Main Instagram Power, Second Edition: Build Your Brand and Reach More Customers with Visual Influence

Instagram Power, Second Edition: Build Your Brand and Reach More Customers with Visual Influence

Build your business on Instagram - today's hottest social media platform

While other social sites are declining in popularity, Instagram is hotter than ever―and shows no signs of cooling off any time soon. But it's not just users that are flocking to the site, marketers love it too. With more features and marketing capabilities than ever, Instagram is a channel that smart marketers can't afford to avoid.

Filled with proven strategies from leading Instagram experts this updated edition of Instagram Power walks you through the steps of setting up your account, actionable monetization methods you can use, and how to integrate the social media platform into your complete marketing approach. With 15 new chapter subsections and revisions throughout, the book shows you how to leverage all the new features, including Insights, IGTV, Shop-able Posts, Stories, and Instagram Ads.

You'll discover how to:
*Leverage Instagram to build and strengthen your business or personal brand
*Design an effective marketing plan for the platform
*Sell directly on Instagram with Shop-able posts
*Avoid common pitfalls, and much more

If you're serious about marketing, you need to tap into the power of the world's most popular photo-sharing platform. This guide offers a road map to achieving Instagram marketing success.
McGraw-Hill Education
1260453308 ; 978-1260453300
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For my amazing wife and business partner, Cinnamon, and our wonderful kids, Jordan, Makena, and Liberty




Part I


Step 1. Join Instagram and Get Your Business Profile

The Remarkable Rise of Instagram

Brand-New to Instagram—Read This Before Signing Up

The Power of the Profile

A Powerful Profile Is Focused

Profile Name Options

The Powerful Profile Checklist

Don’t Get Banned from Instagram

Instagram Business Profiles and Tools Overview

Find Your Heroes

Step 2. Mastering Basic Functionality

Three Ways to Publish

Instagram General Functionality

Managing Your Business Setting

The Website Version of Your Instagram Profile

Step 3. Mastering Instagram Stories and IGTV

Instagram Stories Overview

What Is IGTV, and How Do You Get It Set Up?

Step 4. Master Hashtags

Where Did Hashtags Come From?

How Instagram Uses Hashtags

How to Use Hashtags

Create Your Own Hashtags

Cautionary Tales

Hashtag Dos and Don’ts

Step 5. A Side Step for Nonprofits, Local Marketers, and Service Providers

Nonprofit Marketing on Instagram

Local Marketing with Instagram

Marketing a Service on Instagram

Part II


Step 6. Create Your Content Blueprint

Framework Step One: Clarify Your Themes

Framework Step Two: Clarify Your Visual Style

Framework Step Three: Select Your Publishing Method

Step 7. Use the Daily Actions Checklist to Gather Your Tribe

Followers = Social Proof

The Follow-Like-Comment-Respond (FLCR) Method

Daily Actions Checklist

A Fast and Affordable Way to Grow Your Instagram Followers with Influencers

Tools for Management

Step 8. Building Your Instagram Support Team

A Personal Note from GaryVee About Automation

Staffing Options

Collaboration and Automation Tools

Going Beyond the Instagram Approved List of Providers

Part III


Step 9. Master Copywriting Secrets for Instagram

Writing Opportunities on Instagram

How to Get Words on Your Pictures

Common Myths

What Would Joe Sugarman Do?

The Copywriter’s Goal

The Copywriter’s View of the Basic Tools

The Copywriter’s Outcome

Taking Copywriting to the Next Level

Step 10. Use Triggers of Engagement

12 Common Buying Triggers Found on Instagram

Five Levels of Connection to a Message

Fears Related to Tapping into Emotions

Step 11. Run Contests and Use Freebies Regularly

How to Get 64 Times More Comments

And Yet, It’s So Uncommon

Effective Contest Strategies on Instagram

Beyond Contests

The Stealthy Way to Share Boring Content

Ritualize the Freebies for Maximum Impact

Step 12. Selling Directly on Instagram

Shoppable Tags

Traditional Display Ads Adapted to Instagram

What Does Your Tribe Think Is Visually On-Trend?

Display Ad Techniques

How to Close the Sale with Link in Bio

Step 13. Use Multistep Campaigns and User Generated Content

The Dawn of the Multistep Campaign

Jeff Walker’s Breakthrough Adaptation

The AIDA Model on Instagram

Marketing with User Generated Content

Create a Photo Challenge

Part IV


Step 14. Start Advertising on Instagram

Study Both the Timeless and the Timely, but Avoid the Outdated

The State of Instagram Advertising

Prioritization and Advertising Rules for Success

How to Set up Ads on Instagram

The Types of Ads on Instagram

Audience Selection Options

Types of Calls to Action

Viewing Results of an Ad

Setting up Instagram Story Ads

Resources and Insights

Step 15. Scale up Your Advertising with Agency Help

The 5 Benefits of Using an Agency

Three Types of Instagram Agency Work

Evaluating an Advertising Agency

Ad Agency Pricing Models to Understand

Enabling Agency Success

Evaluating Agency Outcomes

The Challenges of Evaluating Success

Step 16. Start Working with Influencers

Influencer Marketing Defined

The Difference Between Mass Media Influencers and Social Influencers

Three Reasons Marketers Like Influencers

Five Tiers of Influence

How Much to Pay for Influencer Marketing

How to Find Influencers

What Can Influencers Do for You?

Avoiding Fraudulent Influencers

25 Example Calls to Action to Give to Your Influencers

Step 17. Become an Influencer

How Much Is Your Current Account Worth?

How Much Time Will It Take?

14 Top Tips from Successful Influencers

Part V


Step 18. Use Tools to Expand

Business Account Management Tools

Turn Instagram Images into Physical Products

Photo Management Utilities

Video Editing Utilities

Hashtag and Follower Management Utilities

Photo Editing Apps

Google Analytics

Classic Advertising Resources

Current Advertising Resources

Step 19. Get Coaching and Ongoing Training

Terrific Blogs to Consider

Instagram Related Training Courses

Events to Attend

Create Your Own Mastermind Group




This book would not have been possible without the wisdom and guidance of my agent, Marilyn Allen. Marilyn, thank you for providing practical advice and encouragement. It is an honor to be your client. I’d also like to thank each of the contributors who took the time to share their Instagram insights. Your contributions made this book a joy to write. I’m also grateful for my daughter, Liberty Miles, who shows me how to use social media daily, and helped preread the manuscript. Finally, I want to thank my beautiful and talented wife, Cinnamon Miles. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I love you with all my heart.


I wrote the first edition to this book in the summer of 2013 for marketers and small-business owners. At the time, I felt part of my writing duty was to convince people that Instagram had a lot of merit as a tool for marketers. So naturally I packed the Introduction and first few chapters with all the recent stats I could find—all the circa 2013 proof you could ever want that Instagram was on its way to becoming a big deal. The bulk of the book was focused on how to use Instagram to conduct tried-and-true Instagram marketing in a professional way. I was right about Instagram—man, is it crazy hot. I don’t need to prove that to anyone now.

Upon launch, the first edition did better than I could have hoped. But with each passing year, three things happened. First, the stats I included to argue my case for Instagram have become hilariously outdated. I should have realized prospective readers would see those stats and conclude the entire book was of no value. Oops. So much for future-proofing. Second, Instagram has added a huge amount of new functionality since 2013, much of it designed for marketers. Every time it released a new feature I said to myself, “Wow, I wish that was in my book.” And third, as I have worked with students, members of my Inner Circle program, and coaching clients over the last few years, I’ve come to realize the power and value of a framework and step-by-step approach, so people new to marketing on Instagram can have an actionable set of tasks to get up and running quickly and easily.

When McGraw-Hill approached me to do a second edition, I was thrilled. I had my to-do list ready. I’ve crafted the second edition of this book to achieve the following: First, to make a clear and compelling case for Instagram as a tool for marketers and small-business owners, with an emphasis on business benefits instead of site statistics. I hope this makes the book more timeless. Second, to update the book to include strategies and tips for leveraging the latest Instagram functionality. Finally, to present to readers a more logical and memorable framework, with a step-by-step approach that anyone can follow. The framework offers a logical progression so even the most advanced Instagram users can get something out of it. I trust the insights and lessons in this book will be helpful. I’d love to see your business thrive on Instagram and beyond.

Your Tribe Is on Instagram

Can Instagram be the platform where you win big? Can it be the place where you stand out, draw a crowd, and take the leadership position you know you deserve? The place where you ring the cash register, get the customers, and find your next rock-solid marketing method? Can it work for you—even though you’ve tried and failed at a few other marketing efforts before? Of course it can!

Instagram is clearly working well for marketing. So the question is, Will you make it work for you? It’s really your journey to take, your hill to climb. Your daily practice. Your vision. You’re the hero of this story now, not me. If you want it, it’s time to own it.

In this book you’ll find 19 clear, simple, logically ordered, and easy to implement steps toward a powerful Instagram marketing strategy. It’s not that big a hill to climb. Just 19 steps. It’s even broken up into five sections—with a logical framework and an easy to remember acronym. You can do this!

You might already have an Instagram account going—and some marketing strategies you’re using. You’ll be able to skip past the set-up steps. You may even be an experienced Instagram user. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty for you, too, including interviews with successful Instagram marketers who will give you fantastic tips.

Don’t Judge Your Success by Others

It’s so easy to look at other Instagrammers and get discouraged rather than motivated. I’m guilty of it too. But don’t do it! Don’t use someone else’s success to judge yourself. When we focus on comparison and competition with people who have nothing to do with us, we’re only being mean to ourselves and not celebrating the other person for his or her success. Instead, walk your own path. Make yesterday’s Instagram work your only yardstick of measurement. Are you doing better today than you did yesterday at leveraging the power of Instagram to build your business? Congrats—you’re reading this book, so let’s chalk up today as a victory! As a practical exercise, when you see successful Instagrammers in this book, celebrate with them. If you already have an Instagram account, jump on and leave a comment under their last post saying, “Congrats on all your Instagram success.”

