The Instagram Rule Book

23 Mar, 2021 | Podcast, Season 5

Do you ever feel like everyone’s playing the Instagram game, but nobody’s explained the rules to you? This is episode 70 of The Whin Big Podcast, where Katie runs through the four aspects of Instagram marketing. Consider this your very own Instagram rule book!

We look at how to apply some core marketing principles to your Instagram strategy, and cover growth, connection, sales and planning to make sure your strategy covers all the bases. 

Today's episode is sponsored by the Instagram MOT. This 20-point checklist and free training are freshly updated, so get stuck in to find out if your profile is fit for purpose or needs some attention! Click on the big yellow button below to get started right away.

The customer journey & the Instagram MOT

Any marketing strategy has to reflect the customer journey, and we’ve put it at the heart of our new and improved Instagram MOT.

Not sure what the customer journey is? Here’s a quick rundown – and even if you have heard this phrase (sometimes called the buyer’s journey or your sales funnel), it’s always a good idea to check your marketing activities are in alignment. 

A simple process for your customers

The customer journey is the name for the psychological journey each person goes through a 3-step process before they buy from you. 

  1. Awareness. This is where they first discover your business (or product, or service)
  2. Consideration. At this point, they’re learning about you and your business. They use this time to work out if what you offer meets their needs.
  3. Decision. Not everyone makes it to this stage where they are on the cusp of buying from you.

“The journey from awareness, through consideration to decision making, is just as important for Instagram marketing as it is for your overall marketing strategy.”

The four rules of Instagram Marketing

We’ve rewritten our popular Instagram MOT to reflect the customer journey. Each part looks at the foundations you need to nurture your customers (past, present and future) through the process. It might be easier to download the checklist so you can look through it as we take you through our favourite free resource. 

Part 1: Grow your Instagram audience

Specifically, your follower numbers and the reach of your posts. It’s important that you work to bring new people into your audience. The people who connect with you won’t always buy from you, nor will they all be your ideal customers. By focussing on growing your audience, you won’t have to rely on repeat business month after month. 

You’ll learn all the rules in the Instagram MOT, but here’s a few you can get started on straight away. 

★ Growth rule: Hashtags

Make sure you’re using the right Instagram hashtags for your business.

Why it’s important:

Hashtags help categorise your posts to your customer’s feed. Lots of users browse hashtag galleries or follow hashtags so they won’t miss this content. Missing out on hashtags means you miss out on opportunities to show up in new places.

★ Growth rule: Instagram Reels

Spend time creating Reels as part of the content you share on Instagram

Why it’s important:

The new layout of the Instagram app gives Reels a priority position, so users spend less time in hashtag galleries or explore page because they watch Reels instead. Again, you’re missing out on opportunities if you don’t create Reels.

★ Growth rule: Connect with people who share similar audiences

Reach out to service providers who have a similar audience group to you. Go live together, or swap Instagram Story takeovers so you can get to know their followers, and vice versa. 

Why it’s important

If you listened to episode 66 of The Whin Big Podcast, you’d remember the algorithm’s primary role is to keep users on Instagram for as long as possible. Research shows that users prefer familiar faces and connect with accounts they’ve personally selected, so the algorithm shows them more of that content than content from brand new accounts. 

Bypassing the algorithm means you’re taking some control into your own hands! 

Don’t forget…

To promote your Instagram account wherever you are outside of the app. Blog posts, podcast interviews on your website. It’s a sensible thing to get in the habit (and helps with SEO too!)

What to do if your growth won’t budge

If you’ve sorted out your hashtags, created Reels and made amazing connections, and you’re still not growing, download the Instagram MOT for more rules for growing your audience and reach. 

Part 2: Creating connection with your audience

Connection shows up as comments, saves, shares, website visits, replies and DMs (as well as lots of behaviours you’ll never know about – like thinking about your post while emptying the dishwasher or telling a friend about your account). 

★ Connection rule: Share helpful information

Create content that solves problems or helps your audience reach their own goals with tips, hacks and secrets from your insider knowledge. Try: 

  • IGTV videos
  • Reels
  • Slide shows for your feed
  • Post a selfie with useful information in the caption

Why it’s important:

People love getting value, and what’s more valuable than following an account on Instagram that genuinely helps you grow or develop in a way you need? Not much.

★ Connection rule: Entertain your audience

Find ways to be creative, inspiring, soothing or just plain funny. Give these ideas a go: 

  • Lip-synching Reels
  • Memes
  • Timelapses
  • Outtakes 
  • Familiar rituals 

Why it’s important:

If you give someone a feel-good moment, you’ll be remembered for it. And that all works towards the know, like and trust factor. 

★ Connection rule: Share personal insight and stories

You don’t have to bare your soul every time you post or share endless photos of your kids to make your connections more personal. Think about your identities and how they’re relevant to your audience.

