Did you know that 68% of Instagram users hop on Instagram to interact with creators?
It’s no secret that Instagram is a powerful social media platform for creators to share their work!
But whether you’re new to the platform or are a seasoned pro, the tedious task of staying up-to-date with Instagram’s best practices can be a challenge.
So to help make things a bit easier for you, I’ve put together a list of the best practices you should be following on Instagram, so you can be confident with your marketing strategy!
Why should you care about the best practices for Instagram?
Instagram is a growing platform with no sign of slowing down (which is great news for creators).
But as Instagram grows, it can feel challenging to get your content seen by your audience. Not to mention, the algorithm can sometimes be a tricky nut to crack.
So if you feel like you’re being drowned out, you’re not alone.
Following these best practices will help you be confident that your account will continue to thrive and remain true to your brand, regardless of the competition and potential changes to the algorithm!
16 best practices to guide your Instagram marketing
Let’s unpack the 16 best practices that you can start implementing today!
1. Understand your audience
The followers you want to attract are real people with genuine interests, and as a creator, your job is to create content that resonates with those interests.
Successful marketers are able to tap into the minds of their audience and develop a deep understanding of them.
The first (and quickest) way to see what types of content your audience finds most valuable is to view past high-performing posts. You can get a good idea of what your audience wants to see more of just by looking at your past content!
Another way to understand your niche audience is by creating an audience profile to help you understand their pain points and aspirations.
Once you identify what makes your audience tick, you’ll be able to tailor your content to their needs.
2. Find the right time to post
When you find the best time to post on Instagram, you’ll be able to maximize potential engagement and reach more people.
You can easily find the optimal time to post by clicking on the hamburger menu on your profile:
Next, tap on “Insights” and go into the “Audience” tab.
If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see some information about your followers. When you are in the “Hours” tab, you’ll be able to see what hours of each day your followers are most active.
3. Convert to a business account
Having a business account will give you the right tools to analyze and grow your business, so you definitely want to convert your account if you haven't yet.
You can set up a business profile in only a couple of minutes, where you will be able to:
- Access Instagram Insights (analytics for your account)
- Create Instagram ads to further promote and grow your account
- Utilize the “swipe up” feature for Instagram Stories (for accounts with more than 10,000 followers)
- Add handy action buttons to your profile
- Add shoppable posts
With the many benefits of converting to a business account, there’s no reason to not make the switch.
4. Have a strong profile
When a potential follower lands on your Instagram page, a strong bio will increase the chance that they hit that “follow” button!
Your bio should be clear and help your followers understand who you are. You only have 150 characters to get the message across, so make it short and snappy!
If you are struggling to come up with a bio, try to fill in the blanks:
- “I help ________ (who do you help) ________ (what will you help them do).”
Morgan’s bio is an excellent example of how to use the real estate in your bio to communicate with your followers who you are and how you can help them.
After you’ve spruced up your bio, you should take a look at your Instagram profile photo. You can use an image of yourself or your logo as long as it's easy to see.
Lastly, you want to make sure your followers know where else they can find you. Include a link to your website or landing page, any relevant contact information (email and phone number) and your location, so your followers can find all the information they may need in one convenient place.
5. Write compelling copy
A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but a great caption can add immense value to your posts.
While there’s no ideal length for your caption, there are some best practices to keep in mind if you want captions that draw your audience in.
Maintain your brand voice
Eighty-nine percent of consumers stay loyal to brands because they share the same values.
One way to communicate your values to your audience is by developing a strong brand voice. Your brand voice should be used consistently across all social channels and your website.
Value can be added to your caption in many different ways. You can tell a story that helps your followers envision themselves in a specific scenario, you can provide tips to help them overcome a problem or you can write an uplifting message to encourage your followers.
Whatever you choose to add to your captions, it must provide some sort of value to your audience.
6. Include a call-to-action on your posts
Every strong Instagram post has a call-to-action (CTA). When many people think of CTAs, they think of promotional ones such as “click here to buy now” or “sign up to receive 10% off”, however, your CTA doesn't always need to be promotional.
Successful CTAs that aren’t promotional will encourage your audience to complete some kind of action. It could be as simple as asking them to “like” your post or tag a friend in the comments.
You can experiment with different CTAs to see which deliver the highest amount of engagement.
7. Reply to your audience
Engagement on Instagram is incredibly important, and it’s good practice to reply to direct messages and comments on your Instagram account.
Not only would it be off-putting for your audience to be ignored, but the relationship you develop with your followers (through interaction) is also one of the main ranking factors for Instagram’s algorithm.
Replying and liking messages and comments can be done through a desktop computer or right within the app, and if you block off a chunk of time during the day, you can easily reply to all your messages in one sitting.
8. Grow your account authentically
When trying to understand the best practices for Instagram, your focus should be to foster a real community with genuine engagement.
Instagram can feel challenging at times, and it might feel tempting to buy Instagram likes, followers or use blackhat growth techniques (such as mass following/unfollowing).