Finding Your Tribe on Instagram

In his book Tribes, Seth Godin compares online marketing to tribe building. The message is clear—find and serve your tribe online. Serve them with thought leadership, tips, ideas, and resources. Be the convener, encourager, humorist, and connector. If you do it well, they will follow you. Over time, your tribe will grow, they will rally in support of your efforts, and a unique bond will be formed. With a powerful tribe at your back, you’ll be able to do bold things.

Godin’s concept provides solid guidance to the hopeful Instagram marketer of all types. Instagram is a tribal place, where people gather around leaders and topics. Users gravitate toward individuals, brands, and personalities that they grow fond of and build an attachment to. Instagram is chaotic upon first glance, but spend a little time with it and you’ll begin to see the organizing principles. You’ll begin to notice how the tribes aggregate and who they rally around. You’ll want a tribe of your own.

My premise for the book is simple. Your tribe is on Instagram—and if you want them to know, like, and trust you—you’ve got to have the Instagram marketing muscle to reach them. This book is written to give you the daily practice and strategies to find the strength. You probably won’t get it all at once, but as you implement effective strategies, you’ll develop the muscle, and the tribe will gather. My hope is that with these clear and easy to follow marketing tactics, step-by-step, you’ll find success.

Did You Say Big Papi Loves Butterflies?

By way of quick example about the tribal nature of Instagram, while I was working on this very section of the book, I received a message from one of my coaching clients, Tony. He’s the founder of a fantastic butterfly conservation effort called Raise The Migration ( Find him on Instagram His message was brief, “Big Papi’s Trying To Steal My Thunder—happy face emoji.” Big Papi? I was intrigued, so I clicked the link and saw the picture (Figure I.1) of David Ortiz—Red Sox icon, 10-time Major League Baseball All-Star, massive Instagram celebrity, and yes, butterfly lover. Yes, I said Big Papi Loves Butterflies! The point? Simply this: You never know who could potentially be in your tribe. Who might be your next customer, influencer, advocate, or business partner. Learn to do the work, and let’s see who shows up!

Figure I.1 Big Papi loves butterflies

Guide to the POWER Framework

Throughout the upcoming sections of this book, we’ll use the acronym POWER as our guide. In each section, you’ll find actionable strategies that build upon the previous section. Step-by-step, we’ll put together the pieces of a professional Instagram marketing program. Here is a quick overview of what we’ll cover.

P is for Prep for Success. In Part I you will get set up on Instagram. We’ll walk through how to use all the features and understand the Instagram way. Our focus will be on creating a powerful, professional profile. I’ll explain the latest Instagram improvements such as IGTV, Stories, Shoppable Posts, and more. We’ll also do a crash course on hashtags, since they play a central role in Instagram marketing.

O is for Organize Your Message. In Part II I’ll help you clarify and strengthen your visual branding on Instagram. The outcome will be a professional content strategy that you can begin using today. I’ll also give you a basic marketing plan in the form of a Daily Action Checklist so you know exactly what to do each day to grow your tribe. Finally, I’ll walk you through the tools and strategies related to building an Instagram support team to add fuel to your tribal fire.

W is for Wow Them. In Part III, I’ll give you a master class in direct marketing on Instagram. We’ll look at all sorts of marketing campaign methodologies to impress and attract your tribe. Whether you’re a product seller, service provider, nonprofit, or local merchant, we’ll break it down with step-by-step marketing actions to implement.

E is for Expand. In Part IV, we’ll explore the tools available to help you expand and scale your Instagram marketing. We’ll call in the cavalry—specifically advertisers and Influencers—effectively multiplying your marketing campaign power.

R is for Refine. In Part V, we’ll look at tools and resources to help you continuously improve, going from Instagram marketing rookie to a true professional. We’ll share resources for next steps on your journey—and discuss how we can stay connected.

This book is meant to prompt action. I’d encourage you to jump in with both thumbs. Try things. Learn by doing. Don’t worry about failing. Look up the profiles of the Instagram marketers that I interview in this book, and see what they’re doing. Borrow their good ideas and adapt them to your unique situation. Keep learning.

The Unlikely Journey That Brought Us Together Today

I suppose a bit about me is in order so you know who you’re dealing with. I’m a nonprofit executive turned kitchen-table entrepreneur from a suburb of Seattle—the Lake Tapps area. My wife Cinnamon (@libertyjaneclothing on Instagram) and I started selling on eBay in 2008, in an act of financial desperation. During that stressful period I developed a chronic multiyear addiction to the audio version of The 4-Hour Workweek. My own chronology of a pathology. I listened to it over and over every few weeks, for nearly five years. It helped that I had a mind-numbing, three-hour daily commute.

By 2014, our little online effort had started to blossom. I retired from the nine-to-five job and went full-time with the family business. It was wear your pajama bottoms to work day, every day, and midday kayaking happened as needed for stress relief. Going full-time with the family business changed everything. Thanks @Timferris. Before leaving the world of suites and shiny shoes, I had been the senior VP of marketing, fundraising, and human resources for a private college in Kirkland, Washington (@northwestu). A well-paid job and one that wasn’t easy to leave. I still teach Online Marketing at the school as an adjunct professor. Along the way I got an MBA, and a couple of undergraduate degrees too. I love learning!

Our small e-commerce company isn’t one you’ve probably ever heard of, unless you’re into sewing. We run Pixie Faire (@pixiefaire on Instagram), an e-commerce marketplace that sells digital sewing patterns, sewing-related video classes, and a monthly sewing club—Sewing With Cinnamon. Cinnamon’s books have really taken off lately too, so that’s a fun aspect of our work. You can find them at your local Costco, Walmart, JoAnn, Barnes & Noble, and beyond.

We’re honestly not trying to be a big deal or impress people. Truth is, we’d rather hang out at the local farmers market anyway, spend time with our kids, and try to do a good job being married and working together. We care about efficient profit and minimal loss. Scaling up what we do in our own way—and being good at it.

Last month we had over 70,000 transactions through our Shopify store, In the last 365 days, according to our Google Analytics, we’ve attracted just over 596,000 new users to Pixie Faire. Many of them via social media. Combined with our existing customers, they visited our site 2.2 million times and looked at over 14 million pages. It’s tiny compared to many online sellers, but big enough to achieve our personal goals. After 10 years of doing this, we know we have our long-term competitive advantage on full lockdown in a niche that is small enough for us to monopolize, yet large enough to fund our dreams.

About my writing work? During Christmas vacation in the winter of 2011, with a desire to find a creative writing outlet, I started manically blogging about how Pinterest was revolutionizing our small business. My little site was the perfect place for my coffee-induced micro manifestos. I wrote something like 25 articles during that two-week vacation. Turns out my timing was pretty good. When I got back to work, I got contacted about a book deal with McGraw-Hill for Pinterest Power. Yeah, after just two weeks of blogging. I know, it’s crazy, but true. Sometimes timing is everything.

I quickly realized that social media professionals weren’t really my tribe. Nope, I’m not trying to be an Instagram or social media guru. With no disrespect to them at all. They are really nice people. I just don’t fit in. Good news is, I found my tribe, small-business owners. Explaining e-commerce, Shopify, and social media to them is a blast. I love e-commerce and the process of selling online. Getting the sustainable traffic sources figured out and winning conversions. I do most of my teaching on Udemy in the e-commerce category.

Aside from work, our personal passion is growing a small ministry we started in 2010, Sew Powerful (@sewpowerful on Instagram). It’s a labor of love. Something we do from a deep conviction and calling to help a group of moms in a very desperate place—Ngombe Compound, Lusaka, Zambia. What we do is create good paying jobs for the moms, grandmas, and even some dads. They work to produce items that empower academic success for the orphans and vulnerable children of their community. The kids get a better school experience, and the parents get the pride of hard work—and a mission they believe in. We make things like school uniforms, reusable feminine hygiene pads, and soap, and do gardening on a small farm to help feed the kids. At the time that this book is being written we are helping kids in 25 schools and the program is growing quickly. Last year our overhead rate was 1.35 percent and we directly helped almost 7,000 children and employed roughly 25 adults. The more our e-commerce business efforts grow, the more we can invest into the program. You can check out what we’re doing on

We started using Instagram for our e-commerce efforts on September 17, 2012. A year later, because of the success of my prior book, Pinterest Power, the first edition of this book came together. At the time, there was so little that could be done with Instagram. But it was scaling at a massive rate, and our early marketing efforts were paying off really nicely. Back then there wasn’t much content online about Instagram marketing—today it’s everywhere. Plus, Instagram has rolled out fantastic business-related features in the last few years. So, my job with this book is to synthesize, provide examples of concepts, and most importantly, encourage you to adapt the ideas in this book and implement them in support of your product, business, service, or nonprofit effort. My goal is your success in the real world of competitive marketing, not just to entertain you with my writing. I know you can do this!

Get Your Expansion Pack

Throughout this book I’ll be regularly mentioning a series of additional resources, PDF checklists, bonus lists, case studies, and supplemental information. I’m calling it the Expansion Pack. You can download your free copy on a little blog I set up,

You’ll need the Expansion Pack because I simply couldn’t pack all the content I wanted to into this book. There is so much good stuff to share about Instagram marketing! So, the Expansion Pack became my overflow valve. I’ve truncated lists, and shortened things where I could, and placed the expanded versions in the Expansion Pack. Checklists and blueprint-styled worksheets are better delivered as nicely formatted PDF printables, instead of pages crammed in the back of a printed book. I’ve tried to make the Expansion Pack professional in appearance, so you can keep it on your desk, use it with your team at work, or show it to your boss. Feel free to use it in any way you want—you have my permission. Just be cool, cite your source as appropriate, and don’t sell it.

