There’s no question that many small business owners should build a presence with Instagram marketing.
But the story is always the same: owners sign up for an Instagram account and create their profile, but then they hit a hurdle, they’re not sure what exactly they should post.
If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone.
Generating a steady stream of content can be a struggle on Instagram, especially when research from marketing firm Buffer suggests you should post at least 1.5 times per day to please the Instagram algorithm.
The good news, though, is that there are plenty of different ways to keep your Instagram feed fresh and your followers engaged.
In this post, we’ll look at what to post on Instagram, with ideas and examples you can adapt for your own business. We’ll also look at how to create a posting schedule to bring your Instagram marketing strategy to life, and even some ideas on how to make money on Instagram by promoting your products.
20 Best-in-class Instagram post ideas
Instagram offers a lot of potential as a platform for creating and nurturing relationships with your target audience, as well as features to convert them into customers.
Because of this, it’s important to have a mix of engaging content that will appeal to Instagram users at different stages of their customer journey. For example:
- Inspirational quotes can get new users to comment on your posts and follow your account.
- Product tags and stickers can convert followers who are ready to buy now.
- Behind-the-scenes videos can encourage repeat purchases and support from loyal customers.
So keep in mind how each post idea can contribute to your social media goals (engagement, sales, etc.) as we examine them below.
1. Show off with product posts
High-quality pictures and videos of your products will likely be one of the easiest (and most expected) places to start on Instagram. Sharing content featuring your products in all their glory will, of course, help you drive sales and promote your business on Instagram.
When photographing products for your feed, you want to avoid making them look like ads. Ideally you’re showcasing your products in an aspirational yet relatable setting that your audience can picture themselves in.
You’ll also want to include rich, interesting captions, not just product name and a few trending Instagram hashtags.
Instead, you can consider treating a post like an opportunity to pitch a product, discussing features and benefits or highlighting what makes it special.
Clocks And Colours does this well in its image below.
Strive to create product posts that focus more on conveying a feeling—a mood, aesthetic, association, or sentiment that you want people to think of when they see your brand name.
2. Convert customers with product tags
Instagram tags and stickers for products are unique formats for posts and Instagram Stories, respectively, that enable direct purchases through Instagram.
Users can click on product tags, for example, to get more information about a product, like its name or price. If they click again, they’ll be taken to a screen where they can make a purchase.
Product tags make it easier and more convenient for users to purchase immediately on mobile, increasing the likelihood they’ll follow through. You might consider using product tags when you’re running a sale or offering a discount.
Instagram recently released product stickers for Instagram Stories that let users click to view product information and then decide whether to buy.
3. Produce fun Instagram Reels
Many brands don’t use enough video on their social media channels in general, but they’re especially lacking in video on Instagram.
Video is important in today’s current social setting, and using more of it in your feed will help you stand out. What types of videos you create is up to you. You can share product videos, brand storytelling videos, vlogs, or Q&As.
Video may become even more important after the release of Instagram Reels—an extension of Instagram that will allow users to create videos up to 15 seconds long. You can add audio, effects, and other attention-grabbing elements. Then share them on your feed or through the Explore tab.
4. Take followers behind the scenes
Followers love behind-the-scenes content. It creates transparency that allows them to feel like they’re getting to know the “real” you behind the brand. This builds trust, and it’s a refreshing change of pace after a stream of product images.
Another nice bonus? Behind-the-scenes content doesn’t need to be nearly as polished as some of your other images. Because of this, many brands prefer to keep their behind-the-scenes content exclusively for their Stories.
Check out more ideas for what to post on your Instagram Story to make your behind-the-scenes content stand out.
5. Repost user-generated content
User-generated content is some of the most persuasive content you can use, and your followers love to see it on your Instagram. It shows that you’re engaged with your community, which can earn you good will and more UGC at the same time.
UGC is something you’ll want to post on an Instagram Story to promote your brand in a subtle but highly effective way. If you want to post it on your feed, make sure it’s exceptionally executed and matches your brand.
Anatomie does this well on its profile, featuring plenty of posts like the one below, showing its clothing worn in beautiful, exciting places around the world.
Encourage UGC by letting users know what you want to see and giving them a hashtag they can attach to their image. Search for this hashtag and ask for permission to share relevant posts on your profile.
6. Give your employees the spotlight
Content that focuses on (or, even better, is created by) employees is a great option for Instagram. Selfies and other “sneak peek” Instagram photos are another way to show people the human side of your brand, making it easier for them to form an emotional connection to you and trust you more.
Need some inspiration? Tributo share pictures of its main crafters behind the scenes, working on their latest project.
This not only makes the brand relatable but emphasizes the hand-crafted aspect of its products, reminding potential customers that its furniture wasn’t just churned out by a machine.
7. Announce new products/business milestones
Here’s a concept that’s simple but effective: announce new products or new business updates on Instagram with an interesting visual.
This gives you more content to share on the platform and also encourages users to follow you, because everyone wants to feel like they’re in the know about a brand they love.
