Instagram is still one of the most popular social networks worldwide. The photo sharing app has more than 800 million monthly actives, most of them in the United States. People also love to use Instagram Stories (300 million daily Stories actives). And, of course, the platform is very attractive for marketing and companies; following brands and celebrities is one of the most popular Instagram activities.

Users in the United States are most active on the app.
Users in the United States are most active on the app.

But it’s not that easy being successful on Instagram — the competition is fierce. Similar to Facebook, the feed is based on an algorithm and with that, people should see more content that is relevant to them. So, if you keep some guidelines in mind, you can build a great community.

1. Uniqueness: Find your topic.

First of all, it’s important to have one topic for your Instagram account: the best sides of your country, special people, food, your products, or beautiful landscapes. Which of your topics are visually based and can be shown in powerful images? And which content might your users like?

A local newspaper will find it difficult to post news on Instagram, especially with the algorithm, because users may see your posts only a few days later. It would be easier to show special buildings, landscapes, or events around the city — rather timeless topics. Think about what exactly you want to share and what fits with your company. National Geographic is one of the most successful brands on Instagram with 87.4 millions followers; it posts extraordinary pictures from all over the world.

National Geographic is one of the most successful brands on Instagram, in part because its posts have a common theme.
National Geographic is one of the most successful brands on Instagram, in part because its posts have a common theme.

2. Activity: Post frequently.

It’s important to use Instagram regularly — daily, if possible. There are companies that post up to 30 (!) photos per day, but that mustn’t be your goal. Of course, your post frequency depends on how much time you want to devote.

Consider how intensively you use Instagram and how large your community should be. Be realistic. How often can you post, and what intensity can you keep up? Regularity is very important, even if you post only two pictures a week. Regularity is not only good for your followers but also for the algorithm.

3. Engagement: Like, comment, and answer.

An Instagram post is successful when the engagement is good, which means you should not only strive to get likes. Comments are very important. When a post receives a ton of likes and comments, this signals to the Instagram algorithm that your post is quality, engaging content that more people will want to see, so the Instagram algorithm will show it to more users, according to an expert on Later. So don’t forget to invest time in engagement.

It’s not enough to post photos; you have to interact with other users on your own pictures and with their posts. Follow other people in your area, comment on their photos, and, of course, respond to people who have commented your photo (e.g. “Thank you for your nice comment”).

4. Imagery: Edit your images.

People on Instagram currently like pictures with light colour and less saturation, but it’s important to find your own way to display imagery — perhaps black-and-white photos or photos with special contrasts. Expressive photos will always get user’s attention.

There are many bloggers who created their own filters on apps like Snapseed, VSCO, Photoshop, or Ligthroom, and they edit every of their picture in the same way. Their feeds look tidy and attractive. And, of course, you can do that, too.

Your profile should have a clean look. There are also apps that help you create a unique design for your feed, such as Unum or Planoly. With these apps you can arrange the look of your feed, and you can see how your new picture will look on your feed before posting it.

5. Discoverability: Use hashtags.

You should use hashtags so other users can find your content. Using tons of hashtags doesn’t mean many people will like your pictures. It’s important to use a selection of hashtags.

It is said you should use six to 10 hashtags per post align with your content. For example, when you post a photo from a great landscape you can use two broader hashtags (#naturelovers and #ig_landscape), two hashtags that describe what you see (#alps and #springiscoming), and two or three local hashtags (#germany, #bavaria, and #munich).

Another advantage for using hashtags is to encourage user-generated content. Ask people to tag their pictures on certain topics. For example, use your company’s name or another hashtag you determined (that could change occasionally).

People love to participate in competitions. Adobe, which uses only users’ photos on Instagram, is a great example for user-generated content

Adobe’s feed is made up of user-generated content.
Adobe’s feed is made up of user-generated content.

6. Analytics: Choose the right time to post.

Similar to other platforms, it’s useful to post your content when your followers are online. Companies should use business accounts on Instagram, and with Instagram Insights you can learn a lot about your target group.

Instagram Insights shows how old your followers are, where they come from, and when they are online (based on days and hours). Instagram Insights offers you many more possibilities, too. For example, you can also view insights on your posts such as impressions, reach, and Web site clicks.

7. Storytelling: Use Insta Stories.

Instagram is based on engagement, and it does no harm to use all features the app has. Instagram Stories are very popular, and users are spending more and more time with that feature. Stories can help you to grow your reach (by using gifs, polls, and other things).

Of course, your Stories content and your feed content should fit together. For example, you can show “behind-the-scenes” content in Stories (how a picture was taken or the photo shoot for your product) and on your feed you show the result. There are plenty of possibilities on how to use Stories, and it is worth taking time to explore them.