If you want your business to stay relevant in today’s busy digital marketplace, you’ve got to know how to reach and engage your target audience across social media channels. This includes Instagram. While some small to medium-sized businesses shy away from this visual social platform because they don’t know all the Instagram best practices, it has become an important channel for brands to engage their ideal buyers.
But using Instagram involves more than just uploading photos and videos. If you want to get the most out of this channel, you will need to maintain some Instagram best practices. These guidelines will help you use Instagram like the vital marketing tool it is to reach and engage new audiences online.
Below, we’ve put together a list of the top 15 Instagram best practices that your business needs to know (and follow) to succeed on this platform:
1. Use high quality images with engaging visuals.
One of the best things that you can do for your Instagram presence is to learn how to take Instagram photos like a pro. Users of this visual social media platform expect high quality images from brands online. And they expect these images to be interesting and engaging.
You don’t have to be a photographer like Sam to take high quality Instagram images for your brand.
Here are just a few tips for taking high quality Instagram photos for your brand:
- Use natural lighting for clearer photos with more vibrant colors. It’s best to take photos in natural light early in the morning or just before dusk.
- Think a little bit about composition before you snap a photo. Take time to play objects where you think they look best.
- Reduce clutter and aim for clean images that are well-balanced. Consider the background, angle, and composition.
- Take multiple images. The more photos you take, the more you will have to choose from. You only want to use the best images on your Instagram.
- Don’t over edit your images. Though you have tools at your disposal, avoid over editing to the point where your images might come off as fake or inauthentic.
Remember, no matter how beautiful the photography, it’s what you’re taking the photo of that matters to your audience. Don’t just use promotional subjects. Consider taking images that evoke the emotions and tone that your brand wants to portray.
2. Post the types of content your audience wants to see.
This one may seem a little obvious. But it is one of the Instagram best practices that is hardest for most businesses to follow. If you want to grow and engage your target audience, you need to post the types of content that they want to see most.
To get a better understanding of what this might be, you need to get to know your target audience. What motivates them? What do they love? Once you know this, you will be able to create quality content around what they like to see.
Here’s a great example from Whole Foods:
Whole Foods posts beautiful images surrounding what their followers care about most – delicious and nutritious food!
Whole Foods shoppers care about healthy eating, wholesome foods, and delicious meals. Followers of their Instagram like to see content around these themes. While Whole Foods does post photos of their own products, they also publish beautiful, colorful images of wholesome meals their followers will love.
If you’re still not sure what type of content is right for your business, be sure to check out our guide on what to post on Instagram. Or contact us to hire a social media content specialist to manage your Instagram for you.
3. Size your images appropriately.
When posting Instagram content, it’s also important that you pay attention to best Instagram practices for sizing. Instagram now allows three different image orientations and sizes – square, landscape (horizontal), and portrait (vertical).
Here’s a breakdown about what you need to know when it comes to sizing:
For square images and ads, the size is 1080 x 1080 pixels with a proper aspect ratio of 1:1. Square videos and video ads should be 600 x 600 pixels minimum with proper aspect ratio of 1:1.
For landscape images and ads, the size is 1200 x 628 pixels. The proper aspect ratio is 1.9:1. Landscape videos should be 600 x 315 pixels at minimum with a proper aspect ratio of 1:91:1.
Portrait (or Vertical)
For portrait or vertical images and ads, the size is 600 x 750 pixels minimum with a proper aspect ratio of 4:5. Vertical videos and video ads should be 600 x 750 pixels minimum with proper aspect ratio of 4:5.
For all image formats, the image file can be a maximum of 30MB, and all formatting needs to be JPG or PNG.
Recommended video formats for all sizing are MP4 and MOV with a maximum size of 4GB. The maximum video length for all formats is 60 seconds with 30fps max frames.
4. Strike a balance between promotional and inspirational content.
When it comes to Instagram best practices, it’s important that your Instagram feed isn’t ALL about your brand. You need to strike a healthy balance between promotional content and content that’s interesting and inspirational. If every post is about how great your brand is, your target consumers will be less likely to follow you.
People get on Instagram to see images that inspire them and make them feel something. Rather than making every Instagram post an ad for your brand, find ways to include images that inspire your audience and encourage them to start a conversation. Consider what images and messaging you can use to evoke certain emotions and get users talking. This is the approach our specialists at LYFE Marketing use. Schedule a call if you’d like to discuss our specialists managing your Instagram campaign.
5. Include a call to action (CTA) in your posts.
Just like with any other type of marketing content, it’s a good idea to include a call to action in most of your Instagram posts. A well-worded CTA can help encourage engagement and interaction with your brand and among other users.
There are a few different calls to action that you might use to encourage your followers to engage:
- Ask them to tag someone. Asking your followers to tag someone they know is a great way to encourage engagement while expanding your company’s reach (for free!). You might ask them to tag a friend who would like your product or tag someone they know who your post might resonate with. This is also a great idea for Instagram giveaways.