Pop Chart Lab regularly launches new prints, and Instagram is another channel for it to keep its audience informed.
Alternatively, you can share business/personal milestones, such as making your 1,000th order or becoming a new parent.
8. Run an Instagram contest/giveaway
Want to get a lot of engagement quickly and generate excitement around your brand? Contests and giveaways are the way to go.
Contests will get people talking about your brand, and they can often yield strong social proof or user-generated content, if not both at once.
For best results, offer a prize that’s most relevant to your target audience, even if the general population wouldn’t be that interested. After all, anyone would comment for a free iPhone, but it’s more important to get engagement and entries from users who could actually become customers.
The example above from LEIF does it right by offering a great prize (partnering with similar businesses), making it easy to enter through its Instagram bio link and quickly flagging the contest with GIVEAWAY at the beginning of the post.
Learn how to run your own contest in How to Grow Your Business With Giveaways and Viral Contests.
9. Seize the moment with seasonal posts
Customers love to get into the holiday spirit. It doesn’t matter whether that holiday is a major one, like Thanksgiving, or an unofficial one, like National Dog Day.
Take advantage of this by creating seasonal posts that are timely and immediately relevant. Posts about summer vacations, winter weather, and even a specific meteor shower can work in addition to the obvious holidays, too.
Prada’s post below demonstrates how well this can work. It uses the opportunity to promote its new Prada Holiday pop-up store.
There’s one thing to always be mindful of with seasonal posts: Instagram hashtags. One of the biggest advantages of seasonal posts is that the hashtags are directly relevant right now, meaning more users are likely to seek them out. Fill your post’s description with plenty of timely, holiday, and seasonal hashtags for best results.
Not sure how to implement this? National Ice Cream Day posts could benefit from hashtags like #nationalicecreamday, #iscreamyouscreamweallscreamforicecream, and #sweetstobeattheheat.
Thanksgiving posts could incorporate #thanksgiving, #turkeyday, #fall #autumnweather #harvestseason, #holidayseason, #almostblackfriday, and more.
10. Encourage followers to tag a friend
The tag-a-friend approach is sometimes used in tandem with contest posts, but they can exist on their own, too.
These posts will encourage followers to tag a friend in the comments who they think would genuinely like the product or who might relate to the subject of your post. An incentive may be offered (as in the case of a contest, shown in the example from Mahabis below), but it’s not a necessity.
This strategy will earn you a lot of social proof, and it can introduce new users to your brand. That said, you want to use this sparingly or you’ll risk looking like you’re just spamming Instagram for followers. Try to think of creative ways to encourage users to tag their friends.
11. Inspire followers with a quote
Inspirational quotes are kind of like the feel-good cheesy movies we all love. There’s so much negativity online, after all, sometimes we just need to see something positive and motivational.
This also creates positive associations between your followers and your brand, which is always a plus.
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to inspirational quotes. You need to make the image visually appealing, like in the example above from gypsy05.
Do this using dynamic colors and layouts. You can use tools like Canva to help you create these images quickly. And don’t forget to credit the quote to the person who originally said it.
12. Share your community involvement
One of the quickest ways to establish trust and loyalty in your audience is to post content showing involvement with your community.
A lot of Shopify businesses are online-only (though there are plenty that are not). Community, therefore, can have a loose definition in this case.
If you happen to have a home base and/or a storefront in a certain location, you can focus on your local community.
Some brands, like Kutoa Bars, actually makes this a central part of its mission statement on Instagram. It actively works to reduce world hunger, and its posts get a ton of engagement.
This isn’t surprising, because it makes followers feel good about supporting the brand, and it reminds them that by buying a delicious snack for themselves they can do good elsewhere.
13. Cover an event
Instagram is a great place to showcase your involvement in any sort of event. You can post content from before, during, and after the event to create more hype. This can be an event that your business is hosting or one that you’ve been invited to attend.
Xterra boards, for example, posted the following image about its involvement in races it participated in at Mission Beach. This was a great way to show that it’s prominent in and involved with the community, making it more relatable to its target audience and earning it credibility all at once.
14. Partner with influencers for content
If you want to help your brand garner some extra credibility and attention quickly, influencer marketing is a good way to go.
Chaos is a luxury lifestyle brand, and it uses social media influencers to add some credibility to its name. The post below features and tags an influencer with more than 40,000 followers.
Big name influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers aren’t necessary. In fact, it will actually be better in most cases for Shopify merchants to reach out to smaller micro-influencers and nano-influencers.
These influencers may only have tens of thousands of followers, but they’ll be trusted by their audience. They’re also likely to be more open to working with small businesses, and more affordable if they agree.
15. Cross-promote with other brands
Cross-promotions with other merchants can be intentional or they can be quick shoutouts. Whether you’re establishing a partnership or just mentioning them in a post, it can build valuable relationships and show customers that you’re invested in the community.
