Among all the social networks in the world, Instagram acquires a unique space. Yet, many small business owners are struggling to establish a presence on this platform, because they’re not really sure what to post on Instagram.
On Twitter, you use opinions. On Facebook, you talk about various topics using videos and images, with a very personal touch.
When it comes to Instagram, it’s purely a visual medium. You will need images, and you will need videos. The text is also important.
On Instagram, you have a powerful community with over a billion users in it. All of them could follow you, and you could be on your way to earning millions on Instagram.
But the question is — why would they? How would you make their feeds better? How do you differentiate from all the photos, videos, and stories posted on Instagram? How do you make people notice your brand on Instagram?
How do you know what to post on Instagram?
That’s what we are going to focus on today. In this blog post, we will show you:
- What to post on Instagram: all the nuts and bolts
- What are the peak Instagram times during the day to maximize your brand’s engagement and conversion rate
In Content Marketing, You Must Know What To Post On Instagram
With over 300 million daily users, Instagram becomes impossible to ignore for marketers.
It’s not just about remarkably high engagement on Instagram (as compared to Facebook and Twitter). People rely on Instagram as a credible source of research before purchasing.
Especially if you have a B2C business, you can be sure that a large portion of your audience is looking up your brand on Instagram.
While all of us tend to upload high-quality pictures, there are other ways to be creative on Instagram too.
Without much further ado, let’s dive into the different content types on Instagram. This section will cover the basic types of posts available on Instagram and their attributes.
If you are deciding on your content marketing strategy, you can consider these Instagram marketing ideas.
These post types will help you understand ‘what’ you can post on Instagram.
#1. Post Multiple Photos for a Slideshow
You can post multiple photos at once, and users will slide them one by one. Brands have a good opportunity for engagement here; they can capitalize on these images with Q&A content.
This feature is called ‘Instagram slideshow’. In the example we’ve shared below, the first image shows a question, and users can slide to the next image to view the answer (no sliding here, though) to make your slideshows more visually appealing, use free lightroom presets to enhance your photos before posting them online.
Multiple photos in one post can help you get more likes on Instagram.
Source: Comp735 on Instagram
#2. Use Hashtags Smartly
The most important and underrated feature of Instagram is its Hashtags. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, hashtags on Instagram aren’t just temporary conversation markers.
Users can follow popular “hashtags”, just like they follow people. You may have seen so many posts with very little readable text but they have 10-12 tags (and more).
This is because if your post performs well on a particular hashtag, Instagram will pick it up and share it with people following the tag as highlights of the tag. So brands dump so many tags in hopes of getting featured in at least one of them.
Source: #screenshots on Instagram
This is not an endorsement of “hashtag stuffing” — as is common with many Instagram accounts. This is just to tell you how powerful Instagram hashtags are.
#3. Try the Grid Format
Many Instagram accounts have used their profile page creatively. They upload photos in a grid format. The grid format can be achieved when a photo is uploaded in multiple parts and a certain sequence.
The result is a grouping of photos on the profile page in the form of a grid — something like this:
Source: The OA on Instagram
Many different types of grid layouts can be used. The grid layouts on profile pages are so big on Instagram, there is a whole set of blogs dedicated to them.
Creating such layouts requires planning ahead of time and some discipline in posting too. Advanced layouts may only be possible with the help of specific apps which have to be additionally installed on your phone.
#4. Don’t Discount the Disappearing Instagram Stories
Instagram stories are a lot like Snapchat. You post videos or photos that are shown to your followers in a sequence. The Stories feature has also been incorporated into Facebook Messenger.
Engagement in Instagram Stories is achieved with the help of polls and questions; followers can answer these while viewing the story. You can also add emojis and stickers for even more engagement.
#5. Try IGTV Too
IGTV was touted as the YouTube killer when it launched. It offers creators (and brands) a new avenue to share longer videos (1 min+) with their followers.
IGTV is linked to your Instagram account; you don’t need to do anything except select the ‘Share as Long Video’ option when uploading the video, and it’ll go to IGTV for viewers to see the whole clip.
#6. Make Sponsored Posts with Instagram Ads
Since Facebook owns Instagram now, these ads can be created in the same way as Facebook ads. So you will need a Facebook account, which will give you a corresponding Facebook ads account as well.
