Creating Instagram Content That Will Actually Engage Followers
By Adam Gresch
When using Instagram to grow your business, it’s essential to build up an audience that is engaged and loyal to your brand. But how can you ensure these followers engage with your posts and, in turn, help you to grow as a business on Instagram? Three words: quality Instagram content.
If you don’t have the time or the resources to take your own photos for Instagram, don’t fret! There are plenty of ways to create an engaging feed with a cool aesthetic– even if you’re selling something as unglamorous as, say, tupperware, or promoting an entirely digital product that seems impossible to visualize.
This article will cover exactly how to research images for your Instagram account, where you can find them, and what you need to consider when using them to promote your brand. You’ll also find some helpful design tips to make sure all the images in your feed are on point so you can wow your community and make it near impossible for them to stop scrolling.
Want to know what those tips are? Well then, keep scrolling
How to Create Quality Instagram Content
to Engage Followers (+ Design Tips!)
1. Research ready-to-use templates
There are also plenty of tools out there to help you create great Instagram posts without being a savvy Photoshop user. Online design tools such as Spark Post from Adobe, Canvaand Venngage are incredibly useful when it comes to crafting attractive visuals for social media.
Maybe you want to create a post to promote a special offer? Perhaps you need a template to announce new opening times for your business? Or maybe you want to push a recipe you’ve shared on your blog?
Whatever message you want to send, you can do it with a template! Take a look at this example from Venngage–a great template for food bloggers or restaurants:
You can go for a plain or patterned background for a simplified look or even use a product image if you’re boosting for sales. Having a bank of high-resolution photographs of your products could really help get you out of a sticky situation if you ever find yourself low on content for Instagram. A simple, slick product photo can work wonders for your engagement if you have a strong community of fans.
2. Find high-quality stock images
Stock images have got a bit of a bad rep in recent times, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t be using them!
On the contrary, they can help you create a varied feed when used with a mixture of other images, such as templates. That said, not all stock images have got what it takes to be given a prime spot in your feed–some can be pretty terrible!
To find high-quality photos that don’t actually look “stocky”, head to Unsplash or Stocksnap.io. They offer a range of images for free, and you’re bound to find something suitable whatever your niche.
If you have a bit of budget to spend, try Stocksy. As you would expect for a paid service, the quality of the images is higher, and the variety is wider.
Just make sure to purchase the correct image size (there are a few available at different prices), bearing in mind the recommended dimensions of an Instagram post are 1080p x 1080p.
3. Mix it up with different formats
It’s important not to neglect the variety of content formats available to you as an Instagram user. Try out the carousel post to share up to ten images in one go, creating a photo-album feel. A 60 second video can also be a great way of showing your products in use for example, or simply a short tutorial or demonstration. Be careful not to come over too pushy with your product posts, though. You’ll want to vary your content themes to keep things balanced and encourage engagement from your followers!
Finally, you can make a step forward and go on creating GIFs.
Here’s an example from @stylelobster:
GIFs (which Instagram recognizes as videos) are simple to do and are an easy way to stand out from the crowd. GIFs are interactive. People like that.
4. Repost Instagram content from brands within your niche
Don’t have time to create your own Instagram content? Well, the good news is, you don’t need to!
It might be the case that other Instagram accounts are already doing a great job of producing content that your audience is interested in.
There’s nothing wrong with reposting Instagram content from brands similar to yours, or from any account that is relevant to your audience and your Instagram strategy, as long as you ask permission and give proper credit.
To repost Instagram content, and do it “legally”, here’s what you need to do:
4.1 Follow hashtags and accounts to discover quality content
To source content to repost, brainstorm some brands that have inspiring Instagram accounts, a similar audience to yours, and who aren’t direct competitors.
Check out their Instagram accounts and then make a list of those that produce the best content for you to share.
Start following them so you stay up to date with their recent posts, and save any specific posts you think are share-worthy by tapping the bookmark icon below any Instagram post or video.
You can even create a separate Collection, where you can save the posts you want to re-post to your own account in the future.
You can also create a list of all the main hashtags relevant to your account and search these hashtags to find associated content from other users. If you want to know more about how to do this, check out this post on how to find the hashtags that will bring you the most visibility and engagement.
As of December 2017, you can follow hashtags so that popular associated posts appear in your feed, making it easier to discover great content to repost! Just search the hashtag on Instagram and click the follow button–it couldn’t be easier!
4.2 Reach out to the user for permission to repost
When you find a post you want to share with your followers, simply send a DM to the user or comment on the photo to let them know you a) love their Instagram content and that you think your users will enjoy it too, and b) to ask for permission to share it to your feed.
Let them know you’ll give them proper credit, and most of the time they’ll be happy to get more exposure and to know you think they’re doing a great job.
To show the user exactly which post you want to share, rather than sending a general DM, select the arrow symbol beneath the post and send it to the user.
You’ll be able to add your message the photo and the message will go directly to their DMs.