Community can be an industry, a local area, or something else entirely. If you sell yoga clothes, you can team up with a merchant who sells your favorite mats.
Or, if you have a local presence, like GREATS, you can give a quick shoutout to a nearby bakery that’s running a special. Even online customers who live far away will appreciate the gesture, especially since it gives you a feeling of togetherness from supporting small businesses.
16. Ask questions and provide answers
If you’re looking for another way to offer value to your followers, you can’t go wrong with a Q&A. Answering customer questions on Instagram will encourage more people to follow you (especially if there’s a chance for you to answer their own questions).
You can have Q&As written out in a text-based image, with one question and answer to a post. Remember that the limit for Instagram captions is 2,200 characters, so you can actually squeeze quite a bit of writing into your post, if you want to.
Instagram even released a Questions Sticker you can use to solicit answers from your audience and share your response as a photo or video.
Video can be an especially efficient way to answer questions. You can share it after it’s recorded or film it live. Choosing Instagram Live can even let followers ask you questions in real time, which can drive up responses significantly.
17. Solicit comments/content with a prompt
In this post we’ve discussed how effective user-generated content can be. Now we’ll take a look at how exactly you can encourage it.
One of the best ways to get more UGC on a certain platform is to create a post designed to motivate users to contribute and share. This may involve leading by example and sharing a story before asking users to share their own. In other cases, it may be as simple as posing a question and asking other users to comment.
Either way, let users know to upload their photo and tag it with a branded hashtag. This way, you’ll be able to find the content more easily and re-share it. Let users know they have a chance to be featured on your feed, too. While no one would say no to a prize, for plenty of users, the share alone is a great incentive.
DripDrop uses this strategy on Instagram, encouraging users to share recipes containing its products and upload the pictures to Instagram.
18. Provide video tutorials
Video tutorials have the distinct advantage of being immediately valuable and actionable to your target audience.
Even a 30-second video showing them how to use, care for, or set up your product will go a long way. Your customers will be happy to see this content, and if you can show how easy your products are to use or how valuable they are, you might be able to make some sales too.
Cheap Cookie Cutters understands this concept, using video tutorials (some of which come from users) that promote its products. These videos are short but show how you can take its cookie cutters and create decorated, iced masterpieces.
19. Get them swiping with carousel posts
Carousel posts allow users (and brands!) to upload multiple images or videos into a single post. Users can scroll through to see separate media on each slide.
As you can imagine, there’s a lot you can do with this post format. Options include:
- Showing multiple ways to use a single product
- Showing multiple related products, each with its own product tags
- Showing a series of pictures taken during an event
- Showing a step-by-step product tutorial
In the example below, Sage Brush Coffee has three different slides that showcase different gift packs for Mother’s Day. These products are all related, but because they’re different, there’s an increased likelihood more people will find something to buy when they view it.
20. Go live!
Live video is another type of post that can help you increase Instagram engagement with your followers. It feels authentic, and users can interact with you in real time (followers will get notified when you go live).
You can answer questions, show behind-the-scenes content, or feature new products. You can also post the live video to your Stories after, giving you additional content with plenty of social proof.
Announce to your community when your live stream is going to happen. You’ll want to add a countdown timer on a Story post so people don’t miss it. A live video is also dependent on people having push notifications enabled for live, and most don’t.
For best results with your live video, you should:
- Announce it in advance so followers know to tune in
- Have a plan and practice before you go on
- Give your audience at least 30 seconds to join by incorporating a preamble before you start
- Try to be in an area with good lighting and little to no background noise
How to create an Instagram content calendar
We just threw a lot of post types at you, which can feel overwhelming.
But in diversifying your Instagram posts, you can maintain a well-rounded profile, which users will respond to more enthusiastically.
Keeping track of all of this, however, can be difficult. That’s why we recommend creating a social media content calendar, preferably using social media scheduling software that lets you:
- Post to Instagram from your computer (which makes it easier to create, edit, and manage your media)
- Schedule posts in advance
- Upload and organize your media to maintain a backlog of content
Later is a free (for up to 30 posts a month) all-in-one scheduling tool you can use to get started. It even has a drag-and-drop feature that lets you easily move content around.
This lets you map out in advance what will be posted when so you can not only plan your content accordingly, but make sure your different post types are all mixed up for best results.
Alternatively, you can use Hootsuite to schedule Instagram content if you’re building a presence on several social channels at once.
Creating the best Instagram posts for your business
If you’re feeling stumped, take a look at the different posts on our list and ask yourself which types of content you’re not using yet and why. After all, the best Instagram profiles are those that manage to mix it up. This keeps your profile from feeling too one note or overly promotional.
Ultimately, you’re posting content to get more Instagram followers and build brand recognition, but it's important not to get lost posting anything for exposure. Your goal should be to have your brand be consistent on the platform but your content and individual posts diversified to keep your followers interested. A balanced content calendar and plenty of different ideas is a good place to start.
Illustration by Eugenia Mello