Your Guide to Engaging Instagram Posts

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Recent years have seen new social media platforms come and go, but one platform continues to perform time and time again: Instagram. With over one billion active users worldwide, Instagram is undoubtedly where many of your customers—and potential customers!—are.

So, how exactly do you tap into this potential goldmine as a small business or solopreneur? Follow the tips below, where we break down the business essentials of Instagram engagement and ROI:

  • How to easily create on-brand Instagram posts with Creative Flow
  • 8 must-have assets for your business’s Instagram
  • 8 quick tips for maximizing Instagram’s potential

How to Create Instagram Posts in Create

With Shutterstock Creative Flow, you can take your vision from idea to reality—all in one place.

The comprehensive suite of AI-powered apps is built to enhance every aspect of your creative process, putting the tools you need to make your own on-brand Instagram posts right at your fingertips, even without any design experience.

Just follow this step-by-step guide and check out the video below!

Note: Although the below steps are all about an Instagram post, they can be used for any kind of asset. Check out the list that follows the instructions to find out exactly which assets are most important for a small business on Instagram.

1. Find a Template

Click any Instagram template to customize it.

Looking to announce a flash sale? Want to share an inspirational quote? Whatever your Instagram publishing need may be, Create—Creative Flow’s suite of easy-to-use editing tools—has an artist-made template ready to kick-start your process.

Just start with the category that fits you best:

If you prefer to skip the templates altogether, start from the Create homepage and choose Instagram Post under the heading Start with a blank canvas. Then, you can bring your own idea to life from scratch.

2. Upload Assets or Use Ours

Screenshot of choosing a stock photo in Shutterstock Create
This design started with an Instagram template but is about to become 100% unique.

Once you have the template or blank canvas open, it’s time to make it your own. To upload your media (a product shot or your company logo, for example), click Images > Upload.

Don’t have your own images? No problem. Search Shutterstock’s library—with millions of pro photos to choose from—by clicking Images > Stock Photos instead.

3. Customize the Design

Screenshot of how to customize an Instagram post in Shutterstock Create
A few quick edits are already bringing this Instagram post together.

With your assets on the canvas, why not spice them up a bit? Create’s built-in tools make it easy to go from “regular old photo” to professional-looking Instagram post. 

Some of the most popular edits for Insta include:

  • Background Remover: Enjoy this premium feature (and many more!) with Creative Flow+. Simply click on your photo and then click Remove bkgnd from the top menu. Perfect for product photography, elevated typography, and so many more uses!
  • Effects: Click on any image, text, or graphic and then click Effects from the top menu. Change the colors of any photo in one click and apply Instagram-esque photo filters (only better).
  • Pro Effects: Accessible from the top menu, these effects combine several steps in one! Quickly add a glitter shadow, glitch effect, pixelation, and more.
  • Textures: Great for changing plain backgrounds into patterns, marble, glitter, or gold foil, or for adding a roughened look to a standard photo.
  • Draw: Love that handmade feel? Add some freehand paint effects using watercolor, charcoal, pencil, or glitter.

The example post above relied on background remover plus some free graphics, located under Graphics from the left-hand menu.

4. Edit the Text

Screenshot of how to customize the text of an Instagram post in Create
Make the text your own.

Click into the placeholder text in your template and edit it to reflect your unique message. To add new text, click Text from the left menu and then choose a style or layout.

Once your text has been added, make any adjustments:

  • Change the color
  • Resize the fonts
  • Move the text boxes around the canvas
  • Try out new fonts and font pairings
  • Apply a texture or image fill

5. Use Smart Resizer

Smart resize feature in Shutterstock Create
Get perfectly sized assets for more than just Instagram!

No one has time to create brand-new assets for every social media channel. To make your Instagram post as versatile as possible, allow Creative Flow+ to resize it for you!

Click Smart resize from the left menu, then select specific assets for any other social media channel: YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more.

Based on your selection, Create will automatically resize your asset to fit these platforms’ unique specifications—all while keeping the design intact. 

Once you’ve selected your preferred assets, click Resize to resize the current canvas or Copy & resize to create a new file (leaving your current design as is).

