Instagram Best Practices – 8 Content Tricks Used By Top Brands

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Instagram Best Practices – 8 Content Tricks Used By Top Brands

The number of Instagram users is expected to hit 1.4 billion in 2024. 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 the best Instagram practices to improve imagery engagement?

In order to find out, we’ve analyzed effective Instagram brands to discover the eight best practices to be successful on the platform:

  1. Share an experience
  2. Understand your audience
  3. Find creative content
  4. Appeal to emotion
  5. Crowdsource
  6. Tell a story
  7. Stay relevant
  8. Play the game

Read on to avoid eCommerce marketing mistakes with these best practices:

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.

Meller, an international sunglasses brand, highlights the importance of effectively engaging with potential customers online using engaging visual content. As seen in our case study with Meller It brought them a 13.9% increase of conversion rate just by integrating this shared experience into their eCommerce store.

Another 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 16 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 accommodation, Airbnb posts consumer generated content marketing materials featuring activities they engaged in while using Airbnb.

instagram best practices

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. The data from CLUSE’s case study own eCommerce data shows that their specific actions to embed their Instagram into their eCommerce store are 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 please the world, focus on captivating a core audience that is genuinely interested in what you have to offer. 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 campaignOnce 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 promote 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.

Instagram best practices - example 3
Tom’s Instagram feed

When people see who is actually benefitting from their purchase, they are much more likely to feel inspired by the brand’s efforts and join their 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.

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 earned media 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. As well as this, all of this content can be compiled across multiple social media platforms through a social media aggregator.

If you want more information on outsourcing or utilizing User Generated Content in your Instagram marketing efforts, check out our resource on everything you ever wanted to know about User Generated Content strategy.

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!

Instagram best practices

(Look at some of the comments on this post: “Lego 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 include 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 to the Instagram content best practices listed before. Here are three surefire ways to stay relevant:

  1. Focus on seasonal content

Incorporate the colors of foliage in the fall, show off bright imagery in the summertime, 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). Or even look beyond the mainstream calendar at fun or topical events happening around the world to give your content a little life (e.g. National Pizza Day, Women’s March). 

Instagram best practices

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.

  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.

Instagram Best Practices #8 – Play the Game

Challenging and providing an incentive for your audience will capture their 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, and 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. 

The brand 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.

Instagram best practices

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!)- they all come with unique advantages and face unique 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!

Instagram best practices

Look at how Target uses a topical holiday (National Best Friends day!), a unique branded hashtag (#TargetRun), emotions (two 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, as it features their signature red and bright backgrounds.

Once you’ve implemented the best practices in your Instagram campaign, you can start thinking about whether or not you will embed an Instagram feed into your website.

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.