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What makes a “good” Instagram post? Is it the one with hundreds of likes? Or the one with dozens of comments with engaging conversation? Whatever you prefer, a little bit of thought and planning can help you on your way to Instagram virality!
Since Instagram is a visual platform, the photo you’re posting is the logical first place to start. It’s important to have a good quality photo that’s visually interesting in some way. This does not mean your photo has to be taken with a fancy camera, nor do you need to invest in ring lights and tripods. It simply means your photo is well lit, in focus and shows good use of the rule of thirds. Photos with faces in them gain 38% more likes than those that don’t, especially a smiling and friendly one.
People are also more likely to engage with bright photos that are eye-catching and colourful. That being said, dark and moody photos certainly have their place. What’s most important is that the photo is relevant to you and what your audience likes and expects from you. A good place to start in making that decision is to consider the mood you wish your brand to convey. Is it cosy and homely, or friendly and happy? Are you featuring more scenery or at home photos? Your location in the world may also affect this decision. This is purely anecdotal, but I’ve found that bright photos perform better now that I live in Brisbane. But, dark and moody photos were perfectly at home when I lived in London!
If it’s natural, consider turning your post into a carousel! A lot of users have discovered that carousel posts are outperforming single photos. Instagram seems to be presenting carousel posts to followers multiple times with different photos as the “lead” to encourage engagement. Next time you’re scrolling your feed, pay attention to who is using carousel posts and note if you see them again later in the day!
Carousel photos will be posted in the same ratio as each other. Therefore it’s important you use a cropping tool like Lightroom to export your photos to the same size. Instagram recommends that portrait photos are a 4×5 ratio for best results, whereas landscape photos are 1.91:1. And of course you can still post square photos! To ensure your carousel posts correctly, when in Instagram gallery, select your first cropped photo only. “Pinch” the photo so it fits properly on the screen as you exported it and then click “add multiple”. Now you can select the rest of your photos as you would normally and they will automatically be “pinched” to the same ratio as the first.
Now let’s talk about your caption! This is where the engagement really happens. People will “like” a good quality photo, but if you want comments you need to give them something to talk about. (And you should want comments as this can help boost you in the algorithm!)
First off, think about your above the line headline. You have about 10-15 words to capture people’s attention before your post is cut off by the “more” button. Make them count! Say something that will make your followers stop scrolling and click to find out more. Don’t go full click-bait of course; introduce your topic and keep it concise!
With the rest of your caption, keep it simple! Get your point across in a clear and concise manner, while keeping it chatty. If it’s on brand for you, definitely intersperse your caption with emoji’s. I personally avoid using emoji’s mid-sentence though. Like hashtags in the middle of sentences, I feel that it distracts the eye and disjoints the flow of the sentence. Dot points are an excellent idea for captions; people love to read lists! Long paragraphs of words can be off-putting and may cause your followers to scroll away. By the same logic, keep your sentences short without sounding robotic.
Round it up! Finish off the caption by asking a question or providing a quick call to action. Questions will generally work better for engagement; seek opinions on what you’ve said or ask for personal experiences. People love to talk about themselves, and this may even lead to some valuable market insight! If you’re going for a call to action, avoid making it too complicated. Instagram is tricky because there’s too many clicks involved in getting people to take an action. People will lose interest if there’s too many steps to follow your CTA.
In most cases, you’re better off building trust and establishing a community within the platform. Obviously still do promote your website, but make sure you mix it up. Be pickier with when you use a CTA for when you really want that traffic or it’s something that will provide the most value. That being said, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself and repurpose content. The same people who like their info in succinct dot-pointed captions aren’t necessarily the same people who will click through and read a 1000-word blog post. If they are, imagine your caption as a teaser/taster for the full story! Establishing yourself as an engaging brand that provides good quality content will leave an impression beyond Instagram. This can potentially help to drive traffic later on.
If you’ve made it this far, I think it’s time to remind you that none of this matters if you aren’t on the platform engaging as often as you can! Instagram is not the place to post and run; you will only get out how much you put in.
(I’m looking at you, businesses who keep posting those graphics begging for engagement…)
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Let me know what you think! Has this post helped you craft more engaging Instagram posts? Get in touch.