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You can know your target audience, post at the absolute best times possible, and engage with your community to the nth degree. If you don’t have quality Instagram posts to back these things up, none of it matters.
Admittedly, part of creating engaging Instagram posts comes from straying from existing norms and creating content that is completely unique to you. Having said that, with Instagram being in operation for almost 8 years now, there are certain characteristics and methods that have proved to help produce successful Instagram posts no matter who you are.
Be active: post 1-2 times a day. Posting daily grows followers four times faster than posting less than once a week according to Tailwind.
Space out posts if you post more than once a day: too many posts uploaded close to one another can appear spammy on other people’s feeds. Posting too often also doesn’t give your content enough time to be seen and engaged by your followers
Post portrait over landscape: portrait images appear bigger in feeds, drawing more attention and potentially leading to more engagement.
Don’t post low-resolution photos: there are way too many incredible photos on Instagram for you to be posting grainy, low-resolution photos. Even if your photo does show up on someone’s feed, if it’s surrounded by higher quality content, then your content is simply going to be ignored.
Create an editorial calendar: know what and how often you’re going to be posting before you begin posting. To get started, look at the top 10 profiles in your niche and do some competitive analysis. Pull the main themes and consistent qualities from their content (What are they posting? How often? Are there any consistent patterns having to do with color or shape?) and apply them into the creation of your own content. AiGrow’s scheduler can help with this process.
Advertise your top posts: the more likes, comments and general engagement a post gets, the higher up that post will appear when people search for related hashtags. Ideally, you want to reach the trending Top 9 grid – place photo here.
Take note of what does well and create similar content: look at general engagement – likes, comments, reshares, etc. and more in-depth Instagram analytics to see which of your content is performing the best and incorporate this data into the creation of future content.
Look at things differently: take pictures and videos of common pictures (landmarks, tourist attractions, etc.) from a different perspective than has already been seen a million times before. One way to make this process easier is by using only one fixed camera lens. The restriction of not being able to zoom and/or switch out to another lens encourages you to be more creative in the way you frame your content.
Use partnerships and/or collaborations: creating Instagram posts with another person/channel not only forces you to go outside of your own creative perspective, but partnerships also provide the opportunity to introduce your channel to another channel’s audience. When people see that a channel they are already following collaborated with someone else (you), these people can trust that this other channel must also be worth following.
Use Instagram Analytics: Instagram’s native analytics tool can provide you with such key information as the days on which your posts perform best, the time your posts perform best, and where in the world your audience is most concentrated. Depending on where your audience is, you might even have to take into consideration different time zones when posting.
Use 3rd party tools when necessary: you can take the bulk of grunt work out of growing your Instagram followers (scheduling, engagement, DMs, etc.) by using 3rd party tools like Buffer or AiGrow. The less you have to focus on the work supporting your content and channel, the more you can focus on creating the very best content possible.
Ditch the phone: make your content stand out by not limiting yourself to your camera phone. If possible, use a DSLR to take photos/videos, edit them on your computer if need be, send the files to your phone (or schedule them on your computer with tools like AiGrow), and then upload to IG.
Use videos: even if they’re just GIFs, 52% of marketing professionals rank video as the type of content with the best ROI. To you, that means more Instagram followers.
Post at 2 AM or 5 PM: if you have not yet uncovered the best times to post according to your specific audience, posting at 2 AM or 5 PM is a safe bet. Research shows that these times result in higher engagement.
Use the Mayfair filter: if you’re going to use filters (some research shows that pictures with no filters perform better), and you don’t want to put in the work to manually color correct your content, research shows that the Mayfair filter is the most effective filter for marketers.
Post on Sundays: similar to the time suggestion above, if you have not yet uncovered the best day to post according to your specific audience, posting on Sundays is a safe bet. The least amount of Instagram posts are posted on Sundays, which provides more visibility for your own posts.
Combine multiple images into a collage: instead of uploading multiple photos into a single post, requiring the viewer to open up the post and scroll through them all individually, when possible combine all your images into one using tools like Photoshop or Canva. This way, potential followers can view all images with ease while scrolling your feed.
Consider the color of your content: research shows that posts with lighter colors, particularly blue, receive more likes than darker colors by a factor of 24%.
Include faces in your photos: Dan Zoella found images with faces in them received 35% more likes than those without faces.
Post behind-the-scenes photos: particularly for businesses, behind-the-scenes content conveys the human quality behind your brand and shows that you’re not just a robotic business.
Incorporate edges and structures into your photos: research shows that photos with clearly defined edges and structures receive 125% more likes than those without – research needed.
Make sure your images have a minimum dimension of 1080×1080: a minimum dimension of 1080×1080 helps to avoid pixelation and unwanted cropping/scaling.
Use “social listening”: use tools like Hootsuite to monitor not only where you’re being mentioned, but what is being said about your channel within your community. Use what people are saying as feedback to create better content.
Post according to when your target audience is online: if you’re targeting people with full-time jobs, post in the early morning, at lunch-time, or after 5 PM. If you’re targeting night workers, post later in the night and/or in the very early AMs. Understand who you are trying to attract to your channel and post according to when you think they would be online. Instagram Analytics can help you find this information.
Use Instagram Stories: nearly one in five stories results in a direct message. If you are a business, you should really be using Instagram stories, as a third of the most viewed stories are from businesses – research needed.
Adapt or die: Instagram is constantly rolling out updates affecting everything from content relevancy, to feed visibility to post editing features. Stay up-to-date on the Instagram landscape to ensure that your content is the best possible content it can be that it is being seen by as many people as possible. Adspresso has a great blog explaining new Instagram updates on a rolling basis. Avasam is another great resource to learn how to get more Instagram followers.
This article is one piece of a larger, more comprehensive guide we created called 62 Proven Ways to Grow Your Instagram Followers in 2018. In addition to creating amazing Instagram posts, the guide also explains how to effectively use hashtags, captions, geotags, as well as engagement within your industry to grow your following on Instagram.
Are you pumping out incredible content on a daily basis? What’s your creative process look like? Please share in the comments below!