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What Do Instagram Users Expect from Brands?

Instagram users enjoy following and interacting with brands, but they tend to focus on brands that meet their expectations.

Facebook recently published a few key insights on how brands can connect with their audiences on Instagram. Based on two extensive studies, Facebook’s insights draw attention to the expectations Instagram users have from companies.

Instagram’s billion-strong user base is one of the largest and most diverse among all social networks, but many of these users have similar expectations from brands. Aligning your Instagram marketing with these expectations enables you to get more out of every post, every Story, and every ad you create for Instagram.

Let’s take a closer look at what users expect from brands on Instagram.


Instagram users like to discover new things and be inspired by them. That’s the key reason why they follow brands. This includes style ideas, travel destinations, beauty products, home decoration ideas, and more. Brands that are making waves on Instagram provide just this.

Inspiration extends here to the actual products. An Instagram user looking to buy a new car can keep an eye on what his or her favorite car brands are posting. Even if those posts don’t include shoppable links, they can still direct him to the brand’s customer page.

But what about brands from less appealing niches? Inspiration on Instagram takes many forms. All it takes is a bit of creativity and a focus on what users need. If you know your ideal target audience on Instagram, it gets even easier.

Brands that sing the old tune of how great their products are just don’t make it on Instagram. That’s not what Instagram’s about.


Vibrant and Upbeat Content

Fun brands tend to get a lot of attention on Instagram. On this platform, it’s not only about what a brand does, but how it does it. Even elegant and refined brands add a fun factor to their Instagram posts to provide a more upbeat message.

Instagram is fast-paced and demands attention. It’s not surprising then that users between 18 and 34 years are the most active on the platform, using it multiple times a day. These users are usually the most dynamic and the most eager to explore new options and have new experiences.

Is your brand positive on Instagram? That may not be enough. To win over followers you need to make them want to be a part of what you’re doing. In other words, you need to be cool.

Short Content

Instagram users show a preference for short content. Short videos tend to generate more views and clicks than long ones. It’s easy to see why. Almost all users use Instagram on mobile, and many of them do so while they are on the go. Short content is easy to digest, especially when it comes from a brand they may not be familiar with.

That’s not to say that longer live videos on Instagram are a bad idea. On the contrary, they can be more engaging than an impersonal webinar. However, before you can expect to hold people’s attention on Instagram with long content, you need to secure it with short content.

Snapshots of Hot Trends

Brands, as well as users, are selective with the content they post on the platform. They don’t post everything. Instead, they post what’s new, fun, or important for them. This means all the important trends tend to surface in the feed.

Many posts on Instagram provide a snapshot of current trends or of an aspect of a trend. Is Hippy Modernism a hot trend in fashion? You’ll see a lot of long, languid dresses, amulet jewelry, or raffia accessories surfacing in fashion shots and promotional posts on Instagram. Which suggests that it is.

People like Instagram’s compactness and how one picture can provide a snapshot of a trend. Brands that can do that with their content attract a large following.


Meaningful Ads

Okay, no Instagram user may log in to see ads, but Instagrammers know that ads on social media are quite unavoidable. Facebook’s insights suggest that users are not averse to seeing Instagram ads, not even from brands that advertise on TV.

For brands who advertise across channels, this is good news. For brands who target users who don’t watch TV, it’s even better. They can use Instagram ads to reach users who are immune to traditional ads. 41% of the Instagram users don’t watch television on a weekly basis, according to the Facebook study mentioned above.

Only 14% of those surveyed wanted to see the same TV ads on Instagram. The message is clear – Instagrammers don’t mind ads so long as these talk to them directly. Whether these are sponsored posts or come in the form of direct messages or replies to questions, they need to be relevant.

Instagrammers just don’t want to see ads that target a broad group of the populace, as TV ads do. Now that Instagram has its own built-in “TV” – IGTV – you can use it alongside ads to promote your brand.

More Interaction Than on Other Channels

Instagram enables brands to interact with customers more easily. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that users expect brands to directly interact with them, it does imply that they enjoy brand responses to their posts.

Yannick, one of the participants quoted in the Facebook study, said he was happy when a local skateboarding brand contacted him. He had posted some cool images of himself using some of their products.

Some brands take advantage of Instagram’s direct messaging to offer users discounts and special offers. It may not work for all brands, but if your competitors are doing it, perhaps you should too.

The Bottom Line

Instagram users prefer brands who are vibrant, upbeat and inspiring. They expect brands to create short, engaging content and to display only ads that relate to them. They like to stay up to date with the latest trends and appreciate brands that capture what matters in just a few images. 

At the same time, users welcome positive interactions with brands and value them even more when brands reach out to them first.

In the end, there may not be a simple recipe for brands to amass a large following on Instagram. But the pointers above can help your brand avoid making mistakes that lower user engagement. 

Don’t annoy users with content they don’t want and humdrum ads. Instead, try to stay fresh, fun, and relevant. It’s a simple strategy that works.