Creating a successful, branded Instagram account requires more than just pretty images.
To succeed, you’ll need to establish a distinct aesthetic and a well-curated feed — both guided by your unique brand identity. Luckily, there are tips and tools to help you along the way.
Here, we'll cover five main tips to create engaging Instagram posts and eight brands who are doing it right — plus six apps to help you plan a cohesive feed.
How to Create Engaging Instagram Posts in 2023
These days, it’s not just about how many followers you have — it’s about whether your audience actually enjoys your content. This is measured by engagement.
Here's the catch — there isn't an exact formula for making a post engaging. However, trends and best practices can point us in the right direction. Here are a few of them:
1. Nail your voice.
When we build a relationship with someone in real life, it’s because we like who they are. Similarly, users only engage with brands online that they know and love. For instance, people enjoy the sassy comebacks from Wendy's on Twitter — or the inspirational messages from Nike.
It's essential to nail your voice and branding, then use it to guide everything you share on Instagram.
2. Lean into video.
Globally, video is the most engaging type of content, bringing in an average of 24 comments and 1,097 likes per post. Instagram offers multiple video-specific content types — namely Stories and Reels — so now is the ideal time to experiment with these channels.
3. Post consistently.
Growing your Instagram following is all about incremental progress. The more you post, the better. But be careful not to aim so high that you start pumping out low-quality content. For many businesses, four posts per week is a sweet spot that seems to work well.
4. Collaborate often.
Collaboration can come from a variety of sources — whether it's by sharing user-generated content or partnering with micro-influencers.
According to a HubSpot Blogs survey of 1,000+ marketers, Instagram was ranked the platform of choice for partnering with influencers. So much so, a staggering 97% of marketers plan to increase their investment in influencer marketing on Instagram this year.
Want to try your hand at influencer marketing but don't know where to start? Check out this handy checklist.
5. Promote outside Instagram.As weird as it sounds, some of the most effective places to get Instagram followers aren’t on Instagram at all. Reach a wider audience through your brand’s other channels, such as your website, email marketing, or other social platforms to drive traffic back to your Instagram account.
Next, let's cover tips and tricks for planning a cohesive and aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed.
How to Plan an Instagram Feed
When people talk about an Instagram "aesthetic", they mean a cohesive feel, mood, and general impression of a feed.
By presenting a seamless aesthetic consistent with your brand values, you are aligning your brand with your target audience and, therefore, building awareness. In this sense, your Instagram aesthetic is just as important as your website.
First impressions are everything on Instagram, so here are a few ideas for planning your feed:
1. Know exactly what your brand identity is.
A great part of your aesthetic will derive from your brand identity. What’s your brand personality and tone? What are its values? Is your brand playful? Adventurous? Bold and daring?
Having an Instagram grid that reflects your brand is one way to create familiarity. Posting content that is random creates disconnect and confusion. When this happens, it’s hard to commit to hitting that follow button.
2. Determine your target market and cater to them without compromising your brand identity.
Your Instagram feed is primarily meant to attract existing and future customers, so it’s important to create content that pulls them in and engages them. To do this, start by getting to know what’s important to your target market — like what they love about your brand, products, and services. Then, reflect that back to them in your Instagram feed.
3. Create a story with each photo displayed on the post.
The more compelling your story, the less it would feel to your customers that you’re just selling them something. When tied to your brand identity, narratives can create the emotional connection your audience needs, giving meaning to your content and making it more relatable.
The story you tell plays a great part in creating brand loyalty from your customers. Check out this video on how to write effective narratives in your captions:
4. Choose a color palette, "feel," or filter and use it consistently.
Using a color palette, filter, or even texture in your Instagram posts can give you that much sought-after level of consistency in your feeds.
To tie all your posts together and enhance your feed's look, try using the same filters on your posts. Play around with the saturation, lighting, and contrast or stick to bright white backgrounds with pops of color. Or, create your own brand color palette by playing around with three to four color combinations to repeat in your posts.
5. Post content that reflects your brand’s core value.
Don’t be afraid to use Instagram marketing to show off your products or service at work — just get creative. Take detailed shots and create eye-catching flat lays that show off your products in new and interesting ways.
You can also post user-generated content (UGC) – posts sourced from customers and followers to build brand trust and awareness. Oftentimes, users will tag your brand in their own posts which you can screenshot and share to your feed, or use a reposting app.
UGC can only mean good things: prospects are likely to evaluate customer reviews when looking to buy, and it makes your brand look trustworthy and beloved.
6. Plan ahead!
Most well-organized Instagram aesthetics are organized and planned ahead. Some accounts plan posts on a chronological basis —like seasonal, monthly, or quarterly timelines — but others plan in terms of content.
For instance, they might try to post consistently about a certain product or event, or create a repeated series of posts per row surrounding a specific topic like quotes or food.
