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23 Ideas for Marketers Wondering What to Post on Instagram

Darsana

Darsana Vijay
February 28, 2018

Instagram has turned out to be an engagement goldmine for brands in certain industries. For instance, cosmetic brands received 56,797 interactions per post on average on Instagram. This is even more impressive when compared to the engagement they received on Facebook (1,988) and Twitter (336). Naturally, this prompts brands to invest more effort in this platform. However, brands often find it difficult to figure out what to post on Instagram.

In this article, we look at some of the most engaging types of brand posts on Instagram from 2017. This way, brands can get an outline of what works on the platform and then customize it according to their messaging style and social media goals.

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23 Things to Post on Instagram

1. Giveaways, contests

Everybody likes free stuff. That is why marketers often turn to contests and giveaways to get some surefire engagement. It is a great way to grow your audience size and get some attention to your merchandise.

Personal care and retail brands heavily use this format to entice their customers with their products. The contest format subtly creates a desire for the product among their target audience. When you have to win something, it becomes something coveted and valuable.

Here’s a typical example from Tarte Cosmetics:

You can see the effect of this post on the brand’s audience size in the chart below:

Chart 1

Tarte’s giveaway post was published on the 9th. Between the 8th and 11th of January, they added 62,344 followers. It also brought in the most number of likes and comments that month.

Given such lucrative returns, you might want to try your hand at running a contest. This 10-step guide can get you started. You might want to get on that right away though. In the coming months, it has to be seen if Instagram will start penalizing the use of this format. Facebook has already put in place a system to discourage the use of engagement bait, or asking for engagement outright.

2. Thought leadership

Marketing on Instagram is all about expressing your product or service visually. Yet, it is not as simple as taking a picture of the product. Brands have to perfect their visual language so that they can deliver what their followers expect from them.

Here’s a great example from NASA:

NASA took the solar eclipse pictures that were flooding everybody’s social media feed a step further. They used a composite image to show the progression of the eclipse from Lincoln Beach, Oregon.

As you can see here, posts that feature a key competency set the brand apart from peers. Most successful brands use Instagram to project the USP of their product or service. This can lead to more impressive and memorable displays of thought-leadership.

3. Product features

Instagram also allows brands to create a cult around the product. Starbucks is a brand that does this better than any other. Their posts usually place their products center-stage. This way, the values that the brand stands for is tied to the product, thereby heightening exclusivity. This is especially true of flavors, cups etc that are sold only during a limited time every year.

4. Product launches

Brands also use product-focused messaging on Instagram to draw attention to new products, launches etc. Here’s an example from Qatar Airways:

5. User-generated content

When you are looking for things to post on Instagram, look no further than your customers.

Brands often source content from their consumers and influencers that feature their products. 73% of people said that user-generated content makes them feel more comfortable about their purchase decisions. It also encourages them to interact with the brand on social.

GoPro roped in one of their most popular consumers, Manny the ‘Selfie Cat’, to win stellar engagement on their post:

This post allows the brand to highlight how easily their customers can take stunning pictures using a GoPro.

6. Influencer and celebrity endorsements

For products that cater to a more specialized audience, say professional athletes etc, bringing in influencers can lend more credibility and reach. Take a look at how Nike introduced the Pro Hijab, tying up with Ibtihaj Muhammad, Zeina Nassar and Zahra Lari:

A post shared by nike (@nike) on

Under Armour tied up with footballer James Harrison to put up a crazy stunt that fit in with the ethos of the campaigns run by the brand in 2017. The star athlete lifted the collective amount of weights an average person would lift in a lifetime. Instagrammers couldn’t get enough of this, as evident from the 100 million video views it notched up.

7. Cause-related marketing/CSR

One of the most engaging content buckets for brands, we’ve found, features CSR initiatives. By aligning themselves with certain causes and issues, brands can project the ideals they stand by. To see how engaging this type of content can be, take a look at one of the most liked posts in the Auto industry from 2017:

Cause-related marketing is not always the same as documenting the CSR initiatives the brand undertakes. Brands use compelling stories to show their audience why a certain cause is worth their attention. Here’s a great example from GoPro:

CSR-focused content is great for positioning the brand. By showcasing the values that it stands by, the brand becomes more than just a sum of its products.