4.3 Share the photo or video to your feed
Once you’ve got the go-ahead to share the content, you have two options:
4.4 Save the photo from Instagram Desktop
Option 1: Find the photo you want to repost → Click on it → Double click on it again → Go to “View Page Source” → A new tab will open → Click “Command+F” and type in “jpg” → the first JPG file you find in the source page is the URL source of the post you need → Copy and paste the URL → Type it in a new tab in the browser → Right click → “Save image as” → Et voila!
Once you have the image, upload it to your feed, creating a new caption that refers to the account and tags them in both the caption and the image. To save time and streamline the process, you can schedule your posts for automatic publishing with Iconosquare. The Iconosquare scheduler also allows you to pull saved hashtags into your posts, and view previous captions for inspiration, as well as view how your post will look in your feed before it goes live.
Option 2: Use a repost tool such as Repost for Instagram
Repost for Instagram makes it easy to repost photos & videos on Instagram while giving credit to the original Instagrammer. When you find something you want to repost, just copy the share URL and open Repost.
Once in the app, you can position the watermark and send the reposted media back to Instagram. It’s more straightforward than the first method, but note that with the Repost app, it’s not possible to remove the watermark.
5. Run a UGC campaign
On the topic of using Instagram content other people created, it’s also a good idea to encourage your existing followers to create content around a specific topic that you can post to your feed.
This kind of content is referred to as “UGC”, or user generated content. The term also applies more broadly to any content created by users of any products or services about those particular products/services, with or without encouragement from the brand themselves.
However, unless you’re a huge, well-established brand, it’s unlikely users will create Instagram content about you and your products without an incentive.
Get around this by running a competition where users can win something by creating an Instagram post and tagging it with your own brand hashtag, or a campaign hashtag.
Offering followers a free product or a discount, for example, will help you build momentum for your campaign as more users are likely to use your hashtag. Announce your competition across your other social media channels and include it in your newsletter–basically, get the word out however you can to get things started!
If you want to monitor the performance of your campaign hashtag, you can track it using a tool such as Iconosquare. On a PRO or above Plan with Iconosquare, you can see all associated media for the hashtag, your hashtag growth over time and the engagement on the hashtag.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t be too restrictive with the type of content you ask your users to post, otherwise they aren’t going to bother!
UGC should be a supplementary strategy to sourcing content for your feed, rather than the focus. If you rely too much on UGC, your followers will feel like you’re exploiting them, and you’ll also have less control over the aesthetic of your feed.
6. Collaborate with influencers
If you want more control over your feed, and a consistent flow of on-brand Instagram content, you should consider working with influencers.
By collaborating with influencers who already have a good sized following, you have the opportunity to expand your audience and gain a lot of new followers for your own account.
You will also have some great content for your feed! Just check out the feed of makeup brand @TooFaced–a lot of their posts are actually reposts from influencers promoting Too Faced products.
Of course, if you’re a small business with a small business budget, you’ll want to connect with micro-influencers rather than the big names.
Micro-influencers will have a following between 10,000 – 50,000, and it’s easier to strike a deal with them–but only if you’re selling a product that their audience will be genuinely interested in. That’s why you need to make sure you’re only contacting influencers who fit within your niche.
You can send a DM on Instagram, though usually influencers, such as @elnaz_golrokh who I’ve featured in the example below, will have contact information in their Instagram bios for collaboration inquiries.
Design tips for creating your own Instagram Content
1. Define a clear focal point
Instagram is all about getting your followers to pause on and engage with your photos, and there are a few knacks to getting them to do just that. For instance, having a clear focal point could help users linger on your image. An image which is too busy is confusing to the eye and will have the opposite effect. Our brains do all these calculations without us even realizing, so it’s important to really take the time to ponder over your own content before asking your followers to do so once published.
Take a look at this example from @konaction: everything about this photo pinpoints to an object (the girl). The bold contrast (black object against a white background) also makes sure that the eye is immediately drawn to the image’s central focus:
2. Abide by the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is a classic photography rule which any photographer would be able to tell you about. To execute the rule of thirds, you need to imagine a 9-part grid overlaying your image, aligning its most interesting features along the intersections. For a more interesting shot, adjust the focal point in one third of the image.
3. Allow for white space and borders
Leaving white edges around your Instagram images can create an unusual effect which attracts the eye more than an image with no border. This is especially true if the image respects previous points such as the rule of thirds and the clear focal point. Borders help ensure that elements in your design have room to breathe: an important aspect to consider if you want to avoid an overly busy post.
4. Pay attention to contrast and balance
For an image to stand out in an Instagram feed, it must have contrasting elements. The contrast can refer to colors, shapes, fonts, light and exposure, scale, white spaces and many more. Finding the contrast which makes your image pop is entirely down to you – and it is an essential step in getting your followers to engage with your content.
To begin with, you can play around with filters and the editing suite on the Instagram app. These editing tools don’t get a lot of publicity, but they’re really nifty and simple to use for great results. More often than not, the only thing it takes to make your photo stand out is to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and temperature.