Instagram is visual marketing – the power to create your own content, share your information and educate your audience. And the good news is that it’s a pretty level field. You have the exact fundamental tools as most other people.
With millions of photos being shared everyday, the benchmark of quality content on your Instagram for Business is high. How then do you give your audience a reason to want to consume yours? What can you post on Instagram that meets the needs of your audience and your business?
It starts with understanding your audience, thinking like them and delivering the value and information they require.
Do you have clear goals on how you use Instagram for business? Do you have a defined brand identity helps you paint a cohesive picture of your product or services.
Even if you nod to the above, the content vortex is deep and relentless, with no easy workarounds. Sharing content true to your aesthetics and voice is a great way to cut through the noise.
First things first. Start with evaluating your Instagram business account along some key metrics.
Next, are you sharing content that your audience loves?
From Reels, to Stories, to Guides or Carousels, Instagram offers numerous mediums to connect with your audience. What should you use? Read on for examples of top Instagram posts by brands and how they use content to grow their Instagram for business accounts. Plus, understand the various mediums Instagram offers you and examples to understand what type of content medium you can use.
What to post on Instagram – 5 clever ways to grow your Instagram brand with winning content.
What should you post on Instagram?
Instagram is all about attention grabbing visuals! Think about the different ways you can show off your product and ideas – think creative, unusual, people-centric.
A question that often perplexes business owners is how personal should their content get?
If you are the face of your business, you can create moments for connection with your target audience by sharing a little of your personal life. This way they get to know, like, and trust you. Your personality, values and voice should come through in your postings but in a way that they can relate back to your brand story. If little snippets of who you are, what you value, and personal situations that relate to what you’re talking about are relevant to your business and resonate with your target audience, definitely post those.
A particular magazine or book you’re currently enjoying or movies you love. Even favorite tracks or a restaurant you can’t get enough of. Your behind-the-scenes moments – tools, work in progress, inspiration, how you decide etc. all of these work.
You can view a million accounts for ideas, but the direction of content for your brand has to stem from within. While that can take on many forms, an average business owner has other work to do and the constant demand for content is stressful. That’s when you work smarter, not harder.
Re-frame your ideas!
Creatively highlight every aspect of your business from the front-end to behind the scenes!
If you have products say like outfits or food, take zoom out pictures with a total overview as well as close-ups. Drive newsletter sign-ups by posting a screenshot of an exclusive offer only available via your newsletter. Post an engaging quote (avoid cliches) or a question with a clear call to action to prompt people to comment & interact. If you have multiple categories of offerings, try rotational posting to bring some order- selfies, accessories, outfits, quote, repeat.
One outfit, 3 ways – Momtrends started with an event picture, followed by the full outfit with a personal anecdote in the caption and then details on the shoes.
MyPaperCrane includes a free printable offer accessible only via newsletter and a sign-up link.
Leverage User-Generated Content (UGC) as a great way for you to interact with your followers while also boosting your exposure and giving you access to fresh content. Better yet, create a branded Instagram hashtag, unique to your business or campaign, that encourages users to share photos of your products and turns consumers into creators.
TJMaxx does it well by regramming images (Image 2) tagged with their hashtag #MaxxLife as done by LoveFabDecor (Image 1)
Contest and giveaways done well have a great success rate for most brands. Lauryncakes not only offers gifts and cash in her giveaway, but there are rules that include following partner accounts.
For our Business Instagram feed, we create multiple graphics to represent a single blog post or thought, or a separate image for each subheading in a blog post, to underscore a particular idea.
In the example below, all 3 images posted over a few weeks, are stand-alone quotes or questions, that link to the same article on Waking up your workday with fitness.
Also read: How can you set up and optimize Pinterest for your Small Business?
Scrambling for fresh ideas to post on Instagram?
When in a crunch, repost your best content or one that didn’t get as much engagement as it deserved because of a smaller following at that time or other factors. You could even add the caption or hashtag “Throwback Thursday” if you want to be transparent about the reuse.
Curate content by sharing or regramming others work with proper permission and credit. Oftentimes, a shout-out to a partner service, collaboration, or a service that you availed, raises general goodwill and engagement for everyone.
Cleverly placing your brand logo on your graphics (or a watermark even) is a creative practice to not only safeguard your own content but also reinforce your brand. On our Instagram Business account, we try to incorporate our logo as a part of all our images and have fun while doing so. Can you spot our logo in every image in the video below?
Unsure about a post?
Archive that post from the edit option and reinstate it back anytime without deleting, through the Instagram archive button (the clock like icon in the menu of your account). Your stories also automatically get saved in the archive so you don’t have to save them on your phone.
Instagram Captions- short and clever wins
Captions on your posts should add value to your visuals, provide details about the product and personify your brand voice. According to Sprout Social’s Index the most sought-after behavior from brands by consumers is honesty. Relevance & authenticity drives effectiveness, so keep it real. Don’t fret over the text length of your Instagram post, but if it’s a short one, ensure that your hashtags don’t overshadow it by being one too many.