- Ask a question. Asking a question is another great way to inspire engagement on your Instagram post. Make sure that the question is relevant to your audience and a question that your followers would feel comfortable answering.
- Invite your audience to tell you something. Another CTA that can inspire your followers to participate is asking them to tell you something specific. Kayla Itsines is a great example. She’s a health can fitness trainer than inspires women. She recently published this post and got an amazing reaction from her followers!
These are just a few examples of how you can use a CTA to get your audience engaging with your content and each other. Try them out to see which is most effective for your brand.
6. Tell engaging stories with your visual content.
Have you ever heard the phrase, a picture is worth 1,000 words? Instagram is a unique social media channel that enables brands to tell great stories with their visual content. Whether you are telling a story with an image or using an Instagram video to communicate something special, Instagram is an effective channel for brand storytelling.
Get creative, and use your Instagram content to showcase your products and images in a new light. Showing your products in action or communicating the way that your products or services can make a consumer feel is an effective way to capture your audience’s attention and get them interested in what you have to offer.
7. Research appropriate hashtags, and use them wisely.
Using hashtags is another important step in following Instagram best practices to help you grow your brand online. Hashtags help you reach a larger audience by improving visibility. When users search for hashtags on Instagram, they will find all of the content that has been tagged with that particular hashtag.
The general rule with using hashtags on Instagram is to not over do it. You want to make sure that any hashtags you use on a post are relevant to the content and your audience. Also, you want to use hashtags that have an audience on Instagram. For instance, using a hashtag that only a few people are looking at will not help you reach more users.
When appropriate, you can also use branded hashtags, which help invite your audience to take part in your brand experience. Here’s a great example from Dove:
This Dove post pertains to their #beautyis hashtag campaign, which inspires their audience.
The #beautyis hashtag is one that Dove uses to invite their audience to become part of their conversation about beauty. The company creates content around this unifying hashtag while asking their followers to submit their own content with this hashtag.
Not only does this hashtag enable Dove to get more user-generated content (which we’ll talk about later), but it also helps them encourage people to talk. Dove is on a mission to help real women redefine what beauty is. This hashtag helps them engage their target audience and start an important conversation.
8. Post consistently during optimal times.
One of the most important Instagram best practices is to post consistently. Instagram users want to see new content on a regular basis. If your brand only posts once in a while then you may find that your followers will migrate to other competitor pages to get the content they are looking for.
Research shows that there isn’t really a sweet spot for how often a brand should be posting. You may find that posting once a day is just as effective as posting more than once a day. The important thing to keep in mind is that even though consistency is essential, you should also be focusing on quality over quantity.
In addition to posting consistently, you’ll want to focus on posting during the optimal times when your audience is most active. This can vary from industry to industry, but there are some general times of the day and week when users are most active on Instagram.
This chart shows which days of the week and times of the day Instagram users are most likely to engage.
Early on the weekdays tends to be the best time for user engagement. Overall, the highest engagement rates occur on Wednesday at 3 p.m., Thursday at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 to 4 p.m., and Friday at 5 a.m. While the lowest engagement rates happen on Sundays.
Again, this can vary from industry to industry and may also depend on the region you are trying to target. Do your own research to find out when the best times are for your brand to post. Take a look at your Instagram insights to see when your target audience is most often engaging on the social media platform.
9. Maintain brand voice across your content.
Another one of the most important Instagram best practices for businesses is to keep brand voice consistent across all of your content. Your Instagram followers want to get to know who your brand is and what you stand for. The best way to communicate your brand’s personality and tone is through the voice you use in your social media content.
The best way to make sure your brand voice is kept consistent across your social media content is to develop a branding guide. This document will have guidelines for brand messaging and images across all of your content, not just social media. A branding guide is a useful addition to your brand’s Instagram marketing strategy.
Here’s an example of how Well Above uses their logos.
10. Tag other people involved with your content.
Are you working with partners on a joint Instagram campaign? Using content from your fans and followers to post to your page? Maybe teaming up with an influencer to help gain greater visibility? Be sure to tag them in your posts!
When you tag other Instagram users in your content, you not only give them credit for their contribution but you can help expand your audience. There are a number of reasons why you may want to tag a user in your Instagram post:
- Tag business partners that you are working with on joint campaigns.
- Mention users when you share their user-generated content on your own page.
- Tag locations and users that are featured in your content.
- Mention the people who have helped you create content, such as employees or artists.
By tagging other people who are involved in your Instagram content, you are then exposing your brand to a new audience.
11. Utilize the Instagram stories feature to engage your audience.
Instagram stories are a relatively new feature on the social media platform that users have gone absolutely crazy over. However, Instagram Stories aren’t just for consumer use. Brands can take advantage of this feature to engage their followers in new and interesting ways.