6 Apps to Plan Your Instagram Feed
1. Preview App
Officially approved by Instagram, the Preview app takes your photos and creates a mock-Instagram feed. Then, you can drag and drop your photos until you find your perfect layout. The app also works for Reels and IGTV's.
The app also has a ton of helpful features too, like caption prompts and a hashtag generator.
Planoly is the OG of this list. Since launching in 2013, this app has become a staple for many social media marketers — mainly due to its easy interface and powerful capabilities. Its Instagram Planner lets you visually plan and design content with a variety of editing tools. As an added bonus, you can also source photography from a library of free stock images.
Once you're happy with your layout, you can schedule posts without leaving the app.
Plann's simple drag-and-drop planner allows you to arrange your photos on a mock-Instagram feed. You can upload photos directly from your phone, or via DropBox or Google Drive.
This app gets a gold star for its collaboration capabilities — your entire team can manage, design, schedule, and caption Instagram posts.
Marketed as, "Your playground for curation," Mosaico comes packed with features to help you plan your Instagram content. You can plan multiple feeds, drag and drop your photos, and discover the best hashtags.
We also like that you can save certain tags under custom categories, which populate under your caption with one tap.
Look out for Mosaico 2 — the second version of the app — launching soon.
UNUM provides a space for you (and your team) to design and plan Instagram posts. Use its photo editor to style photos to match your brand aesthetic, then use the planning tool to arrange your posts to perfection. Apart from planning feeds, the app also lets you link up to 3 Instagram accounts in the free plan.
Like Planoly, Later is also an all-in-one social media management app. It provides a feed planner that helps you visualize your Instagram feed. You can also leverage the visual calendar to schedule posts across multiple social media platforms.
Keep in mind that Later isn’t a dedicated Instagram feed planner — so you may get more features than you need.
8 Instagram Aesthetic Examples
1. Vitruvi (@vitruvi): 129K Followers
Vitruvi, an essential oil company, has a soothing and aspirational Instagram feed. They make good use of one or two filters, post simple images, and show women living their best lives. They are associating their products with clean, happy, and healthy lifestyles.
2. GoPro (@gopro): 18.9M Followers
GoPro's Instagram photos perfectly represent what it means to capture a lifestyle full of adventure and action through the lens of their product.
Their feed focuses on showcasing a variety of unique moments designed to drive you to want to go out and document your own adventures.
3. Old Navy (@oldnavy): 2.5M Followers
If you're trying to sell consumer clothing, you need to meet their seasonal needs. Old Navy is a retail company that knows how to sell for seasonality, and their Instagram reflects this.
They also have a unique color strategy — for instance, they gradually incorporate reds and pinks around Valentine's Day.
4. ColourPop Cosmetics (@colourpopcosmetics): 10M Followers
ColourPop is a cosmetics brand based in Los Angeles that understands what users want from makeup posts on Instagram — and delivers it. They maintain a bright collection of tutorial videos, product posts, swatches, images of influencers, and pop culture. Each image is glorious and eye-catching.
5. Nike (@nike): 90.9M Followers
With one of the largest followings on Instagram, Nike's feed goes beyond just great athletic sportswear and footwear. They have created a distinctive “Just Do It” mentality and systematically developed a social media presence to reflect that inspirational brand image.
Nike has done an incredible job of featuring inspiring athletes to promote their vision. If you want to perform at the highest level like these athletes, you wear Nike.
6. Red Bull (@redbull): 15.5M Followers
When you think of Red Bull, you think of high energy. That's why Red Bull’s Instagram feed includes so many “epic” videos and pictures — each one more thrilling than the next.
Red Bull associates their brand with a lifestyle that is exhilarating and pushes boundaries when it comes to extreme sports and weekend getaways. Another way they create a narrative is through the cohesive feel of their posts. Notice how the majority of their posts are set outdoors. It helps create the image that when you drink Red Bull, you live on the edge.
7. Pantone (@pantone): 3.3M Followers
Striking visuals are everything on Instagram, and Pantone's Instagram looks like a color wheel.
The color consulting firm uses high resolution images, and each post captures a particular color in a unique way. Additionally, Pantone takes advantage of the space on their Instagram homepage — every three to six photos highlights a different color through clothing, architectures, or paint color samples.
8. Fabletics (@fabletics): 1.9M Followers
Fabletics — one of the first companies to introduce the subscription model for athletic wear for women — knows a thing or two about performance, quality, and style.
In a generation where selfies and gym posts are very much a norm, Fabletics makes sure that it sticks to its image of ensuring its customers look good while working out.
Ready to Refresh Your Instagram?
With these eight brands that are rocking Instagram as references, get started refreshing your brand’s Instagram feed and take it to the next level. Happy posting!