Written by Hannah Sears

Whether you’re a marketer or a consumer, when you think of social media marketing Instagram is probably the platform that first comes to mind. Instagram is one of the best places for brands because it’s about more than posting ads. You have the opportunity to spread the word about your brand, build communities, and engage directly with your customers to create loyal brand ambassadors. The majority of Instagram users (90%) follow at least one business and 83% of users find out about new products and services on the platform. 

Brands recognize how powerful Instagram can be if used effectively. Knowing how to use the platform to your advantage is key for marketers who want to drive sales, boost brand awareness, and more. The competition for attention on Instagram can get intense, but it’s encouraging to know that, despite the influx of branded content, users are staying engaged. 78% of Instagram users consider brands on Instagram to be popular and over 75% see them as entertaining and creative. But, to cut through the noise and get engagement on your posts, you need to be sharing the right content. 

The power of user-generated content

Instagram is almost entirely based on user-generated content (with the exception of ads and branded content from businesses), which is one of the reasons why it’s become so popular. User-generated content (UGC) is any content that’s created by users of a platform. UCG is seen as more authentic and real than branded content and helps drive engagement on social platforms like Instagram.

The top 3 industries that work with influencers are luxury brands, sportswear, and beauty brands. If you visit the Instagram pages of the top retailers in these areas, you can expect to see UGC combined with marketing content. User-generated content brings authenticity to your marketing effort by showing how real customers use or interact with your brand and products. This also provides social proof for your brand–showing that real people purchase and trust your products. 

Showcasing user-generated content on your Instagram page is a great way to get more engagement and increase your brand reach. Partnering with influencers to generate UGC has been one of the most popular ways to leverage the growing influencer market. 

Capturing attention with motion

While Instagram started out with static photos, the platform has expanded far beyond that. Individual users and brands can now share multiple images at a time, along with videos and gifs. Photos and videos can be shared in the feed, on stories, or through IGTV, expanding the number of ways brands have to reach their audiences. 

Content is constantly shared on Instagram from brands and individual users, so finding ways to stand out are important. Video is becoming increasingly effective on the platform and one-third  of the most viewed stories on Instagram are shared by businesses. 

The most popular form of video content on Instagram are how-to videos, followed by behind-the-scenes posts, interviews, and news coverage. Videos can be shared in a variety of different ways, from longer instagram stories to ads. Each one has different lengths and can be used to focus on a specific goal, whether you’re driving sales with an ad or revealing a new product on your Instagram story. 

Using videos to show a demo of a product helps showcase a hero product and its features. Make your content go even further by breaking out longer videos into short snippets or creating gifs that you can share on your feed and in stories over several days or weeks.  Working with influencers to show a product in action through an unboxing video or how-to will help drive views and engagement. Use the Stories feature to share longer videos, like a showcase of all your influencers to highlight different voices.

    Go behind the scenes

    Even though Instagram is typically portraying a glossier version of “real life,” authenticity is still so important to consumers. They want to purchase products from brands that they trust and they want to be seen and treated as real people. Taking a step back from scripted content and branded images and showing what goes on behind-the-scenes gives brands a chance to show their personality and be real with their audience. 

    Influencer-created content often falls into the behind-the-scenes category, with content creators showing their real lives and sharing honestly with their audience. Influencers have incredibly loyal and engaged followers because their audiences feel like they know them personally and can relate to them. 

    Instagram’s Live stories feature is a great way to share a more casual, unscripted side of your brand. Spotlighting members of your team, showing off an office, or hosting an informal Q&A are just a few of the ways to use Stories to give your audience a peek behind the brand curtain. Working with influencers? Have them host a “takeover” of the account where they share live or post some behind-the-scenes content of their own!

    With over 1 billion people using the platform every month, Instagram is one of the top social media channels. Brands have recognized the power of this audience and are learning how to use it to do more than just sell products. But, driving engagement on Instagram takes more than sharing branded photos or posting ads. Harness the power of user-generated content for photos and videos and be authentic with behind-the-scenes and live video content. Mix up your content by combining in-house videos with influencer content to help provide social proof. 

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