One of my modules at university last semester focused on communication, part of this module specifically focused on communicating via social networks. As part of this, I had to create and run a social media account. Something I’m already kinda familiar with. This account was specifically focused on finding ways to engage viewers of the account and I learned quite a bit about how to use Instagram in the process. So today I want to share 5 ways to increase engagement on Instagram.
I should point out that I am not a social media expert. I’m not a marketing guru. Everything in this blog post is based on a social media intervention and subsequent report which I did at university and averaged a first for this part of the module. The information I’m sharing in this post are not things which I do personally, but if you are looking to create more engagement on your Instagram page these are things which can help.
I hope you will gain something from this and no matter if you only have a few or thousands of people following your Instagram account. You should be able to increase engagement on Instagram using these methods.
Why Improve Engagement?
The point of this is not to gain more followers. Chances are if you use some of these techniques you may gain followers in the process. But the point is to engage the people already following you first. This can be more than just a follow. You want people to be engaging with the content you share, liking, commenting, and saving.
But from this, you could turn an Instagram follower into someone who also reads your blog, or follows you on other websites. Or engages with other content you share. You could use your Instagram as a way to post about your Twitch stream or podcast or online shop.
It is really hard to get someone on Instagram to follow a link to another website. Instagram doesn’t make it easy to follow links, and they do this intentionally. Instagram wants its users to stay on Instagram. All social media sites work on a similar principle. Facebook won’t show your posts to as many people if they contain a link to another site. Pinterest will share your content more if you are an active user. They want people to stay on these sites because you are the thing which is making them money.
However, if you do get an Instagram follower to start reading your blog or following you on another social media account. Or even buying a product you sell. That’s a really good thing because it shows that person likes your content and wants to engage with it. Having one person who does these things is better than having thousands and thousands of followers. That’s why we’re focusing on increasing engagement rather than just increasing a follower number.
5 Ways To Increase Engagement On Instagram
The one thing you need to understand before getting into this is that, the only people who understand the Instagram algorithm and how it chooses what images to show a user is the people at Instagram. Everyone else is just guessing at what works based on using Instagram. And you have to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. Realistically what you have to do is take this as the basis to form a strategy and then really get into your stats and figure out what worked and didn’t work based on your content. I won’t get into that too much here as I have a whole section on stats further down this post.
Have consistent branding
One of the best things you can do on Instagram is have consistent branding. This means that if someone sees one of your posts they will instantly recognise that it is you. If you post graphics on Instagram this means you want to use similar colours, fonts and layout across all your graphics. Ideally, if you’re a blogger you want this branding to match that of your blog and any other social media sites you may use.
It can get a little tricker if you only post photos. One of the best ways to have photos which look consistent can come through editing them in the same way. If you edit your images in photoshop this may mean that you use similar settings to edit all your photos. This is the method I use and it seems to work pretty well.
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However, Photoshop is expensive and there’s no need to pay lots of money to Adobe when other options are available. A really easy way to have images which all look similar is just using the same Instagram filter on each image. There has been some research done into which Instagram filter gets the most amount of likes. It’s Gingham if you were wondering.
But you don’t have to use Instagram filters. You could use VSCO or several other photo editing apps to get your images to look consistent. One thing I learned while doing my social media project was that a photo would get more engagement if you used a 5% red filter on the image. Now I learned this in a lecture but was never able to find any research which backed up this claim.
Based on the experiments we did on our social media account it did seem like an image which had a red filter would get more engagement. It is difficult to say for certain that that the red filter helped. But it’s a good example of how you can take knowledge and then do experiments on your account to see if it works for you.
Analyse your stats
That nicely leads into my next point. If you want to increase engagement on Instagram you have to analyse your statistics. You see everyone on the internet claim that the best times to post are between 1pm and 2pm or 5pm and 6pm. But this is just a general statement. That random person on the internet doesn’t know where your followers live and at what times they are on Instagram.
However, you can find out this information. You can convert your account to a business account on Instagram. So long as you have over 100 followers it will give you access to statistics about your account and your followers. From this, you can learn all sorts of important things like the gender ratio of your followers, where they live and when they are online.
This is important because you can use this data to start planning the best times for you to posts. Say for example you live in the UK but most of your followers live in the US. It would be best to post at a time when most of your followers will see that image. This means that you might choose to post later at night because it would be around late afternoon in the US.
You can also do something similar when it comes to the best days of the week for posting. I tend to find that my followers are more active on the weekend and this seems to be the consensus across most of Instagram. But once you know the days your followers are mostly online you can start doing little experiments to see just what days of the week are best to post. Remember that the best time of day to post could also depend on the day of the week.
You might not post in the morning on a weekday because most of your followers will be at work or school. However, it might be best to post mid-morning on a Sunday because more users are active. Like I already said, you need to do what works best for you if you want the most amount of people seeing your content. No one will engage if they don’t see your posts.
Take good photos
It may seem obvious, but taking good photos is essential if you want to increase engagement on Instagram. This is important because this is what will draw the attention of people scrolling through their feed. But what do I mean by good photos?
Usually, this means photos which are sharp and well lit. Don’t take photos in the dark with a flash. The photos won’t look as good. If you take a lot of flat-lay photos, or like me and take photos of stationery or bullet journals. You want to make sure you’re using natural light. I know for some this can cause problems. I need to be strategic when taking photos over winter because we get very little good light.
