Decorative illustration of a camera with emoji floating around it.

How to create engaging, high-performing Instagram content

october 5, 2023

Creating high-performing posts on Instagram these days seems tough. With the amount of information and number of businesses on the platform, the number of platform updates Instagram releases, and the constantly changing algorithm for recommended items, it's easy for content to get lost, overlooked, or to have low engagement.

Here are nine tips to help make sure your Instagram content is performing at the highest levels.

Tip 1: Post content when your audience is online

Posting your content at the right time can have a major effect on the success of your post's engagement. Instagram's algorithm loves fresh content, which is why we generally don't see posts older than two days in our feeds.

Image showing when Neha's audience is most active on Instagram on a Tuesday.

If you look at the above graph, this shows the time when most of my Instagram followers are online on a specific weekday. Looking at this, I can see that the best time for me to post on a Tuesday is probably 3:00 PM. Checking Insights data should be done before every post to ensure that you are posting at an ideal time—when a high number of your followers are on the platform.

If you have a business or creator account on Instagram, you can check your most active times by going to your profile and selecting Insights. To check your most active times, select Total Followers, and then scroll down to Most Active Times.

Tip 2: Post consistently and regularly

You don't need to post daily, but you should post every other day or about three times per week. The most important thing to remember is to not leave a big gap between your posts. If you're only posting once every two weeks or once a month, your posts won't be shown to many people other than your current followers (this is referred to as low reach). The posts that get the highest reach and engagement are those that offer value and are from an account that posts often.

Keep in mind that when you're not posting regularly, your followers are engaging with posts from other creators and businesses. This means that those creators and businesses will appear higher in people's feeds and you will appear lower.

Tip 3: Prioritize video content

Video content is currently prioritized by Instagram (this is especially true for reels). If you compare an image post to a reel that has similar content, you can see a massive difference in its reach and engagement.

Instagram data insights showing that reels receive far more interaction than posts.

Both of the items above are about the same subject and captioned very similarly, but we can see a clear difference in the engagement analytics between the two. The reel on the right performed much better than the image post.

After testing this numerous times with different types of content, I've clearly seen that reels content is getting a big push from the algorithm.

To create video content that has a real “wow” factor, start with a professionally designed video template from Microsoft Create and edit it to make it your own.

Tip 4: Make sure your posts are valuable and actionable

Of all the reasons why your content might have low engagement, this might be the biggest factor. If your posts aren't valuable to your audience, they won't like them, comment on them, share them, or come back to see more.

Here's what I mean by value: information that is beneficial to your ideal audience; something that they can take away and take action on immediately.

You want people to take away something that they can immediately implement in their business or lives. Here's an example of an actionable post:

In this reel, I provide a tutorial for my audience and I give them the steps needed to create that content on their own later. This is actionable and benefits the viewer immediately. You can also see how well it performed in the insights below:

Instagram data insights showing high engagement for content that is valuable and actionable.

The posts or reels that tend to be saved, shared, and highly engaged with give information and tips that users can implement immediately. Knowing your ideal audience and their struggles is key to creating this type of content.

Here's another example of a reel that has actionable information that users can easily implement themselves:

Pro tip:

For more information and ideas for creating engaging Instagram posts, see 5 social media post ideas for small business owners.

Tip 5: Learn from low-performing posts

If you're sharing lots of video reels and posting consistently when your followers are online and you're still seeing low performance and engagement on your Instagram posts, then the reason is most likely the content itself.

Here are a few things you can do to turn this around:

  • Review your high-performing posts and create more content that's similar. Maybe turn the same subject into a reel or create new posts with the same general vibe as the high performers.
  • Look at other creators in your niche and research what content performs best for them (you can look at their likes, comments, and views and make note of which reels/posts have performed better than others). See if you can create something similar with your own take on it.
  • Speak to your ideal clients or customers and find out what they are struggling with (ensure the questions are related to your niche); create content around this.
  • Take a break! Taking a few days off from social media, or even going for a walk or doing something to ease your mind, can help you come up with creative and interesting ideas.

Tip 6: Create content that works with the algorithm

Another reason your post performs a certain way is due to the algorithms used by social media platforms. Let's look at how the Instagram algorithm works so that you're aware of how your post is being shown to your audience.

Instagram's algorithm isn't as complicated as it seems. Here's how it works:

A graphic explanation of how Instagram's promotional algorithm works.

Your content strategy is the key to unlocking growth and monetizing your business on Instagram. With engaging and valuable content in place, the algorithm favors your posts and shows them to more people. This means higher growth potential, engagement, and monetization.

Tip 7: Create high-performing reels

Video reels are favored by Instagram's algorithm, so it's important to include them in your content strategy.

Here are things that will help your reels perform well:

  • High-quality video (can be recorded on your phone and still be of high quality)
  • Bright, natural lighting (video shot outside or in front of a window works well)
  • Clear audio
  • Shorter lengths (under 30 seconds)
  • Trending music or audio overlays
  • Text captions because many people watch video with the sound off
  • You! Reels that feature people in them tend to perform better than those that don't, it also helps humanize you to your audience

Keeping all that in mind, reels and posts should follow this basic template:

A basic template for Instagram posts and reels includes an attention-grabbing headline, a section of tips or other info, and a clear call to action.

Tip 8: Use an attention-grabbing headline

You have a split second to grab a viewer's attention on Instagram. As they are scrolling through their feed, or looking at the explore page, your post is constantly competing for attention. You could have the most helpful tips and amazing information in your post or reel, but if your headline is not attention-grabbing, it's less likely someone will stop to view it.

Test it yourself. Take a few minutes and scroll through Instagram. See what types of posts grab your attention. Do they speak to your pain points or interests? What is the length of the text? What color is the text? Is it easy to read? Dissect the headline to see what stands out to you.

Here is what you should include to create a strong, attention-grabbing headline:

  • Your audience's pain points, struggles, or the things that would make them happy (something that would make them feel understood or inspired to learn how you did something)
  • Actionable information (something the viewer can use and implement in their life or business immediately)
  • Short, easy-to-read text in a large font and in a color that shows up against the background

Tip 9: Have a call to action

A call to action is the thing you want users to do after looking at your post or reel. This can range from sending you a message (for example, if you want them to direct message you to get more information about a product) or saving a post (like if you want them to save an educational post to refer to later).

Telling users to take an action can help boost your visibility because Instagram prioritizes posts and reels that get a lot of engagement.

It's important to have a call to action in all your posts and reels.

Below are a few calls to action that can be used on content:

  • Follow me for more tips
  • Comment below using the thumbs up emoji if you agree
  • Share this post with a friend to help them
  • Let me know your preference ( poll )
  • What would you like to know more about? ( question )

By including the above in your content strategy and following it consistently, you'll be able to increase your engagement and grow your following.

Related topics