Join Me on Instagram

I’d love to have you follow me on Instagram. You’ll find me @mrjasonmiles. When you do, be sure to say hi. I’d be honored to follow you, too—maybe you’ve got a product I need? Maybe I’m your ideal prospect? Let’s find out together on Instagram. Keep reading and let’s see how quickly you can gather your tribe and unleash Instagram power in support of your online efforts.


If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed.


@thezigziglar on Instagram

Join Instagram and Get Your Business Profile

It’s never too late for a new beginning in your life.


@joycemeyer on Instagram

Before we dive right in to the account setup details, let me share two brief paragraphs about the remarkable rise of Instagram. The founders’ story is incredibly inspiring, and tens of thousands of marketers around the world are now benefiting from their genius. Who are these guys?

The Remarkable Rise of Instagram

On October 6, 2010, two Stanford classmates, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, launched the Instagram app (Figure 1.1). They were backed by $500,000 in investor funding from famed Silicon Valley firms Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. Their hope was to catch the wave of phone-based picture taking and sharing. Apple had made it fun and easy with the launch of the iPhone 3, and improved it in the summer of 2010 with the iPhone 4. Systrom and Krieger were betting on the death of point-and-shoot cameras and the rise of phone-based sharing. They guessed right.

Figure 1.1 The Instagram App

Two months after launch, Instagram had a million users. By September 2011, less than a year after launch, Instagram passed 10 million users. In April 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for a billion dollars, and the user growth continued its phenomenal pace. By February 2013 there were 100 million monthly active users. In December 2016 the Instagram team reported passing 600 million monthly active users. At the time that this book is being written, according to Statista, Instagram has over 1 billion monthly active users, and the site shows no sign of slowing down. It has become one of the most widely used social networks on the planet.

Brand-New to Instagram—Read This Before Signing Up

For the rest of this chapter, we’ll cover the process for signing up for Instagram as well as marketing strategy and advice related to launching a professional profile. If you’re brand-new to Instagram and haven’t signed up yet, I recommend you read the whole chapter before creating an account. There is marketing strategy connected to your profile, so you’ll want to understand it before you make an early mistake.

The main thing to remember is that Instagram is designed to be primarily managed from your phone, not from your computer. As with all new tools, there is a learning curve that you struggle through until you feel confident with it. Don’t worry. You’ll get past that, you can do this! If you’re already familiar with Instagram, then use this chapter to fill in any gaps in your knowledge.

The Power of the Profile

Let’s talk about the importance of the profile briefly, then we’ll do a step-by-step walk-through of getting your account set up and getting it listed as a business profile. It’s time to get you up and running on Instagram.

Have you ever visited someone’s Instagram profile and been immediately impressed, or maybe unimpressed? The reason is simple. Your profile is the most important piece of real estate you can manage on Instagram—so it’s the starting point of successful Instagram marketing. It needs to be powerful, focused, and professional.

Spend time thinking about your ideal prospects and the messages that will resonate with them at an emotional level—and those that won’t. Create your profile with your prospects in mind. Sort it out at the start—and find the deep meaning that you can bring to the work. Just like an archer shooting an arrow, each aspect of your profile and every piece of content you share has the ability to hit the bull’s-eye, fall short by a bit, or be dangerously off the mark. Refine your aim. How far off the mark?


Because Instagram is constantly adding new information and refining its functionality, I’d encourage you to visit several of its online sites including:

1. Its excellent help resources. Visit the general help content at You’ll find useful information related to using Instagram with content for general use as well as resources for various users such as parents, businesses, brands, and law enforcement.

2. Its press release site. Instagram also does a great job of announcing new features. To read those announcements, you’ll also want to regularly visit

3. Its business blog and resources. Instagram has done a terrific job of creating a user-friendly destination for business owners. It includes training, success stories, access to approved partners, and more. You’ll want to bookmark this site and visit it regularly. It is the ultimate online resource for business owners and marketers. Find it at (Figure 1.2).

Figure 1.2 Instagram Business Resources

Power to Hurt Your Cause

If your profile is the most important piece of real estate you manage on Instagram, then it stands to reason that done poorly, your profile will hurt your chances of connecting with your tribe. A poorly done profile will be unclear and therefore unproductive. Worst case: it may even repel the very people you’re trying to attract.

This shrink-sales-via-blunder scenario is actually a fairly well-documented situation in marketing work. To get a huge list of examples where media efforts backfired, simply google, “advertising that hurt sales.” You’ll find plenty of examples. I was surprised to see that Taco Bell’s (@tacobell on Instagram) Yo Quiero Taco Bell campaign was on the list. It stuck in my mind as a fun idea, so I assumed it was successful—not so. Although it was a very popular phrase in the late nineties, and the cute little Chihuahua was good in the commercials—according to the company, tests proved that the campaign reduced sales by 6 percent. That was enough to get the CEO fired. The reason it didn’t work? Many marketers believe it was because, although the message was memorable, it was ultimately a negative association. Dogs like Taco Bell food—so you should too? Maybe not.

The point is this: in each situation where a media effort damages sales, there is a clear reason it occurs. Although it is not obvious beforehand to the marketers involved, it becomes clear in time if they pay attention to their audience’s behavior and learn along the way. This presents a doubly dangerous situation for your Instagram marketing because unlike TV commercials, you cannot easily test whether your Instagram profile is damaging your online efforts—or by how much. Don’t make the mistake of just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks. Learn how to make and manage a professional Instagram profile that works well—it’s a subtler art than you might at first appreciate, so invest the time to do it well.

A Powerful Profile Is Focused

On Instagram, you want your profile to quickly explain to visitors who you are, what you’re all about, and what type of visual content they will get if they follow you. Professional. Clear. Customer focused. Never forget your profile is your Instagram home page—treat it with care.

If you’re a thought leader or business coach, a profile that has authority and credibility is important. If you’re a fashion blogger, then demonstrating your on-trend visual style is key. If you’re a local Realtor, it might be social proof via houses sold or testimonials. Your profile lets existing customers as well as prospects know what you’re using Instagram for and what they can expect. Prove to them that it will add value. As you can see in Figure 1.3, Whole Foods does a nice job of it (@wholefoods on Instagram).

Figure 1.3 Whole Foods

Profile Name Options

One of your most basic choices is the name you choose to use—whether to use a brand name, niche-related name, or your personal name. As with many marketing choices, there is no right or wrong. There is just a creative direction you get to decide upon, and then once you’ve decided, you get to live with it. Whatever you decide, it is important to make it crystal clear to current and prospective customers exactly who you are.

We’ll dive more deeply into content strategy in the next chapter, but before we walk you through the account setup steps, let’s cover niche selection. Of course, you can have more than one topic to discuss on your Instagram profile, but having clarity around it, especially if it’s going to be connected to a username, is vital. A good starting point to help you figure out your Instagram niche is the Japanese concept of ikigai. This concept, which means “reason for being,” focuses on four questions:

1. What do you love?

2. What are you good at?

3. What does the world (or your tribe) need?

4. What can you get paid for?

Take the time to consider these hard questions as you consider how to set up your Instagram profile and username and content strategy.

Don’t be confused by the Instagram profile options. You’ll notice that under the Edit Profile options, you have two name-related choices. First, your Username. This option governs your @username handle within the app, as well as the URL associated with your account when using a browser. So be careful when considering changing it. Change it and you change how people find you on Instagram. For example, if they search in the app or web-based tool, this is the name that will appear. The second option, simply titled Name, is the name displayed on your profile, just under your profile picture. Changing it doesn’t alter how you’re discovered or the URL associated with your account. That gives you some freedom to use it creatively. Consider it the place to include your slogan or tagline if you’d like.

The second profile challenge is selecting a name that isn’t already taken. This is common to all the social sites, of course, and it can be a challenge for both business and personal profiles. In my case, there are several people named Jason Miles who are public figures trying to make their way in the world just like I am. One is an award-winning jazz musician, the other a country music singer. My profile name options are therefore limited. But on Instagram, we all lost out to a young name that was clearly an early adopter. He is “Jason Miles” on Instagram, and all the rest of us are something a little less clear. I chose to go with MrJasonMiles, so as to keep my name in the profile. Whatever you decide, try your best to maintain clarity and minimize confusion.


You may have noticed that some larger Instagram profiles have a blue badge with a checkmark in the middle next to the account name. While many people believe it’s about the size of the following an account has received, it’s not. It simply confirms that Instagram has verified the account for a public figure, celebrity, or global brand. In the past, there was no clear verification process, but as of summer 2018, there is now an automated request process. You can find the link to it in the mobile app under your Settings, then Request Verification.

The Powerful Profile Checklist

Let’s work through the profile choices together in checklist format, then we’ll walk you through the step-by-step setup process. Consider including as many of these elements as you can—some may be optional depending on whether you are setting up a business or personal profile. The more you can fit into the limited spaces available, the better. If you’d like a nicely formatted version of this checklist, be sure to visit and get our free Expansion Pack.

A professional headshot or nicely formatted corporate logo. This doesn’t have to be as formal as your LinkedIn profile picture, but you want to convey trustworthiness. Avoid the half-drunk selfies from your last excursion to Puerto Vallarta.

A clear statement about who you are—and what you care about. If you’re a company CEO or founder, be sure to include it. This explains a huge amount, as most people are very familiar with what Tim Ferris calls “job description as self-description.”

If it’s a corporate/business account, include a clear statement about what your company does.

A credibility indicator, an award, honor, or claim to fame. Position yourself for credibility but try not to sound like you’re bragging.

