The Instagram mobile app is one of the most influential and effective social media marketing platforms today. For businesses, it’s a place to showcase products and brand personality, connect directly with customers, and drive customers to purchase opportunities. For individuals, it’s a way to build your personal brand and make real money if your following is big enough to attract advertisers.
Fortunately, it couldn’t be easier to post to Instagram. You just download the free Instagram app, set up your Instagram account, create a photo or a graphic, upload it, and you’re done. You don’t even need to add a caption if you don’t want to, and you can post from your mobile device (aka smartphone or a tablet; the latter is easiest if you’re using Safari on a Mac, or the Google Chrome browser on a PC or Mac).
But posting a daily photo of your adorable dog, for example, isn’t enough to ensure your Instagram account will jettison you to the 10.7-million-follower status of the walking ball of fluff that is Jiff Pom. In fact, a sweet furry face isn’t enough to attract even a tiny fraction of the nearly 1 billion Instagram users if you don’t know how to craft Fido’s Instagram posts for optimal engagement.
Fortunately, the secret to how to post on Instagram for engagement is not a secret at all. There are clear, proven steps that will hopefully help your Instagram account become as popular as Ryan Gosling “Hey girl” memes.
Ready to join the Insta-famous influencers? You need only do the following five things.
Table of Contents
- Create a Brand Identity
- Make Awesome Instagram Images
- Create Compelling Text
- Make Instagram Videos
- Post With Consistency
1. Create a Brand Identity
If you’re posting to Instagram for more than the amusement of friends and family, you need to build your brand identity so that users interested in your content will find and follow you.
To do this, you need to start by answering the question, “What is my page about?”
Does it feature you as a cooking personality? Is it an account for showcasing your graphic design skills, beauty products, or handmade jewelry?
Your Instagram account can be whatever you want it to be. With almost one-eighth of the world’s population on the app (!), there’s surely a crowd that’ll be excited about what you’re doing.
Whatever you choose, remember that Instagram is a very visual medium, so you need to be able to communicate your identity in a visually compelling way. You can get a step-by-step guide to building a visual brand identity here.
Once you figure out what you want your Instagram account to be, dress the part! Make a totally pro-looking Instagram profile picture or logo using a cool Free Logo Maker tool or Free Profile Picture Maker.
2. Make Awesome Instagram Photos
Images are the most important type of content for Instagram. Instagram images are what stop users as they scroll through their Instagram feeds and inspire them to heart, share, comment, screenshot, save, dream, follow you, and dive deeper into your Instagram homepage.
For this reason, all your photos (and graphics, if you use them) must be their very best.
Whether you create images on the fly or are finding and uploading photos from your camera roll, follow these six tips on how to post on Instagram with the best photos:
- Be consistent. If your feed focuses on keto recipes, stick with all things high-fat and low-carb! If you add carb-heavy snacks, you confuse your message.
- Generally speaking, closeup is better, especially for food images. You’ve got one second to grab the user’s attention. Do it with images that users can immediately recognize and fawn over.
- Use great lighting. Fantastic photos start with fantastic lighting. Use natural light or studio light, but whatever you do, make sure image quality is banging.
- Take advantage of Instagram filters and photo editing tools. They can turn OK photos into great photos, whether it’s by improving the lighting, punching up the color, or creating a certain vibe. (The Ludwig filter is often great for food images.) Not finding what you need through Instagram filters? Try Adobe Spark’s free and easy photo editor. It allows you to post directly to Instagram.
- Add graphics or text to your image if it looks good and works with your brand. Sometimes an image isn’t enough. When you need more (overlaid text, a frame, a checklist, etc.), create polished-looking posts using Adobe Spark’s free Instagram post template.
- Take advantage of best practices for beating Instagram’s algorithm. Boost engagement through templates and captions that get people talking.
3. Write Compelling Captions
While an eye-grabbing photo can inspire users to like your post or follow you, the text you add beneath the image also inspires engagement. Text conveys your personality and information about the images you’re sharing. It can also direct users to do what you want.
When crafting text to accompany images or video (more on video below), consider the following five tips to enhance engagement:
- Use a consistent, distinct voice. The more unique and true your voice is, the more it will resonate with people.
- Instigate engagement. If you want to engage with your audience, give them something to engage in. Ask a question about your post (“Yay or nay on this color for my new T-shirt line?”), tell readers to swipe to see more images (provided you’re using a multi-image post, known as carousel posts), or ask for feedback (“What type of cookie recipe would you like me to share?”). Make the question meaningful and you’re more likely to get responses. Better yet, follow smart tips on how to craft Instagram captions to grow an engaged audience.
- Tell people what to do. Don’t assume your users know they should swipe to see more, comment, or enter to win. Tell them exactly what you want them to do and they’re way more likely to do it.
