Being a small business owner usually means you’ve poured every last drop of creative energy into building a stand-out product or service — so there’s not always a ton left for coming up with scroll-stopping Instagram posts.
But before you dust off those old product shots with a #tbt caption, here’s some Insta inspo for you to help you level up your social media marketing strategy.
In this article, we’ll zoom out and take a look at the kind of content that performs well on the platform, then dig into some tried-and-tested examples from other small businesses.
Use these ideas as templates to put your own spin on and voilà! A jam-packed Instagram content calendar to boost engagement and with any luck, sales.
What content performs well on Instagram?
Instagram is a visual platform where beautiful, aspirational content usually performs well. Your posting options include Instagram Stories, which disappear after 24 hours, feed posts (photos and multi-photo carousels), Instagram Lives, and Instagram Reels, short videos that you can also share on your feed and as Stories.
Visual the platform may be, but Instagram captions are still important. Interestingly, posts with super short (less than 20 characters) and super-long captions receive the most engagement.
When it comes to hashtags, the social media platform recommends no more than five, but the same research found that posts that used over 11 hashtags seem to resonate the most with Instagram users.
That said, your mileage will vary depending on your audience and your business, so don’t be afraid to experiment with all the available options.
19 Instagram post ideas
When you’re stumped for content ideas, draw inspiration from small businesses like the ones below nailing their Instagram marketing.
1. Behind the scenes
Add a human element to your brand by sharing the goings-on of your business. When it comes to this type of content, the possibilities are near endless.
Krissy Cela, founder of EvolveYou and Oner Active, shares behind-the-scenes snaps and videos from both personal and brand Instagram accounts, giving followers an inside look at what it takes to run not one but two successful businesses simultaneously.
‘Get ready with me’ (#grwm) videos like the one below (a creator favorite) are a fun way to handle behind-the-scenes looks and a straightforward format to follow if you’re comfortable on camera.
If being on camera is not your scene, a carousel post of what your offices look like or some hyper-lapse clips of packaging your products to be sent out to customers are also great options.
2. Product shots
While high-quality product shots will look great on your IG feed, some more authentic snaps or clips you take on your phone will do just fine — particularly in Instagram Stories if you’re cultivating an aesthetic Instagram feed.
Soap maker Skunk has curated a beautiful feed of both polished product shots and more spontaneous snaps of their wares in surprising locations, like the one below.
Bonus: Unpolished product pics will help build trust with your Instagram followers and potential customers with an unedited, unfiltered view of your offering.
3. How it’s made: Your production process
No matter your product, a quick, simple video of what goes into making it could make for a fascinating watch (particularly if, like Birch & Bramble, your offering is an art or craft).
Showcasing a service-based offering can be a little trickier, but not impossible. Check out how Nini Creatives shares screen recordings of the editing process below.
4. How it works: Your offering action
Give your potential customers an inside look at how your business or product works.
Here’s how Unleased shared a simple clip with a voice-over explainer of how to transition their Cozy Cave bed for dogs from cushion to ‘cave’, step by step.
5. The gift of giveaways
There’s nothing that will drum up engagement quite in the way a giveaway will. Sure, there is the standard ‘follow us, comment on this post’ approach. But you could also shake things up like Huel did in the video below.
They pinpointed a past comment from one of their Instagram followers and got in touch to share their appreciation with a gift. Sharing a video of the process after the fact encouraged other followers to interact with their content in the same way, without explicitly telling them to do so.
6. Thought leadership
Share your expertise, build trust, and create some extra value for your followers with some videos or tutorials on subjects related to your business that you’re particularly knowledgeable about. Stumped on ideas? Ask yourself what kinds of problems your customers need solved.
It’s a tactic website builder Marie Brown of Beyond the Kitchen Table uses often. In the video below, she shares how your website might be preventing you from attracting new clients.
If you’re not a fan of talking to the camera (it’s not for everyone!), share your thoughts in a well-formatted post caption, or even as text over a video the way Marie has done below.
7. Meet the team
Spotlight the people who make your product possible and show your appreciation for their hard work in a post or video in the way Rize Up Bakery did in the clip below. Like behind-the-scenes posts, this can also serve to humanize your brand and build trust with your audience.
8. User-generated content (UGC)
There are plenty of great ways to show off how much your customers love your work. This is made particularly easy when you’re tagged in their Instagram posts or Stories.
If their profiles are public, you can repost their Stories or posts by going into your DMs (any stories you’re tagged in will appear there) or hitting the paper airplane button below the post.
It’s always good form to ask permission before posting, but it’s a must if their profiles are private and you plan on screenshotting their content.
Bacon Bikinis regularly reshares content from their customers (and is lucky enough to have some influencers with sizeable followings sharing their wares, too).
9. Hints and sneak peeks
Use Instagram to generate some buzz for business updates and new offerings with a cheeky hint.
