What Does It Take To Be An Effective Instagram Manager? Insights From 8 Successful Social Media Professionals

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Last Updated: Dec 1, 2023

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Are you trying to become a successful Instagram manager? Whether you’re just starting out in the social media world or whether you’ve been here for a while but need to turn things around, we have the details and advice you need to get back in the game

Instagram is growing into a very competitive field — social media marketing is becoming more and more popular as a career, leading more people than ever before to choose this industry as their full-time or part-time job. So before you jump headfirst into Instagram marketing, it’s important to have an idea of what it takes. 

We talked to eight highly successful Instagram managers to get their input on this evolving industry, including the best IG tips and tricks, what your clients will expect, and everything you need to do to be successful. Here’s their tried-and-true advice.

1. Be Organized

According to Laura Burden of Burden Brand Management, you won’t survive on Instagram unless you know how to organize multiple accounts and efficiently manage collaborations — and to do this, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with Instagram tools such as Later and Slack.

“Being an effective Instagram Manager requires you to be extremely organized above all. When you’re managing multiple accounts, it’s crucial that you have systems in place that allow for the seamless management of these accounts.

Instagram manager, Laura Burden

“Being an effective Instagram Manager requires you to be extremely organized above all. When you’re managing multiple accounts, it’s crucial that you have systems in place that allow for the seamless management of these accounts.

Being an effective Instagram manager often requires collaboration with multiple stakeholders: this could be photographers, videographers, copywriters, marketers, brand managers… and the client too, of course! You need to be able to process the influx of information that comes at you from all angles almost constantly. The only way to do this is to be incredibly organized!

Pro Tip: There are so many amazing tools out there that can help! We use Later to schedule all posts and manage content. Later also allows for other users to act as contributors as well as to view the proposed schedule, which we utilize often with our clients who want to preview and approve everything in advance. Other tools like Slack and Monday are awesome for keeping communication organized and sharing necessary files and documents.”

Being an Instagram manager requires good communication skills and the ability to quickly organize lots of information.

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2. Keep Evolving

Instagram coach and manager Monique Lombardo brings up an important point: Instagram is constantly evolving, and you need to evolve with it, staying on top of the trends so you can create the most effective posts. 

Instagram manager, Monique Lombardo

“Creating a business within the wonderful world of social media means it’s always changing and evolving and you need to change with it too. We have progressed from Instagram being an image- only platform where the photo was all that was needed to gain traction. We then evolved to needing a caption that draws your audience in and provides value to them. Now, we’re at the stage where the most important aspect of social media is, in fact, being social. (That just means we need to have the imagery, content and sociability on point, always).

Being social means making sure you’re not ‘posting and ghosting.’ This means not putting up a post and leaving it. I suggest staying on your page for at least 10 minutes to engage with your audience and engage with your potential audience. 

When writing captions for my clients I like to get into their frame of mind and really harness how they would communicate and what they would like to communicate across. The key here is always adding value and to talk about everything BUT the thing you’re selling. I know, crazy right, but it works! Your audience goes on Instagram to be social, interact and to scroll right? They’re not there to be sold to. So the best way is to reverse sell. 

Caption writing is about taking what you’re selling. To discover this for yourself, I would suggest drawing up a mindmap with the product at the centre and then list all the benefits, your audience wants/needs and talking points that surround it. These will become your caption starters. 

Then, of course, content is still king which means every post needs to be memorable. It’s not enough to get by with just photos anymore, you need videos and more importantly, you need to get your face onto your Instagram stories. When people see your face and you’re talking directly to them through stories, you’re deepening the connection you have with your audience.

Pro Tip: When you’re talking to the camera, make sure you transcribe what you’re saying and write it as a caption on the story. This is great because a lot of people don’t listen to stories with their volume up, so you need to be able to connect to everyone – even the people watching without sound.”

