A Best Practice Guide To Instagram

(And don’t forget about part 3 – ENGAGEMENTS!)


Select your photo

If you would like to upload multiple photos, you may do so in one of two ways; make a collage using the Layout app, or *2017 UPDATE* a slideshow using  Instagram’s latest feature that allows up to 10 photos to be uploaded and scrolled through. Both features are built right into Instagram and can be accessed by uploading your first photo as usual using the middle + upload button, and then by selecting the far right square in the lower right of your screen for slideshow style, or second to the right for Layout style.

Crop your photo

Instagram will automatically crop your photo to the standard “Instagram square”. You can play with zooming and moving your photo around within this square as much as you would like. You can now also “size to fit” within Instagram by selecting the icon in the bottom left of your photo. Selecting this will zoom your photo all the way out to its original size and ratio.

*This new feature added by Instagram eliminates the need to use a third-party app to “square ready” the photo which essentially placed your rectangular photo onto a coloured background allowing it to fill the square without being cropped. Prior to this update many users chose to use Whitagram app (white background) and YYC3 used Photogrid app (any colour/pattern background, also used for collages.)

Edit your photo

Now that your photo is cropped you have the OPTION to edit. Formerly only a selection of filters were available to choose from, but in the interest of making third-party editing apps obsolete recent Instagram updates also include additional editing tools giving you editing options that include Standardized Filters and a Customized Editing Toolbox.

When editing photos you should also consider the look of your full feed when someone is on your specific feed as opposed to their news feed. What are the last six photos you posted? Do they clash? Contrast? Match? Is there a theme? Is there a colour you need to pull out? Is there brightness or fade you want to match?


If you’re out and about and don’t want to spend a lot of time editing your photo, choose a filter to complete your edit in a timely fashion. YYC3 favourite filters include: Claredon, Juno, Amaro, Mayfair, Rise, Hudson, Valencia, & Hefe.

Once you’ve chosen a filter, if you select it again you can actually slide across a scale for the degree of which you want to apply that filter. Default is “full filter” but you can lessen the intensity if you wish to. There is also a box on the right of the sliding scale you can select to add your chosen filter’s signature border. (Borders were commonly used when Instagram first came out and were not optional on filters as they have now become.)


If you have time to edit or did not find a filter you loved, opt to custom edit your photo by selecting the wrench icon on the lower right. Here you can adjust your photos positioning, brightness, contrast, structure, warmth, saturation, colour, fade, highlights, shadows, vignette, blur, and sharpen- essentially making your own custom filter. You can also do this AFTER choosing a filter if you like as well for a double edit.


Add your caption


Sometimes a user will like your photo just for a witty or well-written caption, more than the photo itself. Other times a photo’s lack of caption speaks louder. Sometimes an Emoji sums its up. It is up to you to decide what adds the most value, just make sure there are NO TYPOS and you use proper grammar. Abbreviations, acronyms, and even urban dictionary words are acceptable, but it is important to be mindful of your audience. When considering your audience think of who is following you, and perhaps more important who you want to be following you. What is their identity? What is yours? Write directly to your followers with a clear call to action. Engage them. Consider what captivates and motivates them. Continue to find new and interesting ways to appeal to them.

NOTE: Captions are now editable if you do make a typo or have to make a change after posting.

Tag users and/or give photo credit 

If the photo is not an original photo you took it is common practice to give credit to the photographer by @tagging their username in your caption. You may also want to tag individuals/models in the photo itself as well as the business accounts for brands/products/sponsors associated with the photo. Tagged photos now show up in an area on a users profile called Photos Of You. 

You can tag individuals in the photo in two ways:
A. In caption @username
B. Click tag people, Tag the username, Save.

Add searchable keywords, known as #hashtags

Hashtags allows users to find photos related to a specific theme. For every hashtag you include in your caption, your photo will be added to the live feed for that hashtag. If you click the hashtag you will be taken to this feed where all other photos with that hashtag appear.

YYC3 recommends that users hashtag half “specific” and half “broad” keywords that relate to your photo and your desired audience. Users should hashtag words related to their desired followers location and lifestyle, as well as to their brand name, products, services, values, and taglines.

Hashtags can vary from zero to a maximum of 30. YYC3 recommends noting how long your caption is and only hashtagging up to a similar amount of characters to maintain balance.

• Examples of specific hashtags include:
#yyc #yycfitness #yychomes #bigchiefbeef #skinnypasta #dinerdeluxe#eggsbenedict #saddledome

• Examples of broad hashtags include:
#canada #fitness #wellness #healthy #beefjerky #pasta #breakfast #hockey#smile #fun #love

• Users should also capitalize on “trending hashtags” including those that occur weekly, like:
#mondaymotivation #meatlessmonday #throwbackthursday #tbt#sundayfunday

• As well as those provided for specific events like:
#bellletstalk #vma #nfl #nhl #goflamesgo #grammys #thebachelor#scandal #rio2016

UPDATE/NOTE: My personal preference is to add my hashtags as my first comment, below the actual post vs. inside the original caption. It looks cleaner, and still works as intended!


Post and engage your Instagram 

After you’ve posted, click those hashtags you used to see photos that others have posted, liking and commenting on them!

  • Like to get likes.
  • Comment to get comments and likes.
  • Follow to get follows, comments, and likes.

Great Instagram accounts build their followings and engagements by practicing these things themselves!

Plus, a few final tips

• Don’t “over post”. Stick to 1 Instagram per day or 2 max. Quality over quantity to maximize likes per photo.
• Use apps like Crowdfire to manage your followers! (Update: No longer availble for Instagram)
• Use apps like Likestagram to set-up autolikes (to save you time from searching and liking hashtags yourself, although ideally you should do both)!
• Have fun!

And now some examples from the YYC3 feed:


Representing @BigChiefBeef @CowboysCalgary making it rain beef jerky for student night! #promoteam #bigchief #beefjerky #cowboyscalgary #studentnight #yyc #marketing #branding #tasting #awareness #yycthree #promoted #sponsored


Had a great time at #motionball with these lovely @cowboyscalgary corporate ladies! #yyc #yycthree #marketing #networking #specialolympics #canada #fundraiser #shinegala #supportlocal


“Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.” So much love for this beautiful planet I call home, and all of the opportunities it provides. #earthday #canada #home #rain #growth #opportunity #yycthree


@bigchiefbeef snacks are truly go anywhere, do anything snacks. I even brought some with me on my recent trip to #NYC… Gotta love protein that fits in your purse! #bigchief #beefjerky #centralpark #protein #snacks #yyc #business #marketing #strategy #yycthree #nationalbeefjerkyday #sponsored

This was my favourite @gkskinnypasta creation yet! skinnypasta HIGH PROTEIN fettuccine with spicy sundried tomato Alfredo it has more protein & fibre with less carbs & calories than regular pasta! #skinnypasta #healthypasta #clean #vegetarian #gmofree #pasta #dinner #yyc #yycthree #sponsored #lovepastaagain