Instagram isn't just a go-to social network for individuals anymore. Many marketers have caught wind that it's a powerful social network where they need to have some sort of presence.
The platform's heavy emphasis on visual content like photos, videos, illustrations, and GIFs is becoming a critical way for brands to communicate their story and message. Plus, it's an excellent way for businesses to humanize their brand, recruit future employees, showcase their products and content, and delight and engage customers.
Check out these 18 ideas for videos, photos, and other content you can post on Instagram. (And for more inspiration, check out our list of the best brands to follow on Instagram.)
18 Content Ideas for Videos, GIFs & Photos to Post on Instagram
1. Behind-the-Scenes Content
Instagram is a great platform for humanizing your brand, and giving your audience a sneak peek at what goes on behind the scenes is one way to do that. It's also a good way to show followers what it's like to work there, which is great for your recruiting efforts.
Here's an example from the Boston Red Sox, showing what batting practice looks like close-up (with a really cool, fish-eye shot).
And here's one from a small arts and crafts store called Cherry Tree Beads. We love how this one uses the hashtag #employeetakeover to share one of the faces behind the brand, giving followers the chance to get to know who's on the inside.
Pro Tip: Posting candid photos of your work environment can help humanize your business and allow your customers to connect with your employees, which can translate into stronger brand loyalty.
2. User-generated Content
Some of the best photos on brands' Instagram accounts are curated by fans and followers. (In fact, FedEx's Instagram feed is almost entirely made up of curated photos.)
Check out the posts people have tagged you in, and if you love them, consider reposting them to your followers. Not only does it make the original poster feel good, but it also shows everyone that you're listening to your fans. Just be sure the photos you're reposting are high-quality and that you @-mention the original poster in your caption.
Here's a reposted image from ASOS. Take note of how they write the caption: They write an entirely new caption, which includes a tidbit on how their followers can get featured on their Instagram page (by using the hashtag #AsSeenOnMe). Then, they credit the original poster using the camera emoji and the poster's username.
To repost a photo on Instagram, you can simply screenshot and crop it. You can also repost a photo to your Instagram story by tapping the share icon below the post you want to repost and tapping “Add video to your story.”
3. Inspirational or Motivational Quotes
Some people poke fun at the number of quotes on Instagram. But if you post them sparingly, they tend to encourage your followers. If the post speaks to your audience, people love to share it and tag their friends in the comments. Quotes are also a great opportunity to share what your brand stands for, whether it's spiritual, inspiring, funny, or something else.
To create a quote image, you'll want to download an app that lets you upload a photo and overlay it with text. Here are some good ones:
- Canva: A free app that you can use to create graphics with text overlays to share on social media.
- Phonto: A free app that you can use to overlay text on photos with text resizing, alignment, and positioning tools.
- Snapseed: A free app with professional photo editing tools that pairs fonts with different photo filters.
You can also create a quote post through your Instagram story. To create a quote post on your Instagram story, simply upload an image from your gallery to use as a background and add a text overlay of the quote.
Here are a few examples of quotes done well, starting with this one from TheSkimm. The key to this post's success is that it's hilarious to their specific audience — which shows that the quote doesn't have to be fancy to delight people.
Here's a more beautifully designed quote from activewear brand Lorna Jane, which carries an empowering message from their founder:
Pro Tip: Want to play around with words and images? WordFoto is a $2 app that lets you turn your pictures into images made of words instead of just adding words on top of photos.
4. Interesting Statistics
Another cool way to overlay text on an image is by posting a statistic that resonates with your audience. Try using statistics from your own research or finding some relevant to your message, your value proposition, and so on. (Read this blog post to learn how and where to find accurate, compelling data.)
Here's an example from the meditation app Headspace, with a simple text box overlaying a colored, nondescript background.
5. Timely or Current Events Posts
Is something cool happening in the world or the country where your target market lives? A specific holiday? National Puppy Day? Get in on the action by posting something delightful. Remember to use good judgment when newsjacking — the last thing you want to do is publish inaccurate information or offend anyone.
