If your business’ products or services are photo-worthy, then you should consider using Instagram, the popular photo and video sharing social network to market your brand. With 200 million monthly active users worldwide (1 million of those in South Africa) and 25% user growth in the last six months, Instagram is on the up. Sixty seven percent of the world’s biggest brands are now using Instagram it to increase brand awareness and sales – many with great success.

It can be harder to grow followers on Instagram than it is on other social media networks such as Facebook or Twitter, but here are some guidelines to help you out.

Consider whether Instagram will work for you

As I’ve discussed in my previous social media posts, before you decide that you have to be on every social media network because it seems that’s what everyone’s doing, think about whether the platform will really be effective in promoting your business to your target market. If you sell something that can’t really be photographed in an interesting way – say computer repairs or plumbing services – then realistically, trying to use Instagram to make more sales is going to be a waste of time. Having said that, Instagram allows for a lot of creativity, so if you can think of an out-0f-the-box way of photographing what your brand represents then give it a go!

Make sure all photos aesthetically pleasing

Instagram is all about quality rather than quantity. Make sure you’re only posting high quality photos of your products or shops and not boring or drab images of your office headquarters or factory floor. People want to look at beautiful, interesting images on Instagram, so if you don’t have anything great to post rather don’t post it than put up something that looks pretty average. The same goes for the quality of the actual photo – you might have a great new line of jeans that you’re selling in your shop, but the photo you take is dark and out of focus. Unless you have a great shot of your beautiful looking product, don’t use the photo.

Learn how to edit photos

Instead of using Instagram’s filters, it’s a better idea to edit photos in other apps before posting the photos on Instagram. Popular apps include Camera+, Snapseed and VSCO. Play around with editing tools and get some practice before you start posting.

Stick to a specific look for photos

Aim to use similar editing techniques or filters for all your photos, to give your feed a consistent look. Also try to match this look with your brand aesthetic – for example, if you sell kids’ toys, then maybe you’d want to slightly oversaturate your colours to make your photos really bright, but if you sell a line of understatedly stylish women’s wear, you’d probably want to go for a more restrained and subtle photo aesthetic with muted colours.

Follow and engage

Follow back the people who follow you, and follow other users who you think would be interested in your brand. Spend time liking and commenting on other users’ photos that tie in with your brand – for example, if you have a restaurant, you would want to like and comment on food bloggers, chefs, food photographers and food writers’ photos.

Use relevant hashtags

Hashtags won’t necessarily grow your user base significantly, but they will get your photos noticed. Try not to use the most popular and general hashtags (such as #love and #picoftheday) as there are so many people posting with those hashtags that your photo won’t get noticed. Instead go for specific, niche hashtags that are relevant to what you’re posting.

Stick to a regular posting schedule

Many people make the mistake of not posting for a week or two and then posting 8 photos one after the other, which saturates people’s feeds and may lead them to unfollow you. Aim for one post a day or three to four posts a week.

Test out your optimal posting time

Post similar photos at different times of the day to gauge the best time to post. I’ve personally found that fairly early in the morning and the early evening work best for me (I figure this is because it’s when people check their Instagram feed when they wake up and when they’re on their way home from work).

Brands on Instagram

South Africa is behind the rest of the world when it comes to brands using Instagram effectively. While most big brands are on Facebook and Twitter, they’re neglecting Instagram. The biggest South African brand on Instagram is Woolworths, with 28 607 followers.


Woolworths on Instagram


Here are some other international brands on Instagram for inspiration and ideas:


Audi instagram



Starbucks instagram


National Geographic

Nat Geo instagram



Nike instagram