When you click on an individual’s Instagram Story, you will see a photo or video that they’ve posted for a short period of time. For images, you will see the photo for about 5 seconds and videos are up to 15 seconds long. All of this content will remain in their story for 24 hours unless it is deleted or placed in their story highlights on the user’s Instagram profile page.
These images and videos can be taken directly from your phone or uploaded from your camera roll. You can apply filters to your Instagram stories, include text, post stickers and GIFs, and even include polls or the option for users to ask you a question. This feature is a fun way to engage with your followers outside of the typical Instagram feed.
Using Instagram Stories is one of the Instagram best practices that will really help you personalize your content and show a different side of your brand. Due to the fleeting nature of these posts, they make a great channel for showing exclusive content or behind the scenes footage from your business.
If you want to use Instagram stories for business, you’ll need to first consider what types of content you can use to engage your audience. Though it’s important to ensure that you’re using high quality content, it’s okay to be a little less polished in your Instagram Story then you would be on your feed. The goal is to post real, in-the-moment content that engages your audience.
It’s important to note that you can also advertise on Instagram stories. Just like you would use this feature for your brand’s organic content, you can also use it to catch the attention of your target audience and advertise specific products or services. All of the features available to you in Instagram Stories can be used for advertisements that are placed here.
12. Encourage your followers to post user-generated content.
User-generated content is one of the Instagram best practices that can really help you drive more engagement for your brand. With user-generated content, you can show your audience how others are using (and loving) your products and services. When you feature an individual’s content on your page, it also shows your followers how much you appreciate your customers.
Here’s another great example of how one big brand utilizes user-generated content:
Dove’s goal is to redefine beauty for real women, so it only makes sense that they use photos of real women in their campaign.
Previously, we discussed Dove’s use of the #beautyis hashtag to start a conversation about what beauty means for real women. Here, you can see that Dove is taking this campaign to the next level by using content from their customers. As you can see from the comments below, this content engages their followers and gets them talking.
If you want to get started with user-generated content, all you have to do is ask. Ask your followers to post their favorite photos of themselves using your products or services. Then, share these images with your audience. You can even start a social media contest, rewarding the best images with a giveaway.
13. Get active in the comments.
Above all else, Instagram is a social media channel. So why not get social? If you want your followers to engage with your content, you need to do the work to engage them. Doing the work means that you need to consistently be active in the comment section of your Instagram posts.
When a follower asks a question, answer it. If someone comments about how much they love the post or your brand, thank them. And try to do all of this within 24 hours. It’s this type of personal engagement with your followers that will catch the attention of your target audience and encourage them to interact with your brand as well. The more active you are in the comments section, the more engagement you will see over time. If you can’t stick to regularly engaging with your customers, then it might be a could idea to hire a social media specialist who can monitor your account and respond to followers on your behalf.
14. Use analytics to track post performance and measure engagement.
The only way that your brand can improve your social media presence on Instagram is by learning from your activity and making changes to improve. That’s why keeping up with Instagram analytics is one of the Instagram best practices that you need to make sure you’re focusing on.
The insights that you gain from the metrics you track on Instagram will help you determine what is working and what still needs work. You can track your post performance and look at audience engagement across your posts. Then, use this insight to make changes to your Instagram marketing strategy.
For instance, when you find a post that’s done exceptionally well, take a look at the image and messaging to get a better idea of why it’s resonating with your audience. Then, apply what you’ve learned to future posts to boost engagement over time.
15. Stay current with the latest Instagram trends.
And the last one of our Instagram best practices is to stay up-to-date with the platform. Instagram is always making changes and improvements to the channel that allow you to reach your audience in new and interesting ways. Keep an eye out for updates from Instagram on new features or policies that might impact your business.
Additionally, you’ll want to stay updated with both general and industry trends on Instagram. Keep track of how your target audience uses the platform and how they engage with the brands they love. Also, be aware of any hashtags or practices that are popular within your industry as this may open up new opportunities for your brand to reach new audiences.
Staying up-to-date with the latest trends on Instagram helps you keep your brand relevant in the fast-paced world of digital marketing. Not every trend will apply to your business, but you can use your best judgement and a little testing to see what works for you.
What to Do with These Instagram Best Practices
With the Instagram best practices above, you can be on your way to creating better visual content and encouraging more quality engagement in no time. The key to success is consistency. That’s why it’s vital to make sure that you follow these best practices every time you develop content for Instagram.
But you’ll need more than just Instagram best practices to convert followers into loyal buyers. You will need to develop a conversion strategy for social media if you want to get the most out of your social media management budget. This strategy will include both organic content and paid advertising on the social media platform.
Want to learn more? LYFE Marketing is an Instagram Advertising Agency, offering professional Instagram ad management to help boost results for small to medium-sized businesses. Our social media ad experts use their knowledge and expertise to deliver real results that drive return on investment for your business.
Contact us today to see how we can help you.