How to Build a Strong Instagram in 2021 and Beyond

MAR. 9, 2021

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How happy are you with your brand’s Instagram account? Do you have the number of followers, engagement rate, reach, and conversions you’re after? Or are you lagging behind your competition, always trying to catch up to the latest trends?

If you find yourself in the second category, it might be time to adjust your strategy. After all, with a global tendency towards increased screen time, 2021 could be the perfect year to get the most out of your Instagram tactics. If you build a strong community on the platform, you might just see all your efforts finally starting to pay off.

But what can you do to achieve your desired results? Here are the tips for strengthening your brand through one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.

Go Back to Basics

There’s no denying that businesses need to be on Instagram, especially if they want to reach users between the ages of 18 to 34 who have a strong tendency towards logging in more than once per day. But the thing is, creating a profile and posting regularly isn’t enough. For a brand to be able to make data-based decisions, they need to have the right insights. That’s impossible without properly setting up their profile.

That’s why one of the must-dos for 2021 will be changing to a business account on the platform. In addition to insights, this will allow you to: 

  • see your follower demographics
  • advertise your posts and stories
  • set up an online shop
  • add actionable CTAs to your content
  • add clickable contact information to your profile
  • automate processes
  • use third-party apps to schedule posts

Make Instagram a Key Part of Your Digital Strategy

According to a Facebook report, after seeing a product or service on Instagram:

  • 79% of users sought more information
  • 65% visited the brand’s site or app
  • 46% made a purchase
  • 37% visited a physical location
  • 31% followed the brand online
  • 29% mentioned the brand to someone

Looking at this data, it becomes clear that the potential of the social media platform is huge. It’s not just a way to get closer to buyers, but Instagram can play a crucial role in SEO and sales as well. So, what can business leaders do to use the social media platform’s full potential?

Well, for one, they can utilize it in a way that will drive traffic to their website. For example, a post or Story can be a great way to preview and link to a blog, e-commerce store item, or a relevant piece of content. This is what Tasty does in their Stories sections, with short video previews that feature interactive poll stickers and lead users to long-form content posted on platforms like YouTube.

@buzzfeedtasty / Instagram

Alternatively, Instagram can be a great way to support a variety of marketing campaigns. For example, Transparent Labs created a nine-week online event to help their audience build healthy habits by issuing a weekly challenge. Then, they encouraged users to share their progress through social media, offering prizes and discount codes in return. 

@transparentlabs / Instagram


The great thing behind such a campaign is that it accommodates several goals at once. It helps the company with lead generation, boosts website traffic, increases social media following, encourages engagement and UGC, and offers the opportunity to give back to fans, increasing loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Use All the Available Formats

Instagram started as a social media platform that primarily focused on sharing images. However, in 2021, it’s much more than being just that. Today, it is a multimedia space that lends itself to a wide variety of formats and applications, making it the perfect distribution network for high-quality, engaging content. So how do you make the absolute most of it?

In addition to practicing consistency and cohesion, brands need to look for ways to make their Instagram posts attract interest, build consumer trust and loyalty, drive engagement, and, ultimately, generate sales. And that means investing in content that’s likely to attract attention.

For one, the must-follow strategy for making the most of Instagram is to use Stories and to do so often. According to the platform itself, there are more than 500 million daily Stories users. One-third of the most-viewed Stories come from brands. And, the reply rate for the format is 20%, an impressive statistic in itself.

But what makes a great Story? Well, it turns out that users have a strong preference for posts that actually tell a story. So, try to find ways to serve them content that they’ll find entertaining, educational, or valuable.

A brand that’s doing a great job with its strategy is Cat & Cloud, a California-based business that runs several coffee shops. What’s interesting about this brand is that they’ve decided to skip the purely aesthetic approach as is common in its industry. Instead, the brand produces a podcast and uses the Instagram Story feature to share it with its 39k followers.

@catcloudcoffee / Instagram

As for the content that stays around for more than 24 hours, research shows that the carousel format is the most worth investing in. According to Socialinsider, the average engagement rate for carousels is 1.92%. Images fall at 1.74% and videos at 1.45%. What’s more, the numbers go even higher with posts that use all ten slides or combine images with videos.

Finally, if you’re thinking about getting started with IGTV, 2021 may not be the perfect moment to do so. In 2020, this format displayed the highest decline in engagement rates – a whopping 75.6%. Unless you’ve got a really great idea for making use of the media type, you may be getting a higher ROI on Facebook or YouTube.

Focus on the Right Things

There are several misconceptions about Instagram for business. A common one is that you need to spend a lot of money if you want great results. But that’s not necessarily the truth. Research conducted in 2020 shows that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant shift in the way consumers interact with brands. A McKinsey report shows that, in the past year, most people chose to spend money on essentials and items of value, while the Edelman Barometer reveals just how impactful brand trust has become.

But what does this mean for social media marketing? For one, it’s a strong indicator of what today’s buyers are after. (Hint: it’s not flashy advertising.) In 2021, social media users will want to create bonds with brands. Not only will they have positive reactions towards companies that inspire trust, but moreover, they’re likely to make their buying decisions based on a brand’s purpose and mission.

Moving forward in 2021, brands can use Instagram to promote a higher level of transparency. Using features such as Live Videos, Stories, and Carousels, companies can offer plentiful information, behind-the-scenes looks, and interesting insights

Moreover, they can engage in genuine interactions with followers and fellow brands and start conversations using Polls, Questions, and similar stickers. Skincare brand Naturium, for example, allows followers to submit questions, then shares answers and tips provided by experts.

@naturiumskin / Instagram

Another excellent way to use the platform to drive connection and trust is to make it a space for collaboration. For instance, paddle board manufacturer GILI regularly shares user-generated content and even invites adventurers to send in their snaps using a dedicated hashtag.

@gilisports / Instagram

Although their following is still small, it’s a highly engaged group of watersports enthusiasts with whom they have built genuine relationships. Plus, it shows just how much you can do by working with micro-influencers and a limited social media marketing budget.

Alternatively, brands can use Instagram to strengthen community ties by supporting local artists, small businesses, NGOs, or followers themselves. No better example of this comes to mind than We Rate Dogs. An account that initially started off as a way to admire cute pups, it turned into a powerful platform for helping animals get the highest chance for a healthy and happy life, with a loyal following of almost 2 million fans.

@weratedogs / Instagram


The Future of Instagram

There’s no denying that social media apps are powerful tools brands can use to drive their business forward. And the fact is, they’re rapidly transforming into irreplaceable marketing and sales channels that are continuing to grow.

Nonetheless, business leaders and marketers must remember that the one thing keeping these platforms relevant isn’t their technical capacity. Rather, it’s their appeal to audiences who are tired of traditional consumer-brand relationships and want to be considered more than just a way to monetize products.

With this in mind, it becomes clear that the true potential of Instagram (or any other social media app) lies in its ability to build connections, communicate with, and grow closer to audiences. Because, ultimately, with such an approach, companies can get something much more valuable than a marketing channel. They can get immediate, unfiltered consumer feedback, helping them grow into an irreplaceable part of their customers’ lives.