Trends & Features

Getting to grips with Instagram – know your hashtags

In the third part of our series on Content Marketing for your brand, Fiona Bugler, from the Running Ed Ltd a content agency for those in the business of endurance, looks at Instagram.

Instagram was launched in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Kriegar. The free app rapidly gained popularity, with one million registered users in two months and ten million in a year.

Instagram was acquired by Facebook in April 2012 for approximately US$1 billion. Since then it’s continually upgraded, adding location tags, advanced sharing options, direct messaging, and many of the features of Snapchat (24 hour stories, and funny filters) – and could soon be the leading platform on social media.

By April 2017 there were, according to statistics website,, 700 million monthly users – and that includes many of the world’s leading brands with an estimated 59 per cent of the world’s brands now on Instagram. And sports brands are amongst the big players: Nike (72 million followers); FC Barcelona (50.1 million followers); and Real Madrid FC (49.3 million followers). An additional 200 million people engage with vertical videos every day via Instagram Stories (with their 24-hour shelf-life). Anyone who works with, or

users of, social media will know that a picture really is worth 1,000 words. When images are used on Facebook, for example, they’re likely to get twice the engagement. Video and images continue to make an impression: “Fifty-one per cent of brands surveyed said they got a better return on their investment using video,” says Andy Barr MD of 10 Yetis a digital PR & creative agency, whose clients include Superdry and Water Aid.

Instagram is designed for mobile – and mobile use continues to grow. Digital use is currently 5.6 hours per day for the average adult, with an increase in time on mobile devices to 3.1 hours, and the spend on mobile advertising has also increased with $43 billion of the $73 billion spent on internet ads in the US coming from mobile.

Window shopping

When it comes to sport and retail, Instagram is proven to be a winner for many leading brands. The Instagram business blog shares its success stories (and note, the blog is a very useful resource for anyone wanting to learn the dark art of Instagram marketing).

Under Armour (UA), are also masters of Instagram. Their #RuleYourself campaign included motivational workouts to follow and slick videos showing well known athletes, such as Michael Phelps, taking the tough route, showing that to get results you had to work hard and put the hours in, not ‘just do it’. Users were rewarded with giveaways and the campaign ran across Instagram and Facebook.

This was all part of UA’s strategy to position themselves as the brand for the underdog with the #RuleYourself being described by Business Insider as the antidote to Nike. “Social listening tools were in place so that if someone ripped a shirt and couldn’t afford to buy another one, then talked about it on social platforms, UA found out and gifted them one. Other brands leading the way on Instagram and successfully engaging in ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ – a clever strategy – include the super-prolific, Gym Shark,” explains Andy Barr.

Instagrammers as shoppers

Brands like UA, and Nike, recognise that instagrammers are also shoppers. A study from 2015 by Iconosquare found that 62 per cent of users follow a brand just because they like it. Conventional content marketing wisdom would suggest that lifestyle pictures work better than products, particularly in the Instagram culture, and anyone on Instagram should avoid being too salesy, however, recent research could indicate a shift: “A well respected piece of research (from found that 65 per cent of the top posts on Instagram from brands include products,” says Andy Barr.

However, he adds: “Instagram is a bit clunky when it comes to retail. For now, it’s a far better tool for research and insights.” This is because there’s no easy way to link to your shop unless you go down the paid, advertising route. Online retailers may want to consider creating or using an existing app to take people on a smooth journey to any shop (for example UA’s health app links to products).

Instagram and influencers

If you want to get ahead with Instagram it’s important to get online and connect with the influencers, both big and small.

Some are suggesting that brands are using influencers like advertising, and micro influencers, hold big sway on Instagram and can reach your targeted market and fans quickly and with an authentic voice. “A survey of 300 key influencers found that 87 per cent of them said that Instagram will be their number one focus in 2018,” reveals Andy Barr.

“Instagram is the choice because You Tube is harder to penetrate. It’s quicker and more affordable to shoot and edit on Instagram.”

Tips for getting started

Your profile is your elevator pitch:

Make sure you include a link in your bio – you only get one chance on Instagram. Your bio should be succinct and include your USP, any campaign hashtags and as mentioned above your URL. Try to keep your Instagram name easy to recognise so it can be associated with your brand.

You’re selling… but you are not a salesperson:

One of the cornerstones of Instagram use and content marketing in general is to avoid being too salesy. You want to be immersed in the community you want to connect with, not separate from them – and lifestyle posts have worked very well for brands such as Nike. However, keep an eye on what happens next – as stated above this could change as more users become comfortable with following and engaging with their favourite brands and perusing professionally shot images of products.


Boost your SEO by using keywords which are easy to research using free online tools such as Google Ad Words. Create a brand’s hashtag collection – then be consistent and use them regularly. This could be as simple as your company name, for example, #sportshop and sport #running. Bigger brands like Nike, use hashtags to distinguish their departments and product range, for example #NikeRunning and #NikeWomen. Then there are ‘campaign’ hashtags, for example #ThisGirlCan which you can use across all your platforms. Follow and use trending hashtags linked to an event, for example, #worldcup (you can search for these on sites, such as Next, do use location hashtags, for example #Westfield. And finally, don’t forget that like all social media marketing, you should monitor your hashtags and use the metrics you get back to help you shape future campaigns. There are numerous tools available, including, and for general analytics.

Free tools and apps:

Instagram’s creative apps include, Layout (for collages), Boomerang (for videos that loop back and forward) and Hyperlapse (to speed up or slow down and stabilise your films). To resize and reshape pictures try apps such as InstaSize. For photo editing try: VSCO (; Afterlight (; (Canva (; and Google’s Snapseed app. To create clever memes use photoshop or a free meme generator app, such as,

Quality counts:

Slick high quality images work best. “Arsenal football club and brands like UA, are well known for being very effective on Instagram. They don’t use filters – instead they opt for professional photography,” says Andy Barr. “Investing in professional video and photography is a lot less expensive than it used to be.” Even if you cannot do every image like this, even for smaller brands, it’s worth investing in some quality shots, or taking time over core images, perhaps to a launch a campaign.

Measure it:

A recent innovation from Google, is Google Attribution – the latest way to get insights from real metrics and analytics. The tool allows you to track back, even if it’s months before, to see exactly what post and what platform your user reached you from. “If a user clicks on your Instagram bio link and then later goes on to purchase from you – the journey is traceable,” explains Andy Barr.

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