25 Tips for Using Instagram to Increase Engagement and Drive Sales

Learning the basics, defining your audience, choosing captions and hashtags and more

Whether you are scrolling through your best friend’s baby photos or looking for travel or fashion ideas, Instagram’s visual storytelling platform has become a wonderful marketing tool for subscription businesses. Subscription boxes like FabFitFun post photos of upcoming giveaways to Instagram, while Netflix posts clips from new releases like season 3 of “Stranger Things,” and Salesforce posts pix of an event featuring kids pitching ideas on how to improve the world.

Instagram is a fun platform to use and a nice reprieve from other platforms where it is hard to escape news and politics. Even more importantly, Instagram is serious business. The nine-year-old, Facebook-owned platform has 1 billion monthly active users1, following behind Facebook which has more than 2 billion and YouTube with 1.9 billion monthly active users. By comparison, Snapchat has 310.7 million monthly active users.2

Here are some other noteworthy Instagram statistics:

  • 500 million people access Instagram daily 
  • 200 million users visit a business profile every day 
  • 8 out of 10 Instagram users follow a business 
  • The average user spends 53 minutes on Instagram daily! 
  • More than 100 million photos are uploaded every day. 
  • Instagram content receives more than 42 billion likes daily.

The basics

1.  The best Instagram posts include compelling images – including videos and Instagram stories – with well-written captions, appropriate hashtags and calls to action to increase engagement and conversions. In this example, the Chicago Tribune uses a striking Fourth of July image and a clear call to action using the popular Instagram story format.3

25 Tips for Using Instagram to Increase Engagement and Drive Sales

2.  Use the text to tell a story: one-liners, short paragraphs or the length of a short blog post. Instagram has a 2,200-character limit for each post, but you don’t need to use all of them. Just use the space you need to tell your story.

3.  Use questions or bold statements as your caption – and don’t forget the emojis! Here Audible asks a brief question in the image and, in the text below, they use emogies and hashtags. 

25 Tips for Using Instagram to Increase Engagement and Drive Sales

4.  Have a longer post? Break it down into bite-size paragraphs, like The Rock does here. He starts with an image that will draw in his fans and tells a story that nearly 4 million followers took the time to read.

25 Tips for Using Instagram to Increase Engagement and Drive Sales

5.  The photo draws in the reader, the caption shares your message and call to action, and hashtags increase visibility and discoverability. This particular image is actually a video of Taylor Swift. When scrolling past it in your Instagram feed, butterflies fly off of Taylor’s back, an effective attention-getter that garnered nearly 90,000 views at the time we took this screenshot.3

25 Tips for Using Instagram to Increase Engagement and Drive Sales

6.  Your first sentence is the most important. Instagram cuts off after just a few lines of text, so followers have to choose to read more. Make them want to.

7.  Use a consistent voice and make sure that voice fits with the light-hearted tone of Instagram. Be authentic, genuine and personable – someone you would want to interact with online.4

25 Tips for Using Instagram to Increase Engagement and Drive Sales

8.  Write, edit and proofread your post. Short posts are no excuse for typos or incorrect grammar or punctuation. Ask a colleague to review your copy before your post.

9.  Remember to include “click link in bio” to refer people back to your website, blog or landing page, and change the link regularly to test different posts and landing pages.

25 Tips for Using Instagram to Increase Engagement and Drive Sales


10.  Knowing who you want to target is critical. It will help you format what you say and how you say it. For example, will you use emojis? Emoji can be used at the beginning, middle or end of a caption. At the beginning to draw someone in, in the middle to replace words or at the end to wrap things up. In this example, Hulu congratulates the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team for their amazing championship win – a good use of capitalization, emjois, tagging and hashtags, perfect for their target audience.5

25 Tips for Using Instagram to Increase Engagement and Drive Sales

11.  Consider developing brand personas that specify target age, location, occupation, hobbies and leisure time activities. Flesh those personas out further by defining the best content and style of post to reach each of those personas.

12.  Tag other accounts, especially influencers if appropriate, to expand your reach. In this excample, Deliveroo tags one of its partner restaurants, Zialuci Pizza.

25 Tips for Using Instagram to Increase Engagement and Drive Sales

Captions and hashtags

13.  You can use up to 30 hashtags per post, but Hubspot recommends using a maximum of four.4

14.  Any combination of words can make up a hashtag, but use ones that say something your caption doesn’t, or that are widely used to make your post more discoverable. In this example, mermaids_fantasy_art used a range of mermaid-related hashtags. Others to consider for your subscription box company: #SVOD #SubscriptionContest #Bingeworthy #SaaS #subscriptionbox #giveaway #subscriptionpromo 


15.  You can hide hashtags by buying them after lines of periods (one period per line for multiple lines) or put your hashtags in a comment box after the main text from your post.

16.  The goals of a good caption are to (a) convey key messages and calls to action, (b) build relationships with your customers or prospects, (c) build a rapport with your audience and (d) to show off your brand’s personality. This Netflix caption takes the minimalist approach (see caption categories below). “Stranger Things” needs very little introduction to super fans. This one word caption got more than 546,000 likes and 3,980 comments.


17.  Caption categories include behind-the-scenes, instructional, informative, contest or giveaway, storytelling and minimalist. When writing content, choose a mix of formats to keep your feed interesting and to test different engagement strategies.

18.  To be sure you have just the right caption, ask others to review a few options to see which gets the best response. This is a particularly useful technique for paid posts to maximize your ad spend! 

19.  Captions should include a call to action, such as directing readers to a blog post, asking them to post a selfie with their favorite Sun Basket meal or tag a friend in a post.



Engagement and conversions

20.  Encourage followers to add your post to their Instagram stories and to repost.

21.  Engage audience by asking them to ask or answer a question in the comments, to leave a comment or tag a friend (e.g., tag a friend who you think would love our subscription box!). In this example, The New York Times asks a very thought-provoking, topical question which garnered more than 5,300 comments.


22. Offer contests and giveaways and share promo codes for a special discount only available to Instagram followers. Here FabFitFun shares a whimsical post with appropriate emojis and the word GIVEAWAY to draw attention to the giveaway.


23.  Ask users to tap to purchase in your shopping posts.

24.  Use Instagram as a “review” tool – ask subscribers to tag you when they post about your subscription product or service. “Loved #StrangerThings on #Netflix! Binge watched season 3 in one day!” (And be sure to thank them or like their post when they do!) In this example, My Subscription Addiction refers followers to Megan’s review of a @SoSusanCosmetics #Frenchis #makeup bag.


25.  Promote your other social channels on Instagram. In a recent Coke campaign, Coke told followers to look for clues on their Twitter page.









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