Once you’ve taken your photos you want to edit them well. This means either using filters like I’ve already mentioned or editing your images in Photoshop. You want all your images to look similar but how you do this is up to you. Rather than going on about all the reasons why you should edit your photos I’m going to share some of the images I share on Instagram. Hopefully by looking at the original compared to the edited image you will understand why editing photos are helpful.
Having good images is important because it will draw the viewers attention and get them to engage with your content. While I’m on this subject we need to talk about having people in your photos. There are several studies which have shown that images with people in them get more likes on Instagram than those without. Having a person in the image will remind viewers that the account is run by a human being.
Some of you may be okay with sharing photos of yourself online, but you don’t have to share a selfie. For example, when I share images of my bullet journal sometimes I will include my hand in the photo. This is an easy way to include myself in images.
No one knows how the Instagram algorithm works and how it decides what to put on your feed. What is obvious is that if you’re active on Instagram it’s more likely that the algorithm will share your content with your followers. In this context by active, I mean posting on your feed and stories.
You want to be posting consistently on your account. In the past, this meant posting every day. In fast Austin Kleon wrote an entire book on why you should share content every day as a way to build an audience. That advice was specifically directed at artists but it works for everyone. But that book was written in 2014 and I don’t think it is as relevant now as it was back then. Even Kleon admits its not a strategy he would recommend using.
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Posting consistently will help your image be seen by more people, which in turn will help you increase engagement on Instagram. But that doesn’t mean you have to post every single day. I would advise against posting every single day. I managed it for almost 2 years and it was really difficult. Posting every day doesn’t mean the content your posting is good or useful. You’re better off posting less but better quality content. This is a good strategy for blogging in general, not just Instagram.
Once you’ve figured out which days your followers are most active, you can start to plan out a posting schedule. This may be 2 or 3 posts a week. You don’t want to overwhelm your followers with content because it will make them less likely to engage with your content.
I post on Instagram 3 days a week. All the content I share on my Instagram comes from photos I take for blog posts. I take far more images each week than what I share. I prefer working in this way because I would rather have a backlog of content to share rather than constantly be looking for new content to share.
Have a hashtag Strategy
Hashtags can be used really effectively if you want to increase engagement on Instagram. Hashtags help your images be found by people who aren’t already following you. Choosing the right hashtags is important, it can be the difference between getting a few hundred and a few thousand impressions on a post.
Changing to a business account will give you access to statistics, as part of this you will be able to see how many impressions your images get through several different means. Most of your impressions will come from the feed and through hashtags. But its also possible to have your images featured on the Explore page.
But we’re focusing specifically on hashtags right now. Choosing the right hashtags is extremely important. Ideally, you should already know of some hashtags related to your niche. You can find hashtags by looking at other users who post about the same topics, and see what they are using. Once you have a few hashtags you can start looking at those pages on Instagram, this page will also suggest some related hashtags.
While you’re looking for hashtags you want to pay attention to the number of images which use the hashtag. If you’re on the Instagram app this will be shown at the part of the page. You want to use hashtags which are commonly used, but not used so much that your content will never be seen.
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When a hashtag has a very low number it means that few people use that hashtag. This also means its unlikely that anyone will be browsing the hashtag looking at images. You also don’t want to use a hashtag that has been used many time, think a few million or above. This means that a lot of people are using that hashtag. Even if lots of people are using those hashtags it means so many people post using them that its unlikely many people will see your image, simply because there are so many images. Most of the hashtags I use are between 50k and 1 million.
Choosing the right hashtags is important because it means lots of people could see your image even if you don’t have a high follower account. For example, on one image I was able to get 500 impressions even though I only had 100 followers on that account. These hashtags were also very carefully chosen which meant I had several people bookmarking and sharing the image. I also had viewers click on the link in my profile after viewing this image. These less talked about stats are just as important as followers and likes. In some cases seeing how many users bookmarked an image gives you a better idea of how the image is performing compared to just looking at likes.
You must do your research when choosing hashtags. Some hashtags have been banned by Instagram for various reasons. This means that no images will be shown on this hashtag. You also want to make sure that you don’t use too many hashtags. Instagram has a 30 Limit for hashtags, but you can experiment to see how many hashtags work best for you. I tend to use between 10 and 15 hashtags on an image. You also want to make sure that you’re not using the same hashtags on each post. Instagram may see this as spam and the algorithm will show your image less.
There are lots of ways to increase engagement on Instagram. These are just some of the strategies you can try. One of the great things about Instagram is how easy it is to experiment with different strategies and figure out what works best for you. Like most things in the blogging world, just because someone said a specific thing worked well for them doesn’t mean it will work the same for you.
Honestly, I don’t think anyone knows how Instagram works. What we do know is that there’s no chance all your followers will see your post. I know that can get frustrating, especially if you post something and get very few likes. I’ve found that looking at the other statistics as well helps you become less focused on getting likes.
I hope you’ve found this post useful. Have you tried any of the strategies I’ve mentioned in this post? Or have you figured out any other strategies to increase engagement on Instagram? Let me know in the comments.