It could mean a black-and-white or partially obscured snap of a new product, or even just something to indicate that big updates are coming soon, the way Move with Blue did in the post below:
10. Pop culture mash-ups
Draw inspiration from the news that’s making waves in the wider world and tap into that excitement. The most obvious example of this was how brands painted their profiles pink, proverbially speaking, to get in on the Barbie action.
Here’s how the Fiit app turned one of their trainers, Gede, into a Barbie-inspired doll.
This could be an interview with you as a founder, a member of your team, a supplier, or even a customer. Micro-interviews are another great way to put a human face on your brand (and even share knowledge your audience might find helpful.
EvolveYou shared the great interview below with one of their trainers, which doubled as a behind-the-scenes look at a fun photoshoot.
If ‘lights, camera, action’ is not something you have the budget for, no problem. You could turn your interviewee’s answers into a graphic carousel. Below is an example of how we share snippets from our Creators Unlocked interview series on Instagram.
12. Trending sounds
Trending sounds can be a great way to get inspired about what to post next. Spend some time scrolling through your Discover page to find Reels with audio that appeals to you.
When you’ve found a video with some audio you like, tap at the top of the Reel (right under their name) where you’ll see the name and artist of the music or sound. You’ll be taken to an audio page like the one below (do scroll through to see how other Instagrammers have used the clip). From there hit the ‘Use audio’ button.
Sub-par video editing skills? Fear not! If you find a video someone else has created that you like (and they’ve opted in to make it available), you can use theirs as a template.
There are two ways to do this:
- Start creating a new Reel but hitting the ‘+’ at the bottom of the screen, then selecting Reel. After that, choose ‘Templates’ at the top of the screen and browse through the options.
- Alternatively, if you come across a video on your daily scroll that you like, check the bottom right of the screen to see if it can be used as a template (see the example from Wild Child Eatery below). Tap ‘Template by X’ and you’ll be taken to a page showcasing other videos that have been created with that template, plus the original.
Whichever route you choose, you’ll then tap ‘Use Template’ at the bottom of the screen and you’re on your way! You can replace their clips with your own, no muss, no fuss.
14. Green screen
With Instagram’s green screen effect, you can superimpose yourself over another photo or screenshot, making it easy for you to highlight say, a newly uploaded product, website, or blog post.
To do that, Tap the ‘+’ at the bottom of the screen to create a new Reel and tap the ‘Camera’ button at the top. Then on the right-hand side of the screen, choose the three stars icon for ‘Effects’, tap the magnifying glass to search, and look for ‘Green Screen by Instagram.
From there, you’ll be able to choose the image you want to appear in the background, and record yourself with the front-facing camera.
Fashivly leans on this feature a lot, to great effect.
15. Press coverage
If you’re lucky enough to feature in any media, share the good news!
For PR company, Tori Porter Communications, press features for her clients are obviously top priority. In the Reel below, she shares her achievements with a collection of snippets from the various newspapers, websites, and magazines her customers have featured in.
16. Success stories
Word-of-mouth marketing is tough to beat — and it makes for some great Instagram content. When customers share positive feedback, consider turning it into a post (again, with their permission, especially if you’re naming them).
You could use their comments as a caption in the feed post, or turn it into a graphic that can be used as the post itself. Alternatively, screenshot reviews and share them via Instagram Stories the way Brave Little Baby has.
17. Repurposed content
Work smarter, not harder, and re-use your most engaging content from other platforms. Instagram’s Threads makes it particularly easy to repurpose the text posts back on its primary platform by tapping on the paper airplane icon beneath each thread, then ‘Add to Story’ or ‘Post to Feed’.
To share text content from elsewhere, a simple screenshot of the tweet or LinkedIn post atop an aesthetic background (we recommend Canva) makes for a great Instagram feed post.
When it comes to short-form videos, the opportunities for repurposing are too good to be ignored. We recommend creating your video in an external video editor (Veed.io, Canva, and Capcut are all great options), and then sharing it on TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and Instagram simultaneously with Buffer. You can even tweak the caption for each platform to tailor it to the specific audience you have on each.
18. A list or round-up
Whether it’s a list of your various products or offerings, or something else your target audience may be interested in, a round-up video will lend itself beautifully to Instagram Reels.
Check out how Lifetree Collection made the most of some breathtaking shots from some of the lodges and hotels they book for their customers in the round-up below.
Both Instagram Reels and posts can now be Remixed, provided their original creators opt-in. This can allow you to build on (or, if you feel like stirring up a debate, challenge) someone else’s content.
Tap the three dots underneath a Reel or post, then tap ‘Remix’. The original video will appear in your editing window as any other clip would so you can put your own spin on it.
And there you have it: 19 ideas for scroll-stopping content to share on Instagram.
Which content type do you find has been the most effective for your business on Instagram? We’d love to hear from you (and add your ideas to this list!). Let us know in the comments below.