The Secret Tools to Build an Instagram Empire…and 4 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Max 13 min read

The Secret Tools to Build an Instagram Empire…and 4 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Start Reading

Click the button to start reading

The Secret Tools to Build an Instagram Empire…and 4 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Have you seen those kids who can solve a Rubik’s cube in a few seconds? It’s really something. Most of us twist and turn those puzzling cubes around for hours before throwing in the towel.

Instagram, some have said, is like the Rubik’s cube of social media. Some people make it look like a cinch. But when we give it a try, seeking to increase reach and find new clients, nothing comes together. We tweak and adjust our accounts, pouring hours into hashtags, captions, photos and stories, but in the end it looks like a jumbled mess. There’s no reach and no engagement.

Yet missing out on Instagram is a huge loss. No matter your service or your client, they’re hanging out on the platform, within ready reach. And once you’ve earned their trust, they go and tell their followers about you. The capacity to scale and sell is tremendous.

The truth is, Instagram doesn’t have to be an unsolvable puzzle. The people out there killing it don’t have ninja skills or a secret code. They are just like you. And there isn’t just one solution, no matter what any of the dazzling accounts profess. Building a successful strategy for your business means getting down to nitty gritty, setting a solid foundation and going from there.

So if you’re ready to throw your hat into the Instagram ring and see how to make this powerful marketing tool work for you, then roll up your sleeves. Because in this post we’re going to look at the secrets to marketing your small business on Instagram…those mistakes to avoid!

Lasso the Basics

Lasso the Basics

Between stories, hashtags, captions, reels, Instagram Live and direct messages, there’s a lot going on within just one platform. And this list doesn’t even mention the most fundamental component of Instagram, the posts themselves.

A successful Instagram account understands the ins-and-outs of all of these facets and hones in on an overall strategy that brings them all together.

Polished Profile

The profile, essentially, consists of the photo and the bio. A branded photo that displays a business logo or your principal service let’s customers know what you’re about right away.

A successful bio must accomplish a lot with only 150 characters. It engages, perhaps amuses and summarizes your brand and your service. It can include one link, which for the sake of simplicity ideally goes to your website. Although some choose to use “Linktree,” which displays a list of all other online platforms for your brand.

Captivating Captions

Instagram fundamentally is a visual platform, and sometimes the image says it all. At these times, the caption can just be an emoji, a list of hashtags or simply nothing at all.

However, captions have the potential to engage with the customer and generate conversation and interest in your brand.

First and foremost, a good caption must be readable. A huge clump of text with no paragraphs and little punctuation can be off-putting. Strategic use of white space increases the likelihood that someone scrolling through their feed will stop at your post to read and engage.

Secondly, it needs a compelling intro that draws people in right away. This may mean asking a question or including an element of mystery. “Do you ever have one of those days….” or “The story gets stranger…” are two possibilities. When brainstorming how to write a caption, look to other copy for guidance. What initially draws you into another’s account?

And always include some sort of call to action within the caption. Tell the reader what you want them to do, whether it’s to click on the link in bio, or comment below.

Discoverable Hashtags

Carefully selecting hashtags allows you to connect with the very person you want to reach. Say your brand is about health food, and you’re posting an image of a smoothie. A general hashtag like #smoothie probably won’t cut it. As of this writing, over 13 million posts already use this hashtag in a post, so you’re sure to get buried within other content. Lesser-used hashtags like #mangosmoothies and #fitnessplan make it more likely that your post would show up in a search.

Using diverse and niche hashtags also keeps your content showing up well after it’s posted.

And how many hashtags should you use? While each post has a capacity for 30 hashtags, some say that using too many isn’t good for the algorithm. Whittling down to your favorite ten is probably the sweet spot. Incorporating a rotating list of diverse hashtags into your posts allows you to reach a broad viewership.

Snazzy Stories

People love to scroll through their stories. Even more than captions, stories blend the medium of image and text, and provide a quick way to engage and solicit feedback.

There’s plenty of ways to use stories. They can be the glimpse behind the curtain into your daily life or your studio. Or it can be a quote to inspire your followers. While stories disappear from your account after 24 hours, they can be saved and featured on your account page.