For Instagram-only ads, you have to deselect ‘Facebook’, ‘Messenger’, and ‘Audience Network’ type ads. This will leave only the “Instagram” option checked. There are two sub-options for Instagram ad placement here — Feed and Stories.
#7. Share Your Products in Your Instagram Posts
It’s the most natural post type you will see on Instagram. Yet, so many brands get it wrong.
If you create a post without any branding, it loses its purpose. Also, if you create a post with random font and mixed-up colors, it’s useless.
For business owners, a perfect Instagram post would be one that’s optimized for both brand image and product placement.
Ideally, all companies should include a graphics designer and a content writer in their team. If you have a small business and hence can’t do that yet, it’s important to at least follow a graphics and content style guide so that you maintain consistency.
Needless to say, all social posts must have a balance between feature-focused and benefits-oriented content. Your graphics must conform to your brand’s visual identity. This way, you make sure your brand really gets the attention of your customers.
You don’t want to include too many features of one product in one image; create separate images for different features of the same product.
Also, make sure not to cramp too many products in one post. This is a given but some newer Instagram users may give in to the temptation of putting everything out there in one go.
That should be avoided — at all costs!
#8. Link in Bio
If people notice your post, they would come to your profile to know more. Your profile bio should persuade (and even directly ask them) to click the link in the bio.
Your bio link is also another opportunity to make your brand “stick” in the minds of your potential customers. Make sure you use a full URL and not a shortened one.
Source: Scripbox India on Instagram
Note: Their account description makes it very clear how they’re going to help their users. They also have a full link in the bio.
#9. Tag Your Products for an Immediate Purchase
The idea here is simple: when you showcase your products, you must give your potential customers a direct link to the product purchase page.
This is a lot like running an ad and using a “Buy Now” link in it, except you don’t have to pay for it. It is only shown to your followers and the followers of all the tags you use.
Source: Anatomie Style on Instagram
Instagram Stories can also be used for direct product linking when you use “product stickers”, as you can see below:
Source: Image from Instagram Blog
Before you try them out, you must know that you need to have an approved business account and must be in certain geographical areas/countries for product tags and stories to work.
This Instagram support page further clarifies the exact conditions required to enable product tags and stickers on Instagram.
#10. Show What Happens “Behind the Scenes”
“Behind the scenes” videos give an insider peek to your followers. They help people feel connected with your brand.
They don’t have to be heavily edited to generate a good amount of engagement. Minimally edited and raw content inspires trust in people.
Some effective ways to use this format are:
- Product creation process highlighting how you ensure quality and compliance with your brand’s values
- Sneak peek of what’s coming ahead
- Highlighting profiles of the team’s key members by directly interviewing them.
Here is an example of how to go behind the scenes to help your brand:
Note: This video is casually filmed and conforms to what the brand NavaNation stands for.
#11. Connect LIVE with Your Followers
This is another quick relationship and credibility builder. It differentiates your brand from those who post only images and videos all the time.
Because LIVE video shows the actual humans behind a company, it becomes a great way to humanize the brand.
In a LIVE video, you can start with a preamble for about 2-3 minutes and then start with your main topic. A preamble is a filler where you can talk about stuff not directly related to the topic of the session; it gives some extra time to the users to join in.
During the LIVE presentation, you can initiate a topic that’s related to your business and take questions from the audience.
Here are some types of sessions you can conduct on an Instagram LIVE:
- Q&A before and after a product launch
- Quick tips for a short task and Q&A based on that
- Repurpose an old, obscure blog into an Instagram LIVE session and provide a link to the article in the comments
- Conduct an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session for your followers
Instagram LIVE sessions can be posted to Stories for those who missed the session or reside in a different time zone. Make sure you make the session material as well as the Q&A public.
You can also write a blog summarizing each LIVE session you conduct.
Pro Tip: Convert your Instagram LIVE material (content and Q&A) into a PDF. Let your followers know you will email them the PDF and give them a Google Forms link to share their email address. This method increases engagement and lead generation.
#12. Share User-generated Content
Some Instagram accounts like Humans of New York are popular for sharing heart-warming, complex stories. User-generated content (UGC) leverages this power of storytelling to boost your audience interaction.
