First things first, when I’m talking about engagement I’m talking about way more than just likes and comments. I’m referring to the interaction on your entire account, this includes likes, comments, views, DMs, swipe ups, shares, and more.
If you have hundreds of people watching your stories, but only a small amount liking your posts, that’s okay! What matters most is that your followers are engaging with your profile.
Understand the Algorithm
The first step to improving engagement is understanding how the Instagram algorithm works. Instagram’s most recent algorithm takes three things into account — Interest, Timeliness, and Relationship.
Interest – This is based on a user’s past behavior on similar content. The more Instagram thinks a user will ‘like’ your post, the higher it will appear on their feed. (Think about it, if you’re interested in animals your explore page is probably filled with adorable puppies.)
Timeliness – The new algorithm prioritizes new posts, which means it’s important to look at your insights to find out when your followers are most active during the day. You’ll give yourself a better chance of racking up likes if you post at a time when most of your followers are online.
Also, if your post gets a lot of engagement shortly after it’s posted, this signals to Instagram that your post is quality content, and it will prioritize it for even more of your followers! It’s a win-win.
Relationship – If someone interacts with a lot of your posts or are tagged in your photos, this makes Instagram think that you have a good relationship and your content is likely to be prioritized on the top of their feed.
Now that you know how the algorithm works, you may be asking, “What can I do to get my followers to interact with my content?” Let me start by clarifying that the only true way to get people to interact with your profile and your posts is to consistently put out high-quality content that is relevant to your audience. But, following these steps can help.
Step 1: Take advantage of the features Instagram offers.
Simply using Instagram’s many features will not have a direct effect on where your posts land in the feed. But, if you’re using them wisely in a way that attracts your target audience, you can build a better relationship with your followers.
Use story highlights as a way to showcase different areas of your business or different products/services. By creating highlights that creatively show what you have to offer, you will be inviting viewers to watch your content and learn about your business.
For example, story highlights for a clothing store could be sorted by trend or by season. Also, having a highlight that promotes current sales will give your viewers a place to continuously learn about deals and discount codes which could motivate them to visit your page again in the future.
Step 2: Include a CTA in your posts
Still on the topic of stories here, include a call to action (CTA) in your post captions like, ‘Check out our story for a discount code’, or ‘Find all of the pieces to this outfit in our Instagram story’ to drive viewers from their feed to your profile (or vice versa).
Once you have your followers in your stories there are plenty of ways to get them to engage. Include an Instagram poll asking them something. Use a rating slide bar to get their opinion on a product. Or clear up any misconceptions they may have by using the ‘Ask a question’ feature.
You can also add CTAs to boost interactions on your posts. For example, in your caption, ask your followers to tag 2 friends, or comment their favorite movie. It could truly be anything. If you give them a topic they may feel more inclined to comment.
Step 3: Choose the right hashtags
Selecting the best hashtags, and number of hashtags, can truly make or break your post, especially for small businesses. No one wants to click on a post and see 30 hashtags like #peace #christmas #happiness that are totally irrelevant to the content. I suggest using a mix of trending and industry-specific hashtags to connect with your target audience.
To start, you should be combining hashtags from different visibility levels:
- 5-7 extremely popular hashtags: Have around 500,000-1M posts.
- 5-7 moderately popular hashtags: Have around 100,000-500,000 posts.
- 3-5 niche-specific hashtags: Ones that your target audience would search for. Typically have 10,000-50,000 posts.
- 1-3 branded hashtags: These are exclusively for your brand.
Including popular hashtags leads to an immediate burst of engagement on your post. Moderately popular hashtags will keep your content active in those search results for hours. With these hashtags creating spikes of activity and your current followers interacting with your post, there’s a good chance your post will show up in the top searches for your niche-specific hashtags.
It’s also important to use hashtags from a variety of categories, which will help expand your visibility and reach a wide range of users.
- Content hashtags relate directly to the items in the image.
- Industry hashtags relate to the clients you serve and the general industry you are in.
- Niche hashtags will appeal to your company’s target audience
Instagram has changed drastically since its launch in 2010 and it will continue to change. The most important thing you can do is stay on top of the trends, learn what your followers are interested in, and take the time to try new things.
Test out different post frequencies. Try something new on your Instagram story. Rather than just a picture, post a photo carousel, a gif, or a short video. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box and do something you don’t normally do. You never know, your followers may love it.