Here's What to Post on Instagram: 21 Top Post Ideas & Examples
Wondering what to post on Instagram?
Wondering if there's a post template that is guaranteed to be a winner?
You're not alone, though, unfortunately Instagram marketing isn't as easy as pushing a "win" button.
There are, however, a few tried-and-true strategies which other businesses continually tap to find reasonably reliable success.
This article will give you 20 examples of what you should post on Instagram.
Before we get started, one best practice to keep an eye out for in these Instagram posts:
Your Instagram posts should do one of four things: Inspire, Educate, Entertain or Reveal.
See if you can find any which break from the mold...
What to Post on Instagram #1: Behind the Scenes
On Instagram, nobody wants to read your blog articles or learn about how you can address their consumer needs. In fact, unless you do it creatively, even a product launch is difficult to pull off with any success.
Instagram users want to see your personality. They want to see who you are as a company. They want to put a face to the name, so to speak.
Showing behind-the-scenes at your company is a great way to showcase your personality, as Microsoft shows us below:
What to Post on Instagram #2: Current Events
A great way to increase Instagram engagement is to tap into what people are already thinking about.
This can be anything…
- TGIF or "Boo, Monday!" - style posts
- Well-known holidays (Christmas, Father's Day)
- Lesser-known holidays (National Dog Day, National Hot Dog Day)
- Events or conferences relevant to your target market (SXSW, ComicCon, E3, Content Marketing World, etc)
- World events (big movie premier, for instance)
Tapping into what people are already thinking about is a great way to boost Instagram engagement, as Forever21 has done with Father's Day below:
What to Post on Instagram #3: Co-Campaign
You don't have to be Vans and Nintendo (the example below) to make a co-campaign work. All you need is to contact the social media marketer for a brand you love and pitch a creative co-campaign.
Remember to only target those businesses with whom you share a target market. There's no point in increasing engagement with Justin Bieber's fans if you own a auto-shop in Delaware.
This example from Vans shows that they recognized a similar target market who it would be valuable for them to reach (and trade reach with):
For a walkthrough on how you can create a co-campaign or promotion with another business, check out our article, "A Behind-the-Scenes Look at How We Generated 1,263 New Leads (With a Little Help from Our Friends)."
What to Post on Instagram #4: Funny Content
A post idea which really hits home with the "entertainment" requirement I mentioned before is funny content - an opportunity for your business to get creative and make something which makes your Fans (and prospective fans) smile.
This example, from Vitamin Water, uses humor to appeal to their prospective fans and customers, effectively exposing a common social media trope:
What to Post on Instagram #5: Hashtag Contest
Contests, especially hashtag contests, make it easy for Instagram users to engage with your brand, and they incentivize them to do so.
Users submit their photo to your contest by adding a photo to Instagram and then tagging it with a campaign-specific hashtag.
This example from Starbucks also taps into a best practice - a long-running, draw-a-week structure:
For more on running an hashtag contest on Instagram, check out our walkthrough, "Instagram Hashtag Contests: Examples and Best Practices for Marketers."
What to Post on Instagram #6: High-Quality Images
It should go without saying, but somehow it doesn't.
I still see brands (brands!) posting low-quality images on Instagram and then wondering why they don't have great engagement.
Get a better camera (or buy a better phone). High-quality images will soon pay it off with social media engagement and traffic to your website. And even if they don't, at least you'll be taken seriously on the platform.
This example from high-end cotton candy company BonPuf shows how beautiful a photo of your product can be if you put it in the right framework and use the right filter:
We've put together a great list of the top Instagram marketing tools if you want to check it out.
What to Post on Instagram #7: Influencer Content
Influencer marketing can boost your business' reach exponentially, as there are some Instagram users out there with more reach than any business.
You can pay for that reach, for sure (many influencers take cash for a share or endorsement) but you can also approach influencers with a strategy in mind.
My recommendation? Make it far better on their end, at least in the beginning, than it is for you.
And also, don't (and I mean "don't"!) approach an influencer whose fans aren't related to what you sell. As I said above, what's the point of getting 1,000,000 Beliebers to see your website if you sell car insurance?
This example, from Converse, taps into the celebrity of Maisie Williams (from Game of Thrones) to appeal to their target market:
For more on the impact of influencer marketing on Instagram, check out our article "How Influencer Marketing on Instagram Became a $1B Market (Infographic)."
What to Post on Instagram #8: Campaign Hashtags
A good campaign hashtag allows your Fans to see the content they want quickly, easily, and in one place. It makes the Instagram more easily and accurately searchable.
If you're releasing a new product, consider attaching a hashtag to it with every post you use to promote it. People will soon identify which campaign they're most interested in (and making their lives easier is never a bad thing).
This example, from Forever21, places their beauty product line as somewhat independent from the rest of what they sell:
What to Post on Instagram #9: Instagram Giveaway
If you don't have the energy or time to run an Instagram hashtag contest, you can always run a simple Instagram giveaway and promote within a post.
Just link to your giveaway's page within your website in your Instagram bio and tell Fans how they can enter for a chance to win.
Here's an example of an Instagram giveaway from LoveSuja juice:
Here's another example from BonPuf cotton candy:
What to Post on Instagram #10: Lifestyle Content
Instagram users want from your brand the same thing they want from any other Instagram user - an insight into their life and how awesome it is.
And that's great, because that kind of content is also super helpful with driving trust with prospective customers. The person that knows you is far more likely to buy from you.
