With more than 1 billion active users uploading millions of photos, videos, and stories each day, it is clear that brands need to be paying attention to the photo-sharing app Instagram.
But growing businesses often have to pick and choose where to spend limited sources of both time and capital.
So, how do you make the most of your Instagram efforts?
The Key To Success On Instagram Is Attracting New Followers By Providing High-Quality Value
Like most social media sites, Instagram uses an algorithm to determine who sees the content you post.
If you want to succeed on Instagram, you need to attract real, targeted followers and provide authentic, relatable content they want to engage with. It really is that simple.
But, Exactly How Do You Do That?
We’re not fans of the generic “If you build it, they will come.” advice. Below, we have outlined 13 content ideas that will help you attract and engage followers on Instagram. Not every type of content will work for your brand, but most will.
Don’t be afraid to test a strategy to see if it might work for your brand. You might be surprised!
When it comes to photo captions, your followers will only see the line or so of your post. However, there are multiple formats you can use on Instagram!
Here are a few ways to share tutorials on Instagram.
- Some audiences do respond well to longer-form content in captions, so consider if that format might work for your brand.
- Share a sneak peek photo in your feed and link to a blog post in your bio.
- Create and share a video tutorial.
- Host a live tutorial on IGTV.
- Use stories to create your tutorial and add text to your photos. (You can choose to save it and post it on your profile after the 24 hours are up.)
2. Motivational or Inspirational Posts
People often turn to social media for a break from their workday or to boost their mood. That is why motivational or inspirational posts get so much engagement.
Share a quote, meme, or even a story that will uplift your audience. The engagement will boost the visibility of your other posts.
3. Behind The Scenes Videos
Instagram is a pretty casual platform, so use it to let your brand’s metaphorical hair down by showing behind the scenes videos and photos.
Share a picture of your workspace, new office fridge, your staff having fun at a holiday party, the dogs employees bring on bring your pets to work day, Halloween costumes, holiday decorations, and so forth.
This type of content is easy to produce and helps show the human side of your brand, which helps create an authentic relationship with your audience.
4. Q & A Stories
Stories are photos and videos that users post that last for just 24-hours. Users can include stickers, add questions, overlay text, and use a variety of other features. Since they show at the top of the Instagram feed, stories get a lot of engagement.
Use the Instagram Q & A feature to encourage engagement and ask followers questions and then chose which responses to publish.
Interviews are another engaging way to share high-quality content with your audience. You can interview important people in your industry, tell success stories of your customers, or interview key figures in your own company.
For example, you might:
- Share a series of photos in an Instagram story and link to a post with the full interview.
- Share a photo of the interviewee with one question/answer as a teaser, with a prompt to visit your site, Facebook, etc. for the full interview.
- Use the new IGTV to do a live interview of up to an hour long.
- Use the Q&A feature to ask followers what questions they would like to ask your interviewee.
The key is to use the interview to engage your audience. Who do they care about? What do they want to know? Use those answers to guide your interview.
Contests are highly visible and help encourage user-generated content, which you can then ‘regram.’ People love to win, and contests give your brand a visibility boost, so it really is a win-win.
Choose a prize your followers will care about and ask entrants to share a photo and story saying why they love your brand using your brand hashtag. You can then share the top posts and let followers vote by liking their favorite.
You can do this manually, or use a contest hosting tool.
Instead of making everyone compete for just one prize, how about offering every entrant the same prize? This is an effective way to get current customers to try a new offering or entice followers who haven’t yet converted into trying your brand.
Here are a few examples:
- “Share a photo of you drinking our coffee on Instagram using the hashtag #thebestlocalcoffeebrand, and win a free coffee mug!”
- “Tell us why you need our software in Instagram using the hashtag #ineedbrandname and earn a free three-month trial.”
- “Share this product with a friend, and earn a free $5 credit on your next order.” (You could promote the giveaway on Instagram, even if the contest isn’t there.
8. Exclusive Sales and Offers
People love to feel like they are in on something special. Consider sharing special coupon codes or opening up sales early specifically for your Instagram followers.
Encouraging your followers to tag their friends can increase your followers as well.
You can also promote those special sales and offers by posting teasers on Facebook or your website.
9. Use Stories To Introduce Your Brand
Getting Instagram followers is just half the battle. You also need to leverage those followers, and Instagram stories are one of the most effective ways to do that.
Instagram stories are similar to Snaps on Snapchat; they only stay up for 24 hours unless you choose to add them to your profile. Many brands use them to share a process or the evolution of an event over the course of a day. You can add stickers, questions, rewinding video segments, Q and A, and much more.
