Ashlee Sierra

Did you ever spend warm summer afternoons lifting rocks to spy on the creepy-crawlies underneath? Depending on where you lived, you might have looked for snakes, lizards, spiders, or ants; for me, it was always frogs.

Or maybe you were inside reading a book or playing video games. That’s cool too.

Even if you’ve never had this experience, it’s easy to see how lifting rocks to look for hidden communities is a lot like finding your target audience on a social media platform, especially one as large as Instagram. Your people have their own niches — and if you don’t know how to find them, your content might end up with the wrong audience.

Luckily, you can stop looking under rocks: We’re here with all the insights you need to find your ideal audience and help your Instagram account prosper within your target market.

Why Instagram is Insta-Great

Did you know that Instagram’s more than 1 billion monthly active users spend about 2.5% of their waking hours on the app? Or that it’s the favorite platform among females between the ages of 16 and 24?

If that’s not enough to make your brain explode, check out the numbers on how many people you could potentially reach with different Instagram marketing types:

  • Ads in the Instagram feed: 1.38 billion.
  • Instagram stories: 1.03 billion.
  • Ads in the Instagram “Explore” tab: 728.9 million.
  • Ads in Instagram Reels: 754.8 million.
  • Ads in the Instagram Shop: 276 million.

Long story short, the Instagram audience is massive, and its users spend a lot of time engaging with content on the platform. That represents a wealth of opportunities for your brand.

Unfortunately, it also represents a lot of challenges. After all, there’s no guarantee that the first rock you pick up will instantly reveal your target community — or that everyone living there will be interested in your content anyhow. 

That’s why you need to start by building your audience personas.

Building Your Audience Personas

Before you start worrying about things like follower numbers or influencer marketing, you need one critical piece of information: Who are you talking to? This applies to every type of marketing, not just social media — so hit “pause” on those Instagram stories for just a moment.

Let’s say you’re selling shoes — but exclusively in sets of 8, and exclusively to creepy-crawlies. Your content isn’t going to matter to beetles (who have 6 legs) or worms (who have 0 legs), but it will be love at first sight for spiders. That means you need to know how to pick up the right rocks.

First, break down the 3 types of critters who might see your content:

  • Potential audience: Beetles, worms, spiders, frogs — this is everyone you can reach with your marketing campaign, regardless of whether they’d be interested in your product. The group changes depending on what channel and media format you use.
  • Target audience: Narrow down your potential audience to just the spiders and you’ll end up with your target audience. This is the group you want to aim for.
  • Ideal audience: These are spiders who A) wear shoes, B) need new shoes and C) have somehow obtained standardized currency — that is, the perfect audience. Realistically, most spiders will probably only check 1 or 2 of these boxes, so this ideal may be difficult to reach.

While these 3 types are easy enough to identify on paper, they might not be so obvious in the real world. That’s why your next step should be developing audience personas. (Hint: A social media strategist can help with this part!)

Audience personas are fictional user profiles built around information from your ideal and target audience evaluations. They help you design the right message for the right people. Here are two examples your spider shoe business might create (and look out, arachnophobes — we chose some close-ups of our 8-legged stars):

Widow Wendy

Type: Black Widow.
Occupation: Eating pests (and husbands).
Location: Temperate climates.
Goals: Woo a new mate.
Challenges: A ruthless reputation and a larger shoe size than other spiders.
Description: Widow Wendy is the recent victim of a so-called “tragic accident.” Now that she’s rolling in insurance money from her husband’s untimely demise, she can afford to update her wardrobe — and she’s a big fan of anything that will make her seem like the sweet, friendly spider she is on the inside. A word to the wise: She’s sensitive about her shoe size, so make sure to offer a variety of options that fit her needs.

Jumping Jerry

Type: Jumping spider.
Occupation: Pouncing on prey.
Location: Everywhere (maybe even inside your house).
Goals: Stand out from 4,000 other jumping spider species.
Challenges: Shoe weight and flexibility.

Jumping Jerry just wants to be unique, but that’s not easy in a family of 4,000. He knows a nice set of shoes will make him stand out from the crowd — but he also can’t afford to be slowed down by kicks that are too big and heavy for his jumping gymnastics.


Your shoe company’s marketing campaigns will have a much clearer direction when you use these audience personas. For example, Widow Wendy might be receptive to messages about how your shoes make spiders more approachable, while Jumping Jerry would prefer content about the comfort and flexibility offered by your product. 

Once you’ve got these personas figured out, you can start identifying them across different channels — including social media platforms like Instagram.

Using Instagram Insights for Audience Research

It’s your lucky day: Instagram has a built-in tool called Instagram Insights to help you learn about your target audience and find them among 1 billion monthly users. Here’s what to know:

What is Instagram Insights?

If you’re looking for Instagram analytics, this tool is your new best friend. It covers things like follower count, video plays, content interactions and more. You’ll also have different tools depending on what content types you use, like Instagram stories or Instagram Reels.

How Does Instagram Insights Find Your Audience?

