Every day more than 95 million images are shared with 1 billion 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 time. The question is, what are the Instagram best practices to improve imagery strategy and engagement?
In order to find out, we’ve analyzed the most successful brands to discover 8 best practices to create winning Instagram content.
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 13 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 and then displays their amazing photos or even gives out Photography awards.
GoPro’s content strategy is a perfect example of prioritizing experience over product.
Instead of posting pictures of their cameras, they share the adventures that the cameras capture, fusing content and experience.
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: a stiff photo of the inside of a home or an aerial snapshot taken while soaring above a city?
Watch brand CLUSE takes this a step further with the experiences they share with their customers. CLUSE’s own eCommerce data shows that their specific actions to bridge Instagram with their eCommerce store is directly responsible for the brand’s continued success. We have compiled this data here, check it out!
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. That way, you can learn how to reach that specific group on Instagram – which is much more achievable than throwing content to the masses and expecting it to stick.
Understanding your audience is the essential element to any marketing campaign. Once you know what your followers want, giving it to them is simple.
For example if you know your audience well, you can pick influencers that you know they already love to help sell your products.
Police LifeStyle does a great job of this. They find influencers with an aesthetic similar to their own and feature these hugely followed Instagram users with their products.
After you discover your audience, tailor your brand to fit it.
And once your brand does cater to your audience, stay consistent. You want to continuously serve up the same brand image, so that users can faithfully identify with it. Here’s a tip you could try: 60% of top brands consistently use the same filter to achieve just this!
Instagram Best Practices #3 – Find Creative Content
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.
The Toms shoe company has always focused on their “pay it forward” mantra. For every shoe Toms sells, they donate a pair to a child in a developing nation. So how could they emote this mantra through their Instagram?
Toms built their 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.
When people see who is actually benefitting from their purchase, they are much more likely to feel inspired by the brand efforts and join the community!
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.
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 usefulness.
When you come up with a clever hashtag that will inspire people to post for you, it can be incredibly fruitful for your content database.
If you want more information on outsourcing or utilizing User Generated Content in your Instagram marketing efforts, check out our resource on all things User Generated.
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 has been Humans of New York. They blew up over the last couple of years and are still out there posting strong content that millions of people relate to – 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.
Frame a story around your visual content and you’ll set your brand apart from other Instagram accounts.
Lego also does this by showing parents and their relationships with their kids. By showing real stories, LEGO allows its customers to imagine how their product can grow with them and their families – a powerful connection to make!
(Look at some of the comments on this post: “Legos brings family closer and connected”)
Instagram Best Practices #7 – 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:
- Focus on seasonal content
Incorporate the colors of foliage in the fall, show off bright imagery the summer, display blooming flower in spring.
- 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). Or even look beyond the mainstream calendar at fun or topical events happening around the world to give your content a little life (National Pizza Day, Women’s March).
Your customers are looking for something to identify with within the brands they support. Show them who you are and what you stand for/celebrate to create a lasting bond with shoppers.
- 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.
Instagram Best Practices #8 – 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.
Staples offers gift cards to their store to promote working anywhere (#StaplesWorkAnywhere). With an entrance this easy, they are sure to pull engagement with a contest like this.
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 you shouldn’t want them to be!) all coming with unique advantages and challenges. As you try these various tactics you will notice that some work better for you than others. And sometimes it just takes finding what works for you!
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.
And when you get really good and start to understand what works, you may even be able to use multiple tactics in one post!
Look at how Target uses a topical holiday (National Best Friends day!), a unique branded hashtag (#TargetRun), emotions (2 adorable best friends spending time together – what’s not to love!), and User Generated Content all in one post. Definitely gives you something to aspire to! Plus, it matches the aesthetic of the brand and the store featuring their signature red and bright backgrounds.
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!
Looking for more Instagram tips? Head to our complete guide to Instagram Marketing, where you’ll find everything you need to know about promoting your products on this crucial platform.