Branded Photos

Instagram posts, of course, are the most basic part of the platform, and playing around with them can be a lot of fun. Collectively, the photos come together like a collage, and a well-branded account capitalizes on this.

While the feed doesn’t have to be too “matchy matchy,” consistency with colors, text, images and themes across all photos makes your brand easily recognizable and familiar to your followers. Take Sarah Blakey, founder of Spanx, who has a recurring theme of mugs in her posts.

Sarah Blakey

Many accounts create a “checker” theme by alternating an image with a “text-post,” which is a solid color overlaid with text. There are many options, but the key is to settle on a cohesive pattern that communicates the brand and allures customers to your product.


Reels are short videos, similar to Tik-Tok. They’re Instagram’s newest feature and have become wildly popular. Reels are even more entertainment focused than the other content on Instagram. It’s where you post funny, trending or inspiring content. Reels can be included in your feed.

Although reels are designed to imitate Tik-Tok, simply reposting from that platform results in low performance. It’s best to create original content for Instagram that doesn’t include the watermark from another platform or app.

Shake Things Up

And this covers some of the basics of Instagram. A strong Instagram account uses all of these components to their full capacity. Once the basics have been established, there’s room for experimentation.

Authenticity is always attractive, so don’t be afraid to let your personality come through in your account. If you’re a big emoji person, then incorporate them into your captions. If you want to work funky hashtags into text, then that works too. The key is to start from a solid foundation of branded content.

Up Your Game With Instagram Tools

Up Your Game With Instagram Tools

Tools are a powerful way to create superb content, identify strategies and figure out what’s working and what isn’t. They assist with editing photos, discovering useful hashtags, planning content, creating videos and stories and analyzing performance.

However, even the best tools won’t serve an Instagram account that doesn’t have a clear vision or a strong foundation. Once the foundation is established, it’s time to dig in and create the best content that you can. These tools help to up your game.

1. Planoly

Content creation could easily take over your entire life. But planning tools make the enormity of the task far more manageable.

A scheduling application such as Planoly or Preview allows you to arrange photos and create a schedule far in advance. You can have an entire month’s content created on the first day of the month!

 2. Facetune Photo Editor

Succeeding on Instagram requires consistently producing excellent, frameable photos. Yet few of us are expert photographers. Fortunately, sophisticated apps like Facetune make it appear that we are. Facetune offers dozens of filters and frames to create just the look you want. Features can be blurred out, sharpened or erased altogether.

This app erases any signs of an amateur photographer and allows your photos to stand up against the best.

3. A Color Story

This application is perfect for creating a branded, cohesive feed. It edits your photos to accentuate certain colors and make them pop out from the rest. So if your brand’s colors are blue and yellow, for example, Color Story allows you to feature these stories in every photo.

4. Chroma Stories

This app allows you to create attractive stories that keep your followers engaging with your account over and over again. Chroma’s capacity is well above that of Instagram, and its features include templates, backgrounds, stickers, fonts and video trimming. It’s easy to create stories then save them on the app, to post at a future date.

5. Momento GIF Maker

Who doesn’t love a fun GIF? They’re the life of the internet. This app allows you to add some sparkle to your brand. With Momento GIF Maker, fun and simple GIFs are just a few clicks away. Show your followers each course from a formal dinner out, or the highlights from your morning walk, all in one rotating image.

6. Reports+

A successful Instagram account is all about trial and error. You need to know what’s working and what isn’t. And a good analytics application lets you do just that. The application Reports+ reveals the content that generates the most views and receives the highest engagement. This insight shows you those areas to accentuate and those areas for growth.

7. Hashtag Expert 

With over a million hashtags to choose from, it’s impossible to select just a dozen to use in a post. The Hashtag Expert tool does this work for you by synthesizing trending hashtags related to your brand. This app keeps your content topical and fresh, and allows you to jump into online conversations as they’re happening.

These are just a few of the tools to help you sharpen your Instagram game. Now let’s discuss the key to online marketing: engagement.


Engage, Engage, Engage

Engagement is the cornerstone to an Instagram account. It’s what makes social media distinct from advertising or print media. And even though Instagram can feel like a pool of people who are all pitching and not buying, this really isn’t the case. Even if your demographic seems like it might be unrepresented (take Boomer lawyers, for example), the truth is that your market is present on Instagram, and they’re ready to buy.