3. Follow Instagram Best Practices

Instagram manager, Lori Caralis

There’s no substitute for engaging with other profiles, using lots of hashtags, and following other Instagram best practices to reach your ideal customer — at least, according to Lori Caralis, who runs a social media consulting company. 

“To be an effective Instagram manager, you should follow these 3 crucial tips:

1. Know Your Ideal Customer! 

Don’t just talk about your product or service, provide content that your ideal customer will be looking for and build a relationship with them so they can get to know and trust you. How do you do that? Here are a few ways:

  • Comment back on every single comment and DM you receive. 
  • Search hashtags that your ideal client would use. Then engage on their Instagram posts and stories.
  • Search location tags to find your ideal clients. What cities are your ideal clients located in? Is there an event going on that they would be at? You can look up cities, places (like Boston Convention Center) or even the event itself will sometimes have its own location tag. Search through the location tags to find ideal clients and then comment on their posts and stories about the event or location to establish a conversation. Don’t be afraid to follow them too.
  • Create an intentional newsfeed. Don’t fill your newsfeed with just friends or random posts. Only follow people who would be your ideal client or are in similar/complementary industries as you. Then you can scroll your newsfeed or stories and make comments on their posts to start building a relationship.
  • Share posts from people who you want to start a relationship with, in your stories. If you see a post that resonates with you or your business, share it in your stories and tell them why you like it so much. They will get notified and it’s a great way to get noticed and start a conversation with someone on Instagram.

2. Time

There’s no magic app that can replace you on Instagram! Create content to attract your ideal customer and then spend 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after it posts engaging on other profiles. This time spent engaging will bring new profiles to your content and should start growing your profile too! You truly need to be social on Instagram to be successful!

3. Hashtags

Know how to use them! You can use up to 30 and I usually do. You also need to use different sized hashtags to make sure you don’t get lost in the big ones. It also helps keep you from getting too many spam followers. 

Pro Tip: I suggest this break down of hashtags for most Instagram profiles: 
4-5 hashtags 250,000-499,000
4-5 hashtags 100,000-250,000
4-5 hashtags 50,000 – 100,000
4-5 hashtags under 50,000
4-5 hashtags related to your post
4-5 location-based hashtags (ex. #Boston, #beantown, #bostonweddings)

I also have an Instagram freebie: 7 Expert Secrets to Explode Your Instagram.”

Lori's Instagram freebie

By creating content that your ideal customer is looking for, you can forge relationships with those customers, helping them know and trust your business.

4. Become A Chameleon

Cara Gray, who founded the social strategy company Instagram For Real, says Instagram managers need to essentially become chameleons — it’s essential that you’re able to put yourself into a brand’s shoes and create genuine posts on behalf of that company. Here’s how:

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“When you are an Instagram Manager, you essentially need to morph yourself into the person or brand you are representing, when you’re designing the feed and writing captions for your client. This is critically important as you’re being paid to act as your client in a public space. And the latest trend in Instagram marketing is authenticity – so this skill is even more important now than it has been in the past.

Instagram manager, Cara Gray

Pro Tip: Take some time when you first sign a new client and read all of their blogs and any other content they’ve written. Check out past Instagram posts, if available. Take a look at their websites, their photo styles. If they don’t have much previous content available, ask for examples of other Instagram feeds and websites that they admire and use those as inspiration. If you are also managing their direct messages, work with your client to put together a FAQ sheet so you don’t have to bug them for answers and can also answer in their voice!”

Authenticity is key, so be prepared to do as much background research as you need to in order to get to know the client and their voice.

5. Manage Your Time

Doing batch work can be a helpful method of managing your workload — and don’t forget to keep track of time and take periodic breaks to let both your brain and body rest and recharge. Organizing her work and taking breaks helps Cassandra MacKay, an Instagram manager, stay available for her clients. (And MacKay knows what she’s talking about: In just 10 months, she’s gained over 20 clients.)

