How to create content for Instagram that drives engagement

The idea of using social media for small businesses isn’t new. 

According to the State of Small Business Digital Marketing Report, 72% of small businesses invest in social media marketing, and they find social media platforms most valuable when it comes to business promotion and building relationships with customers.

But when you run your own business and you have a lot on your plate, it’s nearly impossible to show up on every social media platform. With 2 billion active users, 90% of whom follow at least one business account on the platform, it’s no wonder that small business owners opt for Instagram.

When done right, Instagram helps small businesses boost brand awareness, increase trust, create a strong connection with potential customers, and even generate more revenue.

Yes, having Instagram presence is a great idea for small businesses these days, but it’s not enough to succeed; you should also understand how to create content for Instagram that drives engagement.

If creating content for Instagram is high on your list, keep on reading this article.

But first, let’s understand the role of high-quality Instagram content for higher engagement and why it’s so important for small businesses.

The role of high-quality Instagram content for higher engagement

For small businesses, it can be hard to compete against larger companies and fellow small businesses to cut through the noise on Instagram. Around 200 million businesses use Instagram to market their products and services, hoping for the attention of active users. 

Plus, the Instagram algorithm prioritizes content from profiles whose content draws views, comments and likes – these are widely considered to be the platform’s biggest engagement signals. It therefore takes time and effort to prove that your content (and Instagram profile) deserves to surface in the newsfeed of your followers.

When you optimize your Instagram activity for engagement and create content that resonates with your audience, it sends signals to the algorithm that your content can keep users engaged for more extended periods. All in all, it leads to small business growth.

That’s why it’s important to know how to create content for Instagram that grabs the attention of your audience.

So, how can you create content for Instagram that drives engagement? Check out seven proven strategies below.

1 – Piggyback on social media trends

Social media trends are constantly changing, but if you can keep up with the current ones, it helps to create engaging content for Instagram. Here’s how being familiar with trends can help you to create engaging Instagram content:

  • Know popular topics on the platform
  • Brainstorm new content ideas
  • Meet the expectations of your audience
  • Grab the attention of Instagram users

What’s more, when you piggyback on social media trends, you can hack the algorithm. For example, it’s no secret that Instagram is rebranding itself into a video platform, so the newsfeed heavily favors its new vertical video format, Instagram Reels.

Case in point:

With the growing popularity of vertical videos, Later decided to embrace Instagram Reels as a part of their Instagram strategy, and the company saw a 500%+ increase in its engagement rate.

As a small business owner with limited time and budget, you can also learn from Cluse, a company that reposts fan-made Reels to its profile to make good use of the trend.

Using trends to create Instagram content

To learn more about the current trends, you can check out the latest Instagram Trend Report. Here are some Instagram trends you might do well to focus on: 

  • DIY fashion
  • Activism
  • AI beauty and fashion
  • Instagram monetization

Additionally, always test which content type works best for your audience. The following infographic can help you make the right decision, based on your profile size.

Instagram average post engagement rate

2 – Lay a bet on eye-grabbing visuals

People are visual learners. As specified in one report, 90% of the information our brains receive is visual, people retain 65% of what they have seen, and social media posts with images get 650% higher engagement. 

Instagram is all about visuals. As a social media platform with a strong focus on visuals, eye-grabbing content matters. 

If you follow social media design trends, that’s great. But if you want to make your life easier and create eye-catching Instagram content with ease, it’s important to make good use of graphic design tools that allow non-designers to make appealing visuals with ready-to-use templates on the go.

Looking for a good option to give it a try? Consider using Photoleap (iOS & Android), an AI-powered photo editing app from Lightricks that has all tools and features to tell brand’s stories with visuals. From features like double exposure and layers to the library of assets and quick filters, there are hundreds of ways to unleash your creativity and stand out from the crowd.

Let’s take a look at one Instagram creator who uses Photoleap to make eye-grabbing Instagram visuals and promote products on his profile:

Instagram creator who uses Photoleap to make eye-grabbing Instagram visuals

Now let’s take a look at the entire profile. It looks eye-catching, creative, and interesting! When you take care of the Instagram grid, you can create a cohesive feed that keeps users engaged. 

Instagram grid using eye-catching colors

3 – Make sure your content delivers value

In the last decade, Instagram has become a popular platform for businesses and common people to express themselves. On average, users upload 95 million posts daily, and content bombards us from all sides.

There’s too much content on the platform, so users pay close attention to useful content.

First, you need to understand your audience and their expectations. For example, you can produce the right type of content your followers want to see from you.

Graph showing type of content consumers like to see from brands they follow on social

Second, your content should focus on solving your buyers’ problems, not selling your product. 

