04/18/2014 04:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Instagram for Business: Engaging Content Ideas

Instagram is a challenging place for brands. Analytics are currently non-existent, ads are extremely expensive, off-app content is nearly impossible to link to and ideas for new content can be exhausting to generate.

Although I can't change anything about the first three points, I can offer some help with the last one. The following posts showcase a few different types of content that any business Instagram account can borrow from and customize for their own needs. (Plus, read this for other helpful tips: 3 Things Missing From Your Business Insatgram.

Inspire and motivate
Motivational quotes sometimes border on the cheesy or insincere side, but there's something to them when they're relevant to what you're going through. That's the magic of a great inspirational post -- it can create a connection between a company and its fans by communicating "we understand you" through the message.

The caption to Nike's photo below is: "You don't need a crowd. You just need a court.#justdoit"


It's simple and short and builds on their strong athletic brand while underscoring their iconic motto.

Weight Watchers certainly understands their average fan. This motivational message could not be more appropriate for their members who are trying to lose weight and live healthier lifestyles.


The points Weight Watchers refers to are a part of the system members use to track what they eat every day. The company has a clear sense of what matters to their fans and created something to push them on toward their goals.

Take Away: Inspiring quotes and messages work best when they are matched to the attitude and interests of a business's fans and customers.

Offer the chance to engage
A common trap businesses fall into is to push, push, push content without letting followers have a say. That's like having a one-way conversation -- it's boring and unhelpful to both parties.

Especially because according to recent data, Instagram's community is 15 times more engaged than Facebook's, which means that Instagrammers are more likely to talk back.

Sephora found a way to successfully engage with their fans. They created the #SephoraNailSpotting hashtag, where they've encouraged Instagrammers to share their own nail creations. Sephora then rounds up their favorite posts and shares a compilation.


It's a win-win because the makeup brand offers fun and interesting nail art to their followers while their fans in turn gain the notoriety of being featured on Sephora's profile.

Chobani also engages in a similar way. They share tasty pics of fan recipes that use the yogurt as an ingredient. The recipes are relevant and helpful to fans and subtly promote the brand without Chobani saying it directly.

See this example:


The caption: "Um, yum. #maple #banana #bread with #chobani by@thenutritiouskitchen w/ delicious #chocolate spread.#recipe at"

Take Away: Don't just share fan photos; allow them to talk and engage with the brand. Let what fans are doing affect what is posted. They are who the company is trying to influence, so let their voices be heard.

Tease new products
Even though every piece of social media advice instructs companies to stop talking about themselves... have you noticed something? The big businesses ignore that advice completely, and fans don't seem to care.

That's because with highly visible and recognizable brands, they can get away with being self(ie)-adsorbed on social media (see what I did there?). For everyone else (i.e. small and medium businesses), offer a balanced presence.

Take a look at H&M. About 50,000 of their 2 million fans double-tapped this photo that announced a new line of crop tops.


The pattern and product speak for itself, so the minimal setting and backdrop worked perfectly in this photo.

On the other hand, the vibrant colors and haphazard placement of these body lotions put Bath and Body Works customers in mind of vacations and the summer.


The new products highlighted in the photo are one part of a larger marketing initiative -- reminding followers what's ahead and what key B&BW items they'll need.

Take Away: Balance engagement-driven posts with product-related content. When a product is successfully teased and photographed, it can have a powerful impact.

Participate in popular memes
There's certainly value in creating a brand-specific hashtag or meme, but there's also something to be said about joining in large, wildly popular, already-trending memes, as well. It's rewarding to jump in with the crowd.

MTV nailed the #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) meme with this ode to Jennifer Lawrence.


They really understood what the meme is all about and created a shareable moment for fans.

With a rich history to work with, it's not surprising Disney offered a look into their archive for a #TBT (Throwback Thursday) post. Their caption for this picture reads: "Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas sketch the three fairies during production of Sleeping Beauty in 1957. #ThrowbackThursday"


With the upcoming release of Maleficent, this is a superbly timed #TBT choice.

These Instagram content ideas are just a jumping off point. Let these posts inspire your business Instagram account and save you some time brainstorming... for at least a couple days.