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5 Free Ways of Effective Instagram Marketing (Plus 4 Free Tools to Boost Your Game!)


It has been a joyful time for Kevin Systrom and the folks in Instagram. If you have not been living under a rock for these past few years, you definitely took notice of this game-changing social network. They raced Twitter, a much older player in the market, to a whopping 300 million (plus) Monthly Active Users!  Instagram has also reached a daily posting of 70 million photos and videos thanks to the ginormous community speaking 25 languages. In case you’re wondering, Instagram is not going dark in the near future (You can check this awesome stats to try and debate me if I’m feeding you blanks). It continues to grow and aspire to dominate the global social atmosphere as we speak.


Awesome Achievements from Instagram
Awesome Achievements from Instagram

I would not argue to support the statement that Instagram is one of the few guys to actually have the juice to conquer the globe. With the backing and support of Facebook powerhouse, Instagram is driving forward and going strong. One of the strongest grips that they have is actually in capturing the millennials and young audience demographics. They have been very successful tailoring the platform to make it very sticky. God knows when I’m going to get tired of scrolling this beautiful and immersive feed in my iPhone. Finally, when we casually whisper things like: social, values, millennial, and audience, brands and companies flock like a hungry army of seagulls devouring gluten-free bread. As a dominant social network, many business players are eager to market their products through Instagram. Many argue the effectiveness of this marketing channel, but when such ubiquitous platform exists and rampaging the majority of smartphone’s screen, can you really say no? Certainly not Nike, Starbucks, and Adidas!

Top 5 Brands on Instagram
Top 5 Brands on Instagram

As for helping you to become the next A-listers of brands and/or companies in Instagram, I managed to round up several ideas on how you can leverage the great benefits of marketing through Instagram. You can tweak the ideas to find the perfect fit of what’s best for your brand/company, because not every strategy works with various range of products. Find your center, test and tweak the strategy, and shine on! Oh, and the catch? You can do it all without spending a penny.

1. Showcase the Greatness of Your Products

Have you heard the underdog story of Airbnb? Before crowned as the Company of the Year by Inc., The now billion-dollars-enterprise back at its baby stage had successfully tackled a very basic and simple problem: their product does not look good. But when they decided to put up the housing list with a beautiful and professional photo in each vendor, customer sign-ups and deals started to climb. And the rest is history. This simple lesson should be one of the top concern you should notice when you’re representing your brand in Instagram. Show the value of your product with careful detail and stunning take. This emits a powerful image of trust, attention to detail, and high quality value of product. You can scour for more details to achieve the similar results in 10 Tips to Take A Stunning Shot in Instagram.

You don't know how much I want to fly to Cali right now
You don’t know how much I want to fly to Cali right now

Keywords: Powerful and High Quality      

 2. Show Them How It’s Made

Posting a beautiful scenery photo taken from a Parisian patio is one big punch from Airbnb. Another idea you can use is telling your customers about how you make your product being developed and manifested in real form. Showcase the epic flow to your customers on how meticulous your product development process actually is. Show them how much attention you gave to those tiny details to form a perfect product from heaven. This is especially great for brands looking to market physical products such as fashion and beverages.  I mean, take a good look:

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I really need to get my Latte right now.
I really need to get my Latte right now.

Keywords: Authentic and Customer-centric


3. Act Humane and Personal

This point had sparked a lot of negative images on the social media atmosphere. In Twitter, a huge pool of brands/companies behaved somewhat wrongly. They tried hard to make their brands look cool and down-to-earth, when in contrast  the stunt made a frozen impression and buried them six-feet deep down on earth. The key actually is to make the voice of your communication become as humanly, as relatable, and as engaging as possible. And do not forget about being politically correct and not engaging in any controversial matter. Many social media brand campaigns fail because they try to imitate human badly. As for now, you can post a very exclusive picture of something that your customers won’t get from any other source. One example is how you cannot find this picture anywhere else except from HBO’s Instagram:

 Is there any other place where can you find Peter Dinklage making this face?
Is there any other place where can you find Peter Dinklage making this face?

You can also use this strategy by posting pictures of how your offices look like (Twitter, Airbnb, and HBO are the kings on this part). Or, you can personify the backstage of your company as a personal voice, speaking heart to heart to your customer. Just like how Ryan did, as a CEO and Founder, built a way (blog) to tell a personal story about Sribu.com. But when you want a quick fix, you can just post a very casual and fun setting of your office, just like The Verge:  

I really love how The Verge connects with the readers
I really love how The Verge connects with the readers

Keywords: Engage and Social


4. Create Simple yet Breathtaking Videos

When Mark Zuckerberg presented about how the future of media and content is directed into video, Instagram of course picked up the cue. When Instagram launched a video feature, the community splits into two right away (just like how it is on election season).  One group loathe the feature and claiming how it has stripped down Instagram core value to the community, while the other group embrace the video feature as if it was the holy grail of social media. Many of the successful brands and individuals who obviously fell to the latter group may have proven to its counterpart of how it supposed to be done. One of them is the king of Video Action Cam, GoPro.

Yewwww! We’re up for 3 @thewebbyawards! Let’s crush this. Be sure and visit webbyawards.com to vote and share the stoke. #GoPro #Webbys

A video posted by gopro (@gopro) on Apr 7, 2015 at 10:55am PDT

You know how they all say: A picture speaks a thousand words. So how many are there for video, then? I would say countless.

