Over the past three years, Instagram has emerged as a powerhouse for individuals and businesses alike. It's the platform where we now find over 1.35 billion active users, and an estimated 30% or more of all internet users by 2025 will be creating on this platform.
Instagram is most commonly known by many of us as the go-to platform for stunning pictures, videos, and everything visual. However, it’s become much more, and it's now a hub where creativity and engagement meet to form a vibrant online community.
In this article, we will explore the key elements that make Instagram a potent platform for sharing content, connecting with an audience, and running successful marketing campaigns.
Instagram Content Types
One of Instagram's strengths lies in its diverse content formats. You're not limited to just photos and captions. The platform has evolved to offer a range of content types, each catering to different audience preferences and engagement styles, such as liking, commenting, sharing, or saving your content.
Single Image Post: Cliché, but a picture is worth a thousand words, and Instagram is the perfect place to tell your visual story. Smartphones of today allow for high-resolution photos, and marketers can showcase products, share key events, images, and connect with their audience through visuals, all with a simple phone or tools such as Adobe Express. When it comes to a single image post, it will be important to also make sure to use the right caption to accompany your image and achieve your goal.
The Carousel: In today’s world of choice, the Instagram carousel allows you to take advantage of combining both photos and videos for a compelling story to be told. Your audience can be included in an evolution from what might have been a product idea and sketch (your first images) to a full product launch and video within the same carousel post. The key benefit of your carousel is its versatility and proven reach. Instagram’s algorithm loves engagement, and when users swipe through your carousel, it will increase engagement rates and boost your reach. In fact, carousels have also been shown to generate the highest number of comments for small and large profiles.
Reel-world: As described on Instagram – “Get discovered with entertaining, original videos”. Reels are Instagram's version of short-form vertical videos and their TikTok alternative. On your Instagram app, reels even have a separate feed where people can “scroll away”. Reels have become the most popular content type on Instagram, and their power lies in finding new audiences. Reels are used for everything and anything now, and the most popular content is educational, product-related and behind-the-scenes. How come it’s so powerful? Users love to watch videos, and they have the potential to go viral. Many reels are based on trends of songs, memes, and challenges, and Instagram users can easily share reels with friends, which amplifies the success of your reel. Lastly, reels are generating the most “saves”, which is now a key metric in the social media app’s algorithm and indicates users intending to revisit your content.
Instagram Stories: Stories have become an important way to communicate and engage with your followers. Similarly to apps like Snapchat, your content will only be available for a limited 24-hour window, but it has the power to allow your audience to vote on polls, answer questions, make choices, and really have a voice. It’s become the perfect tool to also build anticipation for launches and provide behind-the-scenes action to your business. Stories have vastly improved over the past years and are now also up to 60 seconds long, and you can easily create “stories highlights”, which allows you to feature stories on your Instagram profile.
Instagram Live: Unlike all other types of content, Instagram Live is really geared towards live interaction with an audience. You can invite other collaborators to join your “live session”, you can enable comments, and it becomes a real-time “call or podcast”. Live allows brands to build a real personal connection with their audience, and many product demos and launches are now carried out on Instagram Live.
Two newer types of content on Instagram are more text-based and allow businesses to communicate and update followers perfectly.
Broadcast Channels – This has become the “newsletter” format and direct messaging option for all followers that join your broadcast channel. Businesses can share all content directly into their followers’ inboxes in mass and, therefore, no longer be lost in their Instagram feed. If they join your broadcast, you will be able to get your message across. It’s become an incredible tool for businesses looking to get followers opinions, share voice notes, and announce key events or updates.
Instagram Notes – similar to your WhatsApp status, Instagram Notes gives you 60 characters to provide a quick update, mood or info to your followers. It’s available for 24 hours and can be used for engagement with your audience. Notes aren’t tied to any notification for your followers, but they will see them in their inbox and can be less intrusive and spamming.
With all of these content types, it’s now important that any business using Instagram considers their audience, demographics, and behaviour.
Knowing your audience is really at the heart of success on Instagram. To name one example, Instagram's audience is predominantly younger, and in the US, 71% of 18-29 year-olds are using Instagram, but this percentage drops drastically to 48% amongst the 30-49 year-old age group and 29% for 50-64 year-olds. From 65 years onwards, we are at only 13%, and that’s why businesses must really consider what their target audience is and if they will be finding their audience here.
Your audience’s behaviour and interests are equally important, as this will allow you to focus your content and content types to play to your audience. Do they mostly comment or share, and how can your content appeal to them and help them? All of this becomes an ongoing process of planning, creating, posting, analysing, and improving your content types, but also understand why and when to use each tool.
The Instagram algorithm is something that helps businesses understand, which choices to make and learn what determines what content appears in a user’s or followers’ feed.
The Instagram Algorithm essentially decides whether your content gets seen or lost in the billions of posts on the platform. Instagram CEO, Adam Mosseri, explains in a 10 minute video how the algorithm works, and it breaks down as follows:
Instagram doesn’t have a single algorithm. They have many, and they are all based around signals and how likely you are to interact with a piece of content. They have proxies that allow them to predict this likelihood. That’s why certain Instagram Stories, for example, appear first. This is because you've been more frequently responding to or revisiting stories from a particular person or business.
Your Instagram feed is designed to show you the most relevant content since your last visit. Same basis here. Signals decide what you see first. The two most important things here are your history of interaction and the info Instagram has about the post. Is it popular? Is there a lot of interest from audiences? An effective tip is to encourage users to “favourite” you, ensuring your content appears at the top of their feeds.
Reels, as indicated previously, are mostly targeted at new users, and reels tend to be pieces of entertainment and content you discover from accounts that you do not follow yet. They are based again on a series of predictions, but much more based on what content you and others have interacted with that you have yet to see. Important here is that reels are watched until their over, are re-shared, and if users interact with the reel's author by clicking on their profile. Make sure to have your CTA’s ready 😉.
The explore section is similar to reels a recommendation section of Instagram. It helps the user discover new things. The most important thing here is how interesting a post has been to others (shares, likes, comments) for it to show up for new users too, and if it’s around content they like too.
In summary, the algorithm takes into account a range of factors, including user engagement, post relevancy, and timeliness. Posts that generate more likes, comments, shares, and saves tend to rank higher. Instagram also assesses the relationship between the user and the account posting the content. It prioritises content from accounts with which the user regularly interacts.
To improve your chances of visibility, focus on creating engaging, high-quality content that resonates with your target audience. Consistency is key—posting regularly keeps your audience engaged and signals to the algorithm that your account is active and worth promoting.
While organic growth is excellent, Instagram also has incredible advertising capabilities to take your reach to the next level. With Instagram ads, you can target specific demographics, interests, and behaviours, putting your content in front of a carefully selected audience. The option of ads follows the content types with photo, video, carousel, and story ads. The possibilities are really endless and allow businesses to boost their social media efforts even further.
In conclusion, Instagram is no longer just a platform for sharing photos. It has become a dynamic ecosystem for connecting with a global audience, driving engagement, and achieving business goals.
By understanding Instagram content types, algorithms and targeting your audience, and the advertising potential, you can truly unlock the power of Instagram. Whether you're an individual seeking to grow your personal brand or a business looking to expand your online presence, Instagram is a powerful tool for the modern digital age, and, as always, B3 Marketing is here to answer any questions you may have or provide the assistance you need.
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