What should I post on Instagram? Part 2
Updated: Aug 4
Not surprisingly, it's a question we get asked a lot. So this article, a follow-up to the one I wrote before on a similar topic, looks at the question from a few more angles.
What should you be aiming to achieve from your posts, and what's important to bear in mind? What have we seen working well based on our experience at Feed? And does our data back up the anecdotal evidence, or the commonly perceived wisdom?
What determines whether a follower sees your post?
There's a little more detail in this great TechCrunch post, but there are 3 key factors determining whether someone sees a post you make:
Interest: how much Instagram thinks they will care about the content given their interests and past behaviour.
Recency: priority is given to newer posts.
Relationship: the more they interact with you on Instagram (commenting on posts, appearing with you in photos), the more likely they are to see your posts.
However, on top of organic post performance (normal posting) you'll also want to think about paid performance, ie. running ads using the same post content.
Whether you're using tool like Feed to find new followers and fans, Facebook Ads Manager, or simply boosting a post, you should bear in mind the same content you post may also be used for your Facebook & Instagram ads.
So, get your followers talking.
Bearing this in mind, what should you do?
On factor 1), all you can do is post as frequently as you are able / want to. That doesn’t mean you have to post every day, what’s important is sticking to whatever frequency you decide works for you. Once a week is good place to start, though you could post even less if you're strong in factors 2) and 3).
For factor 2), you need to make sure you're reaching people who are interested in what you do and attracting the right followers - this topic merits a series of articles in itself, but a clever tool like Feed can help you find the right people if you're short on time 😉.
On that third 'Relationship' factor, it's really important to engage your followers in conversation on Instagram. Likes are all well and good, but comments and dialogue are best at strengthening the 'Relationship' you have with your followers.
There are a few approaches that can help with this:
Ask your audience questions when you post. It could be work related ('Anyone know a good female jazz vocalist?') but it could be a throwaway question ('Any recommendations for good Mexican food in London?') or just something totally random ('Anyone know what this rash is?'... maybe not).
Keep the conversation going. Reply to comments people have made on your posts, tag people when it makes sense to, and interact with other people’s posts too! That last part has the added benefit of people who don’t follow you seeing your name.
Where you can, invite a response. Think about how you can invite a response, so you're not just throwing out content into the ether but actually starting a dialogue. For example, polls are fun and easy for people to interact with, and a great feature to include in Instagram stories. Share any good replies you get.
Keep it natural, avoid 'sales-y' or marketing posts.
I realise I bang on about this a lot... but it's TRUE, and I will continue to do so until it's no longer surprising to anyone.
Anecdotally, we've seen this with so many people using Feed. When people already follow you, they want to hear from the real you. When people are deciding whether they should follow you, they also want to hear from the real you.
Does our data back this up? Well, posts that are a direct sell - like a picture of some album artwork saying 'MY ALBUM OUT NOW' - perform 50% worse as ads than more natural feeling posts. (This data is taken from a sample of people using Feed, and I chose ad results to illustrate this point as it strips out factors like the time the post was made, or the size of your audience at the time of the post).
It's not to say that you should never post anything sales-y... but maybe keep that as the exception rather than the rule.
posts that are a direct 'sell'... perform 50% worse as ads than more natural feeling posts
Posts that work well tend to give a more 'natural' insight into you and your work. Here's a few ideas for an approach that might work for you:
Make it sound like you. It might be useful to imagine posting as if you're talking to a friend. You can still mention what you're 'selling', but keep the language conversational and casual.
Know your audience, and what they like. The Overland are really good at doing this. They post as people who love cycling and outdoor pursuits, not just people who make and sell cycling and adventure sport clothing. Their filter when it comes to posting is “if I find this interesting, someone else probably will too”... the same could be said of any person posting to their following.
Get nerdy with it. Post the details, or a review, of the latest synth you bought. Talk about your creative process in detail, or the materials you work with. Go beyond the superficial and give people some insight - again, chances are if you find it interesting then they will too.
It's all about the face.
You're probably sick of hearing this, but photos or videos of you really do perform better than posts where you don't appear.
It's not that surprising that these posts would be more engaging, given that social media is meant to be... social. If you're a musician, your fans follow you because they love your music, true, but I would guess most fans are interested in the person or people behind the music as well.
Again our data backs this up, and shows that posts featuring you perform a massive 141% better as ads versus posts where you're not featured, on average. The same trend is true for organic engagement too!
posts featuring you perform a massive 141% better as ads versus posts where you're not featured
Unlike the idiot below, you might not be comfortable talking to camera or being face-on in shot. That's ok, even Louis Theroux has said he doesn't like it.
But maybe you can find a way of being featured in your post that works for you, for example:
Engaging in your craft. A post that shows you designing your products, or writing, or recording & making music. Ask a friend to shoot you side on, or just get a cheap tripod.
Performing. This goes without saying, but footage of you performing on stage - or even just at home - works really well. Often amateur phone footage works the best, going back to the 'keep it natural' point.
Behind the scenes ('BTS') content. Wherever you can, build up a bank of BTS footage - from your day-to-day work, recording music, performing or at an event. People love insight into your process, and it's a nice way of talking indirectly about your products, or your latest release.
Press shots. If you have a photoshoot, get as many workable photos as you can, in different locations, so you have a bunch of photos you can post over time. And get some BTS shots of the photoshoot too!
Video killed the (static picture) star.
You may have heard that video posts are better at engaging people than those with images. Instagram have stated that they don't explicitly favour photo or video content - users simply see more of what they have engaged with historically.
However, what we've seen at Feed suggests that video does seem to work better in terms of getting people's attention. This makes sense if you think about a casual user of Instagram - scrolling through their feed, they're probably more likely to be grabbed by audiovisual content than a static picture.
Does the data back this up? Well, yes. Across the many thousands of ads run through Feed, video ads outperformed those with a static image by 65%. And again, there’s a similar trend in organic posts.
video ads outperformed those with a still image by 65%.
There's also the discussion around short form content (eg. Instagram stories, TikTok videos) versus longer form (IGTV). My opinion is that it's good to mix it up. Short form, impactful content is definitely best for catching people's attention and building an audience, both for organic posts and ads. But it's also nice to have some long form content on your feed too, so you have something more substantial to offer your audience when they have a little more time.
So, to summarise, there are some general principles you can apply when thinking about what to post on Instagram (backed up by our data):
Keep it natural, informal and avoid using sales-y content too much.
Try a few posts featuring you in them.
Focus on content your audience will be interested in - your creative process, BTS posts, 'nerdy' content etc.
Talk with your followers, and invite conversation through your posting.