Find your portal

Using visual psychology to get better engagement on Instagram

Instagram is a social media staple. More than a billion active users are on the platform, and “instagrammable” is now an actual word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The platform is constantly growing and has immense potential for businesses since 80% of users follow brands.

Read more: Using Instagram to boost your online business

None of what I am saying here is surprising, and neither is the fact that getting people to engage with your Instagram posts can be challenging. Because there is so much quality content and the platform is constantly growing, it is difficult to stand out as a knowledge entrepreneur and make a good impression.

Here are some tips to help you in that direction.

Psychology is key

You probably expected me to start with the classic advice about posting quality content, meaning well-crafted, professional-looking imagery. While that is not a bad idea in itself, it will make you blend in rather than stand out since everyone is already doing it.

Read more: Using Instagram imagery to your advantage

Marketing is deeply rooted in the way people perceive things. One of the best examples is that of Coca-Cola, which decades ago associated their brand with Christmas, and the Santa ads really made the image stick. And so, people became OK with consuming refreshing beverages during wintertime.

Back to your Instagram posts, you don’t have to set yourself up to the task of hijacking cultural symbols; just be mindful of a few elements of visual psychology.

Read more: Make your e-learning content pop with these 5 visual perception tricks

Provide context

The gist of a scene is important if you want people to recognize and remember your image. One study found that viewers can recognize the gist of a scene at over 80% accuracy after as little as 36 milliseconds of uninterrupted processing time.

Instagram users are indeed scrollers, but if they manage to process your picture and recognize something that interests them, odds are they will stop to take a closer look. And since the human brain likes familiarity, what you need to do is provide just that.

As tempting as those easy-to-apply filters may be, it’s best to keep the image as close to its original colors as possible. That also goes for angles – turning the camera may produce a whimsical shot, but if it's harder to make out what’s in it, you don’t have good shot.

Mind the colors

Color relations such as similarity or harmony greatly influence the ease with which colored patterns can be perceived and recalled. In this study, researchers showed participants patterns of 9-15 colored squares, with similar and dissimilar coloring. Then they measured how accurately viewers perceived color change when they modified a few squares. They found that people were able to better remember the patterns when the colors were harmonious.

The takeaway is that you should always use color harmony for your Instagram photos. Since short-term visual memory is affected by the surrounding colors, it's crucial to provide contrast so that the focus of the image is not lost. It’s also better to use fewer colors to achieve chromatic harmony.

Keep showing up

You know how sometimes you think about something and then all of a sudden, it seems to pop up everywhere? That’s called the frequency illusion or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. It is a cognitive bias in which individuals tend to see a particular thing everywhere after noticing it for the first time.

As we well know, repetition is the key to memorizing information. So, if your brand image keeps popping up, it can only be good for business. You can achieve this by running Instagram remarketing campaigns for users that have recently visited your page.

It’s important to include visual elements people have already seen. It is also a good idea to center your campaigns around the trending topics of the moment since they are already on peoples' radars.

Read more: 6 Neuroscience tips for better online course design

Closing thoughts

Since people are bombarded with visuals on the internet all the time, yours need to stand out in an aesthetically pleasing and memorable way. Tapping into the findings of visual psychology and applying those to your Instagram posts will work “science magic” and boost your engagement.

f-image t-image pin-image lin-image