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You have recently opened an account for your small business on Instagram, and you are eyeing the much-coveted likes and follows. The big question now is, how can you effectively promote yourself on the mobile-friendly social media platform using a limited ad budget? Can you get a higher number of Instagram likes and followers if you are running your Instagram marketing tactics in a tight pocket? Is it possible to save your wallet from burning big holes and yet get the desired audience traction on your business account?

Fortunately, you can create an assertive audience outreach without spending much on Instagram ads. If you are willing to make a thoughtful investment, here are a few tried and tested alternatives you can bet your money on instead of Instagram ads. What’s more, the following can save you some cash while building up your brand’s online presence!

Here’s what you should try putting your pennies in:

1. Invest in Engagements

Likes on your posts will increase audience traction by making your posts visible on public feeds. This, in turn, will encourage other Instagrammers to engage with your posts too. Yes, you can invest in paid engagement. Be careful here, though. Instagram can suspend you on suspicion of fake activity and ban you if it is proved. The trick is to not invest in fake numbers when you can buy the real deal. Several authentic services provide organic engagement, such as real likes to give your small business the boost it needs to initiate a presence on Instagram.

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2. Invest in Collaborations

You will find several like-minded allied businesses on Instagram. Industry experts, Instagrammers, Tastemakers, or Influencers collaborating can happen in different ways with different types of celebrity users as well. They, like you, are looking for small-budget promotion options for their own business. Engaging with them will not only lead to opportunities for collaborating, but you will also gain immensely from each other’s audience reach. It’s a win-win for both sides if your collaborations go through, so do your research and tie up for small marketing strategies like organizing contests and giveaways that will bring mutual brand build-ups. Collaborations bring your account:

  • Greater visibility;
  • Trust;
  • New Followers.

To ensure you are optimizing this avenue, you must do your research on your collaborators before making any commitments. The first decision to make is who to collaborate with? Someone famous and influential. You could collaborate with:

  • Influencers – They are experts in your niche who yield the experience of selling products or reviews to select audiences. They can be micro or macro influencers depending on their follower reach. There are several sub-kinds of influencers depending on their follower count. Influencers bring a fresh perspective to marketing by producing personalized content related to your field. Depending on what social media content they popularly generate, influencers may be:
    • Bloggers,
    • Vloggers,
    • Instagram Stars,
    • Celebrities,
    • Activists,
    • Reality TV participants,
    • Journalists and Photographers.
  • Indirect Competition – These are businesses that target the same audience as you but with a product that has the potential to substitute yours. If you market yourself carefully, you could end up ensuring both share healthy traction from the same audience. For instance, a dietitian can be indirect competition to a fitness trainer. Although you may give each other referrals, your audience always has the likelihood of preferring to stick to one of you instead of using both your services together.
  • Complimentary Businesses – These are businesses that do not pose the possibility of taking over your audience completely as indirect competition does. However, working with them is likely to broaden your audience reach as your audiences will overlap. For instance, a hotel and a local taxi service are complementary businesses. You are likely to give each other referrals without fearing you will lose out your customers to each other.

So how do you figure out if someone is an excellent collaborating match for you? When you shortlist your probable collaborators, check:

  • How much expertise do they demonstrate in your field?
  • How good are their impression-conversion rates?
  • Is your ideal audience likely to be influenced by them?
  • What kind of engagement have their recent activities triggered on Instagram?
  • What is their past collaborative campaign experience?
  • Is it possible to partner with them long-term, or are you looking for time-bound alliances only?

Collaborations must be done post careful research only. This is to ensure you are gaining exposure in the proper audience circuits. Influencers can be the most affordable or the most expensive advertising means on Instagram, depending on who you are approaching and what kind of collaborations.

Remember to keep in communication with collaborators, follow and organically interact with their account activities and join their mailing lists to know more about them.

3. Organize Giveaways

This is an effective self-promoting strategy that relies on successful implementation and planning rather than on big-budget investments. You can organize contests and always give on your own or in collaborations. To make sure you are creating a success story for yourself, follow these steps in organizing any giveaway:

  • Determine your goal – Are you looking for more followers or just aiming at more impressions? Are you looking for likes and shares? Do you want the traffic to move to your homepage? Are you looking for lead generation and sales conversions? As you can see, your goal can be fine-tuned into something more concrete than simply “more exposure”.
  • Decide on a prize – Depending on your goal, and your reward can vary. If sales are your ultimate aim, maybe the gift could be a freebie on purchasing over a certain amount. On the other hand, a public shout-out or feature may be more relevant if your goal is getting viewers to like, comment on or share your posts.
  • Have the rules laid out – Write out the rules of eligibility and prize collection clearly. If local or interns’ laws are involved, make sure you write out what and how these figures into your giveaway.
  • Promote Well in Advance – Your contests will be more successful if you give your participants more time to be aware of them. Promote the event in your IG Stories, Posts, Reels, and every other avenue available on Instagram. Cross-promote the event on Facebook and other social handles.
  • Announce Winners – Stick to your event rules and announce winners transparently. You could even go Live to declare winners. Keeping your giveaway fair and authentic will build trust and credibility for you. This, in turn, will bring organic growth to audience engagement and conversion rates for your business.