Writing your captions away from your screen is a good way to develop your thoughts without the pressure. Good purposeful captions, that end with a question or a call to action are a definitive tool to drive Instagram engagement. Clever, sassy, feel-good or funny, keep your Instagram captions short and try to capture the essence of your Instagram post in words.
Promise Tangeman’s self deprecating caption comes across as fun, conversational, approachable, yet someone who knows her business.
Don’t forget the power of the new language of Emojis. The Champagne Diet uses them very effectively in her Instagram captions.
The Instagram Feed
The feed is the first impression of your brand and for most brands, it evolves into a streamlined look over time and iterations. Fun, serious, playful or quirky – aim to create a vibe that best represents your brand voice and tone.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but consistency in your Instagram aesthetic goes a long way.
Most successful brands use the same filter and editing process over their images. It’s good to pick a color scheme for your personal reference or even create a mood board and be conscious of taking photos that accent those colors. Not just visually, but brand-wise, does your feed offer a clear message to your audience; are you a peer, teacher, role model etc. Some filters are preferred more than others but you get to pick the one that suits your brand.
With a little bit more effort, creativity and planning, your feed can evolve into a strong brand reflection. Create and batch process your content ahead of time. It’s a great way to help you curate a better feed by grouping photos based on color, theme etc for more cohesiveness.
Still perplexed? Here are some great feed styles for inspiration.
Remember – your images don’t have to adhere to a specific look as long as the overall brand narrative is consistent.
Gary Vaynerchuk describes hashtags as the currency within Instagram. Hashtags allow users to access content organically and are an important part of discovery on Instagram. It’s tempting and easy to use the same hashtags for every post but your image, caption and hashtags should be related. A winning strategy includes a clear understanding of why you are using the hashtags you are choosing.
Want awesome engagement tricks and other hacks that power users don’t share?
Use a mix of trending hashtags (#metoo) and campaign specific ones (#shareyourstory). It’s great to include some from each of these categories – product (#babyfood), branded (#stellasorganics), customer (#momsofbabies), community (#motherhoodrocks). Add location hashtags (#NewJersey) , branded hashtags for a contest ( #MaroonOakGiveaway) and encourage users to use them as part of the contest.
For every post, a good method is to start with the bigger hashtags relevant to your post and industry and work down to smaller niche, more pertinent hashtags. You can alternately add your hashtags to the comments section of your post, if that creates a cleaner look for your brand.
Emojis work superbly too!
When words fail, you can even use emoji hashtags. pulled over 16 million search results. Why not add a trending emoji tag as we did on our Valentine’s Day post.
View how Rosemary Watson customizes her hashtags depending on the context- from home decor to business.
Instagram schedulers like Later have a Save Hashtag feature. You can also use Google Sheets to save combinations of your favorite hashtags. We use Trello to create posts and save matching hashtags that can be retrieved anytime for reuse.
Take note of the Follow Hashtags feature – a way for Instagram users to discover your brand and another reason for brands to wield hashtags with more thoughtfulness.
You, as a brand can even follow hashtags, to stay connected with interests, hobbies and communities you care about. How about following a competitor hashtag so that your feed always keeps you updated on whats happening with them.
What type of content to post on Instagram?
Instagram allows you numerous pathways to make the trek to your customers heart (see image below). For a time-strapped entrepreneur, the real question is what to focus on. The most common Instagram content are posts, the square images that inhabit your feed. Besides that you can explore Instagram Stories, Highlights, Carousel Posts, IGTV, Reels and Guides. As per a recent stat, 73.5% of content on Instagram is images, 13.7% is video, and 12.7% is carousels
A lot of the content can fortunately be repurposed across these avenues. Instagram Posts can be shared as Stories by clicking the paper airplane icon below a post. Reels (or short videos) can be shared as Stories on both Instagram and Facebook. Your posts can also be saved as Guides. Read on below for a quick explanation and examples on your options to post on Instagram.
Stories Lives & Highlights
If you’re new to Stories, know that 500+ million accounts use Instagram stories everyday. They appear as circles in a line at the top of the Instagram feed. A bit more informal or conversational, it’s a great way to drive engagement to your business. You can use hashtags, people tags and location on your stories and your audience can message you while on your story. Brands that do live videos can also save it as a story. Though stories disappear within 24 hours, now you can save them in your Instagram archive. Accounts with 10,000+ followers can even add links to their Instagram Stories.
Instagram’s Stories Highlights feature allows you to combine multiple Instagram stories into long-term content your audience can discover at their convenience. These highlights (circled below) are a great way to showcase different aspects of your business.
Insta with Alex uses it successfully by creating an About Me highlight while Twigy Posts smartly uses highlighted stories to offer Flower Friday freebies to her audience. Julie Solomon has surveys as Highlights, as well as news on her latest podcasts, amongst many others.
