How to Build Brand Awareness and Engagement on Instagram

Written by: Leila Shafae

A study by Christodoulides (2009) illustrates that internet and technology have strongly affected on brandsphere. Brand managers role has changed from guardian to host and they have understood that one-side communication is not enough anymore and they should shift to many-to-many communication where consumers are allowed to communicate with the firm and other consumers.  Christodoulides (2009) states that before the internet, brand manager used to act like control freak which is not feasible in online world. Today, branding is about creating relationships, interaction and generating better value to the customers. Building and sharing user generated content should be facilitated by companies because it has a powerful impact on building and improving relationship amongst brands, consumers and brand communities. Internet has also offered new opportunities for companies as they can benefit from personalization and customization for instance in case of, where consumer can design trainers themselves from a variety of options.

According to Barwise & Meehan (2010) the emerge of social media makes it more crucial than ever to get the branding basics right. Companies should add social media into their marketing playbooks to offer four basics: providing and communicating a clear customer promise, creating trust by delivering on it, constantly developing the promise and innovating beyong something familiar. Firms should concentrate on social media to gain valuable customer insights instead of selling and try to go viral but at the same time protect the brand.

Social media has changed the way companies manage their relationships. Companies should move from anonymous customer segment to individual consumer level.  This is a challenge for many companies who are not used to one-by-one relationships. This kind of consumer engagement is a challenge because a lot of brands and firms are competing with consumers’ time, attention and emotional recources. Firms need to think which CRM suits them the best and support with consumer engagement (Hennig-Thurau, Hofacker, & Bloching, 2013).

Shih, Lin & Luarn (2014) states that a company should conclude respect, passion and trust in each interaction part. Companies should use social media to communicate with fans and show them that their thoughts, opinions and participation are respected and valued. In turn, fans will draw more attention to the company and feel sense of belonging. Sales or customer service staff should not be seen as only people interacting with consumers but also company’s CEO and face of the brand. For building a fan power company can use a framework which has four stages including engaging fan with attractive and interesting topics, treating fans with a positive and honest attitude, checking reviews carefully and bringing fans together as a family. With followingsteps a company provides better brand awareness, satisfaction, loyalty and sales.

We do not live in a world where the brand has the power to decide over agenda. Today, consumer have the control to decide if and when they want to invite the brands in (Fourner & Avery, 2011). Companies have to research its’ target group and the roles they play in order to succeed in branding. Consumers can have different roles such as being a fan, evangelist, critic or hacker. It is important to understand why a person decides to be a fan or a hacker. By finding reasons behind these roles, transformations one to another role and solutions a company can gain valuable insight and thus communicate and interact with consumers and offer better content and value (Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012).

Sigh & Sonnenburg (2012) explain that storytelling has been used to gain consumer’s interaction with brands. In classical theater the brand owner was responsible for storytelling but this is changing because of the rise of social media. Social media makes user-generated brand content. Emerge of social media has had many impacts for example made connections and changed the way consumers interact and communicate with brands. Today, consumers can find, read, write and share the information about brands.  Consumers might have different reasons for interacting with brands in social media such as enjoyment, promoting theirselves and to start a discussion and affect on others. For instance, Dove was a product- focused brand that developed to a storytelling brand with the real beauty video to a brand that co-created the story with consumers by real beauty campaign. Dove got a lot of attention in social media and engaged consumers (Singh & Sonnenburg, 2012).



I would like to present some examples of how companies and individuals can build brand awareness and engagement through Instagram. Lets first talk about one of the biggest social networks Instagram. According to eBizMBA (2016) Instagram is the seventh most popular social network site. It has more than 400 million users monthly, 40 billion shared photos, 80 million downloaded photos everyday and 3.5 billion likes daily (Instagram, 2015). Instagram has growth from 13 % in 2012 to 28% in 2015. (Pew Research Center, 2015) 

Instagram is a mobile photo sharing application; mainly it is visual and creates interesting storytelling through creative method. (Instagram, 2015) Instagram is seen as non-spammy because users are not allowed to have any links apart from the ones in personnel profile bio, thus it is also generating authenticity. Instagram is a great tool for building brand awareness and engagement. A research by Forrester indicated that Instagram provides engagement for brands 58 times more than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter. Forrester also compared seven different social networks and in results in six of them brands accomplished an engagement below 0,1 %. Instagram instead achieved engagement level of 4,21% (Foundr, 2016).



Foundr is a digital magazine that helps entrepreneurs to create and grow a successful business. Foundr aim for building a powerful community of enterpreneurs and providing them a great amount of value.  It succeed in getting 179,000 followers in Instagram and 20,000 email subscribers just in 7 months. In their ”how to get your first 10000 Instagram followers” e-book they reveal their Instagram marketing plan with tips (Foundr, 2016).

Their strategy consist mainly on content alignment, consistent delivery and engagement. Firstly, you have to know your audience like what they want, need, desire, struggle with and language they use. You have to offer your audience a content they desire. If you have issues with generating a right content, make some research about your competitors content and their success. Also check what is happening in your industry for potential perspectives and stay up to date with trends. Foundr offers useful and also motivational posts that givesencouragement and motivation. The company explain that photos create a story or catches a feeling or shared experience. For example they have posts about inspiring successful entrepreneurs or quotes. Instagram is a personal social network so keep in mind that expressing emotions are important. Foundr adds posts that creates some kind of emotional feelings such as pride, ambition, hope, happiness, fear or stress (Foundr, 2016).  