What are some examples of delightful, timely posts? Here's one from a Mediterranean restaurant called Cava Mezze Grill to celebrate Halloween.
And here's a fun example from Starbucks for National Croissant Day.
Pro Tip: Set up Google Alerts to get notified of breaking news related to your business’s industry. News stories are a great source of inspiration for timely social media posts.
6. Humorous Images or Videos
If you can make your followers laugh, they'll likely enjoy your photo — and may even share it with others. After all, sometimes the most memorable photos are the ones that make us laugh.
Try posting photos and images you think will make your audience laugh like Oreo did with this fake text message conversation with "Milk."
Here's another example from BuzzFeed Parents, which shows how simple a super shareable post can be.
And in this one from Pabst Blue Ribbon. All they did was put an empty case of Pabst beer on a dog’s head, and it worked like a charm.
7. Compelling Drawings or Graphics
Have any artists on your team? One way to stand out in a sea of images is to post a cool, compelling illustration. They don't even have to be super fancy — check out this simple, black-and-white example from Oreo:
Here's a more complex one from Pabst Blue Ribbon:
8. Content Promotions
Beautiful images are critical to your Instagram marketing strategy because they tell a story and draw people in. Colored visuals increase people's willingness to read a piece of content by a whopping 80%.
So if you're creating a piece of compelling written content like a recipe, a report, or a blog post, why not use a visual platform like Instagram to promote it?
Simply pair an interesting and relevant image with a caption that promotes the content, and then ask people to follow the link in your bio or post description. (Again, be sure to make that link trackable.)
Here's an example from Staples that promotes their hard-copy planners for National Planner Day:
And here's an example from Nature's Path Organic, which shows off the finished product of a recipe that's linked in their bio:
9. Product Promotions
Instagram isn't the place to publish product-centric posts every day — but that doesn't mean you can't use it to showcase products every once in a while. We suggest using the 80/20 rule on social media: 80% of the content you post to social media should be helpful and valuable to your audience, and 20% can be self-promotional.
Making promotional content that’s fun, compelling, and lovable is even more important when posting on Instagram. To highlight a specific product, post a picture or video about it, and then tell people where they can find the product using the product names and codes or a trackable link in your bio.
Here's an example from the online clothing company ASOS. (Check out how casual and cool the caption is.)
Here's another one from Frank Body, which uses an image and some humor in the caption to pique followers' interest in the product without being overly promotional.
Pro Tip: When you post is almost as important as what you post. We suggest posting to Instagram on Saturdays in the mid-to-late afternoon.
10. Compelling Videos, Reels, and Stories
Instagram users can record and upload videos up to 60 seconds long, reels of multiple video clips that are each up to 15 seconds long, and stories composed of images and short videos that disappear after 24 hours.
When executed well, videos, stories, and reels are a great way for your Instagram content to stand out. You can record a video from scratch (including recording multiple video clips) or upload videos to your feed, stories, or reels from your phone's library the same way you'd upload a photo.
Pro Tip: By default, every Instagram video will start playing without sound — after which viewers can choose whether or not to turn the sound on. Because of this, you'll need to upload videos that don't need sound to be well understood or entice people to turn the sound in the first second or two.
Here's a great video from Purina that delights viewers with some cute puppy love.
11. Hyperlapse Videos
Want to use video to stand out from the crowd while also solving for your followers' short attention spans? Try creating a Hyperlapse video.
Hyperlapse is a free app by Instagram that condenses videos into brief, moving, hyper-speed videos. The videos use built-in stabilization technology to film these time-lapse videos without keeping your hands still. (Want to make your own? Here are step-by-step instructions.)
Here's one of our favorite examples, which comes from Starbucks.
12. Fun, Lighthearted GIFs
GIFs are everywhere nowadays, and people love them because they help accurately convey ideas, messages, thoughts, and feelings in a snackable (and often laughable) way. On Instagram, you can upload a GIF just like a video (as long as it's less than 60 seconds long).