A description of the types of images you’ll share. This can be hard to include in a 150-character bio.

A link to other Instagram accounts you manage such as @sewpowerful in my case. These are clickable, so leverage this as much as possible. If you have both a personal and a corporate profile, be sure to cross-promote them.

A link to your most appropriate website or content.

Your business phone number, added in the business profile section of your profile.

Your business email address, added in the business profile section of your profile.

If you have an office or retail location, include the street address in your business profile, and a directions link will appear on your profile as well.

The category your business operates in—this helps to define who you are nicely as well. You add this by selecting from a predetermined list of categories and subcategories in the business profile section.

A call to action button—if there is one that fits your business situation. As with the category descriptor, you select this in the business profile section.

A set of Story Highlights that answer top-of-mind visitor questions. Your Story Highlights can be used in really creative ways—take the time to consider how to add massive value to your ideal customers via this tool. In upcoming chapters we’ll talk about creative ways to use your Story Highlights.

Don’t Get Banned from Instagram

Mastering the functionality of Instagram isn’t enough. We must also master a set of effective marketing techniques that result in good outcomes, while at the same time complying with Instagram policies. Unfortunately, there are a lot of shady marketers. Many of them trying to teach Instagram marketing, of course. Don’t follow the advice of shady gurus. They may have gotten their prior results by breaking the rules—do your homework. Stay familiar with the helpful resources previously mentioned and do your homework on the following:

1. General Community Guidelines, many of which directly relate to how a marketer can and cannot behave on the site. If you want my three-word summary, it is “don’t spam people.”

2. Security Tips and Privacy information.

3. Guidelines written specifically for marketers related to using Instagram for business, including advertising on Instagram, linking accounts, and using branded content.

4. Terms related to what the company will do when your account is suspended or terminated.

5. The steps to take to close your account if you decide to no longer use the service.

6. The process for reporting abuse, copyright infringement, or your account being hacked.

There are specific things Instagram prohibits, and if you do them, you can get kicked off the platform. If that happens, Instagram prohibits you from joining again with a new account, so the price of violating these terms is very high. One example of a violation that seems tempting is to purchase an existing account to get started. That seems like it could be a great idea, but it violates Instagram’s terms. So stay familiar with the terms and policies. You can find the full list under the Terms of Use statement. They include (condensed for our purposes):

1. You can’t impersonate others or provide inaccurate information.

2. You can’t do anything unlawful, misleading, or fraudulent.

3. You can’t violate the terms or help or encourage others to violate them.

4. You can’t do anything to impair the intended operation of Instagram.

5. You can’t attempt to create accounts or collect information in unauthorized ways.

6. You can’t attempt to buy, sell, or transfer any aspect of your account, or solicit, collect, or use login credentials or badges of other users.

7. You can’t post private or confidential information or violate someone else’s rights.

8. You can’t use a domain name or URL in your username without Instagram’s prior written consent.

Instagram Business Profiles and Tools Overview

Instagram’s business profile feature allows you to change your standard user profile into a business profile—and subsequently gives you access to a wide variety of functions in support of business goals. Nonprofits and service organizations would also want to use this feature.

In the upcoming chapters of this book we’ll discuss a wide variety of marketing strategies related to using Instagram’s business tools, as well as marketing strategies designed to simply use the general Instagram features available to all users.

How to Get an Instagram Business Profile

Here are the steps involved in turning your personal profile into a business profile:

1. For iPhone users, from your profile tap the three horizontal bars in the top right corner. For Android users, in the top right corner you’ll see three vertical dots to tap.

2. Select Sign up for a business profile.

3. Select Convert Existing Account.

4. Connecting your account to an existing Facebook page is optional, but to use the full functionality available, you’ll need to do it.

5. Complete your business’s contact information on the Set Up Your Business Profile page and select Done.

Find Your Heroes

One of the best ways to stay current and see the best practices as well as the trends is to simply make a set of model profiles that you check regularly. Find your heroes. Watch to see what other people in your niche or industry are doing—and learn from them. If you don’t have any social media leaders within your niche or industry, then look beyond to public figures, celebrities, and national figures whom you respect and who have a strong social media marketing effort.

Now it’s time to go deeper. In the next chapter, we’ll dig into how to use the Instagram features. First we’ll look at basic functionality, then we’ll dive into two key parts of the platform, Instagram Stories and IGTV.

Mastering Basic Functionality

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.


@brucelee on Instagram, run by his daughter Shannon

Now that we’ve looked at the business profile options, let’s look at general Instagram functionality. Some features are more complicated than others, but once you become familiar with them, you’ll be up and running in no time. Although Instagram started as a photo sharing app, it has evolved way beyond just photos.

Three Ways to Publish

Instagram has three effective ways to publish content. It’s important to have this mental framework so you understand how to learn, and then use, all the features. The three ways are the Feed, Stories, and IGTV:

Feed. This is the original photo and video sharing functionality. It’s the oldest part of the matrix. Because of that, it is the best known and most used functionality. Instagram likes to refer to it simply as “Feed,” but that’s a little awkward, so in this book, you’ll see me refer to it as “the Feed.” The content is located on the Home tab, symbolized by the house in the bottom left corner of your primary navigation menu, so I’ll also use “Home tab” to refer to it.

Stories. This is the ephemeral content (it goes away after 24 hours), although if you create a Story Highlight it remains permanently available. This was originally introduced to directly compete with Snapchat. It worked. Instagram has clearly won that war. People love Instagram Stories functionality. We’ll do a deep dive into this functionality in Step 3.

IGTV. The newest publishing option focuses on sharing and watching vertical video. Is this Instagram’s attempt at competing with YouTube? It would appear that way. Will it work? Time will tell.

Instagram General Functionality

For the rest of this chapter we’ll work our way through the general functionality and the primary screens of Instagram. I’ll mention Stories, Story Highlights, and IGTV when needed, but in the next chapter we’ll explore those features more thoroughly since they play such a central role in the marketing efforts.

The five tabs of the primary navigation menu rest at the bottom of the screen almost constantly, so it is difficult to feel lost. Using the primary navigation menu as your constant frame of reference allows you to quickly navigate among the five screens. The only time the navigation menu is not at the bottom of the screen is when the Camera tab is in use, or when you’re in Stories, IGTV, or on account setting, ad creation, or similar screens.

Let’s explore each of the five major tabs to learn how they work and what they are designed to do. We’ll look at them from left to right and from top to bottom. Remember, there are more extensive online tutorials and tips at

The Home Tab—Feed

Instagram continues to add functionality to the Home tab, aka Feed, in exciting ways (see Figure 2.1). The Home tab is in the bottom left corner of the screen and is designated by the house symbol.

Figure 2.1 Home Tab

The Home tab is the starting point for the following features:

Your Story Camera. The camera is accessed via the top left corner and symbolized by the camera icon. You can also simply swipe toward the right on your Home screen to access this feature. Content made via the Story Camera tool is designed to be used in the Stories feature. More on that in the next chapter.

IGTV. Accessible in the top middle right of the Home screen, IGTV is designed for watching long-form vertical video (formatted with your phone screen in mind). You can view IGTV content via both a stand-alone app available in the iTunes store and Google Play, or watch the content inside the main Instagram app. Videos can be between 15 seconds and 10 minutes for regular accounts, and larger and verified accounts can add videos up to an hour.

Direct messages. Access to your Instagram Direct messages (DMs) is available in the top right corner, symbolized by the arrow in the blue circle. Alternatively, you can simply swipe the Home screen toward the left to access this feature. Instagram refers to this as simply Instagram Direct, although most people refer to this functionality as DM-ing.

Video chat. You can also video chat an individual or up to four people via Instagram Direct. Simply select a profile you’ve DM’ed, or a group chat you’ve already set up, and in the top right corner you’ll see a video camera icon. Tap it to place the video call. You can video chat for an unlimited amount of time.

Stories. The second section from the top on the Home screen displays stories—yours if you have any, as well as stories from people you follow. We’ll devote a lot more detail to the use of story content in upcoming chapters.

Latest pictures. The lower section of the Home screen displays the latest pictures from the people you follow as well as advertisements. You scroll through these by swiping up. On the Home tab you can like and comment on these pictures quickly and easily. To like an image simply double tap it. In addition to showing the picture, the Home tab also shows the number of likes an image has received and the description entered by the author. As space allows, it will also show comments.

The Explore Tab

The Explore tab, shown in Figure 2.2 and accessed by tapping the magnifying glass icon, allows you to discover new Instagram users that you might like to follow and topics that are related to your industry or interests.

Figure 2.2 Explore Tab

In older versions of Instagram, this was referred to as the Popular tab. It still functions in that manner. Let’s talk about being popular on the Explore tab; then we’ll discuss other ways you can use this tab effectively.

Popular Images on the Explore Tab

Having an image displayed at the top of the Explore tab can boost your Instagram profile dramatically, allowing more people to learn about you quickly. Although Instagram doesn’t reveal the exact methodology for getting an image into this enviable position, most people believe it is a combination of several factors. First, it’s tailored to your unique use of the app, so everyone’s Explore feed will look different. Blogger Chris Smith suggests that the factors include:

1. The number of likes you get from your followers within the first 10 to 20 minutes of posting the image.

2. The relative competition at the time. Each image is competing against other images in real time. As with any type of popularity system, sometimes the competition is overly strong, and sometimes it happens to be weak.

3. The number of likes you receive from your followers compared with those from nonfollowers. Although people who find it by looking at a hashtag can like your image, it appears that more relative weight is given to likes that come from your followers.

Other Ways to Use the Explore Tab

Users can navigate the Explore tab by using the search bar, by categories, or simply by browsing popular images and videos. Let’s review these options briefly.