Instagram manager, Cassandra MacKay

“My background is in journalism and writing, and I created a local fitness account in my province that absolutely blew up. Through this, I was able to make connections with local business owners in the health/wellness/fitness/lifestyle industries and soon, business owners were reaching out to me wondering if I would be open to managing their business accounts for them – and here we are!

So I started with that one client in January of 2019 and now I have over 20 clients (some seasonal) and I also do coaching sessions with outside clients every month. I built my business my practicing what I preach: making connections, building relationships, creating an engaging social media presence to promote my services and my offers, and to show off my personality and what it’s like to work with me!

If you want to be an effective Instagram manager, time management is EVERYTHING! I’m a Type-A personality, so organization is my BFF. One thing that has helped me thrive and has kept my work flow manageable is doing batch work, meaning I batch a ton of content specific days of the week, do admin and online invoices and clerical business tasks another day, errands, go to the gym and other personal tasks on specific days and so on! Also, when you work from home or remotely, it’s important to schedule time out of each day to take a break from work to avoid burn out and exhaustion! It’s also nice to take a break to allow more creative juices to flow and to recharge those batteries, on your phone and in your brain.

Pro-tip: Use daily timesheet templates for organizing, scheduling, and having reports of your daily work hours and tasks.

Pro Tip: I use Trello to keep all of my projects and tasks organized. I also use Buffer to plan and schedule content in advance, and also for analytics and insights research. I use Canva to design basic graphics and content for my clients, an added bonus to my packages. I also use WhatsApp to stay in touch with clients who live in other countries. I make sure that I’m always available, responsive, and flexible for my clients in order to serve them best!”

6. Focus On Strategy and Value

If you’re new to the Instagram manager world, you might be tempted to work for exposure or accept low rates from your first few clients. But don’t! It takes time and work to create a successful Instagram campaign, so charge what you know you’re worth. Once you have well-paying clients, focus on creating a strong strategy to help their content succeed and educating those clients about the type of results they can expect. Digital marketer Chelsea Evans shares additional tips to help your campaigns succeed:

Starting off as an Instagram manager – 

“In February 2018, I began working full-time at a Digital Advertising Agency in Scottsdale, Arizona and had 3 social media management clients with my side business, Scott Social. I was busy, but overall, I found a really great balance. I lived in a world consumed by digital marketing.

Instagram manager, Chelsea Evans

I would wake up and listen to a podcast about entrepreneurship, work an 8 to 5 digital marketing job, go home and work on Scott Social, then go to sleep thinking of social media strategy. And… I absolutely loved it.

Over the holidays in 2018, my job slowed down and I had too much free time. Naturally, I spent every ounce of free time building Scott Social, specifically, building pitch decks and doing sales. I wasn’t sure what to expect – but I absolutely did not expect to land 3 clients from my sales efforts. Suddenly, I went from comfortably and confidently managing both of my jobs to missing deadlines, losing a bit too much sleep, and getting very sick. While miserably laying on the couch binging the entire Twilight Saga, cough drops in one hand, chamomile tea in the other, I made a commitment to myself. “I am going to take the leap.”

Next thing I knew, I was introducing myself as the owner of a Digital Advertising Agency, Scott Social. I went from “employee” to “employer” faster than I knew how to handle, yet the support from my professional and personal life kept pushing me forward.

Chelsea Evans owner of Scott Social

Managing all of my clients accounts – 

Strategy cannot be undermined, intentionality and value have to be at the forefront of everything you do, and your client’s success should be your driving force. Contrary to popular belief, Instagram is much more than pictures, likes, and stories. Each and every post should be optimized to the fullest and follow a purposeful monthly strategy. All content should be seeped in value, whether in the form of entertainment, education, or relationship building. And last but not least, the best interest of your clients should always come first. Seeing them succeed, inside and outside of social media, should be your driving force.