6. Download Your Instagram Post

Download Instagram post in Shutterstock Create
Get your file and post it ASAP.

Once you’re finished customizing your post, click Download from the top and choose either PNG or JPG. Now you’re ready to share on Instagram!

By the way, every project you make in Create will be saved to your dashboard. Whenever you need a new post in the future, go to the Create homepage and duplicate an existing post to jump-start the process.

Beyond Posts: 8 Must-Have Assets for Instagram

Whether you’re running a solopreneur gig, a creative side hustle, or a larger business, here are the top eight most essential Instagram assets to create—ranked from most important to “nice to have.”

1. Profile Photo

Shutterstock Instagram profile screenshot
A simple logomark works wonders. Image via Shutterstock’s Instagram.

First and foremost, you’ll need an on-brand profile photo. Instagram profile photos are important because they give a first glance into your company’s branding. They appear in Instagram search results, as well as the top of your Instagram profile.

For many businesses, the best choice for an Instagram profile photo will be an appropriately sized version of their logomark*—just like Shutterstock’s example above.

Avoid using anything with too many words or too much detail, as the rendered dimensions of an Instagram profile picture are tiny.

*A logomark is simply the icon part of your logo. If you don’t have an icon-only version, make one with a logo template in Create!

2. Posts

Shutterstock Instagram post examples
Posts are visible in user feeds and from your profile. Image via Shutterstock’s Instagram.

Instagram Posts are the original Instagram asset, as they used to be the only type of content you could publish on the app. 

In short, Posts are your opportunity to share valuable content with your audience, whether that means. . . .

No matter the type of content, the most effective posts will stay on brand, both in terms of visuals and tone. They’ll also map to Instagram’s required photo sizes.

The value of Posts has gone down a bit in recent years due to newer options like Stories and Reels, but they’re still a must-have for any business.

At the very least, Posts show that your account is current and active, and they’re a great spot to work in some call-to-action links for customers.

3. Stories

Screenshot of Shutterstock Instagram post examples
By default, Stories disappear after 24 hours. Image via Shutterstock’s Instagram.

Not so new, but newer than Posts, Instagram Stories can be made of photos or videos and, unlike regular Posts, they’ll disappear from your profile within 24 hours.

Instagram Stories often come across as more spontaneous and off-the-cuff than regular Posts, incorporating fun elements like stickers, GIFs, music, and handwritten text. 

Another unique thing about Stories is their interactivity. Unlike regular Posts, Stories allow you to add features that your audience can respond to within the Instagram app:

  • Clickable call-to-action links (available if your account has 10,000+ followers)
  • Audience polls
  • Question stickers
  • Countdown stickers

Location stickers aren’t directly interactive, but they do allow your Story to appear on that location’s page, which increases search visibility and can help attract more customers. 

Get more creative tips for Instagram Stories.

4. Stories Highlights

Example of story highlights from Shutterstock and Shutterstock Contributors' Instagrams
Image via Shutterstock’s Instagram and Shutterstock Contributors’ Instagram.

If you’ve created a Story with staying power, add it to your Stories Highlights! By doing so, you’ll prevent the Story from disappearing within 24 hours.

Instead, it will remain visible within the chosen Highlight, which is shown in a row at the top of your Instagram profile.

Stories Highlights are perfect for:

  • Advertising new product collections
  • Categorizing your Stories
  • Responding to current events or social issues
  • Highlighting user-generated content
  • Sharing important company updates

In terms of design, the best practice for creating Instagram Stories Highlights is to keep them simple and on brand.

Learn more at these links:

5. Reels

Screenshot of Shutterstock Instagram Reels examples
Use Reels to share engaging videos. Image via Shutterstock’s Instagram.

The newest major feature of Instagram, Reels were released in 2020, largely to compete with the viral popularity of TikTok. Reels allow you to capture short videos (90 seconds or less) and then edit them directly within the Instagram app.

Unlike Stories, Reels won’t automatically disappear from your profile. They’ll live under the Reels section (a.k.a. the little film card icon) until/unless you decide to delete them.

