How to Use Instagram in Your Email Marketing

With the right strategy, Instagram can be a highly-targeted, visual marketing channel for your company.

The proof is in the data. One recent study shows  that Instagram provides brands with 25% more engagement over other social platforms, and some hail it as the fastest-growing website in the world. Given the popularity of the platform, there’s a good chance your target audience is on Instagram, or will be.

But breadth is not enough. Instagram’s hashtag support and follow features make it simple to connect with relevant influencers and conversations, so you can find your current and potential customers on the social network and fight through the noise.

Of course, like any social network, there are right ways to use Instagram and ways you can royally screw it up.

In this post, we’ll show you how you can effectively use Instagram to build a huge following, engage your followers, and integrate it into your email marketing strategy.

Building Your Following

First things first – before you incorporate Instagram into your email strategy, you need an audience. Here are a few ways to build one.

1) Use hashtags

On Instagram you want to engage your audience while also growing your audience. You do this by posting content and getting that in front of the right people. Hashtags are a great way to do this. Just like with Facebook and Twitter, hashtags are searchable tags to draw up relevant content related to people’s interests.

To get ideas about hashtags you should use, check out They list out popular hashtags by category. For example, here are the most popular coffee-related hashtags on Instagram right now:

  • #coffee
  • #cafe
  • #Instacoffee
  • #Cafelite
  • #Caffeine
  • #hot
  • #mug
  • #drink
  • #coffeeaddict
  • #coffeegram
  • #coffeeoftheday
  • #cotd
  • #coffeelover
  • #coffeelovers
  • #coffeeholic
  • #coffiecup
  • #coffeelove
  • #coffeemug
  • #coffeelife

Webstagram and Iconosquare are other tools you can use for similar research.

Get really specific about your hashtag strategy. It’s almost the same way you think about your keyword strategy for your website. Think not only about general hashtags for your company, but also about product specific ones and other keywords that matter to your business.

Say for instance that you sell coffee fair trade organic online. You could consider breaking down your hashtags like this:

Branded hashtags – #mycompanyname

Product hashtags – #coffee #coffeebeans #lightroast #darkroast

Other hashtags – #organic #fairtrade

Here’s a tip: If you missed out on these hashtags the first time you posted your content, it’s okay. You can go back and post additional hashtags in the comments of your old posts.

2) Follow your competitor’s followers

The most common forms of engagement on Instagram are:

  • Following another using
  • Liking a photo
  • Commenting on a photo

Discover related brands and see who has engaged with them. Then, proactively follow those users from your account or otherwise engage with their content through likes and comments.

Richard Lazzarerra of Shopify and A Better Lemonade Stand tested this strategy on his own business’ account, and these were the results he got:

  • Follow: 14% followback
  • Follow + Like: 22% followback
  • Follow + Like + Comment: 34% followback

Not bad.

A tip? You should also do this with your Twitter account.

3) Use the right filters

It turns out that you can even maximize the reach of your photos by choosing the right filters. According to Populargram, the most popular filters on Instagram right now are:

  • Normal
  • Valencia
  • X-Proll
  • Early Bird
  • Amaro
  • Rise
  • Hudson
  • Lo-fi
  • Hefe
  • Sierra

Of course, no filter may also be a popular option for your audience.

4) Do sponsored reviews and posts

Using the #blogger hashtags, you can discover bloggers who write about your company’s products or similar topics. These kinds of people may be willing to feature your product or at least give it a try for a small fee – even as low as $20.  Offering a coupon code for them to share with their followers could increase your chances of getting featured, and it’ll also be a great opportunity to prompt sharing of the content – like organizing a giveaway through a blogger, for example, and entering followers in the contest if they share the post.

Incorporating Instagram With Your Email Marketing

On it’s own, the aforementioned ideas on growing your Instagram following are a great start. But to truly make an impact on your eCommerce store’s sales, let’s think of ways you can tie this social channel in with your email marketing.

1) Request UGC through email

UGC stands for user-generated content. It basically is content that your customers provide, and it can mean anything from product reviews to photos. You can install a user-generated content plugin on your site like the Social Photos App or Olapic, which shows Instagram photos of customers with your products on your product pages. Because these photos show off real customers with your products, it adds social proof to your pages and will boost conversions. To get this started, do an a segmented email campaign based on customers’ past product purchases. Come up with hashtags for five or six of your most popular products, and identify customer email lists for each one of those products. Email those customers and encourage them to share Instagram photos of themselves with the product hashtags for a chance to be featured on the site and maybe even a discount.

2) Run a contest and announce it over email

Take advantage of hashtags and people’s desire to share through an Instagram contest. Come up with a hashtag for a product you are willing to do a giveaway of, and encourage people to share on Instagram with that hashtag to enter the contest.

Club W recently did this with the #rosévibes contest. They asked users to share pictures of themselves enjoying rosé with the hashtag to win a summer’s worth of the delicious blush-colored drink.

Here’s some of the content from the campaign:


And here is the email send:


 3) Invite people to follow your hashtag

A great way to create a consistent experience across social channels is to universally use your brand name as a hashtag. Since Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all support hashtags, this works. Now, one caveat here is that if you chose your brand name more for SEO purposes ( or something there may be a lot of noise on “your brand’s” hashtag. So in that case, you’ll need to check. But otherwise, using your brand’s name as a consistent tag across channels makes it simple for people to find you.

Jewelry retailer Gemvara does this, and as part of their nurturing for new subscribers, they invite potential customers to find them on social media.


This is not only a good Instagram strategy, but just a generally great social media strategy. In this day and age it may be obvious that you would have a social media account, but because there is so much noise, your subscribers may need an extra nudge or reminder to go find you.

Wrapping Up

The number one thing you have to keep in mind when it comes to Instagram is this: Just creating an account and posting pretty things and existing is not enough. You need to think strategically about how you are going to get that content in front of people. What hashtags will you use? What people will you proactively engage with? How will you get your current subscribers to also engage with you on Instagram? Everything you do needs to be cross-functional like that. It sounds like a lot of work, but with a well-thought-out strategy, there is a huge opportunity for brand recognition with this new platform.



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