Skip to content

Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices

Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices

Instagram now has over 1 billion active monthly users and 500 million daily Instagram Story users per day, making it the second most used traditional social platform after Facebook! With an ever-growing user base, Instagram keeps expanding what they offer and last year was no exception. It started as an app for posting photos, but is now an essential part of promoting and sharing creative content. 

This year, we’ve seen the addition of Reels, a revamped Shop feature, AR filter availability, new Instagram Story stickers, and more. 


First things first: New Layout

With the addition of new features this past year, Instagram has also made changes to their homepage layout and user interface. The page footer now features the Home, Search, Reels, Shopping, and Profile buttons. The page header is now the new home of the posting, notifications and messaging. When creating a post, you can choose from Post, Story, Reels, or Live.

Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices

Optimize your profile 

Write a detailed bio to let viewers know who you are, add a multi-link or your website to the website field, and be sure to curate the Highlights bar by creating different buckets as an introduction to your brand. You can add custom cover photos to your Highlights right from your camera roll to make them look organized and cohesive. 

You’ll need a Facebook Page for your artist brand to select a Creator or Professional Account on Instagram. These Accounts provide you with access to analytics such as demographic as well as the ability to upload AR Filters. 

Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices

Content Should Be 70% Authentic : 30% Promotional 

As an artist, Instagram should be used to post promotional photos/videos and clips of official music videos. However, it’s also important to showcase your personality and lifestyle so fans can relate with you beyond the music. 

Aim for at 70% authentic, non-promotional photo and video posts. Fans get excited by candid insights into the lives of their favorite artists. Use multiple photo/video features to show a plethora of content from events, tours, meet and greets, and more. Instagram is making video content a priority in their algorithm, so embrace the moving image! 


Put Your Best Posts Forward

Take photos or record a video up to 1 minute long by using your own camera app or the built-in Instagram camera. Select the size and filter, adjust using the edit applications, add a caption, and you’re ready to share. 

Be sure to take well-composed, well-lit photos that catch the viewer’s attention. Consider adding a theme to your photos through color and filter choice to catch the viewer’s eye. 

Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices

Tagging other accounts in photos and videos will add your content to their tagged section. This is great for expanding your reach. Note that tagging accounts in your captions and comments will only notify the person you tagged. 

Get Real with Reels 

Reels is a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram. 

Record and edit multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and new creative tools. You can share Reels with your followers on your Feed and, if you have a public account, make them available to the wider Instagram community through a new space in Explore. Reels, thanks to Explore, levels the playing field, giving anyone a chance to become a creator and reach new audiences on a global stage.

Remix is a new collaborative tool in Reels that allows you to create content to be ‘Remixed’ by other creators. You can also ‘Remix’/participate in trends on Instagram by creating your own Reel alongside an existing Reel (think ‘Duets’ on TikTok).

Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices

Story Time: Instagram Stories 

Instagram Stories is an in-app tool that lets you share all the moments throughout your day with images or 15 second videos that disappear after 24 hours. It’s a great way to connect with other user’s lifestyles and allow fans to get to know you better. Share your own post or someone else’s via Stories by clicking the share button to add the post to your Story. 

Story Best Practices & Features

  • Hashtag: Join a community hashtag page by including the hashtag sticker
  • Link: Verified accounts, or accounts over 10k followers, can add links to their Stories for users to swipe up and lead off-platform
  • Stickers: Add a GIF, countdown, quiz, donation, poll, question, or chat sticker to your story. You can upload your own sticker to your GIPHY page to use
  • Music: Add your music or music from other artists, up to 15 seconds long from Apple Music or share from the Spotify app into Stories 
  • Filters: Utilize your IG AR Filters
  • Highlights: Show off some of your best Instagram Stories with the Highlight feature. Create different highlight buckets as an introduction to your brand for new followers, or allow followers to catch up who might have missed a prior post. Adding custom cover photos to your Highlights will make your profile look polished and fresh.
  • Close Friends: Use your CF list to give a portion of your followers the VIP treatment. These fans can get access to exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from in the studio, on tour, at shows, the band’s personal life and more. Stories posted here will be highlighted differently bright green in a Close Friend’s Story feed to really draw attention. 
Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices

Do it Live

Instagram Live allows you to broadcast one hour of video to your audience in real time, allowing you and your audience to have a shared experience. Once a Live ends it disappears but it can be saved and uploaded to IGTV.

Live Best Practices 

  • Announce your Live a few days beforehand and encourage fans to mark it on their calendars. 
  • Utilize the Question Sticker in Stories to collect questions before your Live or use the Q&A function during the Live.
  • Pin a comment for everyone to see.
  • Go Live with others to bring in new audiences.
  • Tap the two smiley faces icon to invite someone watching to join your Live.
  • Join someone else’s Live video by tapping “Request” and then “Send Request” – you can go live with up to 3 additional accounts with the new feature called Live Rooms.
  • Have a plan on what you’d like to do or discuss before you start your Live.
  • Be authentic and have fun! 



