You wake up at 6:00 AM, quickly disable your alarm and bring up your home screen. What’s this? No Instagram notifications? Impossible.

You check your most recent post just to make sure.


Only 20 likes.

You thought you could just wow them with visuals. You tried to give your audience something of value. You might have honestly even thought about posting eye candy for cheap likes. If you feel like your modern-day Picasso artwork isn’t working on Instagram, then you might be missing something. Just take a look at this post:


FJ - Instagram

You might not be a comedian, but you can still make your post work. We’ve gathered 3 major keys to creating an engaging Instagram post.


Using the right colours

There are a few things you should consider when putting together a visual for Instagram. The first thing to consider is Colour. Colour increases reader attention spans and brand recall by 82%.

Red signs usually state that you should stop what you’re doing. A yellow label usually screams out “WARNING.”

Does that hot pink font you used help with creating brand recall?

When you’re creating posts, you’ll have to consider using your brand’s colour palette. Coca-Cola uses red. Shopify uses lime green. What colour will you use?

Each post should contribute to the overall feel of your brand’s profile. Having a consistent colourway works wonders.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of brands that make great use of colour.



ColourPop, an e-commerce driven makeup company, keeps things consistent. Their visual style uses swatches, white space, and pictures of smiling millennial females. They seldom use dark background colours. Lighter colours and shades go with the brand’s playful and easygoing personality.


ColourPop Instagram


You’ll notice that scrolling through their profile feels seamless. The use of consistent colours makes it easier for your brain to process their images as well.

It’s pretty obvious that they more than likely have professionals editing their visuals. You can easily throw a filter on your post to keep your visual colours consistent. Instagram gives you the option to adjust the contrast, saturation, and brightness for each photo.

1st Phorm

You gotta hand it to 1st Phorm, they’ve really nailed down the image of a luxurious supplement brand. That was definitely achieved with the use of the brand’s two favourite colours:

Black and blue.


1st Phorm Instagram


The combination of fluorescent blue and gunmetal black is pleasing to the eye. Scroll through their profile and you’ll notice that almost every post is using at least one of these colours.

Their profile consists of product photos and motivational videos. Both types of posts stay within the brand’s colour scheme. This obviously helps the brand stick out amongst a sea of other supplement brands. The black and blue colourway are almost exclusive to the brand.

Daniel Wellington

Minimalist watches. Go onto their Instagram profile, and you’ll feel the minimalist look they were going for. Daniel Wellington does an awesome job of creating an elegant yet minimalist visual style.

Lots of white space and earthy tones emanate the quality of the brand. It’s almost as if you’re sifting through an IKEA magazine, but strictly for watches.

You’ll remember Daniel Wellington for their pretty photos, but it’s the use of colour that makes the brand 39% more memorable.

A watch with a white face, accented by a gold trim has their audience instantly connecting the dots. Even Daniel Wellington’s user generated content lines up with their visual style.

You may notice that they’ve been using black in their photos. Which just so happens to line up with their focus on selling their “classic black” watches.


Daniel Wellington Instagram


You can tell that the brands above know exactly how colours should be used to engage their audience.

You should have a branding strategy in place. It can help with giving you some direction to how you can use colours in your posts.


Tugging at emotions

Remember that time you teared up watching an advertisement?

You might have even hopped onto YouTube and did a quick search for “Budweiser puppy commercial” to show your friends. Marketers love to make you laugh and cry.

Your sharing habits are driven by emotions, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. When it comes to social media marketing, you want to provoke emotion. The most engaging Instagram posts rely heavily on emotion.

Provoking emotions is something you might have already considered. If not, it’s time to tap into your audience’s emotions.

The easiest way to do this is by first finding out what motivates them. Do they want to learn something new? Are they looking for inspiration? Do they want to find an outfit for New Year’s eve?

Take the reasons why they may be on Instagram and reverse engineer it. This is also a good opportunity for you to create an audience persona if you haven’t already.

If your audience is looking to learn something new, they would most likely respond to content that shocks them. Shock and awe will get them to think about their current habits.

Let’s pretend that you’re selling tea. You can create a post that says “Tip: drink 1 cup of tea before bed to wake up feeling refreshed.” This kind of content will get them to think “Hmmm… maybe I should drink tea before bed.”

You can do the same thing for those who are looking for inspiration. These audience members are looking to feel motivated. You don’t always have to default to motivational quotes.

Now let’s pretend that you sell clothing subscription to Millennial men. Your ideal customer probably doesn’t have the best eye for upcoming trends. They might be looking for a New Years Eve outfit.

As the fashion brand, it is in your best interest to help them out. You can do this by inspiring them with a photo of an influencer decked out in your brand’s clothing. The objective is to get your audience to start thinking about what they have now. Soon they’ll start thinking about how they can pull off the same look.

They might not buy anything from you right now, but you will be one of their options. Inspire your audience, and motivate them to take action. Frank & Oak does an excellent job of inspiring their audience with photos.


Frank & Oak Instagram

Whether you’re trying to make your audience laugh, cry, or gasp in awe, the only way you’re going to get an emotional response is if you have their trust.

You aren’t going to get the best response if all you did was hammer them with sales promotions.

Once you have built trust with your audience, then you can start crafting content that will provoke their emotions and inspire action.


Getting seen with hashtags

The key to audience engagement is the proper use of hashtags.

In a study conducted by TrackMaven , it was found that posts with four to five hashtags were hitting the sweet spot for engagement. Instagram users won’t vomit at the number of hashtags you use, but you will have to refrain from maxing out at 30 hashtags.

So how do you find the right hashtags? Reverse engineer your target audience.

Are they looking for motivation to go to the gym? Use the ever so popular; #MondayMotivation.

Does your audience live in Vancouver, BC? Use #YVR or #Vancouver, along with a location tag.

Hashtags give you the power to actually target your audience. If you want to get your foot in the door, you’re going to have to start speaking your audience’s language.

Become a part of communities by using niche or industry specific hashtags. Want to speak with the vape nation? Use the hashtag #VapeNation. Looking to get in front of fitness fanatics? Use #fitfam as one of your hashtags.

Be creative!

You can use branded hashtags, but you need to make sure that your audience will catch onto it as well.

Herschel Supply Co. does a great job of using their branded hashtag #WellTravelled. The amount of engagement that Herschel gets using this hashtag is insane. The visual style for this hashtag is consistent across the board too.

You’ll notice that users take photos and create content just for the opportunity to use the #WellTravelled hashtag.


Herschel Instagram

The audience member gets their post featured. Herschel gets some pretty user generated content. More and more users continue to use #WellTravelled for the chance to get featured. It’s a cycle of continuous brand exposure, and it’s a win-win situation for both Herschel and the audience!

To put it simply, your hashtags should define who you’re speaking to. Your list of hashtags should personify your target audience. This is why developing audience personas are key to your content marketing strategy.



You may be trying to generate brand awareness. You might want to drive traffic to your website, or even support the launch of your new product. If you want your Instagram posts to get engagement, consider the three elements above.