While these tactics might give you an instant boost, overall, it won’t help you grow an engaged community, and these tactics should be avoided at all cost.
Remember: it’s more important to have a small community full of people who are passionate about your content than a large community of people who don’t care about what you have to offer.
9. Incorporate user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is a piece of content that was created from your audience, rather than by you. UGC can be as simple as a testimonial or a photo of a follower using your product.
Brands love UGC because it is 35% more memorable than other forms of content, and 70% of consumers look to UGC to form purchase-making decisions. Not to mention, it takes a load off your content-creation process since you won’t need to take as many photos.
The easiest way to start collecting UGC is to create a branded hashtag for your audience to use whenever they post media using your products.
Here are some quick best practices when making use of UGC:
- Always ask for permission before reposting
- Give credit to the original poster (preferably in the first line of the caption so the credit is visible without needing to click “more”
- Tag the original user in the photo
10. Post quality content
We know that Instagram users love seeing high-quality content and accounts with excellent content will thrive and stand out.
Your Instagram feed is your chance to let your personality shine! Developing an Instagram theme that compliments your brand will help you attract and retain more of your ideal followers.
Take a look at Starbucks, for example:
On top of posting crisp, clear images, Starbucks has created an Instagram feed which incorporates their brand’s color palette. It’s visually striking and aesthetically pleasing to look at.
Instagram feed themes are memorable and can help you stay atop your followers’ mind.
You can achieve a cohesive Instagram feed by using similar filters and presets to edit your photos.
The following apps are free and are great photo editing apps to achieve a flawless feed:
- Adobe Lightroom CC (iOS and Android)
- Snapseed (iOS and Android)
- VSCO (iOS and Android)
On top of perfecting your aesthetics, you’ll also want to ensure your posts have value.
Your content should be a healthy mix of promotional posts and posts that offer special insight for your audience.
An insightful Instagram post can range from helpful tips, practice advice or sharing a story that your followers can relate to.
View this post on Instagram
Okay, let's talk about the elephant in the feed 🐘TRUST ME: Everyone loses followers! You’re not alone. Here's what those unfollows mean:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 👉Instagram may be cleaning up bot accounts (and some of those follow you)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 👉People change interests/jobs/cities/habits and your account no longer fits⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 👉People are trying to lower the amount of accounts they follow⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 👉You haven't changed your strategy in a while and your content is dated (in which case, DM me and I can help!)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Note that it's ACTUALLY GOOD to lose followers, because disengaged followers do more harm than good to your account (hi, algorithm!). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I lose around 100-200 per week. The trick is to be able to gain new followers at equal or higher speed.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ So if you lose some followers, don't worry!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ . #yoursocialteam #femalefounders #shemeansbusiness #fempowerment #femalebusinessowner #bossbabetribe #motivatedwomen #bossbabemovement #societygal ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #femaleboss #womeninbiz #beyourownboss #workfromhome #entrepreneurmindset #solopreneur #bosschick #thefutureisfemale #femaleceo #entrepreneurlifestyle #selfemployed #femaleentrepreneurs #womennetworking #bizbabe #businessbabes #MyOwnBoss #womenwholead #mompreneur #womenentrepreneursunite
@yoursocialteam on Instagram provides beneficial Instagram tips for their audience. Image via @yoursocialteam Instagram post
Try to get into the mind of your audience to understand what types of content they want to engage with. If you are struggling to come up with ideas, you can turn to your peers and other influential creators in your niche to see what kind of content generates the most buzz.
11. Include relevant hashtags in your content
Hashtags on Instagram are like keywords for your Instagram photos that can help potential followers find your content. Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than posts without hashtags, so don’t forget to add those hashtags to both your Instagram posts and Instagram Stories.
Currently, users can use a maximum of 30 hashtags for posts and 10 hashtags for stories, but research on how many hashtags is best to use is split. A study from Sprout Social suggests the ideal number of hashtags is between two and five, while Agorapulse found that using all 30 hashtags resulted in the most likes
Each account will be different, so you should experiment with different numbers of hashtags in your posts to see how many are best for you.
When deciding what hashtags to use for your Instagram content, avoid using generic hashtags such as “#love” and instead use hashtags you think your audience would search for.
To quickly generate a list of relevant hashtags, go into your search page and search for one relevant hashtag. For example, let’s say we are trying to find hashtags for crafting:
When you search for hashtags, Instagram automatically recommends other related hashtags. You can quickly and easily generate a list of hashtags this way!
Another way to compile hashtags is by using a free hashtag generator.
Whichever way you decide to find your hashtags, make sure to click on “View Insights” under your Instagram post to see how your hashtags are performing:
I like to save groups of hashtags in my “Notes” app on my phone so I can easily copy and paste them to my photos.
12. Take advantage of Instagram’s features
Instagram makes it easy for creators to sell their products and share their ideas. If you aren’t using all the features Instagram has to offer, you’re missing out!
