November 8, 2017

We all wanna do our best and put our best foot forward on social media. Instagram is no exception. And, being such a highly visual platform, creating the best content is key! But, how do you know what will perform best on Instagram? That's what I'm here to help you with!!!

First of all, we have to accept and appreciate that Instagram is NOT like other platforms. People want pretty pictures on Instagram. They want native or organic looking content - not overly produced, text heavy, and busy images. Those big bold graphics you created for Facebook are great... on Facebook. Not on Instagram. Those simple product shots on a white background are great for eBay, but they don't convert on Instagram.

Instead, on Instagram, your photos should be great photos. Good lighting. Well composed. Properly staged components. There should be a clear focal point. They should stand alone as a quality image, yet invite the viewer to know more by reading the caption. They need to stand out from everything else in the feed of your followers while being true to your brand, message, styling, and tone.

That's a tall order, right?!

Sure it is. But all the best accounts that succeed on Instagram have figured this out. Their content is consistent and branded whereby their audience recognizes it as theirs and it appeals to their audience. But they are also well formatted - they have been well selected, edited, and composed for results.

If you are merely snapping a photo, calling it a "winner" and uploading it to Instagram, you are likely struggling to see the results you want. Even those people who seemingly snap a "random" photo and upload it, have spent time thinking about the purpose of the image, the message, the composition, the context, the angles, the lighting, and the final product. Even before they hit the shutter button on the phone.

You need to move towards this mentality in taking photos to share on Instagram. Because the more your content connects with your audience and tells a real story, the better it will perform.

And, with all of this being said, that doesn't mean your posts have to be devoid of your personality or flair. To the contrary actually! I've written before about creating content that stands out as your own.


Ok. so you may have noticed I kept referring to photos here. There's a reason for that. And that's because no matter what, Instagram is always going to be dominated by photos.

Yes, there are some brands and accounts out there who are killing it with videos. But in general. photos will always be the dominant media on Instagram.

On Instagram, the general performance of content is: Photos > Videos > Carousels (Albums)

A recent study by Agorapulse's Social Media Lab found that carousel posts (multi-image posts, or albums) actually perform significantly lower than other posts on Instagram. I have a few theories on this. One of which is that many people don't think about the first image in the carousel being the cover image. This is the image that is displayed to viewers in the feed, and if it's the first in a series or not the best image of the bunch, it will likely not be the best choice for driving engagement. If you are going to use carousels, please take time to strategically select the right image for the first image and ensure you are inviting people to scroll through. It's also worth pointing out that many people scroll through the images, looking at all of them but then not "liking" the image because their behavior of scroll-double-tap-repeat was disrupted by the horizontal scrolling through the album. So, just because you aren't getting the likes, doesn't necessarily mean you aren't getting the reach and exposure.

And similarly, when it comes to videos, so many people upload the video to Instagram without carefully selecting a cover image for the video. Did you know you can select a cover image? You can! In the edit stage of uploading the video, there's a tab at the bottom to select "Cover" and you can drag the slider along the length of the video to select the best "image" to represent the video. And, no, this should NOT be the first frame of the video. A frame near the end of the video may be the best part of the story to highlight as the cover image. And, you can ensure you choose a cover that isn't blurry or distorted by a moving frame in the video. Creating a better image will help your videos perform better and invite more engagement.


Now, all of that being said, in Instagram Stories, videos are generally very high performing. The same rules do not necessarily apply to Stories as they do to regular Instagram posts. There you can be more random, less polished, and creative. But, rest assured, that as more brands and users get adept at using Stories, we'll see an insurgence of polished posts and well-crafted storyboard style content in the Stories. So the suggestions above for content creation on Instagram will become universal to Stories in the future too.

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. Hi, Jenn! This is so true about Instagram. I was reading your article and scrolling through my Instagram feed and you’re 100% right. The pictures that stand out have been perfectly chosen to grab attention. I barely stop for the videos on the feed, especially when I see “0:56” . Although many “influencers” are using that content type, it’s still important to remember that Instagram is photo-sharing platform first. The rest is just an update or upgrade to meet the standards of all other social media platforms.

    1. Thanks Stefan! I’m so glad to hear that you recognize those quality posts as being carefully designed to grab attention. And I’m the same way as you with video – but a lot of people love it 😉

  2. If you talk about the content on the Instagram, you have either image or video as the content. What else could you suggest? Did you mean to say the content of the images and videos?

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