Building the “like, know, trust” factor is essential to a successful brand, and this comes down to much more than including a call to action in your captions. Let’s get into some of the fundamentals to drawing people in and building a loyal customer base.

Know the Customer

When copy is vague or it tries to speak to everyone, chances are it’s not going to connect with anyone at all.

The first step to engagement is knowing who you are talking to. Who do you want to reach with your content? This includes demographic details such as your customer’s age, geographic location and yearly income, as well as a keen understanding of his or her values, goals and interests. What are their problems and how does your product or service solve them? This information serves as a blueprint for all of the content you create.

How can you accurately know your customer? Sometimes all you have to do is listen. What type of person is consistently drawn to your products and your brand? What commonalities do they have in terms of their lifestyles and their challenges? Are they all pressed for time? Trying to lose weight? These clues provide plenty of fodder for relevant content that speaks directly to your customers.

Write Captions in Second Person

While it’s true that people on social media want to connect with a real person, content that’s too “I” focused can be a turnoff. Let’s be honest; people come to Instagram for themselves. And so they’ll quickly scroll past content that doesn’t speak to them.

Writing captions in the second person perspective (using the pronouns “you”) is a sure way to guarantee that your audience feels you’re speaking directly to them. Consider the caption from one of Sara Blakey’s posts. She addresses the reader initially and throughout the entire post, then delicately weaves her own perspective within.

Write Captions in Second Person

While every caption needn’t follow this exact formula, it’s good to be aware that copy written in third person establishes distance from the reader, and the object of social media is to engage.

Use Keywords

Consistently incorporating keywords into captions and hashtags ensures that the person you’re trying to reach finds you. If your audience are athletes, then come up with a list of 40 or 50 keywords and phrases that relate to them, and weave them into the opening lines of all your captions.

While you never want to overdo it with keywords, discreetly incorporating a few into every caption makes you findable.

Use Persuasive Tricks

At its core, sales is all about persuasion. And although there’s more than one way to approach this, the right method for you needs to be authentic to your brand.

If you receive rave reviews from other customers, then there’s nothing more powerful than sharing this feedback with your followers. It serves as a persuasive reason for them to invest in your products as well. If your services are in limited supply, then phrases like “exclusive” and “limited time offer” will get people closing the deal. And if you have a special expertise in your area, then sharing your knowledge builds trust in your brand.

The key is to align your sales pitch with whatever is true to your brand and what you’re selling. Using phrases like “limited supply” to pitch a downloadable pdf that’s obviously in limitless supply is an instant turnoff. It comes across as a smarmy sales technique.

And this summarizes a few skills to building engagement on Instagram. And now, onto one of the trickiest parts of all: the Instagram algorithm.

Play to the Algorithm

Play to the Algorithm

Just when you’ve figured everything out on Instagram, the people behind the scenes switch up the algorithm, and overnight your engagement goes WAY down. As few as 10% of your followers see your post, and everyone stops engaging with your stories. It’s rough.

Although we cannot know precisely what goes into the algorithm, we can post content in such a way that it maximizes reach.

Mix It Up

A content strategy that plays to the algorithm shows up on Instagram in a variety of ways, including stories, reels, posts and Instagram live.

Reach Out & Interact

Social media isn’t a one-way street. A robust account doesn’t just look for engagement, it also reaches out to other accounts and engages with them. It mentions other accounts in its captions, comments on other posts, and shares other people’s stories in its feed.

Experiment & Learn

As the algorithm always changes, some things that work for a time won’t work forever. And so it’s necessary to go back to the table quarterly or biannually for a status update. It may be necessary to freshen things up or try a new approach.

Don’t Overdo It

While it’s important to post consistently, an Instagram account that posts too much actually starts to compete with itself. Instagram isn’t like Twitter, where it’s ok to post twenty times a day. On Instagram, a few quality posts each week is sufficient to maintain an active presence on the platform.

And this summarizes a few strategies for working within the algorithm. Now let’s move onto those things you must avoid for sure.

Avoid These 4 Instagram Mistakes

Avoid These 4 Instagram Mistakes

Building a social media account takes a lot of time, and no one wants to sabotage their own efforts. To this end, here are a few things to avoid doing on the platform.

