Anatomy of a Top-Performing Instagram Post

Social Media


After many years of posting content on Hootsuite’s Instagram, we’ve been able to identify the common qualities of our top-performing posts.

To highlight what these are, we had our social team breakdown one of our most popular videos on Instagram, which earned over 125 comments and 5,700 views.

We’ll walk you through the essential elements that this post—and every Instagram post—should include. We’ll also give you tips on how to create the best content for your brand.

5 essential elements of a top-performing Instagram post

1. High-quality visuals

This is Instagram 101—visuals are everything. If you’re not posting high-quality visuals then you don’t have much to offer on this platform and won’t stand out in a sea of other branded content.

Not every brand will have the budget for expensive equipment or a professional photographer or video crew, but even renting a DSLR camera or hiring a freelancer can make a big difference in quality. Our #instalife video was created by experts on our brand and social teams using professional-grade software.

Choosing the right color scheme will vary for each brand. Some studies show that using blue hues over red will get you more likes. But we’ve found that quality, relevance, and consistency make the biggest difference.

We chose a bright, vibrant blue color theme for our #instalife post that would catch people’s attention as they scrolled through their feeds.

Pro tip: Try using VCSO Cam to edit your photos instead of only relying on the standard Instagram filters.

2. A compelling caption

While quality visuals are the heart of Instagram, any post worth its salt will include a well-thought-out caption. Your caption should follow the basic tenets of good copywriting: be clear and error-free, engaging, and include a clear call to action.

There is a trend toward longer, editorial-style Instagram captions. If that make sense for the post, it’s worth a try. As a general rule, you should always cut out unnecessary words to be considerate of your audience’s time.

Our #instalife post was effective because it was short and informative while also keeping with our celebratory tone. We reused some of the copy from our other promotional content to make sure we had a unified message across channels.

Pro tip: Include a call to action in your post that directs people to a link in your bio.

3. Relevant hashtags

Hashtags are an essential part of finding and engaging your Instagram community. By making your content more discoverable, you have a better chance of attracting new followers and getting more likes and comments. According to a study by Simply Measured, posts with hashtags average 12.6 percent more engagement than those without.

There is no magic number of hashtags to use in a post, but if you use more than 10 it can start to look spammy. It’s always better to be selective and make sure that they’re relevant to your brand, industry, and campaign. Regardless of how many hashtags you use, you should always hide them in the comments or use line breaks to avoid clutter.

We not only created a campaign hashtag specifically for our #instalife video, but we also used relevant hashtags like #hootsuitelife, #marketing, #socialmedia, and #announcement to make our content more discoverable by a wider group of people.

Pro tip: Always double check hashtags to make sure they mean what you think they mean.

4. Community engagement

If you want your community to engage with you, then you have to engage back. Savvy Instagrammers understand that building community through reciprocal engagement is one of the best ways to increase your followers. You should be replying to all comments with as much useful information as you can.

Using Instagram to announce big news is an effective way to build a community and engage your superfans. It’s something that celebrities do really well and that more brands should emulate.

Going Instagram-first with this announcement was a no-brainer for us as our followers had been waiting for this updated feature.

Pro tip: Try doing a sneak preview of an event or behind-the-scenes exclusive on Instagram.

5. Follows recommended specs and dimensions

If you’re creating a video or taking a photo for a social campaign, then you should know beforehand that it’s intended for Instagram. Content should be specifically designed for the channel in order for it to be as effective as possible.

Instagram provides technical specs that all posts should follow. Our #instalife post also followed Hootsuite’s list of best practices for Instagram videos:

  • 15-second length
  • <20 words per video frame
  • Square format
  • Optimized for sound-off viewing

Pro tip: Create your Instagram content for a mobile-first experience.

If you follow these rules and make sure that your post has all five of these essential elements, you’re on your way to creating a top-performing Instagram post.

Save time managing your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish photos directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.

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