But what really sets Instagram apart is its potential to let brands break new ground without the need for relying on paid advertising. This makes for a level playing field that any brand — no matter how small — can leverage for its own promotion.

In 2020, Instagram is one of the most valuable social platforms for marketers. Populous, diverse, creative, and still growing, it offers incredible scope for brands seeking to promote themselves and reach their target audiences.

With that in mind, here’s how to market a brand on Instagram without relying on paid.

Create Tailored Content that Appeals Directly to Your Target Audience

With the plethora of content marketing tools, technologies, and creative features available to brands and marketers today, it’s easy to forget that what really drives engagement is value. The best way to market a brand to customers on Instagram is to simply give them what they want.

Your buyer personas will inform this. Take a dive into each one and identify the most significant pain points and interests. Once you’ve identified those, create content to address each one and offer meaningful advice and viable actions.

Alternatively, if you’re in a pinch and need to quickly identify what your target audience wants to see, consider checking out what your competitors are doing. Trawl their Instagram accounts: spot what kind of content they share, consider what works and what doesn’t, then build on the former and avoid the latter.

This is the foundation of an effective Instagram marketing strategy, one that consistently delivers interesting, useful and/or entertaining content that your audience actually wants.

Embrace User-generated Content for Free and Effective Marketing

Creating content for your Instagram feed can be an arduous task. From ideation to production, the process of regularly posting fresh content to your feed requires time, effort, and expense.

If your back is against the wall, it’s worth looking to user-generated content (UGC). This is essentially any form of content — photos, images, videos, etc — that is created by customers rather than a brand.

UGC is a quick win that provides you with genuine and meaningful content that, by virtue of being user-generated, gives your brand more value and authenticity. Customers respond better to this as a result. Best of all, UGC is virtually free to source. Contests are the best for sourcing this kind of content.

Hold a competition through which entrants can submit their own UGC centered around a theme (the best or most unusual use of your product, for instance) and use a branded hashtag to collate the entries.

As people enter your competition, require them to tag your brand in their entries. This helps raise awareness of your brand to their followers (many of whom will be in the same target audience) and bolster your brand image in general.

Implement a Regular and Frequent Posting Schedule

If you want to enjoy growth and engagement from your Instagram marketing strategy, you need to have a regular and consistent posting schedule.

This is the crux of growing your Instagram following: a consistent and coherent posting schedule that your audience can rely on. Further to this, a regular posting schedule shows the Instagram algorithm that you post fresh content frequently, helping you rise up the ranks as a result.

You can expedite this process by using one of the many free or paid social scheduling tools available online. Planoly is one of the most common, but there are plenty of other apps that can help you plan and post your content ahead of time.

Enjoy the Benefits of Creative and Engaging Stories

Perhaps one of the best ways to market your brand on Instagram without relying on paid or being at the behest of the platform’s algorithm is Stories.

You probably already know what a Story is: temporary content that appears on your profile and at the top of your followers’ feeds for just 24 hours before disappearing forever (unless, of course, you decide to save it to a Highlights reel on your profile).

Beyond this, Stories are creative and dynamic, offering arrays of Stickers through which you can reach your target audience. These Stickers include:

  • Hashtags
  • Questions
  • Locations
  • Polls
  • Products
  • Dates
  • Emojis

While some of the above are purely decorative, many of them — such as polls, questions, or hashtags — can be used to reach followers and generate engagement. Use these features to source input from your followers and showcase your brand on your Stories.

As mentioned earlier, Stories also let you circumvent the algorithm by placing your brand at the very top of your followers’ feeds. This lets you push updates and urgent content directly to your followers quickly (ideal for product launches or competitions).

Instagram might be just one prong of your marketing strategy, but it’s an important one. If your budget is tight but your ambitions are high, follow the tips above and eschew paid ads to use Instagram to market your brand in 2020.