Long Holidays

With all this talk about Instagram strategies, it’s easy to suffer from overwhelm or analysis paralysis and stop posting altogether. But consistency is the #1 rule in marketing. In order to move products, your audience needs to like, know and trust you. And consistency is key to building this familiarity.

Social media is the long game. No one becomes your customer overnight. They need to see you consistently showing up, being you, and slowly the energy and momentum starts to build toward your brand. So even if your photos or videos aren’t perfect, this needn’t be a hindrance. Continually pressing on is the surest path to success.

Cold Selling in DMs

As much as we’d like to make quick sales, usually this just isn’t possible. Selling is a multiple step process, and there’s no two ways about it.

Hitting someone up with a direct message right out of the gate is a sure path to failure. It communicates a desperate energy, and the person is turned off from the get-go.

A successful content strategy includes a balance of adding value to the customer and pitching your products. And while direct messages can play a significant role in a sales strategy, it always requires preliminary interaction.

Links in Captions

Most every marketer on Instagram wants followers to click through to their website. But Instagram only allows for one link, and that’s in the bio.

A link in the caption isn’t clickable, and so it just ends up looking silly. It means someone has to copy the link and paste it into the search bar, which, let’s face it, they’re not going to do.

It’s better to simply put good content in the caption that includes a phrase like “link in bio,” which shows people how to get to your webpage

Vanity Metrics Over Real Engagement.

With social media, it’s easy to get caught up in numbers, and be willing to do almost anything to achieve a certain number of followers, likes or comments.

This single minded approach can be self-sabotage, however. When people realize you’re just out to amass followers, and have nothing to offer them, then you’ve lost them for good. For example, an account that regularly unfollows anyone who follows them back immediately solicits contempt.

And so while metrics can be valuable, they need to be scrutinized to determine whether they indicate real engagement. The objective isn’t to establish massive numbers, but rather to establish trust and brand loyalty,


You could easily spend 20 hours a week on Instagram. But who has the time for that? What about the doing of your business? What about your life outside of work? What about sleep?

The good news is that there’s an approach to content marketing that leaves you plenty of time for shut-eye and leisurely afternoons by the lake where you’re not staring into your phone.

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, building a strong foundation, consistently showing up, and utilizing the right tools to enhance content are all part of the mix.

Sharing what you’ve learned is also part of the process. What’s your favorite Instagram tool?

Table of Contents

Manage Your Remote
Team With Teamly. Get your 100% FREE account today.

Get Teamly FREE

PC and Mac compatible


Teamly is everywhere you need it to be. Desktop download or web browser or IOS/Android app. Take your pick.

Get Teamly for FREE by
clicking below.

No credit card required. Completely free
Get Teamly For FREE

PC and Mac compatible

  • imageChat with your team in real-time
  • imageCreate tasks and workflows with ease
  • imageScreen cam video recording, audio messages and more
  • imageTrack and monitor employee time worked
Teamly puts everything in one place, so you can start and finish projects quickly and efficiently.

Keep Reading

Effective Meeting Agenda


Who Else Wants to Create an Effective Meeting Agenda?

@teamly For additional information on this topic, feel free to check out this Youtube video from our channel. Now, onto the main content… Who Else Wants to Create an Effective Meeting Agenda?We have all been to those unproductive, time-suck meetings where the most important thing isn’t even covered. Or meetings that are irrelevant for half …

Read More

Max 7 min read

work habits

Best Practices

13 Work Habits for Career Success: It’s Easier Than You Think

13 Work Habits for Career Success: It’s Easier Than You ThinkDo you ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut at work? Are you struggling to achieve the success you know you’re capable of? You’re not alone. Many people find themselves held back in their careers by bad habits that they can’t seem to shake. …

Read More

Max 16 min read

Starting a new job


Starting a New Job? 9 Expert Tips to Guarantee Success

@teamly For additional information on this topic, feel free to check out this Youtube video from our channel. Now, onto the main content… Starting a New Job? 9 Expert Tips to Guarantee SuccessCongratulations on landing your new job! Starting a new job marks an exciting period in anyone’s career. It also comes with much curiosity …

Read More

Max 11 min read

Get Teamly for FREE Enter your email and create your account today!

You must enter a valid email address