You will collect stories from users where they mention your brand. The best stories can be featured on your brand account as slideshows and posts.
This post type gives attracts more attention because many people like to share their stories through other channels, and your Instagram account can be that channel.
Note that this might not work if you don’t have a decent number of followers.
Basically, to get re-shareable UGC content, give your followers one or two popular hashtags to create posts around. After a fixed period, simply scan through the posts of your followers with the given hashtags, select the best ones, and ask explicit permission to repost these on your Instagram business account.
Instead of sharing these posts all at once, add the selected posts to your Instagram content calendar, and share them one at a time, maybe one or two every day for a few days.
Here is an example from my favorite coffee store brand, Cafe Coffee Day. They masterfully combined user-generated content with storytelling to create highly engaging posts. Below is one good example from a series of such posts:
Source: CCD on Instagram
#13. Post About Your Staff
You should share photos that show your employees at work. You can also share videos with either a short interview or an introduction to your teams.
Just like the ‘Behind The Scenes’ (BTS) format, an employee profile forms a direct bond of trust by making the conversation more personal. It humanizes the relationship and lets your followers know that your products are made by people, not robots.
It fulfills a primary social need — the need to associate with “good people”.
The difference between the two formats is that in BTS we focus on telling the product story whereas in this type we focus on employee stories.
Look at how JM and Sons do it on Instagram:
Source: JM and Sons on Instagram
#14. Share Your Milestones and Goals
We all want to be part of something big. So do your followers. By sharing your key goals for the next quarter or year, you give the same sense of belonging to your followers. They feel like a part of your brand.
You don’t have to post only numerical goals. It can also be generic statements and don’t have to be clarified with specific goals.
Apart from making followers feel “one with the brand”, this format also shows them that you are responsible and can take concrete steps for change. Isn’t this a basic quality we expect in all human beings?
This kind of Instagram post is a great PR asset, especially in light of growing concerns about the environment, health, and the future of privacy. If your business is taking steps to improve things in any such area of public concern, make sure you share the company goals and progress on Instagram.
#15. Talk About the Product Evolution
Sometimes telling people about the history of a product also creates a human connection. This is not about the history of the company but the history of a particular product.
For example, if a company is making handbags, they can share the history of handbags. It creates a “museum” effect and grabs instant attention.
Check out how LivieAndLucaUK used history to create a branded image.
Source: Livie And Luca UK on Instagram
Note: This post generates a sense of wonder and hence improves engagement.
#16. Showcase Various Product Types and Purposes
Chances are, you are making more than one end product for your customers. If you can combine different products in a grid, it can be a great Instagram post.
Just make sure you add a purpose for each product/item within that graphic. This way, your post is serving two purposes:
- It informs your followers about all your products at once
- It also helps them choose which one is specifically suitable for them, by telling them which one should be used in what situation
Such posts will be suitable more for the audience in the early (i.e the first two) stages of the funnel.
Want to see how it’s done? Check out this post by Popchart.CO:
Source: Popchart.co on Instagram
Notes: Notice the number of likes on this post. That’s more likes than many of their other posts gathered.
#17. Host Contests and Giveaways
People love receiving free stuff. People love “winning” more. A contest or giveaway is the best way to combine both. It generates high engagement in the shortest amount of time.
Want to boost your engagement further? Give your followers certain hashtags (unique to the contest) and ask them to post about your brand by tagging your account and using the given hashtags.
This way you ensure your followers refer YOU to their followers. Besides, it gives you a chance to find great user-generated content too.
For example, Marcus Brownlee (MKBHD) is known for his gadget reviews on his YouTube channel. He keeps running Black Friday giveaways on his Instagram.
Source: MKBHD on Instagram
Note: This post got over 150,000 comments and 345K likes in less than a week!
#18. Design Seasonal Posts for Holidays
By seasonal posts, I don’t mean just the major holidays of the market you are serving. The goal is to capture the spirit of celebration, which can happen on major holidays and less commonly known milestone days.
For example, a novelty gifting brand may use the whole week leading up to Valentine’s Day to promote different products. The posts during this period don’t have to be about your products. They can also be simply engagement-oriented, acting as reminders of the particular day.
Find out the different international days applicable to your niche and make sure you have branded graphics ready one day before that date.
