Note: this is a very long and very informational guide to Instagram, so we have broken it up into two separate blog posts. Click here for part one.
In The Beginner’s Guide to Crushing It on Instagram: Part One, we covered the process of setting up and optimizing your Instagram account. In Part Two, we will be covering posting on Instagram - what to post, when to post, how often to post, and posts vs. stories.
Posting on Instagram
Now that your profile is optimized, it time to start posting! If you have not created and optimized your Instagram profile, check out part one of The Beginner's Guide to Crushing It on Instagram here.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
What to Post
When to Post
How Often to Post
Posts vs. Stories
What to post
This is a tough topic for a blog post because what you post is completely dependent on your account. There are a few categories that almost all business accounts should post, those are:
Behind the Scenes
One of the biggest keys to growing a loyal following on Instagram is to provide your audience with something. We already established that there are over one hundred million Instagram accounts, so why should someone follow YOURS?
Also, be sure that you’re posting high-quality photos. This does not mean that you can’t use your phone, but be sure you’re taking photos in good lighting and that you’re editing your photos if need be (have you seen our Lightroom Presets?!). One thing we see ALL. THE. TIME. is people not having success on Instagram and complaining about the algorithm or something, but when we take a look at their profile it’s full of low-quality photos (dark, blurry, etc.).
I know I keep talking about the amount of users on Instagram, but it is so so important. According to WordStream, 95 million Instagram posts are posted each day. Users are consuming tons of content, low quality photos are going to be scrolled past so quickly.
This one probably goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway. Showcase your products or services! Just make sure you’re not too pushy or salesy with your posts. Instead, show the benefits of your products/services. Play off your audience’s emotions - what will your followers gain by purchasing your product or by working with you? Maybe you could tell a story about a happy customer or share a testimonial.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Make your followers feel like they know you/your brand. The more you open up to your followers, the more they’ll feel connected with you. Show your workspace or your creation process. Give your followers a personal look into your business!
Teach your followers something! If you’re an organic dog food brand, post an infographic about the benefits of feeding your dog grain-free food. Or post a cute dog to capture the attention of your audience, then provide some information in the caption. Not only will this teach your followers something new, it’ll also position you as a leader in your niche and will potentially sell some dog food as well.
Tell your story. Introduce yourself, your business, your team members, etc. Provide your audience with some background info - why’d you start your business? How’d you get to where you are today?
I like to do an introduction every month or two. Your newer followers may not have seen your older posts, so it’s always good to do periodic re-introductions. This also gives you an opportunity to learn more about your audience - encourage them to introduce themselves in the post’s comments!
No matter your niche, quotes always do well on Instagram. Just make sure it’s not too long of a quote - that should go in your caption. Share a short post that can be read while someone is scrolling through their feed. Make it a relatable quote - this will encourage comments or even better, it’ll have your followers tagging their friends or sharing it on their own feed.
When posting quotes, it’s always best to have your name or logo somewhere on the image. That way, if it’s shared by another account, people will be exposed to your business even if the account that shared it did not give you credit in the caption.
When to post
Instagram used to show posts in chronological order. When that was the case, the timing of posts was crucial to keep your post from getting lost amongst all of the other posts on your followers’ feeds. But now the algorithm focuses on showing users the posts that they think you want to see rather than the posts in order of when they were posted (we’ll go deeper into this later).
Basically, there’s no magical time of day that’s best for posting. With a new account, you’ll want to test out different times - post a few times in the morning, a few times in the afternoon, a few times in the evening. Post at least one post each day of the week. Once you’ve done all of that, you can check out your statistics and see if there’s a time that gets more engagement than others.
Instagram analytics will show you what times your followers are most active. But when you’re starting out, the stats won’t be very beneficial. Once you have a significant following (500+) you can use your analytics to see when your followers spend the most time on Instagram. But just because your followers are active does not mean they’re for sure going to see your post, so don’t put too much concern into the timing of your posts.
How often to post
When you start your account and want to maximize your reach and exposure, the more you post, the better. But, we always encourage quality over quantity. So you’re better off posting 4 amazing posts a week than posting average posts 2x/day. This is going to be dependent on how much time you’re able to dedicate to content creation and posting. Figure out what you have time for and go from there.
Consistency is more important than frequency, so whether you’re posting a few times a day or a few times a week, just try to remain consistent!
Posts vs. Stories
Instagram has three main places to post: on your feed, in your stories, and on IGTV.
We have a full guide to IGTV which you can read here, so we’re not going to go too deep into that in this post. We’re going to focus on posts and stories - what the difference is and what to post on each.
Instagram posts are the posts that appear on your Instagram feed. They are made up of a photo and an optional caption, and they are permanently on your feed unless you delete or archive them.