Instagram Carousel Posts
A study of over 22 million Instagram posts found carousel posts, which allow for up to 10 photos or videos, are the most engaging type of post. Mixed content carousels, with a combination of images and videos seem the most effective. More and more brands are using Instagram carousels to creatively showcase their value proposition and generate leads.
Hand letterer Deanna Talwalkar of MirabelleCreations shares upto 9 images in her post on favorite things about the holiday for each Enneagram type. Stop Motion app Life Lapse shares a combination of videos to show the behind the scenes of the makings of a Thanksgiving video.
What to post on Instagram Reels
Instagram Reels is a growth hack to use right now. These videos show up more in the algorithm as Instagram tries to compete with Tiktok. From hopping on a trend, or creating a listicle to repurposing evergreen content, there are tons of ideas for what to post on Instagram reels for your brand or business.
Intuitive biz Coach Emily offers great business advice in speedy tutorials, while Bridal Beauty Stylist Allison Jenks uses Instagram Reels to share quick make-up and hair tutorials.
What to post on Instagram Guides
Another great way to share your content, Instagram Guides allow you to repurpose your content and showcase places, products or posts. From curating gift guides to creating FAQs and how-tos, there are myriad ways to use Instagram Guides for your business. Illustrator Ineta Svedaite shares a product curation as well as a compilation of her top posts on self-love in the example here. Artist Dani Dipirro of Positively Present mostly uses guides to create round-ups of her top posts across various categories.
In order to figure out what’s best for your business, I recommend making the time to research your competition and review what’s working for them. Additionally follow the top brands across industry categories to get inspired with ideas. Some brands you can review for their use across all types of top Instagram Post categories are Spanx, Crate and Barrel, and Thrive Market etc.
Your content drives your engagement and that is why optimizing every Instagram post and putting thought and strategy into your Instagram for Business account matters. Every content you spend time and effort on creating, should not only have a purpose but also support your brand and overall goals. I highly recommend you read our popular post on tips shared by pros on the smart engagement tactics to get maximum mileage out of your content on Instagram.
Find creative ways to showcase your brand, rather than the impossible task of keeping up with the content treadmill. Identify and evolve into your own style, voice, color and conversational copy.
With amazing features being rolled out consistently, Instagram is ready for business.
Is your business ready for it?
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Read Part I of this series: Rock your Business Instagram with 7 Smart Tactics and sign up for our newsletter (link below) for more updates on winning at entrepreneurship and careers.
Note: While the information above is believed to be accurate and recent, readers are advised to do their own fact finding before making any decisions. Maroon Oak does not endorse or recommend any of the brands above. Nor has the Company been compensated in any way for listing the names above.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her newest baby, a Bichon named Miltie.
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This post is amazing, you covered everything! I learned a lot I didn’t know myself. I’ve taken the time to pin it too.
These are great ideas. I’m new to the blogging world and there are so many things to learn to become successful!
Amazing stuff thanks for sharing
Many useful tips, thank you for sharing!
Very helpful information. Thanks for sharing. I learned a lot.
Awesome article!! Gave me a lot of great ideas for my Instagram. Thank you for the tips!!
Useful article, thank you!
This article was very helpful!! Thanks for sharing.
Super thorough post with great content! I’m not well versed in Insta so this has given me a lot of ideas to think about. Thanks!
That’s great to know! Glad the post gave you ideas to work with. Good luck!
Great article! I’m working on consistency within my feed and posting. These were great ideas!
Alycia, Yes, consistency is where most Instagram for Business accounts struggle with. Creating content becomes easier when you have the right ideas.
This was a great article, particularly about hashtags and highlights. I need to create my own now that I have enough posts.
Having a bank of ready content is a good way to start Angelique. Good luck!
These are really great tips and really helpful. Another tip that I have learn is to post at a certain time, I found that if you post at night you get more likes. But that might be my post.
This is a lot of really great information! I’m definitely saving this for a resource!
I agree that content is king, and I never thought of reframing existing content to that extent! I was able to grow my Pinterest by 1000% in one month but have kind-of gone stale on Instagram. Thank you for these tips!
Instagram is one of the social media platforms that I just can’t seem to get a hang of. I’m going to have to refer back to this article to try to expand my reach.
I’ll be putting 2 of your lovely ideas into practice tonight! Thanks for the great article!
Awesome article! I think captions are very important. When someone writes a funny or interesting caption, I always leave a comment. SO it works
These are such great ideas! Instagram is a social media outlet that I’ve been really neglecting so I’ll definitely be noting these tips! Thanks for a great post 🙂
Thank you for all of the tips! I will totally have to try some of these out!
This post is just for me, as I’m new to blogging and I’m not that good at presenting my content on Instagram. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. 😉
nice article, very helpful!
Great information! Loved the custom hashtags … that’s really the key from what I’ve found too. Very well written!!
Thank you Stacy! Putting in the homework towards your hashtags helps!
I love all of these ideas!!
Thank you Erin. Would love to know what you had success with, once you try them out.
Great article. I am all about the custom hashtags too!
Thank you Nicole. Your Instagram brand is an inspiration.