8. Holidays and Events

Brands regularly publish holiday-themed content on social media. Major holidays and events are important to brands as they get a large portion of their revenue around this time. So, it is essential that they get through to their target audience on social media.

Walt Disney World sets an example on how brands should convince the audience that the holidays are incomplete without them:

NYX Cosmetics took to Instagram to demonstrate why their products are a must-have on Halloween:

Gorgeous and haunting corpse bride look by @typical_white_girl_sfx 👰💙 She used our Soft Matte Lip Cream in 'Athens' along with our Vivid Brights Creme Colours in 'Blueprint' and 'Endless Skies' 🎃☠️ #Halloween is just around the corner! What are YOU going to be? #nyxcosmetics ____ P.S. Have you checked out our GWP (gift with purchase) deal happening on our website, app, and in our #NYXProfessionalMakeup stores? Now through 10/31: Spend $25 and get an Away We Glow Liquid Highlighter ✨ Spend $45 and get that PLUS a Wonder Stick ✨ Spend $65 and get those two items AND a Strobe of Genius Illuminating Palette! 🙌 Website: nyxcosmetics.com • Our NEW app: nyxcosmetics.com/app • Store locator: stores.nyxcosmetics.com

A post shared by NYX Professional Makeup (@nyxcosmetics) on

Apart from major holidays like Christmas, Halloween etc, brands have started creating content around quirky social media holidays too. These bring in a lot of engagement. When there is a large gap between major holidays, these bizarre holidays become welcome conversation starters.

Check out how Wilton Cake Decorating celebrated International Bacon Day

In addition to holidays, brands join in on other trending conversations to remain relevant and engage their audience. There is no one way to do this. A good place to start is to stay updated on hashtags, content formats and topics that are trending in your industry and among your target audience.

Here are a few examples from brands that have done an exceptional job at this:

9. Popular hashtags

A great way to scout for things to post on Instagram is by checking out trending hashtags.

As a fashion brand, Forever 21 needs to leverage the #OOTD hashtag. They did just that in a post that pandered to the feline loving community on Instagram.

Festival #ootd goalsss 💗🐶✨ @duckytheyorkie (Shop link in bio)

A post shared by forever21 (@forever21) on

10. Memes

Barkbox specializes in creating memes that dog-owners can relate to. Staying true to that, they published this meme around the holidays that had their audience doubled over:

11. DIY Ideas

Instead of boring your audience with content that is focused on your products, it pays to listen to what they are interested in. Lush cosmetics addressed their eco-conscious, diy-loving community with this post:

12. Quotes

It is challenging to get great engagement on a visual platform like Instagram using quotes. However, several brands have had success using crisp one-liners. The key is to choose quotes that aid the brand mission. The Honest Company has a unique, tried and tested approach to Instagram. They use quotes that summarize the daily struggles every parent faces. Their subtle humor and plain honesty have since become the brand’s signature:

13. Stunts and extreme sports

Another brand that has consistently taken their audience’s breath away with their unique brand of content is Red Bull. The extraordinary stunts that are featured in these videos have come to be synonymous with the spirit of the brand. Check it out:

14. Behind the scenes

People love it when brands let them in on some behind the scenes footage, especially when it is around major, exclusive events like fashion or auto shows. This article makes a compelling case for why brands need behind the scenes content.

One of Dior’s most engaging posts from 2017 featured an atelier getting Alana Haim’s dress ready ahead of the Guggenheim International Gala Dinner:

Behind the scenes videos and photos allow fans to access sights they are not privy to otherwise. By giving just a peek, this type of content heightens the exclusivity of these events. It is no surprise then that luxury brands were heavy users of this kind of content last year, as you can see from the chart below.

Chart 2

Almost a fourth of all the posts that contain behind the scenes content was from luxury brands.

15. Employee and workplace related

MAC Cosmetics shared a picture of their employees volunteering at HIV/AIDS organizations on World AIDS Day. Content of this sort helps brands highlight their social commitment:

MAC Cosmetics shared a picture of their employees volunteering at HIV/AIDS organizations on World AIDS Day. Content of this sort helps brands highlight their social commitment:

Social media audience love it when they get to see the humans that make the brand. It is for this reason that brands have used Instagram to tell employee stories. They can show their audience the hard work and commitment that goes behind building the brand. Here’s an example from Mercedes Benz:

16. Hyperlapse videos

On Instagram, more than any other social media platform, visual brilliance is key. This is why brands try out new formats and perspectives to wow their audience and rope in engagement. Hyperlapse videos allow brands to put a fresh spin on otherwise mundane images.