  • Find ways to thread your interests (plants, dogs, sea swimming, running) into your feed and relate it to your audience. 
  • Katie shared a post that did just that. She connected being self-conscious about her features with the importance of finding the confidence to create videos. Have a look at the post for a great example of sharing personal insight and shared experiences. 

Why it’s important:

Before people buy from you, they have to know you, like you and trust you. Sharing personal experiences give people an idea about you as a human being which goes a long way to building trust. 

Connection is everything

You’ll find all of the step-by-step instructions for creating strong connections, as well as how to make the most of Instagram insights when you download the Instagram MOT checklist and watch the training

“You follow someone on Instagram, and they immediately send you a message with a copy & paste sales pitch before you get comfortable? No, thank you!”

Part 3: Invite the sale

How do you encourage people to buy? You might be great at inviting sales, but it’s more common to struggle with sales content then going a long time without posting any and then feel stressed when the sales don’t come through.

Here’s a few quick wins to get your sales invitations back on track.

★ Sales rule: Refresh the link in your bio

If the link in your bio only goes to your website homepage, you can make your link much harder for you by following these steps:

  • Create a new page on your website (no fancy layouts) and add 3 – 5 buttons or links to key places:
    • Shop
    • Sales pages (or services page)
    • Your enquiry form
  • If you can’t create a webpage, use a service like Linktree or
    • You don’t need technical knowledge to set these up

Why it’s important:

Don’t expect people to browse through your website to find the information they need. Make it easy for them to find your shop or details for working with you and is much more precise than saying ‘browse my website.’

★ Sales rule: Experiment with the sales content ratios

You might spend four weeks in growth and connection mode and a 5th week where you only post content about sales. If you’re in e-commerce, you will want to change those ratios because people will expect you to show up with new products to sell and want to see what you have to offer.

Why it’s important:

Getting the balance right makes the difference between people being excited by your content and keen to buy from you when the time is right and people who scroll past because they haven’t had a chance to connect with you before you sell to them.

You need to experiment to find the right formula for you, but this is an excellent place to start.

You won’t make sales if you aren’t selling

Make sure to go and get your Instagram MOT for the six checks and lots of tips to get the balance right.

“Posting specifically to sell, to invite people to buy, to encourage sales conversations – that’s all essential to your Instagram strategy.”

Part 4: Planning your Instagram strategy

In the first three parts of the strategy, you’ll have lots of tasks to work on—everything from hashtag research, finding people to collaborate with and creating great content.

Most of that won’t happen unless you plan for it to happen.

★ Planning rule: Think about your content

First: Make a list of the types of content you want to create. There’s a lot of options with Instagram:

  • Reels
  • IGTV
  • Photos
  • Stories
  • Carousels
  • Lives
  • Graphics
  • Videos

Second: think about the role of each post. Which stage of the strategy (growth, connection, sales) does it align with?

Finally: Prioritise your content list. What are your goals?

A boost in sales: focus on feed posts and stories about what you sell.

Grow your audience: Reels videos, appealing photos and the right hashtags

★ Planning rule: Content ideas for your posts

Your posts should mostly have an overarching theme or topic which link your posts together.

This should be based on what your audience is interested in or something you want to market.

Katie shares her whole launch strategy and content planning in the episode, so make sure you listen to the podcast, so you don’t miss out.

“Without a little bit of planning and left floundering around in the dark, I’m making sales by accident. Not an easy thing to sustain!”

Instagram marketing – the next steps

Once you’ve completed the Instagram MOT and found the changes you need to make for your growth, connections and sales, you might be hungry for more!

If that’s the case, the natural next step is to join our Instagram Masterclass. If you’re trying to make more sales on Instagram and you keep getting stuck, this course will walk you through each part of the strategy with concrete examples and exercises so that you can take and implement your own Instagram strategy. 

It’s just £97 till the end of March. In April, we’re adding heaps of new content to make your Instagram strategy even more solid, and if you buy the masterclass now, you’ll get free access to all the latest juicy stuff. 

After 31 March, the price goes up to £147, so you know it makes sense! 

Resources in this week’s episode

Whin Big Podcast: Instagram Algorithm – what is it, and can I beat it?


Instagram MOT

Instagram Masterclass

Our latest posts about Instagram

What it’s really like to grow your business with IG Reels, with Abi Sea

Today’s guest is the wonderful Abi Sea, long term friend of the podcast and returning guest. Our conversation today has been all about growing an audience with Instagram Reels, but maybe a little different than the conversation you’re expecting. We talked about the imperfections of our approaches to Reels, the ...

How to make your Instagram feed exactly what your customers need

Want to know what to post on your Instagram feed right now in 2021 and going into 2022? You’re in the right place! Welcome to episode 96 of The Whin Big podcast, where we go behind the scenes of The Whin Instagram masterclass and take another look at one of ...