Here are some features you can incorporate into your Instagram strategy.
Instagram Stories offer many different ways for you to engage and interact with your followers. Some of the current Instagram Story features to incorporate into your stories are:
- Location tagging
- Emoji sliders
- Instagram Live
Instagram is always adding new features, so make sure to check often for new things to try!
Instagram videos uploaded to your feed can only be one minute long, but IGTV videos can be up to 10 minutes long (verified brands can upload videos up to 60 minutes).
IGTV previews can be shared to your Instagram feed, making it the perfect way to capture and direct the attention of your followers to your IGTV.
One hundred and thirty million users tap on shopping posts each month. If you sell a physical product, you’ll want to take advantage of shoppable stickers on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
With her first-ever Mother's Day on the horizon, our friend @marylawlesslee writes: “My heart is grateful and I’m finding joy in the little things…time to spend loving our little ones, time for long walks, time for cooking, time for puzzles, time for messes, time to process, time to reflect, time to reset.” #LettersFromMom 💕 (link in bio to shop) For the chance to win two $500 e-gift cards (one for you, one for her), share your own #LettersFromMom. To enter, write or record a heartfelt “letter” that captures your gratitude and love – then share it on your public Instagram account, either with a photo, video, or in the caption of the post. Then, tag @anthropologie, #AnthroGiveaway, and #LettersFromMom. Good luck!
Anthropologie uses shoppable posts to promote products. Image via @anthropologie Instagram post
13. Make your Instagram accessible to everyone
When it comes to best practices and Instagram in 2020, accessibility might be something you haven’t thought about yet. Thirty percent of Instagram Stories are watched with the sound off, and many other users on Instagram are hearing/visually impaired. You don’t want anyone to miss out on your content simply because they weren’t able to access it in the first place.
Here are some easy ways you can ensure your content is accessible!
Add captions to videos on Instagram
Adding either captions or text that summarizes your talking points can help those who can’t hear the sound so they can still engage with your content.
View this post on Instagram
I am dishing on all the most common mistakes business owners make anne it comes to their Pinterest Marketing. These mistakes or assumptions really add up to a disastrous attempt at using Pinterest to grow your online business. Watch this video to learn if you are making any of these common Pinterest for Business mistakes #pinterestmarketing #pinterestforbusiness #socialmediastrategy #pinteresttips #socialmediamanagement
Meagan adds captions to her IGTV videos. Image via @meaganawilliamson’s IGVT video
Clipomatic is an app that automatically transcribes your videos for you, making it easy to upload content with captions.
Make use of Instagram’s alt text
Alt text (also known as “alternative text”) is an HTML code used to describe an image. This code is primarily used by screen readers for those who are visually impaired. Instagram allows you to add in your own alt text for your images so that those who are visually impaired can hear the alt text .
To edit the alt text of your photo, first, go to the image you’d like to add the alt text to and click on the ellipses in the top right corner.
Next, click on “Edit”. After you’ve opened the image to edit, you’ll be able to click on “Edit Alt Text”.
Your alt text should be a simple description of the image.
When someone with a screen reader is scrolling through Instagram, the screen reader will read what you have placed in the alt text.
14. Create a content schedule
Lots of content is being added to Instagram on a daily basis, in fact, brands post an average of 1.5 times per day.
Trying to come up with daily content on the fly is a mammoth task and can quickly lead to burn out.
Instead of trying to come up with your posts the day of, try creating a content schedule.
Having a content schedule for your Instagram account will help you remain accountable, come up with post ideas and stay consistent!
15. Repurpose your Instagram content
The average lifespan of an Instagram post is 48 hours, and engagement starts to slow around the six-hour point.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather stretch my posts to last longer than 48 hours, especially after I’ve put so much work into them!
The easiest way to increase the lifespan of your posts is to simply repurpose your content. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Turn a high-performing Instagram post into a blog post
- Take several Instagram stories and turn them into an IGTV
- Share your IGTV video to YouTube and Facebook
- Upload an Instagram Live to IGTV for those who missed it
16. Analyze your content
To tie it all together, the last best practice you can follow on Instagram is to analyze your content. As your audience changes and grows, you need to make sure they are still interested in the content you are posting.
Your Instagram Insights are packed with stats to help you understand what content your audience wants to see more of and can help you form your marketing strategy.
Don’t put all your eggs in the Instagram basket
As with any social media platform, it’s best practice to not rely on just one channel. I like to make sure that I can connect with my audience on various platforms, which is why I like to encourage my followers to sign up for my email list.
And don’t forget that the algorithm can change. You need to make sure that whatever changes come your way, you’ll always be able to stay in touch with your Instagram followers.
To connect with your audience off Instagram, you can build a free landing page with ConvertKit. Your landing page comes with a unique URL that you can add as your Instagram link-in-bio where your followers can sign up for your email list.