Porsche used a hyperlapse video to put a twist on their behind-the-scenes video. The visually stunning video gives the viewer a quick glimpse of what they’ve got going on at the warehouse of the Porsche museum. Take a look:



17. Stats and numbers

You do not necessarily need to post cat pictures or picturesque scenery to win engagement on Instagram. Even stats, charts and numbers can work on this platform. The trick is to transform these from boring tidbits on a report and get the numbers to tell a story visually. Obviously, it helps if you know that your followers are interested in this sort of content, as is the case with sports fans.

This post by NBA is a masterclass on how to make stats interesting and visually appealing:

18. Artsy stuff

Doodles, sketches, calligraphy are all extremely popular with a large section of the Instagram audience. Brands which are mindful of content trends their audience is engaging with can try to adapt them into their own content. Another approach is to share fan art, like Fenty Beauty has done here:

Obsessed with this fan art by @negrilamircea.

A post shared by FENTY BEAUTY BY RIHANNA (@fentybeauty) on

19. Offers and promotions

Everybody loves a good sale. Brands can make them even more appealing using creative visuals and copy on Instagram. The only catch is that brands cannot insert a link to their purchase pages online in post descriptions at the moment. Using Instagram stories can prove effective in this regard.

Posts can, however, be used to build up excitement about sales and offers and to remind your audience not to miss out on them. Check out how Victoria’s Secret did this:

It’s time: the Semi-Annual Sale starts NOW, in stores & online!

A post shared by Victoria's Secret (@victoriassecret) on

20. Throwback

A great way for brands to circumvent a content drought is by using throwback posts. They can share high quality images from a major event that has not been posted to Instagram yet. Brands that have been around for a while can use throwback posts to highlight their rich legacy and celebrate their history.

Auto brands like Aston Martin have used the obsession for all things vintage to their benefit:

21. Customers

Customer testimonials are an excellent way of showing how people actually use your product to get things done. Instead of limiting these to quotes on your websites, you can share your customer’s journey using visuals. This type of content can work out really well for B2B brands.

Here’s an example from Google’s campaign around Small Business Week:

22. Link to blog content

Brands that primarily use social media to drive traffic to their website and blog might find marketing on Instagram difficult. This is because Instagram still does not give you the option of sharing clickable links in the description. Coming up with compelling visual content that pushes your audience to go to your bio and click on the link or copy paste the link in the description to their browser is a challenge indeed.

The trick could be to give them a sneak peek of what they can get out of reading your blog. For instance, Urban Outfitters (see post below) showed their followers how perfect their shelfie might look like if they revamped their room based on the ideas shared in the blog post:

23. Recipes

Buzzfeed Tasty has made a lasting impact on social media. A large portion of food and fitness publications have adopted Tasty style videos to engage their followers. The appeal of these videos has not been lost on brands from other industries either. Even banks take to Instagram to share recipes!

Like all the other content ideas mentioned here, recipes also work the best when it fits in well within the campaigns brands have going on and their overall content strategy. Marvel celebrated 31 days of HelaWeen in October 2017 in the run up to the release of Thor: Ragnarok. By posting a Thor-themed recipe, Marvel was able to add some variety to their content. Check it out:

These are just a few examples of how brands can engage their audience on Instagram. Remember, engaging content is also about how well it fits your overall social media strategy. Therefore, make sure that you execute your content ideas to comply with your brand's mandates on tone, timing etc.

When you are trying to decide what to post on Instagram, be mindful of what’s trending among your audience. A great way to do this is by using Unmetric Discover.

With Unmetric Discover, you can:

  1. Search for any topic from a treasure trove of over 500 million pieces of branded content
  2. Monitor the topics and hashtags brands are jumping in on and how well they are engaging with fans
  3. Zero in on the latest and the most engaging content published over 100,000 major brands
  4. Plan campaigns in advance using our calendar of important days, events and holidays