Here's an example of an "insight into the life of a brand" (lifestyle) Instagram post, from Google:
What to Post on Instagram #11: Pets
There's not a whole lot to say here, honestly. People love pets, and if your business can find a way to incorporate them into your Instagram presence, do it. And then do it again, and then consistently forever.
Pets/mascots show that your business is hip, fun, modern, and has an awesome personality. And those are characteristics of businesses that people want to buy from.
Here's an example of a Pet-based Instagram post from social media management tool Hootusite:
What to Post on Instagram #12: Polls
This used to be one of my leading post recommendations on Facebook, but since they cracked down on asking for Likes or Shares, Poll posts have fallen in popularity.
And that's why I'm excited to see them coming up on Instagram. People love to categorize themselves. They love to feel part of a community. And polls give them that.
There's a coffee shop by my apartment, and they have two tip jars on their countertop. They have that cool blackboard paint on them, and every day the barista writes a poll on each - things like "TIp for Superman," and "Tip for Spiderman."
I asked her, once, if she's gotten more tips since she added the tip jars. "Hands down," she said. "Not even a competition."
Here's an example of a poll post from MTV's Instagram profile:
What to Post on Instagram #13: Product-Focused Content
Every once in a while you need to be more than just a pet-posting pollster. You need to remember that Instagram is also a place where you can showcase your products and encourage people to buy them.
This is especially true if you're a retailer (and your products are attractive).
Just remember you can't link to your products within the post copy itself, so remind people that the "shop link is in bio" - and continually update that link so it sends people to your product landing page.
Alternatively, try out Instagram Stories, as those do enable users to swipe up to navigate to a linked page.
This example from Forever21 combines a well-framed, professional photo with a great outfit and an @mentioned model (all best practice):
What to Post on Instagram #14: Seasonal Content
Tapping into what people are already thinking about goes beyond holidays and current events. A great way to connect with Instagram users is to appeal to their enthusiasm (or lack thereof) of the seasons.
Ben & Jerry's taps into seasonal posts fairly regularly, including this post they did to recognize the beginning of Spring:
What to Post on Instagram #15: Story Content
Story posts are a bit of a challenge, and more effectively done by utilizing video, but they're a powerful strategy.
People love to hear stories, and we're far more able to remember what we hear if it's told in story format.
For instance, when Groove tested the addition of a story to their article, they saw a 300% increase in time-on-page.
It's just as powerful on social media.
This post example, from Tesla Motors, taps into story to drive engagement on Instagram:
What to Post on Instagram #16: Posts with Style
"Style" is a pretty generic term, I get that. But it's accurate.
Anything you can do to stand out from the rest of the Instagram news feed should (at least) be tested. Creativity and style are the best ways to do that.
For instance, ditch the photo and go with a graphic created just for Instagram. Or ditch the graphic entirely and post a quote on a white background. Or just post an awesome image with no caption whatsoever. Who knows?
The goal here is to test what works for your audience, and to stand out from the rest of the brands publishing on Instagram in that minute of that day.
This example, from Adidas, taps into their own style, using a graphic instead of a picture of the shoes they're promoting:
What to Post on Instagram #17: Appreciation
Whether it's congratulating your employee on her new baby, one of your customers on a successful campaign, or your Fans for reaching a particularly exciting threshold, Instagram users love to celebrate with you.
They love to be a part of something happy, and showing appreciation for something awesome allows them to do just that.
This example, from BMW, is probably one of the more typical posts which show appreciation. What can your brand come up with to celebrate?
What to Post on Instagram #18: Trending Hashtags
Just as it's a best practice to tap into what people are already thinking about with current events, holidays and the seasons, it's also essential that you examine what hashtags are currently trending. This allows you jump onto an already runaway train and take it to the bank.
But don't force it. BeatsbyDre (the example below) identified the #MarchMadness hashtag as being relevant to their brand and target market. If you're a spa and hotel in Singapore, #MarchMadness may not be relevant to your Fans (at all) and trying to make it so will just get people confused and, possibly, annoyed.
Here's the example of a post by BeatsbyDre which includes a trending hashtag:
What to Post on Instagram #19: User-Generated Content
Just like people love celebrating holidays or achievements, they also love celebrating each other.
Create an Instagram post which features user generated content to tap into the network of the person you're featuring. UGC also shows you have a relationship with your Fans and customers and drives trust.
Here's an example from Canadian outdoor outfitter MEC:
What to Post on Instagram #20: Video
If you have the ability, creating video posts on Instagram is a definite Yes.
But if you don't have a studio, audio equipment and extreme sportswoman to fly off a jump on a motorcycle, consider Instagram Stories or a casual-style, candid video.
Take your smartphone and turn the selfie video feature on. Show an unboxing of your new product, an interview with your CEO or a weekly interview with your product and marketing teams about what they're working on and why.
Top Tip: If you want to, upload your Instagram videos to Facebook as well, to double your Reach.
Here's a more professional example of video posts from Redbull:
What to Post on Instagram #21: Inspirational Content
People love to be inspired on social media. It's why so many Twitter posts are Elon Musk quotes. But more than the fact that people like seeing an inspirational post, people like sharing an inspirational post.
Instagram (and social media users in general) want to be the people who inspire others. Make it easy for them by identifying inspirational quotes relevant to them and making it easy to share. Even to the extent of prompting them to do it in the post caption.
Here's an example of an inspirational post from social media management tool Postplanner:
Wrapping it Up
Hopefully this article has given you a few ideas about what to post on Instagram.
A few of the top to focus on…
- High-quality images
- Current event/seasonal content
- User-generated content
- Creative/stylized posts
- Pets/Cute posts