Posts should be intentional. Your followers can like, comment, share, and save your posts, and you want to encourage as much of this engagement as possible.
To increase the potential reach of your post, we suggest adding a location to your post (this means your post will be seen by anyone who views posts from that specific location), especially if location is relevant to your business. It’s not necessary, and location won’t always be relevant to your post (like for text posts or graphics), but it is good to do when possible because it’s extra potential exposure, which is always good!
We also suggest tagging relevant accounts on your posts, this way your post will come up if someone’s viewing the posts that those accounts have been tagged in. It also makes it more likely that the accounts you tagged in your post will engage with your account, which let’s Instagram know that your account is similar or associated with theirs. For example, lots of female bloggers and business owners tag Girlcrush Collective in their posts, and we try to at least like every post that we are tagged in.
Captions are very important. Your caption style is up to you - some accounts post long, blog-like captions on their posts and some post short sentences. Personally, we post a combination of both. Test them out and see what feels right for you and your brand!
The algorithm really puts a lot of emphasis on engagement. The more engagement your post receives, the more likely it’ll be seen by other accounts, whether it’s by making it on the explore page or making it to the top posts on specific hashtags. When writing your caption, you want to encourage users to comment. You should aim to include a call to action in as many of your captions as possible. Some good call to actions include:
Asking your followers a question
Telling your followers to tag a friend
When it comes to comments, you should try to respond to as many as possible. Your response will also count as engagement and it will help create a deeper connection with your audience. Bonus points if you can get a whole conversation going in your comments!
Instagram stories are vertical photos or videos that are visible for 24-hours. If you have a story on your account, there will be a red/orange circle around your profile photo. They’re not necessarily as important or crucial to your account’s success as posts on your feed, but they are an extra way to connect with your audience - and they can be a lot of fun!
Stories are much more casual than posts on your feed - you do not need to spend as much time and energy planning them. Instagram stories have really become a world of their own over the past few years. There’s so much more that you can do with them now than just sharing a photo or video; it seems like they’re adding new Instagram story features every time I’m on Instagram!
Instagram story features:
Tag accounts, locations, and hashtags
Use a countdown sticker
Share live videos
Add gifs and stickers
Tagging accounts, locations, and hashtags
Stories are less likely to reach accounts that are not already following you. However, you can tag other accounts, locations, and hashtags in your stories. If you tag another account, they will be notified in their direct messages and will have the ability to reshare it onto their own stories. If you tag a location or hashtag, it’ll be visible if someone is viewing that location or hashtag.
Adding links to your Instagram stories
The ability to add links to your Instagram stories is one of the very best features of Instagram stories, as you cannot post clickable links in your post captions and you can only post one link in your bio. But this amazing feature is not so easy to come by - you have to have a business or creator profile AND at least 10,000 followers. Once you have the swipe-up feature, you can add a link to your story and your viewers can swipe up to view the link.
You can create a poll in your Instagram stories and your followers can select an answer. Once they’ve answered, they’ll see the percentage of users that have agreed or disagreed with them. You can ask any question and provide your followers with two answer choices. There are tons of ways to use this feature, such as to get opinions from your followers or just for fun. You’ll be able to see who responded to your poll and which answer they selected.
Similar to the polls feature, you can add a question box to your stories. But instead of selecting one of two preset answers, your followers can type out their response. You’ll be able to see all responses to your question and you have the option to share responses on your story.
Use a Countdown Sticker
Have an event coming up? Or maybe a 24-hour sale? You can let your followers know how much time is left by adding a custom countdown sticker to your story.
Share Live Videos
Live videos are a really cool feature of Instagram stories. You can choose to “go live” in your story and your followers can watch in real-time. They’ll be able to comment on your live video so you can engage instantly. Once you end your live video, it’ll remain visible for 24-hours, just like a regular Instagram story. You can even go live with another account - it’ll split the screen and you can talk with each other while your audience watches and comments!
Add GIFs and Stickers
Infuse some of your fun personality into your stories with the huge collection of GIFs and stickers. You can even create your own GIFs - learn more at https://giphy.com/.
For our favorite strategies for getting your audience to engage with your Instagram stories, check out this post. We also have 4 free Instagram story templates that you can use on your own stories - download them here.
We would LOVE to have you join the InstaCrush Society!
We have both free and paid memberships so you can choose the plan that is right for you! Our members receive our best tips, tricks, strategies, and resources for massive Instagram success every single month. If you’re serious about growing your Instagram, InstaCrush was made for you! Plus, all members (both free and paid) get to join the private InstaCrush Facebook Group where you can connect with us and the other members!
More Instagram Blog Posts to Read!
We also have lots of informational blog posts that’ll teach you some of our favorite strategies and hacks. Here’s a list of posts for you to read: