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Instagram Best Practices – 9 Content Tricks Used By Top Brands

Every day more than 80 million images are shared with over 400 million active Instagram users. The platform’s surging popularity signifies a shift from editorial content to imagery. As technology advances and attention spans dwindle users want more content in less timeThe question is, what are Instagram best practices to improve imagery strategy and engagement?

Instagram best practices - example 1

We analyzed the most successful brands to discover 9 best practices to create winning Instagram content.


BONUS: Take a look at the most irresistible Instagram captions from the world of E-Commerce, and understand why they work.


Instagram Best Practices #1 – Share an Experience

Every day users spend millions of hours scrolling through Instagram feeds.

They aren’t looking for pictures of products. They’re searching for compelling visual experiences that excite them.

One of the brands we analyzed for Instagram best practices was GoPro.

One glance at GoPro’s Instagram feed makes it clear why they boast over 7.5 million Instagram followers.

Their feed is a beautiful assortment of thrilling images. GoPro lets their followers hike Kilimanjaro, skydive in Switzerland, and ride Hawaii’s biggest waves.

GoPro’s content strategy is a perfect example of prioritizing experience over product.


Instagram best practices - example 2

Instead of  posting pictures of their cameras, they share the adventures their cameras capture.

Airbnb is another brand that understands the value in sharing experiences. In addition to quality shots of breathtaking accommodations, Airbnb posts consumer generated content of activities they engaged in while using Airbnb.

Which is more likely to catch your eye: the inside of a home or an aerial snapshot taken while paragliding?

Instagram Best Practices #2 – Understand Your Audience

No matter how hard you try, you cannot appeal to everyone.

Instead of aiming to appease the world, focus on captivating a core audience that is genuinely interested in your offering.

Understanding your audience is the essential element to any marketing campaign.

Once you know what your followers want, giving it to them is simple.

Michael Kors is another example of expert Instagram best practices.

Michael Kors understands their audience, and have built a massive following by sharing images that reflect its interests. Scroll through their profile and you’ll see a careful curation of aristocratic travel destinations, fashionable women, and luxury clothing.

After you discover your audience, tailor your brand to fit it.


Related Content: 26 top Instagram marketing tools for your ecommerce business [Ebook]


Instagram Best Practices #3 – Find Creativity

Every city is brimming with young, creative talent just waiting for exposure.

Find an artist or photographer at a local event and offer them the chance to create custom content for your brand’s next campaign.

Hiring local talent is a great way to discover fresh creative content while giving back to your community.

Another engaging way to generate fresh content is creating Instagram contests. Invite your followers to share brand related original content and offer your products as a reward.

Or share an image and ask followers to tag a friend. This exposes your brand to a wider audience while also driving engagement.


Instagram Best Practices #4 – Appeal to Emotion

Premium content engages users in various ways. It helps to post incredible, aesthetic imagery, but images with emotional appeal can be successful as well.

Toms is a shoe company based off a “pay it forward” mantra. For every shoe Toms sells, they donate a pair to a child in a developing nation.

Toms built a massive Instagram following by sharing the smiling faces of the children benefiting from their services.

When you share images that appeal to your followers’ emotions, you show that you are more than just a business.

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Tom’s Instagram feed


Instagram Best Practices #5 – Crowdsource

Consistently creating quality content is tough and it’s easy to run out of ideas.

Once you have built a loyal following, take some of the weight off your shoulders by crowdsourcing content creation.

Instagram best practices - example 4

#IHackedLife search results

The tech giant Lenovo crowdsourced content for their “I Hacked Life” campaign, encouraging users to tag useful tricks with #ihackedlife. As a result of their efforts, Lenovo received quality content to post, reached new viewers through their followers’ audiences, and associated the Lenovo brand with helpfulness.


Instagram Best Practices #6 – Tell a Story

Storytelling is the best way to get a point across in a memorable way.

Before you start expanding your audience,  make sure you’re engaging your current followers. Instead of forcing product images onto them, frame your content within a larger narrative.

One of the most viral Instagram accounts of 2015 was Humans of New York. They know a thing or two about Instagram best practices.

Their images aren’t particularly inventive, but the narratives surrounding each image are emotional, raw, and invigorating.

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Humans of NY Instagram Picture

Frame a story around your visual content and you’ll set your brand apart from other Instagram accounts.


Instagram Best Practices #7 – Leverage Celebrities

We live in a celebrity culture where audiences obsess over the everyday lives of stars. Need proof? Here’s are the 6 most followed Instagram accounts:

  1. Taylor Swift: 66.4 million followers (Singer)
  2. Selena Gomez: 65.3 million followers (Singer)
  3. Kim Kardashian: 60.6 million followers (Reality TV Actress)
  4. Beyonce: 60.1 million followers (Actress/Singer)
  5. Ariana Grande: 59.7 million followers (Singer)
  6. Justin Bieber: 58.1 million followers (Singer)
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Ariana Grande’s Instagram followers


The seventh suggestion on my list of Instagram best practices is creating a partnership with a celebrity who is relevant to the service or product you provide.

Herbalife24, a nutrition supplement brand, successfully partnered with world-class soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo (48.8 million followers). Herbalife agreed to sponsor Cristiano in exchange for Instagram posts that featured their products and incorporated their brand.

How successful was it? Herbalife now has over 360,000 followers. A quick google search will help you discover well-connected Instagrammers in your industry.


Instagram Best Practices #8 – Stay Relevant

Audiences seek culturally relevant content they can share with friends and family. Always search for a way to loop in a trending topic when setting up a campaign. The more relevant the content, the more shares it’ll receive—and shares lead to followers. This applies for the Instagram content best practices listed before. Here are 3 surefire ways to stay relevant:

  1. Focus on seasonal content

Incorporate the colors of foliage in the fall, show off bright imagery the summer, display blooming flower in spring.

  1. Create an Events Calendar

Start with annual holidays (Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas) then add special events such as product releases, political elections, and sporting events (the Superbowl, Fifa World Cup, Olympics).

  1. Stay current with Trends

Bookmark GoogleTrends; check it daily.

Once you’ve created your calendar, be sure to plan accordingly. The quicker you capitalize on a trend; the more engagement you’ll see.

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Fantastic Colours’ Instagram winter picture

Access: Irresistible Instagram Captions From The World of E-Commerce (and understand why they work.)


Instagram Best Practices #9 – Play the Game

Challenging and incentivizing your audience will capture its attention and increase content engagement. The challenge doesn’t need to be extraordinary, but it needs to cultivate (and keep) user attention. Try posting an exciting image reflective of your brand then invite your followers to a “caption contest”.

Always set competition deadlines to encourage users to take immediate action then promise to share your favorite caption with your followers. The opportunity to be recognized for their contribution is a surprisingly effective incentive that is often undervalued.

As you scale the size of contests, make sure the prize has real value. For example, a travel company may provide their services to the winning user free of charge or an apparel start-up may offer up a site-wide shopping spree.


Building a following doesn’t happen overnight. However, if you post consistently using the Instagram content best practices above, you’ll notice a sizeable increase in your followers. As your brand continues to gain traction, you’ll notice an increase in sales and brand awareness.

No two brands are the same and as you try these various tactics you will notice that some work better for you than others.

As with any marketing strategy, dedicate your focus and resources to what is working and cut out what is not.

The more you optimize, the more you’ll succeed.

Which of these best practices have you successfully implemented in your Instagram campaign? Do you use a strategy that we didn’t mention in our list? We would love to hear about it in the comments!


About the Author

Daniel Guthorn