This is an obvious one, but not enough brands will follow (or even have) any sort of brand guidelines. Everything begins from a foundation, and the importance of having brand guidelines cannot be overstated for many reasons, not least of which is because it determines what you end up posting.
You need to be having a theme of sorts as well. Take a look at John Elliott Co.’s feed:
They knock it out the park. It’s a combination of product and mood photos, all with stellar photography and very cohesive aesthetics. That being said, you also don’t want to be posting too many photos of just your goods. You need to be connecting with your audience, not selling to them. They see enough ads per day. Featuring your products is the end goal, but it should not be done in an overly obvious way.
You should be posting regularly. 1.5 times a day is what research shows to be most effective. Avoid having droughts because you wanted to post a ton of content all at once and you have nothing for the next week or two. Especially when starting out, you want to ensure that users don’t believe your brand is a flash in the pan or anything less than serious. If you want to get more scientific, then certain times of the day are much better (evenings, top of the hour when people are fiddling on Instagram before a meeting starts, etc.). Here's a great article on timing your posts.
Determining your target audience is definitely outside of the scope of this article, so I hope you already know it. But how to find them on Instagram? Firstly, you need to take a look at your competition, what kind of content they're putting up, any influencers (also referred to as social media celebs or a myriad of other terms), what hashtags are being used, etc.
This is largely a manual process and can be fairly laborious, but skipping on targeting means that you will have a following that doesn't really care about you. It's better to have 10 engaged fans than 1000 "fans" who don't know anything about you. Also, I personally think that vanity metrics (amount of followers and likes) can be misleading since all of that can be bought. Real engagement is earned.
Don’t just sit there. Talk to your users. You’ll also get a ton of DMs, don’t ignore them. We’ve seen lots of great opportunities come through there, but you have to sort through a lot of noise sometimes. Also, you can get a good idea of anything that confuses your customer. For instance, if they're asking all the time where to buy your goods (even though this is obvious to you), you might want to make sure that those things are as obvious to your fans. One thing we saw a lot was many, many requests to model. The vast majority of them were definitely not professional, but as mentioned before, every now and then you'll get a real gem.
Take a look at what is actually going on in the posts and what users are reacting to. This is different for each brand, so there's no set formula and you're going to have to really tailor it based upon your own observations. Are you seeing certain kinds of content performing better? Certain kinds of captions have more interactions? It should go without saying that your strategy should incorporate them more in the future.
Your social media strategy is going to be constantly evolving, but keeping the above in mind will put you in a good starting point. As mentioned before, there's no set formula, so you'll need to be constantly observing not only your own feeds and engagement levels, but those of competitors as well. But when utilized correctly, you'll find social media to be an extremely valuable platform.