Check out the examples of GIFs on Instagram below for some inspiration. (Click here for instructions for creating your own animated GIF using Photoshop.) Here's an example from Staples.
And one from Starbucks.
13. Contests and Giveaways
Are you trying to support the launch of a new product? Contests are one of the best ways to expand your reach and engage your community on Instagram. A study by Tailwind found that hosting an Instagram contest or giveaway can help you grow your followers 70% faster over three months than not holding a contest.
Instagram doesn't make capturing leads and information from your followers easy, but a contest or giveaway is one way to do it.
Just be sure to call your followers to take action by using the space in your caption to explain the contest and even guide them to a link in your bio.
Pro Tip: Make the link trackable so you can see how much traffic your Instagram post is driving. Learn how to add a trackable link to your Instagram bio by reading #6 in this blog post.
There are many, many different types of contests you can post on Instagram. Here are a few ideas, starting with the one below from Social Print Studio. Their call-to-action asks for comments on the post, from which they'll choose winners.
Here's one from Root Well Being Studio asking people to enter a contest by liking the post and following their account. Participants can earn an extra entry by sharing the post to their Instagram story and tagging Root Well Being Studio.
Not many brands use this tactic, but it’s a really cool, unique user experience. It's also a clever way to get users to visit your business' account page.
Most of your followers won't look at your Instagram photos from your account page, as they'll typically look at them in their Instagram feed.
When you start scrolling through the images below from MyStory Wiesbaden in your feed, it may take you a second to figure out what’s happening. MyStory Wiesbaden posted snippets of a tattoo, which is a cool teaser that entices you to go to their main account page, where you can see the full picture.
15. Asks to "Tag A Friend."
While you can tag friends on Facebook and Twitter posts, it happens most regularly on Instagram. There's a culture around tagging your friends if you see a post that resonates with you or reminds you of someone. This helps you both increase engagement and broaden your reach.
If you want to encourage your followers to share the post with others, sometimes all you've got to do is ask. In the caption, include a call-to-action asking people to tag their friends and give them a prompt to do so.
For example, the post below from Rent the Runway asks followers to "Tag your future RTR BFF!"
Our post below from HubSpot asked followers to tag their office coffee buddy.
In this cute video from Headspace, they asked followers to tag someone they love to help celebrate Valentine's Day.
Similar to asking your followers to tag a friend, you can ask them to "double-tap," which is how your followers can like your photo or video. The standard language for a request like this is: "Double-tap if..."
In the example below from The Parentologist, she asks followers to double-tap if they’re looking for a last-minute gift for a parent, which is a fun way to engage her fans.
16. Reposts From Your Employees
Reposting your employees is an awesome way to showcase what happens behind the scenes at your company, while really helping your followers "bond" with the people who work there.
For example, the people behind the Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park account often repost photos and videos from their grounds crew.
New Look has a really cool approach: They repost Instagram content from their employees, who function as brand lifestyle ambassadors with accounts specifically associated with New Look. Their deputy manager @newlook_georgia and their dress designer @newlook_emilie are a couple of New Look’s employees who act as brand ambassadors.
While the main New Look account posts mostly their own content, they often repost from their employees, like in the image below.
17. Cross-promotion of Another Social Media Account
Cross-promotion of other social media accounts on Instagram is a great way to let your Instagram followers know where else on social media they can find you. That way, you can get your Instagram followers to become your followers on Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
18. "We're Hiring."
Finally, let your followers know you're hiring every once in a while by posting a simple call-to-action on your Instagram page, including a trackable link to your jobs page in your bio.
Here's an example of a "we're hiring" post from Arey’s Pond Boat Yard:
Post Like A Pro
Now that we've gone over some tips to get your creativity flowing, it's time to create a post of your own. Use these content ideas for Instagram to increase brand awareness and connect with your community in new ways.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.