Also, use plenty of relevant hashtags in these posts.
Let’s take a look at how Archies does it:
Source: Archies on Instagram
Note: They have used only a few hashtags very closely related to International Men’s Day. You want to use more hashtags, like #SpoilYourManWithGifts, #GiftsForMen, and so on. They’re not directly related, but still relevant to the purpose of the post.
Look at how Cafe Coffee Day shared their Mother’s Day offer in an Instagram post:
Source: CCD on Instagram
#19. Get Followers to Tag Their Friends on Your Posts
People enjoy doing things in groups and sharing posts in groups. When they’re browsing your Instagram feed, they’re also thinking of one or more of their friends.
So when you ask them to tag their friends, you get immediate results. It gets you in front of a new set of people. If not all, some of them will definitely like your content and follow you.
You could simply consider a group scenario where your followers could fit in and create a graphic based on that. It needs to remind your followers of their group with whom they talk about your niche.
For example, an online clothing brand could remind its followers about how fun it is to shop with one’s friends. Then ask them to tag their friends.
Let’s look at an example of how you would write such a post:
Source: tag_your_friendz on Instagram
Note: This photo has 37 likes but it also has over 100 comments with the commenters all tagging at least one friend. This is the true power of engagement.
#20. Share Popular Quotes
Another way to get likes on Instagram and to also keep your followers engaged is to share quotes that are popular.
Who doesn’t like being motivated and inspired? The internet is full of negativity; positive motivational quotes will always have a place on users’ timelines.
For your brand, this means you have almost guaranteed engagement on Instagram when you post popular quotes. You might want to use them sparingly, though.
The quote must inspire your followers to achieve something and it should be related to your niche.
If it’s a generic quote, your Instagram will get associated with your followers’ minds as an account that posts inspirational quotes. If it’s a niche-specific quote, the association you are forming is related to your niche. It is, therefore, more accurate.
Want to see how it’s done? Foodpanda is one of my favorite brands to follow for content marketing. Their quotes and posts are always relevant and fun.
In the following example, they used the popular meme quote “But first, Coffee!” and combined it with a popular hashtag ‘Monday Motivation’.
Source: Foodpanda India on Instagram
Note: This short video captures one popular idea (“Mondays are dreadfully dreary”), attaches it to the brand’s niche (delivering coffee), and then directs them to “order online with Foodpanda”.
#21. Post About Your Contribution to Society
Does your business actively contribute to charitable causes? There’s nothing to be ashamed of in posting photos and videos from your community activities.
People love to be associated with brands that do more than just business. These posts let your followers know that you care about the world. They also inspire your followers to do their bit in helping society.
For example, in this post, Kutoa Bars talk about how their contribution is making a difference in malnourished children’s lives.
Source: Kutoa Bars on Instagram
Note: When you scroll down, you will see the story is written in a humble tone. They don’t take the full credit. They describe the story of the child and thank their contributors for helping the child.
What Are The Best Times To Post On Instagram?
Brand building requires you to sync your posting times on Instagram with the hours when your audience will be the most active. You cannot post when your audience is not active; your posts won’t find much engagement during those hours.
Even the highest-quality content posted with the most relevant hashtags may not perform well if it’s posted at the wrong times.
Knowing what to post on Instagram is a key part of the puzzle. But knowing the best times to post on Instagram for likes and comments is equally important.
In fact, you need to find out the Instagram peak hours for your brand as every audience, even in the same niche, plays a little differently.
The Role of Instagram Algorithms
The two major factors for the Instagram feed generation algorithm are the user’s interest and his/her relationship with the accounts posting the content.
Your audience’s interest is demonstrated by the way they engage with your posts. Sustained interest and regular comments from a particular user indicates to Instagram that there is a relationship between the user and the brand.
The timeliness of your posts — a third factor used by the Instagram algorithm to compose users’ feeds — is fairly simple to understand. Instagram wants to show its users fresh, recent content. This means by posting at the right times, businesses can be more in sync with Instagram’s feed algorithm and thus ensure that more of their content is shown to their followers.
If you post at optimal times, you allow the Instagram algorithm to set your account up for better engagement with your followers.
