Instagram 101

Since its introduction in 2010, Instagram has been a challenge for marketers!

With its visual-first approach, it can be difficult, especially if your brand doesn’t have many visuals! But the great thing about Instagram is that when you’re looking at a channel-specific approach, it’s an opportunity to do something completely different from what you’re doing on your Facebook or X (Twitter) account!

So, first things first, what are the basics?

There are four types of content you can publish on Instagram:

Single image posts

Does what it says on the tin, one image that goes onto your feed. 

Carousel posts

You can select up to 10 images and videos to create a carousel. Instagram are even experimenting with up to 20!!

Reels

All videos on Instagram are now Reels, but to be specific, these should be videos in 9:16 (portrait) format and can be up to 90 seconds long.

Stories

Unlike the above, these don’t go onto your feed but sit in their own feed and can be accessed by tapping your profile picture. You can share photos or videos (plus some extras). They only last 24 hours but can be added to highlights on your profile. 

Okay, I got that now; what do I do?

Now, it’s time to decide your Instagram strategy. It is key on Instagram to know what you’re going to post; it’s very difficult to do off-the-cuff content (well, apart from stories, but we will come to that!)

Successful Instagram accounts are often either focused on awareness or specifically on a pain point for their target audience. It’s good to know what you want to do before you start creating content, as this will guide you. 

Next, it’s worth taking stock of what content you have already: videos, photos, and blogs (yes, blogs, though you won’t be linking to them (through the feed), these are great for creating educational content). Knowing what you already have and also what you want to make to achieve your goal (remember, this is ongoing, so you’ll always want to come back to this regularly, both looking at what you have and want to reuse, and what new content you need to get).

Now’s the fun part!

It’s time to plan your content! We often recommend a minimum of 3 posts per week, and you should have a mix of different content; our goal is:

1 x Reel

1 x Carousel

1 x Single image post

But it does depend on what you’ve got; if you’ve got lots of video, do more Reels. If you’ve got lots of blogs with information that solves a problem for your ideal audience, create carousel posts using these.

Here’s some we made earlier.

Wait, what about stories?

Ah, yes, we said we’d get to that, and we’re keeping it separate because stories can have a completely different strategy. Remember these will mainly be seen by the people who already follow you, so you can have a bit more fun here and engage them in different ways, like:

  • Behind-the-scenes content
  • Polls and quizzes
  • Photos that maybe aren’t suitable for your feed but show something about who you are
  • Oh, and you can add links here too!

Stories are an excellent way to show your personality as a brand and connect with your audience in a very different way from your feed posts. This is why you can be a bit more spontaneous with these! 

You can also post more stories than other content, although we recommend not spamming too much; post three times a day if you can, and once a week let them expire (i.e. don’t post for 24 hours), as you often see a little boost when you post for the first time after this!

Bonus Instagram Tips

  • Be consistent with posting; this doesn’t mean showing up every day, but make sure the algorithm knows you’re active regularly. Sporadic posting won’t do you any favours!
  • ENGAGE! ‘Social media has the word social in it for a reason’ is a motto in our office. Ensure you’re responding to comments and DMs on your account and reaching out and engaging with others! 
  • Trending audios for Reels are fantastic for reach, but make sure your video speaks to a broader audience if you want higher engagement. If it’s too niche, people will scroll past quickly, and the algorithm won’t push it to more people. 
  • Collaboration posts (a post you share with another Instagram account that goes on both your feeds) are the way forward! It’s a great way to reach new people within your target audience and shows that you work with your community.

Need help with your Instagram?

We’re here for you! Get in touch to find out more about our services and to find out more about who we could work together.

Sarah is wearing brown glasses and a checked dress with cream top underneath. She has her head tilted to one side and is smiling to camera.

Sarah has been working in social media marketing since 2013 and joined the Social Firefly team in January 2022. Working with some of our biggest clients she makes content planning and creation look easy while delivering on some of our best performing strategies. Outside of work, she's a keen photographer, dedicated swimmer, a certified foodie, dog auntie and travel lover.