Keywords: Interactive and Informative


5. Engage Your Audience

Right now, lets take an approach of how one charming individuals could make his/her surroundings be more engaged and tend to get closer. You will notice how this is also has been encouraged above, being humane and attentive. Although rather, a lot of brands tend to forget about these tiny basic details:

  • Connect your Facebook and Instagram account together

This one is pretty straightforward. You will notice in your personal Instagram feed when your Facebook friends are joining Instagram as a newbie. Now do it with your Facebook Fan page or Facebook if you haven’t already. This is relatable to a brand because at least 20% Instagram users are also on Facebook When it is done, your Facebook followers will took notice and start following you on Instagram. Even better if you already have a stunning gallery from previous advises! Not to mention your new audience and followings who may have not yet on Instagram could also benefit from your Instagram post inside the Facebook page.

  • Comment (and like) on other Instagram users’ photo

As brilliantly put by Neil Patel, Instagram users tend to give away likes more than they give comments. This is one argument to actually become the opportunity to make your audience feel special. So, when we realize how in every second people create 575 likes versus 81 comments, we can make the commenting experience blissful to them. If you can take the time to comment on your targeted audience’s photos, that person will felt appreciated and more likely to appreciate such big brands going that extra mile. And when they notice you represent a humane value, they will be happy to follow your account to receive updates. Neil also added that liking other people’s photos will generate even more followers and likes.

  • Ask users to post about your brand (Make your loyal customer famous!)

You will realize the pattern of being personal to your customer right up to this point. By simply featuring your loyal customers’ photo on your brand’s page, you will create a very positive and engaging image. Show your customers of how much you care, how much you need them, and how glad you are to listen to their voices. And when their stunning image gets featured, I can assure you of how excited they are to be casted on a spotlight.

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Not only that you will be perceived as a friendly brand, you will also generate marketing leads at the same time. Firstly, you will generate more leads by having people posting about your products towards their followers’ base. Secondly, you will generate even more leads if those converted users are also posting about your products. Not to mention it is also free!


Keywords: Engage and Social


Tools for Tracking

Now, I am confident that all of the positive people might be starting their day (or finishing their day) a tiny bit more energized about their plan on jumping to Instagram marketing. But I also realize that’s not the case for most people whose resilient toward numbers. Yes, you might think that Instagram marketing is a careless way of doing marketing because it is hard to track how it performs from time to time. But, I would say right out of the bat that I don’t feel the same way. There are already a handful of great analytics platforms out there. Some of them are free, and some of them provides a robust engine to track heavier variables. For now, here’s how you can leverage tools to measure your marketing efforts through Instagram for free.

1. Simply Measured

A simple and free solution from the guys at Simply Measured.  For up to 25,000 followers that you so painfully gathered, you can dig a various important data about your Instagram activities for the previous two months. It gives you the hefty list on most engaged users, top photo tags (hashtags), best time-frame to post, and many more.  It also gives you the engagement score you developed from sharing Instagram posts to Facebook and Twitter.  I put the example of my Instagram activites, which is low enough and in a major need of upscaling.

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2. Iconosquare (my favorite!)

Another freebie to help you is the simple solution from Iconosquare (previously Statigram).  Although you cannot download the reports for offline at Excel, the dashboard provides the most comprehensive stat I’ve tested so far. This guys pretty generous, I guess.


Iconosquare provides meticulous details on number and analysis of likes, followers, comments, and even down to rolling month analysis, content, engagement, optimization and community! It also provides a platform to responding comments and monitor which hashtags worked and which failed miserably. I even have just found out how I love Tuesday right there.


3. IFTTT (If This Then That) + Google Drive

Even though I love how Iconosquare perform in Instagram tracking the most, I personally use IFTTT since my early years in college (it’s a very long time, believe me). That being said, I know that I cannot live without it since I am using it daily.  It allows me to run automations for various apps (over 100 apps) in the background. It works through simple logic of:

IF THIS (THIS: Certain trigger) THEN DO THAT (THAT: Certain action)

Very simple, right?

Now as for Instagram, I like to connect it with services like Twitter, Gmail, Dropbox, Facebook, Pushbullet, and Google Drive spreadsheets. For Instagram marketing tracking, you can also save the hassle of your work with automation using spreadsheets.  As you can see in the picture below, you can write a new row in a sheet for EVERY photos tagged with a hashtag you prefer. This is essential to track your campaigns or research for competitiors.

insta6Other brilliant move that you can do involves tracking your specific photo’s likes. This is done to pinpoint which user conform to your posting patterns and then track what are your competitors up to by saving their photo to your Google Drive. There are really no limits there.  IFTTT even have a mobile app for you to develop formulas on the go. Too generous.

4. Zapier

Finally, Zapier. Much like IFTTT, Zapier lets you automate formulas for you in the background. Although you may need a paid version just so you can track better with big volumes, most of the features work just fine. I recommend of using and testing a few of the services with careful detail. With this, you can decide what zaps (formula) works best for you.


It’s easy, right?

As you can see, life gets easier with the helpful hand from these free tools. I do realize that you may not see the numbers quickly materialized or going to see the instant results. Rather, if you can tweak your way to what kind of mentioned strategy fitting your way of business, you will see a noticeable escalation within a few months. Do not forget to A/B test and iterate your approach along the way.

So what do you think? Do these tools help you in any way? Do not hesitate to try it out and ask me for questions! I’d be glad to help in any way I can. Or maybe, you also have some tricks up your sleeve to improve this short list of strategies and tools. 

Please mention your other creative and unique ways to get more Instagram traction in the comments.



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