However, the best Instagram brands are successful because they customize their Instagram strategy for their audience — down to the very minute details. When they post, they take into account the timing for their specific type of audience, their niche, and the post type too.
How To Manually Track The Best Times To Post On Instagram
To narrow down on the Instagram prime time for your brand, you can manually track your posting times. This is a quick and simple method for those who are eager for some number-crunching.
To set this up, open any spreadsheet program and follow these steps for a week:
1. Create 4 columns — one for each: Day of the week, Time of the day, Comments, and Likes.
2. Post an image or video every day at a specific time of the day and record it in the sheet. You must experiment with different times of the day for each day of the week. Make sure you use relevant hashtags.
3. After a short period (1-3 hours), note down its likes and comments in the sheet. You can also extend this duration if the post garners sustained interest beyond the first few hours of the post going live.
Repeat the above 3 steps for a second, third, and fourth week. Your posting time each week will differ slightly from the previous week.
At the end of the month, club your results day-wise for each day of the week. Use this data to decide the best time to post on Instagram for each weekday.
This method is completely free, does not require an Instagram Business account (or even the basic knowledge of analytics), and is tailored to your specific audience.
To make the best use of this method:
- Research and optimize your posting times for the time zones of a majority of your audience. If a majority of your target audience is in a different country, their most active time zone may be completely different from your time zone. Use Time Zone Converter if you need help.
- Consider your industry type and the professions of your audience while scheduling your posts. For example, lunchtime, morning hours, and evening times may be more suitable for employed individuals. If you wish to target stay-at-home moms, you cannot post in the morning or late afternoons as your audience may be busy then.
Learn The Instagram Peak Hours For Your Brand From Audience Insights
Instagram provides business account users with a wealth of data about follower activity trends, demographics, and engagements. If you have an Instagram Business account, you can make informed decisions about the best time to post on Instagram — that are unique to your audience.
You can also share creative Instagram posts for businesses.
To see Instagram Insights from your Business Account:
- Navigate to your profile page
- Tap the ‘three bar’ icon located in the top-right direction
- Tap ‘Insights’
- Select a post to get insights on your audience for that post
To understand the specific insights for your key audiences, go to the ‘Followers’ section of Instagram Insights. Here you can see:
- Days when your followers are most active
- Times of the day when your followers are most active
These are not steady graphs; these will change over time as the patterns of your audience’s activity change. Hence, you have to monitor these stats regularly.
Tools For Finding The Best Instagram Posting Times And More
Here is a list of top Instagram Analytics tools to invest in as part of your long-term content strategy that can help you achieve predictable growth on Instagram:
- SocialPilot for analyzing all your connected Instagram business accounts and providing you with in-depth analytics reports to help you understand your audience.
- EngageBay offers a free plan with a social media suite to help small business owners monitor their presence online. You can track what people are saying about your brand and even your competition.
- Owlmetrics provides a 7-day free trial after which you can opt for one of their three different plans depending on your number of followers. Their plans start from $25 per month and go all the way up to $199 per month.
- SproutSocial provides detailed and robust social analytics, and the pricing goes all the way from $99 per month to $249 per month. Despite the heavy price tag, you do get a 30-day free trial.
- Iconosquare provides social analytics tools that start from $29 per month for small business owners who want to manage no more than 3 social profiles. For $59 per month, you can get up to 5 social profiles. For more social accounts, you can contact their sales team.
Some users want to know detailed analytics but they may not be able to afford a full-fledged social analytics tool yet. For such users, here is a list of some of the best free tools for Instagram analytics:
That’s All, Folks
Instagram being a visual medium allows for images and videos to be shared with your followers. You can add multiple images to create a slideshow or create a grid layout on your Instagram profile.
You can also create Instagram ads to generate leads, boost traffic to your website, and promote app installs. Instagram Stories and IGTV are also very effective in connecting with your audience.
Ultimately, Instagram – as a medium of content marketing – is about storytelling. You need to share stories that connect with your followers.
Knowing what to post on Instagram will be a huge bonus for your business, anytime. We hope this blog post gave you some inspiration for what to post on Instagram.
Have you used any of these post types for your Instagram marketing yet? Let us know if you did!
If you want to use EngageBay to increase your social media engagement, you can sign up and get started for free 🙂