Stories are particularly engaging because they live at the top of the Instagram feed, which means they are often the first thing users see when they sign in. Plus, they offer tons of features (and Instagram keeps adding more features), which means you can create a story that is as unique as your brand.
Use Instagram stories to introduce your followers to who you are as a brand. Share your founding story, show your headquarters or your desk, share behind the scenes photos.
Invite your followers to get to you know you as a brand.
10. Collaboration With Other Users
Collaboration gives you access to more followers. When done really well, it offers you access to people who are in your niche but don’t know your brand well.
There are multiple ways you can collaborate with other Instagram users, here are a few ideas:
- Participate in an Instagram takeover. This where on users gives another user the proverbial ‘keys to the castle’ and they post on Instagram for the other account user. For example, if you attend a popular conference, you might do an Instagram takeover for a brand in that niche. A tourism company might let a popular travel Instagrammer take over their page for a day.
- Regram content from other users you admire. Make sure to tag them and make it clear it is a reshare. This shares relevant content with your audience and gains the attention of the person you are regramming.
- Share products, achievements, or reviews of brands you admire but who aren’t direct competitors. Your goal should be to share information your users will find useful, not just talk about your brand.
- Partner with an influencer to have them promote your brand.
Polls are another feature in Instagram stories. (Remember how we said there are tons of features? There really are so.many.ways to create engaging content using Stories.)
The poll option is located under “stickers” in Instagram stories. You can ask how users are spending their holiday, what their favorite season is, etc.
Here are a few ideas for how to use polls:
- Share photos of your newest product color/flavor/feature, and ask if they like it
- Ask what feature you should add to your software next.
- Poll the best Halloween costume for your CEO.
- Offer two sales options, then implement the winner exclusively for Instagram followers.
- Ask whether if they will be watching your Instagram live stream at time/date.
Polls allow for two answers, so keep it simple. Remember that Instagram tends to be pretty casual, so don’t try to do in-depth market research.
12. Self-Made GIFs
The company Giphy, the mother of all things GIF, partnered with Instagram to create a library of GIFs just for Instagram stories.
Yes, you can now add live, moving GIFs to your Instagram stories. We might not have flying cars, but the future sure is amazing.
You can access the GIF features under stickers in Instagram stories.
One of the best ways to get someone’s attention is to do a shout out. You can use this approach to thank a customer/follower, gain the attention of a well-known industry person, or offer credit where credit is due.
There are a few ways to leverage shoutouts:
- Tag a user in a comment after replying to their comment.
- Use the @mention feature in Instagram stories.
- Tag them in a caption of your post, particularly if you regram their post.
Content Creation Alone Won’t Guarantee Success
Remember how we said we weren’t fans of “Build it and they will come”? Sometimes all the amazing content in the world isn’t going to help you succeed on Instagram.
Here are a few other steps you need to take to build a truly successful strategy.
3 Ways To Exponentially Grow Your Instagram Followers
The true key to success on Instagram is authenticity. Part of that is sharing interesting, relevant content your followers will care about. The other half of Instagram success is being social and optimizing your content so people interested in related topics can find it.
Here is how to grow your Instagram followers fast.
1. Engage With Your Followers
You can’t just schedule out a month’s worth of Instagram post and call it a day. At least once a day, you need to be engaging with your followers. Answer their questions, respond to their comments, thank them for sharing content about your brand. Your content should start a conversation.
2. Caption Your Content
When most people think of Instagram, they think of photos. But your captions are equally important. Share a story about your photo, or tell why you are sharing that photo. You could even include a call to action to encourage users to like your post or leave a comment.
Keep in mind that users can only see the first line or so of your captions without clicking the “more” button. Sometimes extended content does well, but make sure you entice them to click to read more.
3. Use Hashtags For Your Niche
Hashtags are how users search for content on Instagram. If you want to be found by users who are interested in your niche, you need to make sure you are using hashtags popular in your industry.
The easiest way to do this is by searching Instagram and looking at other popular hashtags. For example, a search for social media shows a ton of related posts with hundreds of thousands of posts.
You can also look at competitors or other people in your field and research the hashtags they use. Or, you can use a tool like Hashtagify to find related and popular hashtags.
Growing your Instagram following doesn’t have to require a massive budget or investing thousands of hours. It all starts with publishing relevant content designed to encourage your users to engage with your brand.
A few of the most effective types of content for Instagram are tutorials, polls, stories, exclusive coupons, and behind the scenes photos and videos. These types of content help build real relationships with your audience.
Have you tested any of the types of content mentioned here? What drove the most engagement for your brand?