Here’s a great example of this strategy from beauty brand Elemis. Instead of promoting its skin treatments, the company launched a 28-day facial massage challenge, where its expert shared massage moves on a daily basis, to help the target audience learn more about facial self-care in a wider context.

Example of Instagram content that delivers value

Want to know the best part? Your Instagram content can become effective for small business lead generation. When you offer something that delivers value and helps followers solve their pain points, you give people a solid reason to become leads or even loyal followers who stay tuned for more.

Pro tip: If you use email marketing, you can always repurpose email content that works for your audience and post it on your Instagram feed. It helps to save time and effort when creating content for Instagram that drives engagement.

4 – Work with proven content creators and influencers

Instagram influencer marketing has become an effective tactic for businesses of all sizes and niches to enter an already-established community of potential customers and market their products or services through peer recommendations.

For small businesses with limited budgets, working with Instagram influencers can be another way to create content that drives engagement. Once you find an influencer for your brand, you can ask him or her to review your product and then repost these posts to your feed.

When done right, influencer-driven campaigns deliver wonderful results. Check out the following example of collaboration between Reign Judge and SweetGreen.

Example of Instagram influencer campaign

Not only does Reign have a solid and loyal following to promote Sweet Green, but she also has a separate account for restaurant reviews, which makes this collaboration even more effective for the small business.

Instagram postings from small business Reign

When influencers use an Instagram creator account, they can give you permission to show their content on your feed or promote their influencer endorsements as ads. As a result, you can create authentic paid ad campaigns and reach a wider audience of users who show interest in your product.

Pro tip: To protect your brand from reputation risks and make a content creator or an influencer meet the requirements, create and fill out a collaboration agreement that defines the terms of your partnership.

5 – Leverage the power of storytelling

In the context of marketing, storytelling is the art of sharing transformative narratives, beliefs and values that impact human emotions and therefore affect buying decisions. 

It has also become one of the most effective content marketing best practices, largely because when you leverage the power of storytelling, you create content that drives engagement.

In honor of Black History Month, Ralph’s Coffee posted a video that tells stories of love, joy, and hope within Black communities. With the power of storytelling, it takes a stand on social issues and therefore creates an emotional and deeper connection with the audience.

Ralph’s Coffee posted a video that tells stories of love, joy, and hope within Black communities

Ready to use storytelling on Instagram? Here are some tips for you to tell stories with Instagram content:

  • Create a series of posts around one topic
  • Make an Instagram video
  • Lay a bet on descriptive captions
  • Share your customer success stories
  • Tell visual stories with a carousel post

6 – Get inspired by your competitors

Wouldn’t it be great if you could predict what new types of Instagram content might work best for your audience?

Keep an eye on your competitors to see what they publish on Instagram and how your target audience interacts with this content to make better business decisions. Simply put, get inspired by your competitors to get your Instagram marketing to the next level.

As a small business owner who seeks inspiration, the best way is to follow larger corporations in your niche that often set trends on social media. For instance, if you work in the coffee industry and you run a local coffee shop, it’s a smart idea to draw inspiration from Startbucks:

Starbucks Instagram page

There are a few things around Instagram content that drives engagement you can learn from Starbucks:

  • Combine branded content with fan-made visuals on your feed
  • Take followers behind the scenes
  • Create seasonal content

7 – Track your content performance

So, you’ve put much time and effort into creating content for Instagram, but it still doesn’t drive user engagement. What should you do? Track your content performance!

When you know your following, their behavior and preferences, you can measure the impact of your marketing efforts and make better decisions like choosing the right time for posting or experimenting with content formats and storytelling strategies.

Luckily, Instagram has an in-built feature for users who care about content performance: Instagram Insights.

To get a better understanding of your content performance, there’s no need to have the business vs creator Instagram account debate, as both profile types have access to Instagram Insights, where you can see how your content performs.

Check out how it looks in action:

Example of an Instagram insight page

But if you want to dive deeper into analytics or work with other team members on your Instagram content strategy, it can be a smart idea to rely on Instagram analytics tools.

For example, Socialpilot allows users to keep track of valuable insights and get reports that help to make informed decisions to content creation. It also has a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for non-marketers to analyze various data in one place.

Example of Instagram analytics on Socialpilot

Start creating content for Instagram that drives engagement

Instagram remains one of the hottest social media platforms for users, creators, and brands. 

The competition is getting higher every day, so it’s crucial to know how to create content for Instagram that drives engagement. When people interact with your content, this means your audience finds it relevant to their needs, wants, and concerns. This makes it easier for you to establish a connection with your target audience, but it can also send signals to Instagram that your content is worth surfacing to even more people in the feed. 

Use these hacks and tricks to start creating content for Instagram that drives engagement and let us know what works best for your audience.