IGTV is Instagram’s space for long form video content. This content can be accessed through the Instagram app or the IGTV app. 

IGTV Best Practices

  • IGTV content can be up to 1 hour for verified or over 10K follower accounts or 10 minutes for other accounts. 
  • IGTV is meant for high quality video content.
  • Videos can be optimized for vertical or horizontal viewing.
  • IG Lives can be saved and uploaded to IGTV for fans to rewatch.
Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices

Augmented Reality Filters and SparkAR 

Anyone can create and publish their own augmented reality Filters through Facebook’s studio tool Spark AR. Once your filter is uploaded and approved through Spark AR it will appear on the designated Instagram profile and you’ll see a new Filter tab appear on your profile. Fans do not receive any notifications about new Filters, so it is always important to promote your new creation. 

Filters Best Practices 

  • Create an effect icon and choose a name for your effect.
  • Export the file as .arexport.
  • Make sure you meet Facebook’s policies and guidelines.
  • Create a video of your effect being used – find out more about Instagram’s standards for this video.
  • Choose a category for your effect.
  • Check these extra guidelines and best practices, to make sure your effect is approved.
  • Lastly, go to Spark AR Hub and click Upload Effect in the top right and follow the on-screen instructions to complete your submission.
Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices



Posts using features like location tagging and hashtags tend to over-index in engagement. Hashtags help users from different communities connect to the content they’re interested in. Using the right hashtags can put you in front of your target audience, even if they haven’t connected with you before. Follow hashtags to have Posts from that hashtag show up on your feed.

The key to hashtags is to utilize those that make sense with your content, and are unique enough that they won’t be lost in the clutter. 

Try expanding your community with some of these: 

  • #colorgram: Great for any high-quality colorful shot 
  • #instadaily:  To be used on your very best photos that you are especially proud of 
  • #artofvisuals: Stunning visual content 
  • #photooftheday: Used to highlight which photos should be noticed that day
  • #VinylJunkies: For the fan of the physical product
  • #newmusic or #outnow: good for an additional visibility
  • #Instamusic: This catch-all can apply to nearly any artist, making it a great one to get started with
  • #Instavideo: A good hashtag to use to get more eyes on your video content.

Hashtag Pages

When you search for a hashtag, the results that come up are collected in the hashtag page. Hashtag pages incorporate Stories, Posts, and Reels all in one spot. 

  • Posts are divided by Top & Recent posts 
  • If there are Stories using the hashtag, the page “profile pic” will light up like a regular story 
  • Reels are featured on the left of the page 
  • You can follow hashtags to have Posts from that hashtag show up on your feed 
  • Check out Facebook for even more info on Hashtag Pages
Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices


Badges is a new feature rolling out to Business and Creator accounts that allows users to show their appreciation for their favorite creators through monetary hearts. When fans purchase a badge they will gain access to a special heart during the Live, have a special badge appear next to their name in the comments, and be featured on a ‘supporter’ list that goes to the artist for up to 90 days.


Shop is a new destination in Explore that makes it easier to shop trending brands and creators, get personalized recommendations, and preview exclusive launches. 

Open your shop on Instagram and showcase your products and merchandise in a customizable storefront right on your Instagram profile. Tag products in your posts or stories and get insights like product views to learn what engages your customers. 

How to Set Up Instagram Shopping: 

  1. Navigate to Settings > Business > Set up Instagram Shopping 
  2. Connect your Facebook page or create a new page. 
  3. Connect a Catalog: when you tag products in the post, they’ll come from this catalog. 
  4. Partners include Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, and WooCommerce. 
  5. Your products must be hosted on a single website owned by your business. 
  6. You may be asked to verify ownership of the website that you enter. 
  7. Review your shop details and submit to Instagram for review! 

Instagram Shop will have fresh collections and products from brands and creators, as well as special curations from their social shopping channel, @shop. Use Facebook Pay to provide a seamless, secure way to shop and make donations to causes you care about across apps. 

Doing The Most (Effectively) On Instagram: 2021 Best Practices

For a more in depth look into all of Instagram’s functionalities check out our full Instagram Best Practices guide here.

Instagram Best Practices 2021 from The Orchard

If you liked that post, here's more:


The Reel Deal on Instagram Reels

Even in a year as unpredictable as 2020, Instagram is still...Reels. Reels is essentially Instagram’s answer to TikTok. While there are a lot of similarities between the two, there’s a lot of questions on how Reels works that could send the


Highlight Your Brand on Instagram

Announced in December, Highlights is already becoming an important and useful tool on Instagram. The feature works exactly as it sounds, it is a way to highlight some of your favorite Instagram Stories, placing them at the top of your profile even after the...


Facebook gets a Facelift: 2021 Best Practices

With over 2.74 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2020, Facebook is the biggest social network worldwide. Facebook has seen a year-over-year increase of 12% in its active users since September 2019 (active users are those who have log...