A seven-part introduction to Instagram: Part One - Researching the Market

Previously we provided an overview about how to create and grow an Instagram feed to best leverage the networks success. The guide, ‘How to ‘gram in 7 easy steps’, describes seven steps needed to optimise your feed:

1.     Researching the market

2.     Resource allocation

3.     Defining a strategy

4.     Generating content

5.     Planning ahead

6.     Increasing followers

7.     Measuring and managing

We have now created a seven-part series to explore each of these steps in greater depth. 


You know who your competitors are, but have you checked them out on Instagram? Have you investigated other aspirational brands, or brands you’d like to align with?


Researching competitors on social media provides you with a solid foundation of information, which will be the basis of your future strategy. Competitor analysis gives you insight into the current habits of the audience you are targeting, and shows what kind of posts are successful in reaching and engaging with them.

Preliminary questions to answer during the process competitor analysis:

1.     How many accounts are they following?

2.     What is their dominant content?

3.     How many hashtags do they use? What are they?

4.     When are they posting? (Time of day, which days of the week)

5.     What filters (if any) are used?


To be effective and competitive on Instagram, you must engage with your current audience while attracting a greater following. Posting valuable imagery alone will engage an audience, but the inclusion of hashtags in captions are extremely important in growing an audience. Hashtags make it easier for Instagram users to find photos through searching those words and phrases.

How do you know which hashtags to use?

Like Twitter and other social sites, Instagram users prefer certain hashtags over others. This show the importance of choosing the right hashtag to suit your content and audience. Luckily there are a number of tools to help, one being Top-Hashtags.

According to Top-Hashtags, the top hashtags currently on Instagram are:

1.     #fashion - 283,709,845 photos

2.     #like4like – 261,565,258 photos

3.     #friends – 238,888,506 photos

4.     #smile – 223,124,790 photos

5.     #instamood – 181,847,616 photos

6.     #follow4follow – 174,670,242 photos

7.     #amazing – 170,670,242 photos

8.     #family – 167,450,186 photos

9.     #style – 167,450,186 photos

10.  #nofilter – 160,597,834 photos

You might be thinking “none of these apply to my brand” and you are probably right. While the these hashtags may increase engagement with your content, they are likely to be ‘hollow’ leads. To use hashtags effectively, you need to use the most relevant hashtags. This involves conducting an appropriate keyword search to ensure the hashtag you’ve chosen is relevant to your brand. You should also check that it is actually being searched for on Instagram. Webstagram enables you to find relevant and popular hashtags for your brand by searching for key hashtags that are closely related. Use a number of different key words that describe your brand accurately and build a list which you can refer back to.

The Initial research, organisation and filing of the most popular hashtags will save you time down the track.


Instagram is famous for it’s various filters. In 2015 there were actually a spate of babies named after Instagram filters – I’m not joking! Filters are similar to hashtags, in that some are preferred over others. This means the filter you choose for a photo may have an impact on user engagement. A 2015 collaborative study ‘Why We Filter Our Photos and How It Impacts Engagement’ by Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs analysed 7.6 million photos from Flickr and Instagram to investigate the best Instagram filter. The researchers found that filtered photos have significantly more engagement than un-edited images. Filters that increase warmth, exposure and contrast see the greatest increase in engagement. Results show that by selecting the ‘right’ filter, you can increase views by 21% and comments by 45%. The findings correlate with psychological studies of colour, with the warm tones of red and yellow eliciting feelings of arousal and cheerfulness. This finding tells us that filters like Mayfair, Rise, Valencia, Hefe and Nashville are good options for maximising engagement. Filters which infuse a cool, blue tint such as Amaro, Hudson and Walden are to be avoided. 

Posting time

Choosing the right time to post an image is critical to its success. A good basis is to evaluate your previous posts to understand what has worked well and what hasn’t. However, for new users this does require some guess work to launch. As a starting point, always consider your own use of Instagram. When are you most active on the network? This will provide rough guidance as to when other people are likely to be active as well.

IconoSquare’s optimization panel offers a detailed analysis of your posting history, plotted against your engagement. The report also highlights the best times of day and best days of the week to post.  


One of the easiest (and sneakiest) ways to find and attract new followers is by searching your closest competitors’ Instagram accounts and engaging with their audience. If your brands align they will likely be interested in your brand too. In order to share a competitor’s followers you must find a connection. There are three ways you can engage on Instagram:

1.     Following a user.

2.     Liking a photo.

3.     Commenting on a photo.

While following a user is the easiest form of engagement, you will achieve best return of investment when you follow, like and comment on a user’s feed.


Create a content calendar and fill it with seasonal events that you could leverage (i.e. Christmas, Easter, WA day). Next add in any dates relevant to your business (trade shows, conventions, community festivals, product launches), this will provide you with a skeletal structure. The next step is to flesh it out, review the type of content your competitors are posting and list its effectiveness based on the rate of engagement. Continue to evaluate the content, this is important to ensure you are providing a valuable service to your audience. 


Stay tuned to learn more about Resource Allocation in the second installment of our seven part series. 

Image credits:

Banner Image - @SaltyWings

Red Dog - @RioTintoGroundbreakers

#BetterForIt - @NikeWomen

Horsing around - @FlumeMusic

Posting Times - Iconosquare

GoPro - @GoProANZ