May 29, 2018 / in Comms Best Practices / by Maggie Latham

As Instagram becomes one of the largest and fastest growing social media platforms, it's essential as a marketing tool for businesses. There are now 800 million Instagram users, with 80 percent of them following brands on the platform.

One of the most effective characteristics of Instagram is its focus on visual aesthetics. Though timing, hashtags and engagement are all also very important, visuals can immediately inspire people to look at your brand’s profile and follow you. 

Check Out How Visual Storytelling Can Drastically Elevate Brand Success For More About The Psychology of Visual Content.

Unfortunately, the new Instagram algorithm creates a feedback loop where 70 percent of posts go unseen. This means that Instagram posts need to showcase unique content with a clearly defined aesthetic in order to attract attention and keep people engaged with your brand.

Here are five simple, but effective ways to improve visual content on Instagram:

Show Personal Experiences

Instagram photos that show personal experiences receive 22 percent more likes than other images on the same account. This could be anything from a visual story to an adventure photo log. Consider including user or employee-generated content of personal experiences, as people are more likely to be attracted to authentic photos that they can empathize with individually.

Further, posts that include faces get 38 percent more likes. An experiential photo including someone looking at the camera is a relatable post that is sure to maximize engagement.

REI does an excellent job of this as most of their photos show people taking part in an outdoor activity, many while looking at the camera. They create engaging photos that end up getting tons of comments and likes! This creates a community around their brand that is indispensable to their growth as an outdoors-outfitter. 

Currently, REI is asking people to send them photos of their landscape-inspired tattoos as a way to engage more of an audience on Instagram. They are utilizing the fact that scenery images are the third most popular subject matter on Instagram, earning on average 90 likes and 45 comments.

As seen below, most of these campaign photos are user-generated and include a face and landscape as well. These are all qualities that make them engaging. 

REI Instagram Post.png

Post Something Different 

Due to the fast-paced nature of Instagram, posting something different, but eye-catching, can be a useful tool.

For example, fashion brand Creatures of Comfort posts pictures of baby animals every so often. This may seem unrelated, but it fits in with their brand name and engages their audience. In fact, posts of animals are the second most engaged subject matter on Instagram, receiving on average 120 likes and 60 comments. 

After a while, these posts aren’t out of the ordinary, rather, they become a visual trademark of the brand. 


Give a Glimpse of What Goes on Behind the Scenes

It’s compelling to be able to peak into a whole new world through Instagram, and that’s why some of the most popular profiles are ones that show a new perspective. Businesses can use this curiosity to their advantage and show what goes on behind the scenes. This engages followers and keeps interest to stick around for more. 

Block Shop Textiles does an amazing job of showing their process, not just images of their final product. They showcase both the artist-founders and craftspeople that work for the brand behind the scenes. Many of these images include the employees that create their products in India. These images draw people in with curiosity and are notable as an act of transparency. They show the honest conditions and ethics behind their manufacturing, which is very important to today’s consumer.

Block Shop’s behind the scenes images are so integral to their Instagram feed that they have become central to the aesthetic style of the brand.



Pay Attention to Color And Lightness 

When it comes to styling and editing, choose a uniform color scheme. Also, working with tone and lightness in mind makes a huge difference. This creates the characteristic visual style of your brand, which is needed to attract and retain consumers.

Keep in mind that images with a blue (cold) tone tend to do better than those with more red (warm) tones. Either way, consistency is the most important. According to Curalate, lighter images get 24 percent more likes, most likely because they stand out best in the feed. 

Fiskars is a good example of a brand that uses color and editing wisely. While featuring their classic orange products, they consistently add other complementary colors into their Instagram feed. As seen below, their photos incorporate many hues (particularly greens) and then use a neutral background to create vibrant contrasts. In addition, most of Fiskars’ photos have a cool tone and all of them have bright lighting.

When viewing Fiskars' Instagram profile page, you can see how their color scheme is clean, balanced and consistent. 

fiskar instagram.png

Consider the Caption Visually

Captions on Instagram are nearly as significant as the photos themselves. Words give meaning to the photos and they can make a big difference.

It's important to write captions for word choice as well as think about them visually. Short sentences do much better on Instagram because they are quick and easy to read. As evidence of this, posts with a caption where the user has to click “more” tend to receive 15 percent fewer likes and comments on average.

Also, consider using emojis. These small pictures can express actions, emotions or ideas and are a fun way to show your brand’s personality. They get the point across quickly with less, which is vital on Instagram where so many brands are competing for attention. Plus, their popularity is growing rapidly.

Pixar uses short, fun sentences combined with a few emojis to create an engaging caption. They don’t use more than 3-4 emojis, which is an amount you shouldn't exceed, for risk of distracting users. 

Pixar Instagram.png

Avoid These Mistakes and Put Your New Visual Knowledge to Use

Visuals rule the world of social media, especially Instagram. Remember that posts do much better when they include less text both in the image and caption.

Though consistency is very important, don’t keep using a color palette or subject matter if you’re not getting enough engagement from those posts.

Stop thinking about posts separately. Instead, make sure they fit into the profile page as a cohesive whole.

Creating a visual content strategy for Instagram is a process that must be thoughtfully considered and executed. If you follow these tips and focus on visuals you will be sure to attract and maintain followers.

Instagram Best Practices for Business CTA.png

Tags : Social Media

Most Recent Posts

Cision Blogs Topics

  • Communications Best Practices

    Get the latest updates on PR, communications and marketing best practices.

  • Cision Product News

    Keep up with everything Cision. Check here for the most current product news.

  • Executive Insights

    Thought leadership and communications strategy for the C-suite written by the C-suite.

  • Media Blog

    A blog for and about the media featuring trends, tips, tools, media moves and more.

About Maggie Latham

Maggie Latham is an artist/designer, writer and small business owner. She has written for Cision on the topics of brand design, social media marketing and conscious business.