monday, you can forget about posting for the rest of the week!

You can also create a shoppable Instagram feed by linking items to their respective product pages.

Sprout Social & Iconosquare

Sprout Social and Iconosquare both offer some great features for managing your Instagram business account, including but not limited to:

  • Scheduling
  • Monitoring hashtags
  • Post-level performance insight
  • Tracking posts from Instagram locations
  • Tracking and exporting comments
  • Detailed Instagram story insights
  • Competitor benchmarking

Display analytics using a data visualisation tool

You can also display Instagram metrics using a data visualisation tool like Grow, which is ideal if you’re already using one for your eCommerce store.

A couple of our favourite Instagram accounts

Let’s have a look at two businesses that have created stellar branding experiences on their Instagram feeds!

Kester Black

Kester Black is an excellent example of an account that curates their images to match a specific theme. They predominantly used inspirational images mixed in with their product, moving through different colour schemes. Though this is a very unique feed style, and is suitable for their brand image, we don’t recommend it for everyone.


Playa uses a mix of their own images as well as lifestyle images. What ties it all together is the grainy, sepia filter to create a nostalgic mood and consistent brand.

Ready to become an Instagram sensation?

You can find more guidance on our blog. If you’re in need of a Shopify store makeover, you can contact us here.