First, you can tap in the search bar and begin looking for people, hashtags, or locations. Play with the search function to learn how it behaves and then adapt your efforts to optimize your outcome. If you want to find a personal or business profile, simply begin the search for specific users in the search bar, such as your own name or a business in your town. If you can’t think of anyone, use “MrJasonMiles.” Search for #JasonMiles and you’ll find a whole bunch of Jason Mileses, most of whom aren’t me. Again, the search algorithm will return results related to Username, Profile Name, Hashtags, and Locations, so consider carefully how to optimize your profile to include those elements!

Second, you can look at images by category. This allows you to narrow down your search for ideal content for such topics as Automotive, Humor, Music, Style, Sports, Fitness, Comics, Animals, Art, and more.

Third, you can search for specific hashtags, like #instagrampower. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss hashtags in much greater detail in Step 3. If you search for a hashtag, you’ll see the images that have been tagged and the Instagram users who shared them. Following the Instagram users who regularly use hashtags related to your industry is probably a wise first step.

Fourth, you can search by places, geo-locating specific content. Want to see what images or videos are being shared from your neighborhood? Just search for it. Or maybe you want to see what is happening at Madison Square Garden—just search for it.

Fifth, you can simply browse the grid of pictures that Instagram provides to you. These users may or may not be of interest to you. They are presented because they are popular, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a good candidate for you to follow.

The Camera Tab

The Camera tab is located in the middle of the bottom of your screen, identified by the plus sign in the square. It provides an alternative method of accessing your phone’s camera for posting an image or video. You can also access your phone’s photo library. The video you record or share from the camera tab can be up to 60 seconds via this method. It adds the video to your Instagram Feed. Later in the chapter we’ll talk about another way to create videos—through the Story functionality.

Ultimately, it is your choice about whether this method of accessing your phone’s camera is useful to you or whether you use your phone’s primary camera tool. The rationale for including this function in the Instagram app is that it allows you to go from picture taking to picture editing without ever leaving the app (see Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3 Camera Tab

In the Camera tab you can start by selecting an image from the Library, taking a photo, or recording a video. You can also turn the camera’s flash on or off or allow it to be in auto-detect mode. Finally, you can switch between your phone’s front camera and rear camera.

Once you either take a picture or choose an image from your image library, you will move to an editing screen. The Instagram editing screen allows you to conduct two primary activities. First, you can make edits to the image and put it into the final visual form you want to use. Second, you can prepare the written information that will accompany your image. Both of these activities are vitally important for marketing purposes. Social impact is a combination of imagery and messaging. Your ultimate success on Instagram will depend largely on the choices you make in these two categories. Let’s take a closer look at each topic. Some of these topics will be the subject of later chapters in this book, so in those cases we’ll briefly touch on the topic here.

Modifying Your Image

Instagram is about images, so it stands to reason that regardless of whatever else you want to accomplish by way of marketing goals, you also need to produce images that are very appealing to your ideal followers. That will be different in different niches and categories, but the basics of professional photography must be mentioned. Let’s walk through the options available for editing your images in the Camera tab section of Instagram:

Crop your image. There are three primary objectives when cropping an image. First, you want to narrow the focus and decide what element of the image should be the primary focal point. Second, you want to intentionally remove any unwanted elements from the image. Finally, you want to correct composition problems and align your image using the rule of thirds, which states that images are more interesting if placed off-center. The Instagram cropping feature automatically provides the grid that indicates the one-third lines. To resize the image simply use the pinch or pull function to make the image smaller or larger.

After you finalize the crop, you click Next to either add a filter or edit the image further. Your options include:

Filter options. In addition to simply keeping the image as is, referred to in filters as Normal, you can also select a range of effects from ultra-vibrant to black and white.

Edit options. After you finalize the filter decisions, you can select “Edit” to make additional changes, including adjusting the rotation, brightness, contrast, structure, warmth, saturation, color, fade, highlights, shadows, vignette effect, and tilt shift.

Caption and Metadata

You can add metadata to your images to help your followers learn more about the image. Metadata is information that accompanies your image but is not necessarily visible on the image. Preparing the metadata includes:

1. Adding a caption. Your description of the image is a vital part of communicating more details about the image. We will cover this in greater detail in Step 11. In addition to a description of the image and any call to action you’d like to include, you can also include hashtags. A hashtag is a categorization system originally pioneered on Twitter. It is simply a word proceeded by the # sign—for example, #sunset. This allows the image to be included in the category of images that have the #sunset hashtag. There are lots of terrific marketing activities that can be done with hashtags. We’ll discuss them in more detail in Step 3.

2. Tagging people. You can include people in the photo. Simply click Tag People, tap the picture to identify the person you want to tag, and then search for them. You can repeat this step to tag multiple people. At the time that this book is being written there is not yet a way to tag people in a video.

3. Adding location details. Instagram identifies metadata on your image if it is available and attempts to offer you appropriate location options that you can quickly select. If you don’t see the appropriate location name presented, you can type in a location.

4. Social sharing. If you connect them, you can allow your images and videos to be shared to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

5. Advanced settings. As we mentioned earlier, the advanced settings option allows creators to identify Branded Content. It also allows you to manage comments and enable the “Share Your Posts to Facebook” option to become a default setting.

The Activity Tab

The Activity tab, indicated by the heart icon, has three primary views (see Figure 2.4). The You view allows you to see the likes and comments that you’ve received most recently. It also allows you to view the results of any promotions you’ve run. It’s a simple way to keep up to date on what your followers are doing related to your images and account. The Following view summarizes the recent activity of the people you are following. This allows you to keep up on what other people are liking and commenting on. The Promotions view gives you access to your current advertising promotions.

Figure 2.4 Activity Tab

The Profile Tab

The Profile tab is the final tab located on the far-right side of the bottom navigation menu. It is probably the most important tab for marketers. All the functions related to account management are accessed through this tab (see Figure 2.5). Let’s review each Profile tab option starting at the top left corner.

Figure 2.5 Profile Tab

Top left corner Story Archive icon. In the top left corner of the Profile tab you’ll see the Story Archive—symbolized by a clock with an arrow around it. Tap it to reveal your archived story content. You can enable or disable your Story Archives in the Business Settings feature—more on those in a moment. The most common use is to create a Highlight. We’ll talk about Highlights in upcoming chapters since they make a fantastic marketing opportunity. You can also simply take a story picture or video and publish it as a post.

Switch accounts. If you add a second account via the Business Settings (more on that in a moment), then you can switch between them by selecting the drop-down area next to your profile name in the middle of the top of the Profile screen. The second account you’ve added will be presented as an option. You can add more as needed. This allows you to switch between accounts without needing to log out and log in each time. See Figure 2.6.

Figure 2.6 Switch Accounts in Profile Screen

Top right menu. In the top right corner of the Profile tab you’ll see three vertical bars (Figure 2.7). Tap it to reveal a menu that includes Insights, Saved Content, Discover People, and Settings. Let’s review each of these.

Figure 2.7 Profile Menu

Insights. The Insights feature allows you to see your activity such as:

1. Interactions—actions taken on your account

2. Discovery—the accounts you’ve reached

3. Impressions—the number of accounts that have seen your content

4. Reach—the number of unique accounts that have seen any of your content

5. Profile Visits—the number of times your profile has been viewed

You can also view your content, including story insights and promotion results. If a promotion is not approved, you can access the appeal process as well. Finally, you can view your audience details including:

1. Top locations by city and country

2. Age range of your followers

3. The percentage of men versus women

4. The days of the week, and hour of the day, when your followers are most active

Saved Images/Collections. The Saved Images feature allows you to save an image and create collections of saved images. This is particularly useful when you want to create a collection of important Instagram accounts that you keep track of, such as an “Influencers” collection or a “Heroes” collection. Simply save an image from an account into a new collection you label “Influencers” and start adding to it. Over time, it will allow you to keep track of key accounts.

Discover People. The Discover People feature, symbolized by a person with a plus sign, allows you to discover new people either via your contacts or from Instagram suggestions.

Settings. The bottom right corner of the menu tab allows you to access your account settings by tapping the gear symbol. In Settings, you can do the following:

1. Find and invite friends.

2. View the photos you’ve liked.

3. Log out.

4. Modify your sharing settings, including how your account is connected to Facebook and other social media sites.

5. Manage your push notifications. Push notifications are emails you receive from Instagram when certain actions occur, such as when your images are liked or commented on.

6. Clear your search history.

7. Modify your privacy settings, including the option to require your approval before someone can follow you.

8. Manage how your photos are saved.

Managing Your Business Setting

Instagram’s business tools are designed to give you both insight and expanded functionality as a marketer. I won’t bore you by listing and describing each minor account setting option, but I’d encourage you to walk through the account management settings and explore each one. Let’s walk through the major features.

Creating ads. We’ll do a deep dive into advertising on Instagram in Step 14. Instagram ads can be made either within Instagram or via the Facebook Ads Manager—as long as you are an admin on the Facebook page connected to your Instagram business profile.

Set up Shoppable Posts function. For Instagram business account users that qualify, adding Shop buttons on posts allows viewers to simply tap on the screen to see a product image, price, and a link that goes to that item on your website. We’ll cover this in detail in Step 12. This functionality is enabled by creating a Facebook Catalog and connecting it to your Instagram account. You can do this on your Facebook business page, or Shopify users and BigCommerce users can set this up directly on their websites, which is a fantastic feature.

Managing Branded Content. Instagram requires influencers to disclose when they are being compensated to share a product and to also identify the promotional partner. Influencer marketing is one of the hottest marketing developments in recent years, and it works really well on Instagram. We will focus on exactly how to do this in Step 16, and then show you how to become an influencer in Step 17.