This tool analyzes your Instagram account to track the number of people you’ve reached. You’ll also learn:

  • Their general location.
  • Their age range.
  • Actions they take when interacting with your content.
  • Times they’re most active on Instagram.

What Does This Mean for Social Media Marketing?

The Instagram Insights tool provides key information about your unique Instagram audience. With this data, you can create a clear picture of whom you’re reaching, when and why — and that informs choices like which groups you should target and how you talk to them.

Reaching the Right Audience with the Right Content

Although you should always have Instagram analytics in your back pocket, this isn’t the only approach that can help identify and reach your Instagram target audience. Here are a few other ways to make sure your content is getting under the right rocks:

Use Personas Wisely.

Remember, personas should guide your approach to Instagram marketing. If your target audience is full of spiders who need to seem approachable, the last thing you want to do is talk about how your shoes are edgy and intimidating.

To get even more from your existing personas, try audience segmentation. This allows you to break your target audience into smaller groups — for example, Jumping Jerries and Widow Wendies — so you can launch similar campaigns with personalized messaging. That doesn’t just make your spiders feel special; it also cuts down on the work you have to do for each marketing message.

Vary Your Post Types.

From product pictures to Instagram stories and Reels, there are lots of ways to engage with your Instagram audience. Keep in mind that one follower may prefer static images while another wants live videos — so the more you vary your post types, the better chance you’ll have of catching everyone’s attention. 

For even more engagement, try using Instagram polls on your Reels posts — a tool that allows you to ask users for opinions while they view your content. (Hint: This is also a great way to gather more data on your target audience’s demographics, preferences and other data!)

Use Hashtags.

Hashtags make your content easier to find on many social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. If you use hashtags that are relevant to your target audience, industry and offerings, you’ll bring in the right people like moths to a flame.

For example, your spider shoe brand wouldn’t use #LilypadLife (relevant to frogs) or #NoFeetNoProblem (relevant to worms and snakes). Instead, you might use #8LegLife or #SpiderShoes, depending on what your audience is talking about and searching for. You might also use local SEO tactics to target and utilize hashtags specific to different geographic regions — like #SpiderSnowshoes for those living in chillier environments.

Keep Things Fresh.

All the audience analytics in the world still can’t create content for you. Instead, you need to keep things fresh by using this information to consistently provide information they’ll find valuable. A content calendar can help you make sure you’re covering a variety of topics at the right times — which, in turn, brings in more of the right people (or arachnids). 

Try Social Listening.

You don’t always have to interact with your audience directly to learn about them. You can also try social listening — a technique that allows you to track brand mentions and discussions floating around your Instagram audience. Even if a follower doesn’t directly mention you or your offerings, you might be able to gather data about their general attitude.

Say one of your audience members — a Jumping Jerry — just made a post about how all spider shoes look the same. This user is frustrated by boring designs and lackluster products — and, as you can tell by comments and post shares, they’re not the only ones. Thanks to social listening, you just learned something valuable about your industry, and you can use this information to market your products more efficiently. 

Go Beyond Instagram.

Your Instagram target audience exists on other platforms, too. Snapchat is a great example because it has many of the same content types but offers certain unique features, like exclusive selfie filters. That means your audience might use Instagram to catch up on company news and Snapchat to talk to their friends — which, in turn, means you can speak to them a little differently on each channel. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn more about who they are and what they want if you watch how they engage with different platforms.

Try Instagram Advertising.

Like most channels and platforms, Instagram has an advertising option, allowing you to identify and reach users in ways marketing alone might not offer. An Instagram ad can appear in a user’s news feed, stories, Instagram Shop and more. They can even take different formats, including:

  • Image ads.
  • Video ads.
  • Carousel ads.
  • Collection ads.

Remember, different parts of your target audience will engage with different content types — so if you’re trying Instagram advertising, shake things up with a variety of approaches.

Don’t Forget Influencer Marketing.

As you learn more about your audience, you’ll start to find out what motivates them. For some, it’s an engaging photograph or a well-placed ad. For others, it’s a trustworthy, personable individual — an influencer.

Influencer marketing is popular on platforms like Instagram. Think of it this way: An influencer already knows which rocks to lift, so if you work with them, you get to share their insights and reach your audience more effectively. Plus, an influencer is often seen as an unbiased third-party capable of recommending products and services they directly support, which means you can connect with all your spiders on a more personal level.

Reach Your Target Audience On and Off Instagram

Even if you’re not selling shoes to spiders, you can surely appreciate the inherent challenge of finding the ideal audience for your brand. Naturally, the more rocks there are, the more people you’ll have to look through before you find the right ones — and that’s the case on social media platforms like Instagram, where millions of users hang out under millions of rocks.

The good news is that you have all kinds of tools at your disposal. From custom audience creation with unique personas to Instagram Insights and other analytics tools, you can find your crowd of creepy-crawlies. Plus, once you know how to find them on Instagram, you can find them just about anywhere.

The even better news: You don’t have to do any of this alone. We may not have much experience with spider-shoe marketing, but we’re experts in just about everything else — so subscribe to our newsletter and join us under our own little rock.