From Startup to Success: Instagram Strategy at Every Stage

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On December 1st, we partnered with Conde Nast to host an event that focused on how brands can successfully utilize Instagram and make it an integral part of their marketing funnel.

Here are some of the learnings.

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It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon in New York City and the Dash Hudson and Conde Nast teams were getting ready to welcome industry professionals across various sectors to learn about Instagram strategy optimization. The guest list spanned from prestigious Conde Nast publications, to rad disruptive startups, to successful established companies, to public relation mavens; all eager to gain insight into world’s most popular social network.

The 4-tiered event took place on the 34th floor of Conde Nast’s beautiful offices at 1 World Trade, and the epic views alone were enough to foreshadow the success of the affair, if we may say so. The afternoon began with a workshop for select startups to learn from advisors about Instagram best practices, and how they can take advantage of the visual social platform to accelerate their growth and build their brand.

The second part of the event was a panel discussion with an amazing group of experts from various brands at different stages in their Journey:

Casey Zhang from @Etsy

Eddie Simeon from @HellaCocktailCo

Mary Kate Pagano from @MasterDynamic

Anna Tran from @Revolve

Maeve Nicholson from @CNTraveler

It was moderated by Rochelle Ballard, the director of social strategy at Conde. These industry thought leaders each recounted their approach to Instagram and discussed various tactics they’ve successfully employed to generate business growth and build their clout.

It was followed by the presentation of the Vanity Fair and Dash Hudson case study, introducing mainly how instrumental DH has been in propelling VF’s Insta growth since they’ve been using our tools. Jeffrey Tousey, Vanity Fair’s social media editor, and Mariana Rittenhouse, Dash Hudson’s director of brand strategy, chatted at length about how to conduct operations on Instagram to yield the best results possible. Finally, the evening ended with a Q&A session, where members of the audience were able to pose their most burning social media questions for the panel of experts to answer.

Needless to say, the entire affair was as thought-provoking as it was enlightening. Here’s a quick recap.

Breaking Ground

The event’s tactical conversations revolved around the strategic pillars of Brand Identity, Community, Consistency, and Creativity. Here are some of the key learnings for each principle that were identified throughout the event:


  • Communicating your brand identity on Instagram is all about translating your image’s core ethos into a tangible branding mission, specific to the Instagram platform.
  • This will guide the strategy and enable you to produce content that makes sense for the platform.
  • Every aspect of your strategy, from your content to your captions, should ultimately reflect your brand voice.
  • Only work with influencers who have high engagement and who align with your brand’s identity.
  • Your brand’s identity on Instagram can be very different from how it’s presented on other mediums, but it can also be strikingly consistent across all platforms. There is no one size fits all approach.


  • Take the time to understand who your audience is — not who you think it should be.
  • Analyze what resonates with your audience and incorporate those insights into your content strategy, while always staying true to your brand aesthetic. Taking into account a balance of data and visual cues will help you deliver the most relevant, engaging content to your community.
  • Focus on building an engaged audience, first and foremost. Conversion will follow.
  • Utilize on-brand, high quality earned content/UGC to leverage and bolster your community, and to diversify your content mix.
  • Encouraging user-generated content creation with a custom hashtag can drive significant growth. Ex: branded, participatory hashtags like @cntraveler’s #IamATraveler and #TravelerIn.
  • Use hashtags strategically to promote a campaign or to provide context for your content. If your goal is to grow with hashtags, use only quality hashtags pertaining to your content/industry, and use them only in the comment section. It’s ok to be a hashtag minimalist, using only 1 or 2 inside your caption.
  • Find creative ways to teach your audience to @ mention your brand handle. Do the same for other brands you follow — it’s good Instagram karma.
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Jeffrey Tousey from Vanity Fair and our very own director of brand strategy, Mariana Rittenhouse, present the VF+DH case study and impart all of their Instagram wisdom to the crowd.

Jeffrey Tousey from Vanity Fair and our very own director of brand strategy, Mariana Rittenhouse, present the VF+DH case study and impart all of their Instagram wisdom to the crowd.


  • Being consistent is vital to implementing any Instagram strategy. Consistency is all about setting expectations with your followers and the Instagram community, and following through with them. When they discover your account and hit follow, think of the visual story they expect to see.
  • Consistency is the only way to know what works for your brand and what doesn’t, and to be able to fine tune your strategy accordingly. How can you measure your efforts if you’ve only done things once?
  • Consistency is key to conversion. When utilizing a conversion tactic such as a “link in bio” tool like Dash Hudson’s LikeShop, always use a call-to-action in the caption.
  • Being inconsistent is one of the main factors that decreases engagement and worst of all, brings on the dreaded unfollow. No matter what, post at least once a day.


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From left to right: Maeve Nicholson from @cntraveler, Jeffrey Tousey form @vanityfair, Casey Zhang from@etsy, Anna tran from @revolve, Valerie De La Rosa from Conde Nast, Rochelle Ballard from Conde Nast, Mariana Rittenhouse from Dash Hudson, Thomas Rankin from Dash Hudson, Hélène Heath from Dash Hudson, Marie Kate Pagano from @masterdynamic, Michaela Atkinson from Dash Hudson and Eddie Simeon from @hellacocktailco.

We want to extend a warm thank you to everyone who attended and participated!

For an even more in-depth look into our event, visit the The Expert Guide to Creating a Professional Instagram Brand over on Quartz. If you’re interested in learning more about the ins and outs of Instagram, get in touch with us.

Visual marketing platform built for and used by the world’s most discerning brands and publishers.

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