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A good tip for other Instagram Managers to keep in mind – 

Do not underprice yourself. You know how much time it takes to make a truly successful Instagram campaign. Hint: It’s a lot. Don’t drop the quality of your work just to meet a lower price point. Every client you work with is a direct reflection of YOU. Find the bridge between “fairly priced” and “this is the best damn Instagram you’ll ever see and I will price you accordingly.” If a client tells you you’re overpriced (trust me, they will), that is not your problem, it is theirs. Move on and find someone who respects your pricing, values your work, and has the budget to fulfill the contract – without discounts.

Pro Tip: Instagram is oversaturated. Every year, it gets harder and harder to grow an Instagram following. Hell, if you’re marketing for a start-up, you’ll be lucky if you even make it to 1,000 followers in the first year (possibly, an exaggeration). Because of this, you need to set reasonable expectations with your client. When you land a new client, they need to know that their business is not going to skyrocket in sales solely from a few Instagram posts. Rather, you should be educating them on the benefits of organic Instagram including brand consistency, relationship building, brand awareness, and searchability. Reasonable expectations are the key to a lasting client relationship.”

7. Understand Instagram

Instagram manager, Rebecca Lyn

This should go without saying, social media manager Rebecca Lyn explains — if you’re going to be an Instagram manager, you have to understand all the ins and outs of the platform. Valuable content, consistency, and video marketing are all important too, and it’s your job as an Instagram manager to understand why and to know how to execute these posts.

Here’s more from Rebecca:

Pro Tip: “To be an effective Instagram manager, YOU MUST UNDERSTAND the way Instagram works. From the algorithm to all the create modes.

I knew I wanted to become a social media manager when I started creating content for myself. I started my own small business 3 years ago and I had created everything from all the visual content, to marketing strategies, to overall building the brand awareness on social media. I booked my first client through an internship and after that it was mostly referrals and messages through the DM’s. I started to build my profile, stay consistent, and engage with like-minded individuals.   

I manage all my clients by keeping the amount of clients small. I only take on about 10 clients at a time, just to make sure that I can execute and give my best to each and every one of them. I also use an app called Apphi that will schedule my posts so that I can focus on engaging or other tasks that I need to accomplish.

Some IG Tips to focus on:

  1. Posting VALUABLE content that will resonate with your audience.
  2. Stay consistent
  3. Show up on video! People want to see the person behind the ‘brand’, ‘content’ or ‘screen’.
  4. HIRE a social media manager if you can’t be on top of these tips :)”

8. Find Your Passion

Social media manager and foodie, Elissa Ing, explains that if social media isn’t your passion, then your momentum will slowly fade, and the industry can be found toxic to some people.  Doing your research is key on websites and Youtube, to determine if this career is for you.

Instagram manager, Elissa Ing

Here’s some additional tips from Elissa:

“Believe it or not I started my social media journey over 3 years ago on Youtube! I fell in love with vlogging and I started a channel. I quickly learned that I needed to utilize all of the social media platforms in order to have any success.  Branding myself over the first year was quite a journey as I learned what worked for me and what didn’t. I followed some Instagram ‘babes’ that were very knowledgeable and I found my passion! Bam.

After dozens of free collaborations as an influencer, I found some paid opportunities and then answered an ad that a boutique had for an open intern position. After the first interview I was welcomed to the team as the social media intern. I am currently still employed with this boutique and we are working on opening a separate business, and I’m happy to announce here first that I will be a co-owner! 

Once I listed my social media internship with the boutique, a small company sent me a direct message, and after some questions and concerns, I was able to show my knowledge and worth, while gaining my first paid social media managing gig. I have since found a couple more clients and have had some great success for them.”

Become An Instagram Manager

Being an Instagram manager can be a tough job, but it’s a rewarding one, too. Kickstart your career using these tried-and-true tips from successful social media professionals who are paving the way.

Bonus Content

If you found this article helpful, please feel free to share the infographic below on your social media accounts or website.

Instagram Manager Insights Infographic

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