Secondly, have a logical posting schedule that creates expectation and anticipation. This will lead to better realationship of trust with your followers. Try to avoid posting many photos at the same time because this will give a feeling of advertisement and followers might unfollow you. Foundr advice to post 2-3 times a day or every three or four hours. Timing for posts are also important as you need to know when your followers are most likely to communicate. Foundr recommends to utilize a service called Iconosquare which explain that it is important to know the peak time of your target audiences engagement and track dawn the posting times and topics (Foundr, 2016).  

Thirdly, try to get your audience to interact with you by asking your followers to do something or respond to a challenge. This can be for example asking your followers to ”like” if they agree, say their thoughts and opinions or to tag a friend to share a post. Foundr have noticed that the posts with questions generates 300 % more interaction than posts without it (Foundr, 2016).

Fourthly, add tempting text in your photos that is an effective way to share your content, identity brand and attract followers to engage with your photos. An application called Wordswag let the user to use beautiful templates that allows to create a picture and add text that reminds a designer work (Foundr, 2016).

Fiftly, avoid using hashtags in description part as this looks like spamming, instead try to deliver extra value about the post. Using Emojis is also a great way to communicate and get attention. Using hashtags in comments will let people find you easier. Also add videos if it suits your content strategy (Foundr, 2016).

Finally to generate revenue you have to do more than just asking your followers to click your page from bio and remember to make the bio interesting and simple and short. You have to offer value and reward followers who visits your website on regular basis. Also remember to add simple and easy to rremember URL. You can add the URL in comment part but also in location part by creating a new location.  Also it is important to make link with people who are in the same business as you and make deal with them for exchange of ”share for a share”. You can get more visitors by shoutouts and mostly the deals happens in KIK, so make sure you download it. Paid shoutouts are also one choice but make sure that the account have the same target group and content as you. Competition and giveaways are also an effective way to get more followers and improve brand awareness (Foundr, 2016).



Jen Selter is one of those people who got famous through Instagram. Currently she has 8,6 million followers in Instagram. Jen was not a professional fitness instructor but still managed to create a powerful personal brand in Instagram. She created her Instagram account because of her love for fitness and inspiring people.  She got famous by posting training pictures mainly her butt and this is what makes her different compare to other fitness trainers. The word “belfie” exist because of her. Her authenticity can be seen in her hardworking training, healthy living and positive inspirational attitude. Lastly she is also communicating and engaging with her followers, which makes their bond even stronger (Thewebtrovert, 2014).



Survey shows us that Instagram is a powerful and unique social network that keeps growing. It is a great tool that provides companies and individuals to put content in a creative way and it has became an affective social platform that builds strong brand awareness and engagement. 

Time is becoming all the time more and more crucial and Instagram is a great platform for checking pictures and short videos. Due to this brands really need to focus on right content and give the best first impression. If they make even a small mistake in social media, the brand’s reputation will suffer and this will affect on business. Companies need to act proactively instead of ignoring issues.

I believe every company should try Instagram and these valuable tips we heard earlier. Instagram might not suit for every brand but you should still give a shot and see what is going to happen. After all it’s all about experiment and you will need to be patient because it will take time in order to see the results. Try different social media networks because they are different and have own advantages and disadvantages. Find the social network platform that works the best for you. 

Social media channels like Instagram is not just for celebrities and companies, but also for every individual who wants to build brand awareness and get people engaged. Instagram provides a lot of opportunities for every individual to become viral and famous. So if you have time, commitment, strategy, vision and a right attitude go for it!

There are some questions that could be discussed: What kind of differences there exists between company brand and individual personal brand? Can they somehow mix together and utilize both strategies?




Reference list

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Our story (2016). Instagram, Available Online: [Accessed 18 February 2016]

Foundr. How to get your first 10000 Instagram followers, [e-book]. Avalable at: [Accessed 18 February 2016]

Pinterest and Instagram Usage Doubles Since 2012, Growth on Other Platforms is Slower (2015). PeeResearchCenter, Available Online: [Accessed 18 February 2016]

For the first time, the age of traditional work is over (2016). Foundr. Available Online: [Accessed 18 February 2016]

 5 people that made it famous on Instagram…for random reasons (2014). Thewebtrovert. Available Online: [Accessed 18 February 2016]

Foundrmagazine (2016). Instagram. Available Online: [Accessed 18 February 2016]

Fournier, S. & Avery, J. (2011). The uninvited brand, Elsevier, pp.206

Hennig-Thurau,T., Hofacker,C. & Bloching, B. (2013). Marketing the pinball way: Understanding how social media change the generation of value for consumers and companies, Journal of interactive marketing, pp. 239

Singh, S. & Sonnenburg, S. (2012). Brand performances in social media, Journal of Interactive marketing, pp.196-197

Christodoulines, G. (2009). Branding in the post-internet era, SAGE, pp. 141-144

Shih, C., Lin. T. & Luarn, P. (2014). Fan-centric social media: The Xiaomi phenomenon in China. Elsevier, pp.350-357

Barwise, P. & Meehan, S. (2010). The one thing you must get right when building a brand, Harvard Business Review, pp. 1-5