To help influencers manage disclosure properly, Instagram created the Branded Content feature. It is available to Creators and Publishers. When it is used by the content publisher, the post or story they share will display “Paid partnership with . . .” above the post. If you’re a content creator or an influencer and want to learn more about this feature and how to enable it, be sure to visit and look in the Instagram for Business section and then read the Branded Content on Instagram information.

Adding a Call-To-Action to your profile. Your business profile already allows you to add a Call-To-Action so people can call you, text you, get directions, and email you. Tiffany Jewelers (@tiffanyandco on Instagram) does a nice job of this (Figure 2.8). Instagram is rolling out new functionality along these lines, so stay tuned. As of this writing, you can also enable book an appointment, buy tickets, place an order, shop (if you have the Shoppable Posts functionality approved and set up), and make a reservation. These are made possible via third-party apps. To see what is available, go to your business profile and select Edit Profile. In the business information section, click Add an action button. Then in the Business information section, select Contact Options, then Add an action button. You’ll see the full list of third-party services on the screen. To enable the functionality, you must register as a user with the third-party service you want to use, then select it on Instagram and complete the setup process.

Figure 2.8 Tiffany Calls to Action

Activity status. In the second row you’ll see a note that says, “[number] profile visits in the last 7 days.” Tap this number and you’ll be taken to your insights data.

Account stats. Just below the Activity Status, you’ll see the number of posts you’ve added, the number of followers you have, and the number of accounts you’ve followed. These are all active links, so you can tap them and see the details.

Promote Button. The Promote Button allows you to set up a promotion quickly and easily in support of any of your published content. If your account is connected to Facebook, and you have a credit card on file, then the payment options will show it.

Edit Profile. The Edit Profile button allows you to change your profile information, including:

1. Profile photo

2. Username

3. Website

4. Bio (up to 150 characters)

5. Business information, including Facebook page, category, and contact information

6. Private information, including email, phone, and gender

Story Highlights. Below your profile information you’ll see your Story Highlights section. We’ll explore how to set up this feature in the next chapter.

Email and Directions. When viewing a business account, just below the Story Highlights, you’ll see the option to access either the email or driving directions if the company has entered those in its profile.

Grid, Recent, or Mentions. Just above the pictures you’ve added you’ll see a viewing option that allows you to see images in a grid view or individually, or to see photos where the account profile has been mentioned. When viewing your own profile, you can also see photos you’ve saved.

The Website Version of Your Instagram Profile

You can also view your Instagram profile on your computer, although the functionality is very limited. The domain name structure simply places the Instagram user name at the end of the URL—for example,, as shown in Figure 2.9.

Figure 2.9 Website Version of Instagram Profile

The most common use of the web version is to use it as the destination for any Instagram social buttons on your website. In that way, visitors looking at your website from a computer can click on the Instagram social icon and see your Instagram profile on their screen, and follow you. Then when they are on their phone and open Instagram, they’ll have made that connection. In the upcoming chapters we’ll also look at methods for using your own, and other people’s, Instagram images on your website.

Now that you know how to set up a profile and understand the basics of Instagram business accounts, it’s time to go deeper. In the next chapter, we’ll learn how to use the functionality for both Instagram Stories and IGTV. These two publishing options are exciting aspects of the Instagram platform.


1. Take the time to learn about the Instagram tabs and how they work.

2. Explore the business profile settings.

3. Use the Explore tab to find people in your niche or industry to follow.

4. Start to consider how your profile image and description can effectively represent your work on Instagram.

Mastering Instagram Stories and IGTV

Marketing is telling a story about your value that resonates with enough people that they want to give you money.


@sethgodin on Instagram

Now that we’ve looked at basic account setup, let’s dive deeper into two substantial Instagram features—Stories and IGTV. In this chapter, we’ll simply discuss the functionality so you know how to access and use the features. Then, in upcoming chapters, we’ll focus on learning how to create interesting marketing campaigns utilizing these features to grow your tribe.

Instagram Stories Overview

Instagram Stories launched on August 2, 2016. Although Instagram has allowed video sharing for a long time, the addition of Stories transformed it into a much more creative video publishing and viewing platform designed to directly compete with a key rival, Snapchat. Whole Foods (@wholefoods on Instagram) does a nice job of using Stories (Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1 Whole Foods Story

What’s Ephemeral Content?

Stories brought the concept of ephemeral content to Instagram. Ephemeral means the content lasts for only a limited time (24 hours) before it is no longer visible on the site. To create a bridge between the ephemeral content and the permanent content, Instagram created Story Highlights, a very cool feature that allows content creators to save story content in a nice way (more on how to leverage this concept in the next chapter). Snapchat popularized the concept of ephemeral marketing and was an up-and-coming rocket ship until Instagram launched Stories.

When Instagram launched Stories, it was widely seen as a “copy what is working” strategy. By the summer of 2018 Instagram announced that Stories had over 400 million daily active users, up from 250 million in 2017. That makes it twice as popular as Snapchat, which reportedly had just 190 million daily active users for the same time period.

Viewing Stories

While they’re live, you can access your story content and the stories of people you follow in two ways. First, on the Home tab, you can see stories featured in the top section of the screen. Second, on the Profile tab, you can simply tap your account profile picture to see your own stories. While looking at stories you can:

See Viewers. Tap “Seen by . . .” in the bottom left corner to see who has viewed the content and also insights related to engagement.

Add to Highlights. This allows you to transfer the story to your Story Highlights.

More. Tap “More” in the bottom right corner. This option allows you to delete the content, save the content, send it to someone, or access your Story Settings.

What Can You Do with Stories?

The Stories functionality includes a nice set of publishing options. These radically expanded the functionality of Instagram when they were launched in 2016. You can use Stories to create:

Instagram Story Photo(s) (exist for only 24 hours)

Instagram Story Boomerang Videos (1 second) (exists for only 24 hours)

Instagram Story Video (up to 15 seconds) (exists for only 24 hours)

Instagram Story Highlight (preserves story content and strings it together)

Accessing Your Story Camera

You can access your Story Camera in two ways. First, via the top left corner of your Home tab (Figure 3.2). It is symbolized by the camera icon. You can also simply swipe toward the right on your Home tab to access the camera.

Figure 3.2 Story Camera Icon (upper left)

Using Your Story Camera Functionality

Let’s review the Stories functionality from top to bottom and left to right (Figure 3.3).

Figure 3.3 Stories Functions

Story Settings. The gear icon in the top left corner gives you access to your Story Settings. Options include:

Hiding your story

Allowing replies

Allowing sharing

Saving to Camera Roll

Saving to Archive

Sharing your story to Facebook

Allowing Highlights resharing

Exit Story Camera. You can exit the Story Camera by tapping the arrow in the top right corner. This returns you to your Home tab.

Camera Roll. Access your camera’s photos by tapping the small photo displayed in the bottom left of the Story Camera screen.

Camera flash settings. Toggle through your camera’s flash settings by tapping the lightning bolt icon.

Camera button. Take a picture by tapping the camera button (circle) in the middle of the screen, or record a 15-second video by holding it down.

Under the camera button you have a set of slider options including:

Type. Gives you a blank screen to write something on.

Live. Allows you to begin an Instagram Live video. These can be up to one hour in length.

Normal. Allows you to operate your camera.

Boomerang. Allows you to record 1-second video clips.

Focus. Allows you to use your camera’s depth of field, if you have an iPhone 8+ or 10.

Superzoom. Allows you to add fun effects to a brief video clip.

Rewind. Allows you to record a brief video that is played in reverse.

Hands Free. After you tap record, the video will continue to record for 15 seconds.

Front/Back Camera. Switch between your phone’s front and back camera by tapping the two arrows.

Add Graphics. Tap the smiley face in the bottom left corner to access graphics to add to your content.

After you add your content, you’ll be given an editing screen with menu options along the top of the photo. They include

Link IGTV. Add a link to an IGTV video.

Add Stickers. Stickers include:

A music sticker. These allow you to add a song.

A poll sticker or emoji slider sticker. These allow you to write your own question. After it’s published, followers can vote and see the real-time results.

Location sticker. Search by location and add it to your content.

Hashtag sticker. These allow viewers to see a hashtag you add and tap it to see all the content associated with that hashtag.

Volume on/off. This removes the volume from video clips if you prefer.

Drawing tool. Write freehand, draw, or highlight things on your content.

Typing tool. Add a typed message on your content.

Story Highlights

By creating a Story Highlight, you can make story content permanently available. You can also create interesting mash-ups of story content in a strategic way to orient and educate your profile visitors.

Create a Story Highlight. While looking at any one of your story posts that are still public, or your Story Archive with prior story content you’ve published, click the Highlight option at the bottom of the screen. You’ll be prompted to either add it to an existing Story Highlight or to create a new one (Figure 3.4). Story Highlights are displayed on your Profile tab.

Figure 3.4 Add to Highlights

Edit your Story Highlight. You can edit any Story Highlight by viewing it and tapping “More” in the bottom right corner of the screen. You can do the following:

Change the name of the Story Highlight.

Change the cover image of the Story Highlight. (This is an opportunity to be visually creative.)

Send it to a contact.

Copy the Story Highlight link. This allows you to use it in creative ways off Instagram.

What Is IGTV, and How Do You Get It Set Up?

On June 20, 2018, Instagram launched Instagram TV (IGTV) for viewing and sharing vertical (aka portrait orientation) videos. While you can download the stand-alone IGTV app, you can also view all the IGTV content within the existing Instagram app, so all Instagram users have immediate access, which was a smart move. You can download the IGTV app for iPhone in the App Store, or for Android in Google Play (Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5 IGTV App

The IGTV Video Specs

Video format: MP4.

Aspect ratio: Minimum 4:5 up to a maximum of 9:16.

Length: Smaller accounts, 15 seconds to 10 minutes. Larger verified accounts, 15 seconds to 60 minutes.