Similar to Instagram Stories, Reels tend to favor an authentic feel. Most Instagram users enjoy seeing Reel content that feels, well, real

When creating your Reels, try these fun content ideas on for size:

  • Behind-the-scenes videos
  • Work-in-progress videos
  • Before and after videos
  • AMAs (“Ask Me Anything”)
  • Staff interviews
  • Customer interviews/testimonials

Pro tip: Similar to TikTok, Reels can be found and remixed by other Instagram users, as long as your Reels are set to public. If you keep this in mind and create Reels that can be mashed up in creative ways, you’ll make it much more likely that users will find and build on your content organically.

6. AR Filters

Screenshot of Shutterstock Instagram AR effects 
AR filters are a cool way to get attention. Image via Shutterstock’s Instagram.

Ever wondered how brands get those custom AR (“augmented reality”) filters on Instagram? They make them! And it’s easier than you might think.

Similar to Snapchat filters, Instagram’s AR filters allow you to create custom camera effects that map to the real world—following users’ facial expressions, bodily gestures, and other three-dimensional planes.

Anyone can make their own Instagram AR filters through Meta’s Spark AR platform. Check out 25 of our favorite AR filters and run through quick instructions on how to make your own.

7. Paid Ads

Unfortunately for solopreneurs on a tight budget, there’s been a documented trend of declining organic reach on both Facebook and Instagram in recent years. What that means is that many businesses are having to pay for advertising where they’d previously have relied on organic reach.

The good news is that if you have the marketing capacity, paid ads can certainly provide enough ROI to justify the expense! Instagram offers several different types of ads including image, carousel, and video, so you can choose the format that fits your needs and content best. 

Get more in-depth tips with this Instagram Ad Design Guide for 2022.

8. Instagram Shop

Screenshot of Instagram shopping tab
Users can explore products from the Shop tab or from your Instagram profile.

Do you run an ecommerce business? Then you need an Instagram Shop! Similar to a Facebook Shop, Instagram Shops allow you to advertise products directly through Instagram, taking advantage of the platform’s huge captive audience.

In terms of assets, Instagram Shops are easy to manage. All you’ll need are eye-catching product shots. In fact, these images can be pulled directly from your ecommerce platform (such as Shopify or WooCommerce), so you won’t even need to create new assets.

Pro tip: For high-quality product photography, it doesn’t get better than Create’s background remover tool. Remove the background from any photo with one click, and then replace it with something on-brand.

8 Quick Tips for Maximizing Engagement on Instagram

Alright, so you’ve got ALL the assets you’ll possibly need to succeed as a business on Instagram. Now, how do you actually ensure success over time? 

Here are the top tips to attract and maintain engagement:

  1. Be strategic. Instagram isn’t just a social media platform, it’s an extension of your small business brand. Before posting anything, consider your business goals and how the post relates.
  2. Stay on brand. From Reels to Posts to Ads, all of your content on Instagram should feel cohesive and represent your brand identity. Use Create’s Instagram templates to help!
  3. Consider your posting schedule. There are all kinds of recommended timelines for Instagram posting. Try a few of these out and see what works best for your audience.
  4. Test content types. Different posts perform differently for different audiences. Experiment with unique Instagram post ideas to find the sweet spot for your followers.
  5. Lead with video. Studies show that video consistently out-engages photo content, so don’t be afraid to lean into Reels and Stories! Interactive features like yes-no polls and quizzes are a good place to start building a two-way conversation.
  6. Use AI-recommended content. Find out which images are most likely to land with your audience through Creative Flow’s AI Powered Search and Shutterstock Predict.
  7. Repurpose content. Creating content takes time, so it pays to make the most of everything you create. Start with a single template and then use Create’s Smart Resizer to quickly save variations for all the social media channels.
  8. Check analytics. As long as you have a business or creator account, you’ll have access to Instagram insights. These analytics can help you make data-driven decisions about what to post and when.

The bottom line: Instagram represents a huge opportunity for any solopreneur or small business. Get started with Creative Flow and access 1,000+ Instagram templates, plus the tools and know-how to make on-brand content creation and posting a breeze.

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