4. Do Not Skip the Hashtags

Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags on your posts and 10 on your Stories. To maximize your visibility and ensure your marketing campaigns reach the right target audience, use the most relevant hashtags. When used right, hashtags can help you get a new audience, raise brand awareness, boost your SEO, to name a few advantages. Use trending hashtags creatively to bring organic traction to your account.

Research hashtags before using them because random hashtags can lower your impression rates. Some hashtags are also obsolete and hardly bring any search. You can create your unique hashtags to start trends and to build exclusive limelight for yourself. Hashtags work as an indexing catalog for Instagram posts. They make activities easy to track and engage with. Hence, they are crucial to any promotional tactic you may be planning to employ. You could use hashtags to:

  • Join trending conversations to bring audience engagement to your profile.
  • Promote collaborations, giveaways, competitions, and offers.
  • Encourage organic growth of your profile reach.
  • Ensure your profile shows up in relevant searches.
  • Build a community for your business.
  • Start campaigns and events.

Remember not to overuse hashtags as it could result in a shadow-ban. If you are unsure of how to employ hashtags in your activities, it is a good idea to start by using:

  1. A Keyword analysis: This will help you figure out which hashtags are most relevant for your campaigns. A keyword analysis will show you the volume and frequency of posts on Instagram concerning your chosen hashtags. You can then study variations of these hashtags to figure out the best ones for you to use.
  2. An Industry analysis: By observing what your competition is using and what is trending in your niche, you can effectively determine what hashtags will be best suited for your promotional posts. It is a good idea to be aware of where the organic audience is leaning towards and what is likely to build the most engagement opportunities.

Track hashtag performances by monitoring your views, followers, comments, and likes. Optimizing your hashtag strategy is a sure way to build a brand presence on Instagram. So, keep at it even if it may take you a while to figure out what works best for you.

If you must use ads, try the following tips to save yourself from spending a fortune:

Re-purpose Organic Posts

Use your Insights to check which posts have found your account the most organic traction. Using this information, select some of your best content to turn them into material for Instagram Ads. This is a low-cost organic content ad strategy that helps you create successful Instagram ad funnels.

To utilize the content in your ad, use Instagram’s inbuilt tools and the Create Ad feature. The feature prompts you to set preferences like:

  1. Who is your target audience? You can set specifics like demographics and age group preferences.
  2. Where do you want your audience engagement to be – your website or DMs, for instance?

You can choose to promote multiple posts or a single one depending on your budget.

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Create Audience Engagement by Re-targeting Old Interactions

You can use the Facebook Custom Audience tool to get your Instagram business profile a boost in reaching audiences who have already begun interacting with the profile.

This feature allows your activities to become visible to the selected audience. You can choose specific sets of audiences as well as exclude certain audience groups. Retargeting them enables you to concentrate on particular content marketing types while testing the organic possibility of audience growth. A warm response is what you want to activate into more regular interactions.

This method enables you to sequence your Instagram Ad Funnels and keep your campaign’s costs at a bare minimum while doing so. This method works best if you are actively seeking lead generation and sales conversions from your Instagram profile.

No matter what you choose to invest in, you can keep your costs as per your budget if you remember to:

  • Regularly Monitor Your Cost Return: Monitor each of your marketing strategies to check which campaigns are the most profitable for your business. It is vital to keep track of what is bringing your organic engagement and conversions to plan future campaigns accordingly. While monitoring Instagram Ads, check which placements have got the best interactions. Instagram lets you check insights for the Instagram feed, Instagram Stories, and the Instagram Search and Explore tab for the purpose.
  • Be Observant of Trending Campaigns: Monitor what is working for your competition at all times. Not only will you find inspiration for your next promotional strategy while being observant, but this also helps you keep yourself at the top of your research. It can never hurt to be aware and to incorporate new knowledge into your marketing. Being up-to-date with the trends will only ensure you are using Instagram to your utmost advantage.


While all of the tips mentioned above will save you money, they work best when used together. Plan out how you can fit in collaborations, giveaways, and low-cost ads to work in sync with each other to ensure you have maximized on each of them.