Orientation: Vertical (aka portrait).

Size: 650 MB for videos less than 10 minutes and 3.6 GB for videos up to 60 minutes.

Videos should have a minimum rate of 30 frames per second, and a minimum resolution of 720 pixels.

How Do I Create an IGTV Channel?

From the Instagram app, tap the TV icon in the top right corner of the Home tab, or download the IGTV app from the App Store or Google Play. Then tap the gear for settings and “Create Channel” and follow the prompts. From your computer you can visit and go to your profile and tap or click IGTV. Click “Get Started” and follow the on-screen prompts.

How Do I Add Videos to IGTV?

From the Instagram App or IGTV App. To add video to IGTV from Instagram, browse to IGTV from your Home tab and view your channel by tapping on your profile picture. Then tap the plus sign (+) to select a video. Add a cover photo, title, and description. Click “Post.”

From Your Computer. Browse to your Instagram account,[username]. Click “IGTV,” then “Upload.” Click the plus sign to add a video or drag and drop it. Add a cover photo, title, and description. (See Figure 3.6.)

Figure 3.6 Adding an IGTV Video

Which Format Should I Shoot In?

The biggest challenge we face as marketers is to decide which format to shoot in. The only right answer is to decide where you want the content to be shown, and then plan accordingly. Vertical video has traditionally been done for shorter content pieces of just a few minutes, while horizontal video has traditionally been used for longer content. Time will tell whether that stays true or not.

Since IGTV requires videos to be vertical and YouTube and Facebook both now automatically detect and adapt to the vertical format for their viewers in their mobile apps, it seems clear the transition to vertical video is well underway. In fact, Mashable declared 2017 “the year video went vertical.” This makes sense—as more video consumption is done on smartphones, smart marketers will optimize their work for that format.

As a marketer, that means you can shoot in vertical mode on your phone and it will be displayed well on all of these mobile platforms. It’s not seen as “wrong” or a rookie mistake anymore. That’s great news. Chances are, the desktop versions are all going to start displaying these videos nicely as well, meaning without the black bars on the left and right side of the video.

The downside to this change? Well, there are three obvious issues. You’ll have to decide how best to navigate these new waters. Here are the challenges.

First, now you’ve got to think about your video creation work with two forms in mind. Landscape orientation will still be optimal for computer screens and TV viewing, while vertical will be optimal for smartphones and tablets. If you work with videographers or agencies, you’ll have to clarify your intended use—and they’ll have to adjust accordingly.

Second, the style of video creation for vertical is different than for horizontal. You have to consider your surroundings and how the physical environment you interact with will be displayed. In general, vertical video has long been associated with short, candid, personally recorded videos from your smartphone. The production value was lower than horizontal videos. Will that continue? I guess time will tell.

Third, all your old video content is likely shot in a landscape orientation. You may have paid a huge amount of money to have that content created, and unfortunately, you can’t upload any of it to IGTV as it currently exists. So, you’ll have to have it edited to a vertical form. When you do that, you can actually add a little bit of creative copywriting above and below the video. This is true for both Stories and IGTV. See Figure 3.7 for an example from a story.

Figure 3.7 Creative Copywriting with Content Edited to Vertical

Uploading Horizontal Videos to IGTV Anyhow

Instagram wants you to upload vertical video. But lots of your professionally done video is going to be horizontal. So you can always simply edit the video in your video editing software, rotating the dimensions and rendering it to play in portrait orientation. Your aspect ratio must be 4:5 to 9:16, but you can still save a file with those dimensions simply reversed, upload it, and have it play sideways, which viewers will then interpret to mean “turn your phone sideways.” For example, GaryVee uploads his horizontal videos to IGTV as vertical video and even has a brief “Rotate Your Phone” call to action at the beginning of the video (Figure 3.8).

Figure 3.8 Horizontal Video with “Rotate Phone” Message

Now that you know how to set up a profile and understand the basics of Instagram business accounts, it’s time to transition into an emphasis on finding and attracting your tribe. In the next chapter, we’ll learn how to use hashtags to do this. Then we’ll start adding marketing strategies.


1. Take the time to learn how both Instagram Stories and IGTV work.

2. Look at your website version,[your user profile name], to see how your images look on a desktop computer.

3. See how the people you are following use Stories and IGTV and begin learning from them.

4. Start to consider what types of content will best represent your business.

Master Hashtags

I like hashtags because they look like waffles.


According to Instagram, over 95 million pieces of content are shared on the platform each day. How do you keep track of all that information? Hashtags have become our best hope—and Instagram uses them really well. If a librarian like old Melvil Dewey, creator of the Dewey Decimal Classification system, was around today, he’d give hashtags a thumbs-up and a happy-face emoji wink wink.

Where Did Hashtags Come From?

Twitter user Chris Messina created the concept of using the hashtag for social media conversations. On August 23, 2007, he tweeted a suggestion to use the # sign before the keyword or phrase as a method of categorizing conversations within the site. His innovation didn’t gain widespread acceptance immediately. People complained that including # signs made messages difficult to read.

The system gained real social acceptance later that year during the San Diego wildfires. The hashtag #sandiegofire became the organizing phrase that enabled people to communicate quickly and conveniently on the site. The method of using the # sign in front of a word or phrase, although distracting to people reading the message, proved very useful.

Twitter coined the name hashtag, and on July 1, 2009, the company began hyperlinking the hashtagged words together in search results, making the function of using hashtags very convenient. The list of social networks and related sites that have adopted this practice is fairly extensive.

How Instagram Uses Hashtags

So how do hashtags work on Instagram? When you share content on Instagram and include a hashtag in the caption, anyone can tap that hashtag and see other images that have used it too. The content is displayed via the Explore tab with three useful options. See Figure 4.1.

Figure 4.1 Hashtags in Explore

1. Related hashtags. As the name implies, this displays similar hashtags that may be of interest. There aren’t related hashtags for every hashtag, but for the more popular hashtags there are and it can be a useful way to identify similar user groups within a topic or industry.

2. The Top view. This view displays content that has the most engagement—the most likes and comments. The nice part about this feature is that the cream rises to the top. So if you’re trying to make yourself known using a specific hashtag and your content happens to be well liked, then viewers of that hashtag will likely see it, even long after you’ve shared the content. For example, when looking at the top content for #instagrampower, you can still see posts that came out during the initial book launch for the first edition in 2013 by scrolling down the feed just a bit, even though it’s been used over 1,500 times.

3. The Recent view. As its name implies, this view shares the content with the most recent use of the hashtag at the top of the feed. For less popular hashtags, the most recent images will be visible toward the top for longer. For more popular hashtags, you’ll have to scroll farther down the feed to find them.


If you include a very popular hashtag with your content, it will likely be shown at the top of the Recent feed for just a split second, and it will also be very hard to get ranked in the Top view for that hashtag. But if you include a less popular hashtag, it will stay on the top of the Recent feed for a longer period of time. It will also be much easier to get it to rank in the Top view. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle—hashtags that are used in your niche, but not so popular as to be hard to influence and impossible to be a leader in.

How to Use Hashtags

Hashtags have enormous utility for creative marketers. Let’s review a few of the powerful ways you can leverage them.

1. Include them on your posts to expand the reach of the content. You can include up to 30, but that is probably a little excessive.

2. You can create your own hashtags and use them creatively in your business for things like contests, promotions, and thought leadership.

3. You can look for hashtags, and now you can follow them as well, to research popular trends and participate in conversations within your industry or niche by commenting, liking, or sharing your own content using that hashtag.

4. You can identify new prospects by looking to see who is using relevant hashtags.

Create Your Own Hashtags

Creating your own hashtags enables a nice collection of marketing activities, including leading conversations and creating topics that rally customers and interested prospects in ad hoc conversations and sharing. Being the thought leader also positions you as the leader of your tribe. Creating a hashtag for a specific customer purpose also gives you the opportunity to ask people to use that custom hashtag as a social media reply device. This approach is what powers most Instagram contests, which we’ll cover more deeply in Step 11.

Hashtags can be set up by anyone simply using the # symbol before a word or phrase. You can use any hashtag you’d like without needing anyone’s permission. That’s good news for creative types, but an obvious problem occurs—hashtag wars! When two dueling marketers try to use a hashtag for different purposes, things can get confusing. Hashtags can also be used in association with negative or inappropriate images, so practice care.

As a marketer, there are some best practices that you need to keep in mind when you start to consider how best to create and utilize hashtags. Let’s review them:

1. Be brief—use either one word or a short phrase.

2. Try to create a hashtag that is memorable and easily understood.

3. Check to make sure the hashtag is not open to multiple interpretations, or else it runs the risk of being used for the wrong purpose. Be careful here, weird things can happen.

4. Check to make sure the hashtag is not already in use before creating it. Make your hashtags unique or they’ll be used by others and therefore become more problematic as people use them for random things.

5. Don’t create hashtags that include another company’s brand or product name, except for rare occasions, like this book—please take a picture and share it using the #instagrampower and #instagrampowerbook hashtags.

6. Remember that once you set up a hashtag, it becomes a communication tool for anyone to use. What you popularize, others can hijack. You cannot control its use.

Research Trends in Your Niche

Even in a tiny niche, like the doll clothes market, there are new topics, trends, and concepts being created all the time. New competitors come into the market, new events happen, and industry news comes and goes. By following thought leaders in your industry and watching their use of hashtags, you can quickly keep your finger on the pulse of trending topics. Because of the visual nature of Instagram, this type of research is even more helpful for product sellers because you can get a quick look at new items you might not otherwise see.

Save and Cut and Paste

Search for terms through Instagram’s Explore tab until you discover what your niche’s customers are commonly using. Then consider making a list of the hashtags on your phone’s notes function so you can easily cut and paste them into your Instagram caption each time they are needed.