- Get playful with emojis. Emojis are fun, they convey enthusiasm and personality, and they can break up long text and make it easier to digest. But a little goes a long way, so use emojis sparingly.
- Use hashtags. A lot of people don’t understand the value of tags and thus don’t use them properly. But their loss is your gain, because Instagram hashtags (or keywords introduced with a hashtag and no spaces between words like this: #ketorecipes) help users find your content. They’re seriously important for growing your visibility and audience. There’s an art to crafting the correct hashtags to attract the right audience. Our ultimate guide to Instagram hashtags will help you tag your posts for success.
4. Make Instagram Videos
It used to be that your post options were limited to a photo and text. But the introduction of video capability gives you more dynamic ways to showcase content, like animating your images into social videos.
Social videos have easier functionality and they allow you to bring your still photos and graphics to life through animation.
Animation, or adding a moving element to your still photos or graphics, adds a layer of evocative, sensory emotion to your content. Better still, it captivates instantly and doesn’t require sound to get the job done, which is essential for social media where you have about two seconds to grab the viewer’s attention. We don’t need to tell you how cool this is.
To implement this now, learn how to make them with your phone. Or use free text animation templates like the one above to create your own.
Given the growing popularity of video, it’s not surprising there are five types of videos you can post on Instagram:
- Instagram Feed
- Instagram Stories
- Instagram Reels
- Instagram Live
- IGTV Video
Let’s break ‘em down so you know your choices:
These are published to your Instagram feed and can be three to 60 seconds in length. You can quickly create and post a video directly on the Instagram app from your Android phone or iPhone. Or you can create a more pro-looking video by employing your smartphone or camera’s video functionality and free, easy video editing tools, which allow you to trim, resize, add music, and more.
Up to 15 seconds in length, Instagram stories allow for more casual, off-the-cuff videos that show your personality. Brief fun, and ripe for adding stickers, text, tags, and GIFs, they’re effortlessly consumable, which is why they continue to gain popularity.
They’re also a different avenue than your Instagram feed for attracting new followers, especially if you tag people, places, keywords, or all three.
For engagement, you can easily include a poll or emoji slider sticker with a link that drives to any content anywhere online. (To get access to using links in your stories, you need to have more than 10,000 followers.)
Want to up your stories game? Use a cool free customizable Instagram Story template.
Instagram Reels, introduced in August 2020, allows you to create brief (15-second) multi-clip videos just like Instagram stories. Only with Reels, you can also layer on voiceover, music, and additional effects with built-in video-editing tools.
You can share these videos on your feed, and, if your account is public, it’s also shared in the “Explore” area of Instagram, which debuts your work to a wider Instagram audience.
Instagram Live is your ability to broadcast live to your audience. Live videos can be up to an hour long. However, if you need longer than an hour, you can start a new Live video immediately after the first.
IGTV is both accessible from Instagram and also a separate app that allows you to create, post, or view horizontal and vertical videos ranging from 15 seconds to 10 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of your audience.
Regardless, when conceptualizing any type of Instagram video, remember to stay on brand and couple your video with helpful text and tags.
5. Post With Consistency
Instagram algorithms reward Instagram accounts that post regularly. So do users, as they begin to recognize and interact more with your posts. It’s good to know some tricks for keeping your account fresh and in the forefront of people’s feeds.
Post With Regular Frequency
The phrase “Out of sight out of mind” applies to your brand. Post regularly so users are regularly reminded you exist. Serious Instagram influencers post at least once a day, sometimes more than that. But be mindful and only post relevant posts. If you spam people’s Instagram feeds, they’ll stop following you.
Determine the Best Timing for Your Posts
Even if you’re posting the best content ever, it will likely get buried in newsfeeds and missed if you post at the wrong time of day. What’s the right time to post? It depends on the day of the week and when your audience is most active.
To determine the best days and time, try posting at various times of day and pay attention to which posts get the most engagement. While you can pay to get similar analytics, you should be able to make logical decisions based on how many likes and comments you’re getting.
Now It’s Time To Further Build Your Audience
You now know how to post on Instagram to encourage engagement through compelling content, tags, and posting consistently and at the best times. As you continue, you’ll be able to start mastering additional ways to build your audience.
A few to start with? Try these:
- Reply to comments, always.
- Drive people to your Instagram through your other social networks.
- Feature and tag brands occasionally in your posts; sometimes they will repost you (free, instant PR!).
- Make alliances with like-minded Instagrammers by following them and regularly commenting on their posts.
- Host giveaways that require people follow you, comment, or both to enter. You’ll be amazing at what people will do to win (don’t forget to tag giveaway posts with hashtags like #giveaway to elevate them).
Instagram is the hungry mouth that never gets full, and there are a lot of competing distractions, so don’t expect success overnight. Just follow these best practices and you’ll not only build a following, but you’ll also have a community that is truly invested in your brand for the long term.