Instagram Best Practices

Instagram Best Practices

Instagram logo

Post to tell a story.

Use imagery specific to your unit and UC Davis to pull audience members in and make them connect with your content. It doesn’t always have to be perfect photography, as long as there is a story to tell behind it. Look for opportunities to tell insider stories, the little details that make up your department. 

Leverage user-generated content (UGC). 

One way to engage your audience is to work together with them to curate the best content for your account. Search hashtags and key accounts to source potential partners. Ask your students and staff if they can share their best images, videos and stories for you to use. Always ask for permission to re-post, and always give credit back to the owner of the content by tagging their account. Be sure to check out that person’s account so you are linking back to a credible person. 

Follow the ideal specifications.

Instagram is all about great visuals and content. Photos should be tightly cropped, and subjects should fill the image frame. Photos should be resized with a maximum size no larger than 1080 pixels wide by 1350 pixels high – any larger photo dimensions uploaded will be converted and compressed by Instagram, reducing the quality of the photo post. Videos should be under one minute in length otherwise, it will become an IGTV post. 

There is no perfect time to post.  

Post with frequency throughout the week, but not more than twice per day if you can avoid it. Use scheduling tools, like Hootsuite or Mish Guru, to help spread your content throughout the week. There isn’t a magical time of day to post. That is dependant on your audience’s behavior. Test frequently, using your analytics to capture information about what works. 


IGTV is a long-form video channel that can be viewed through Instagram (or a separate app). Use static feed posts or IG Stories to drive folks to your longer (up to one hour) videos on IGTV. This is a great way to leverage all of that video content that maybe didn't have a home or an audience. Instagram users are gobbling up this kind of content as long as it is compelling and provides value. It does not have to be overproduced. 

Hashtag and keyword searches.

Keep track of conversations happening around your area or #UCDavis through saved searches (or if you’re on Hootsuite, create search streams). Familiarize yourself with the UC Davis frequently used hashtags. For more hashtag strategy, visit our best practices for content building.

Leverage the Stories format for a big impact.

Instagram Stories are becoming the most engaging element of the platform. Stories allow you to create immersive, full-screen, “slice-of-life” points of contact with your audience that incorporate photos, videos, text, graphics and other interactive features. Use Stories to pull your audience in for topically relevant bursts of edutainment. On Instagram, Stories are most successful when they look appear to be made in-ap. 

  1. Audio - Yes or no? If yes, make sure it’s clear. If you are outside, be cognizant of the wind, as it may interfere with sound quality. 

  2. Music - If you are using the music feature, just make sure it is appropriate (no explicit lyrics or cursing).

  3. Language - Make sure that there are no spelling or grammar errors. 

  4. Background - Make sure nothing weird (profane/illegal) is going on that will take away from the slide.

  5. Consent - Make sure everyone in your story says it’s OK to be filmed/photographed.

  6. Context - Be sure to add in helpful context to each image or video. 

  7. Captions - Make sure to include some kind of caption per clip, especially if there is any speaking/talking. Be mindful of those who watch without sound or are hearing impaired. For accessibility reasons, stick to the classic or strong font options. Visit here for more accessibility considerations.

  8. Length - The ideal length of your story should be no longer than 90 seconds and no longer than 12 segments.

  9. Filters - Fine to use color filters if it works for the story.

  10. Lenses - Use sparingly if at all. Avoid voice–changing or face–distorting lenses. 

  11. GIFs, stickers and emojis - They are a fun way to add more context to your slides. Bonus tip: Search for “UCDavis” in the gifs section of your mobile keyboard for UC Davis-themed GIFs and stickers. Avoid profane GIFs, obscene gestures and eggplant and peach emojis. 

  12. Boomerangs and superzoom - Fun way to add motion or emphasis to the story – just don't overdo it. 

  13. Links - Note that you must have at least 10,000 followers to get the “swipe up” link ability. If you do, try not to have too many links in your story and use trackable links (like ones) to measure traffic.

Take over the UC Davis Instagram account.

Interested in taking over the UC Davis Instagram channel to promote your story, department, point of view etc? Fill out this form and we will be in touch! Check out some of our favorites student takeovers on YouTube for inspiration.