Find Prospects Using Hashtags

You have an opportunity to identify people who are interested in your niche or industry. Simply look to see who is sharing pictures using the related hashtags. This is a significant opportunity that is easy to do. You can also follow a hashtag. When you do that, you see the items shared that use the hashtag and you can quickly like and comment on the content.

The Great Placement Debate

In the early days of Instagram people were sensitive to not use more than a couple of hashtags, and they would frequently only place them in the first comment, rather than in the caption. Those practices have shifted. Now people use tons of hashtags, and they also include them in the caption. To make the caption statement stand out and not be crammed into one giant paragraph with a lot of hashtags, users often add a space or two under their comment, include a period or two, and then add all their hashtags. That separates them nicely from your written comments.

Join in the Sharing

In some industries or niches, using the common hashtags can feel like a giant waste of time, and it might be. But in other niches, participating in the trending topics is a simple way to engage with prospective customers. You’ll have to decide whether this is a good approach for your situation.

One indicator of whether your time will be well spent joining a conversation via a hashtag or using it for an Instagram image is whether you are (or your brand is) fairly well known and respected. If so, then you have an easy way to make a strong social impact. If not, then you’ll need to work much harder to make yourself known, and you’ll have to determine if that is time well spent. If you are a product marketer, the answer is probably a strong yes. If you are a service provider, then you’ll likely want to focus on local hashtags to connect with local prospects. As with all other forms of advertising, you probably need to take a long-term view and not make up your mind based on one or two attempts.

Cautionary Tales

As mentioned previously, companies have learned that hashtags can be hijacked and used for customer complaints. Hashtags are wild and free. Once created, they take on a power of their own. Creating a hashtag associated with your brand is the equivalent of setting up “open mic night” on the Internet. Be afraid, be very afraid. Setting up a popular hashtag and giving it prominence through your other media channels, only to have it constantly used to trash your company, is a PR nightmare. Be careful to consider your brand’s reputation in the marketplace and whether it might be wiser to simply participate in industry conversations rather than creating unique hashtags that can be used against you.

McDonald’s and the #McDStories Hashtag

McDonald’s learned this the hard way when it set up a Twitter hashtag campaign. The initial hashtag it created was #MeetTheFarmers, which the company used effectively to share stories of healthy produce and locally sourced ingredients. McDonald’s paid to promote the hashtag, so it gained wide prominence. A solid effort—no problems so far. But the second hashtag, #McDStories, was much more problematic.

Soon the hashtag was being used to share food poisoning stories, broadcast customer service complaints, mock the company with funny insults, and generally bash the brand. The anti-McDonald’s sentiment turned into a competitive sport. Twitter users took turns coming up with the most sarcastic tweets they could, and happily tacked on the #McDStories hashtag to broadcast their messages.

The initial error was only one layer of the ordeal. Social media bloggers also took the opportunity to publicly correct the company on its approach. Not only did McDonald’s receive mockery from the public; it received public criticism from social media marketers, too.

There are plenty of lessons to learn from the McDonald’s story. Let’s review them briefly:

1. A hashtag is a communication tool, and like any good tool, it can be used to build up or tear down. Hashtags are like a megaphone, and if you create one, it has power. If you take it a step further and advertise it on your other media channels, you give it even more prominence and power.

2. Crafting hashtags in a focused way that shapes the conversation in a direction of your choosing is wiser than making them more general. The #MeetTheFarmers hashtag didn’t provide an easy on-ramp to complaints like the #McDStories hashtag did.

3. Your brand resides in the mind of the consumer. If you ask people to share their thoughts publicly, you might be surprised at the level of negativity. Don’t expect them to be “on message.” In social media, this inability to control the message is particularly problematic for larger brands that have negative consumer sentiment to deal with. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t use social media; it means they should be careful how they structure the engagement.

Hashtag Dos and Don’ts

We hope these cautionary tales have helped clarify the importance of getting your plan nailed down when it comes to using hashtags. Let’s review a list of best practices.

Hashtag Dos

1. Do take the time to research the hashtags associated with your industry and learn how they are best used.

2. Do participate in the use of hashtags to extend your message to a broad audience.

3. Do look to see who is using your niche or industry hashtags and follow them.

4. Do use caution when creating new hashtags to ensure you can shape the dialogue as much as possible.

5. Do create hashtags that are brief and easily understood.

6. Do use websites that help you learn about new hashtags and keep up on trending topics.

Hashtag Don’ts

1. Don’t forget that hashtags are a tool that can be used to do damage.

2. Don’t underestimate the negative sentiment that might be bottled up about your brand and unleashed via hashtags.

3. Don’t create hashtags that are too general and open to broad interpretation or multiple meanings.

4. Don’t use general trending hashtags for marketing purposes.

5. Don’t create hashtags with brand names that you do not have express permission to manage.

6. Don’t overuse hashtags. Most people suggest using between 2 and 10, but no more. Technically you can add up to 30, but that is not recommended unless you’ve really considered the impact. Adding a long list of hashtags could make you look a little too desperate.

An Interview with a Hashtag Pioneer—Josh Decker

One of the most creative uses of hashtags I’ve ever seen is at professional sporting events. For example, at Seattle Mariners games, where the fan content was shared on the jumbotrons in near real-time as they posted using hashtags. Have you seen that at events you’ve attended? When I first saw it, I was blown away by the beauty of the idea—turning fans into the stars of the show. It’s one of my family’s favorite parts of the day! See Figure 4.2.

Figure 4.2 Fan Content Shared on a Jumbotron

The company behind the technology is Seattle-based Tagboard, founded by Josh Decker. Tagboard partners with more than 200 major sports teams, and its technology is used at the largest events around the world. Tagboard also powers on-air sharing of social content for TV broadcasts. I asked Josh to share more about his journey and his perspective on hashtags:

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Tagboard?

A: The idea for Tagboard came about because communities all over the world were using digital communication channels, but those conversations were disconnected. We wanted to connect these people. We wanted it to work across social networks and be opt-in. The hashtag became a way for people to connect. When I had the idea for Tagboard, it was 2010—you should have heard me trying to explain this idea to my mom. She thought I was crazy. But we thought, Hey, we think this hashtag thing will catch on and spread, and we’ll have something pretty awesome to work with. And that’s the idea of what you see at a Mariners game. You use that hashtag and you get added to the pool of content that the Mariners team can choose to put up onscreen. It’s a way for the fan to get rewarded for communicating and connecting with the community.

Q: Was there a specific breakthrough moment when you realized this was going to be a commercially successful idea and that hashtags were going to power the idea?

A: It was the first time I saw a hashtag used in a commercial on TV. I’m an Audi guy. I had the idea for Tagboard because I was part of an Audi community and wanted to improve the way we communicated online. Audi, being a very digitally savvy brand, had the first commercial with a hashtag. It was a Super Bowl commercial in 2011, and I thought, Oh snap! We’re going mainstream. This was around the same time we launched the company. We’d been working on it for six months, but when I saw that hashtag, I knew we were on the right track.

Q: Is Tagboard just for big brands, or can smaller businesses use it too? What are some use cases that our audience might be surprised to read about?

A: Tagboard, when we started, was not supposed to be a software-as-a-service company. It was a user-focused tool. It was more about helping anyone connect with their community online. We didn’t get traction on the user side, but brands and marketers saw the value in it. We’ve proudly kept a free search option on our website that anyone can use. We’ve had over 5 million hashtags searched on our website.

The great thing is that we’re able to work with the NBA Finals, or World Cup, but we believe that it should be accessible to anyone. We have large enterprise-level solutions, but we also have our free search tool, so we’re able to serve anyone.

Q: At a social/cultural level, what do you think the highest and best use of Tagboard and hashtags is?

A: I continue to be blown away when Tagboard is used to not only share breaking news, but to connect the people who are affected by that news. I’ve seen it used for earthquakes, wildfires, building fires, crane collapses, and shootings that are becoming way too common. Any time a big event happens, news networks are using Tagboard to break the story, because Tagboard is the only way to help them access that breaking news content, live from the scene, in real time, on any social network, giving them the ability to find that content and use it to tell the news and share updates and alerts from the government or other official sources.

Q: How have you seen the commercial use of hashtags change since 2011?

A: Hashtags started as a way to thread conversations, and we lost that at some point, but now I feel like we’ve gone from this attitude of “Who can come up with the cutest hashtag” to more of a foundational component of a marketing campaign. It’s cleaner, it’s to-the-point, and it’s more broadly used as a tactic to maintain consistency and relevance. You’re not seeing as much of the noise around hashtags, and we’re starting to see the signal come through. We’re seeing hashtags used for more longer-run evergreen campaigns. Hashtags have gone back to the community. It started there, and then marketers got ahold of it, and overdid it, and it became a marketing thing, and we’re seeing it shift back to a community orientation, even in the way marketers use them.

Q: Are there any tips or suggestions for readers that are trying to effectively use hashtags in support of their online work?

A: Listen to your community. If you’re trying to come up with a new hashtag for your campaign? Don’t. All you have to do is go online and see what your community is already using. Ninety percent of the time, the best way to come up with your hashtag is to listen to your audience. If you need to come up with your own, keep it short and simple.

Q: How about any cautions, warnings, or things to watch out for?

A: I’m always a fan of camel casing—capitalizing the first letter of a new word within the hashtag—because sometimes you can miss some double meanings that won’t show up otherwise. And don’t overdo it. Don’t force it. Communities are built on trust, and when they feel like you’re forcing something down their throat, they won’t trust you. At the end of the day, you can’t force it.

Q: If readers want to learn more about using Tagboard, what should they do?

A: Check out our website,, or scroll through our Twitter feed @Tagboard. We share a lot of the work our clients do on Twitter, so you can get