Instagram’s blowing up more than ever, with over one billion monthly users posting content onto the site. The platform experiences 58 times more engagement than the world’s most popular social media network, Facebook, so it’s no wonder that influencers have turned to the app as their main marketing channel.
But how does one master the art of Instagram engagement? Every year comes with its new share of tools and tips to play the algorithm to your advantage, and 2019’s no different.
Below are some of the most actionable Instagram strategies you can start implementing today. Try them out – and watch those numbers skyrocket.
Tip #1: Growing Your Engagement Through Optimal Posting Times
Extending your reach on social media comes down to the science of optimal posting times.
Simply put, you’ve got to crack down the specific times your audience are mostly online. Then, you can strategize a posting schedule that takes advantage of this.
Using Instagram Insights, figure out when your followers are most active. Say you’ve found that your audience are primarily active on Saturday mornings – this indicates that your best times to post would be on Saturdays before 12 PM.
Every user’s optimal post schedule is going to differ. Luckily, Sprout Social has gathered the data necessary to create a general ‘Best Times’ guide to posting on social media.
According to their findings, users may experience the overall highest Instagram engagement on Thursdays.
The best specific times are 3 PM on Wednesdays, 5 AM on Fridays, and 5 AM, 11 AM, and 3 to 4 PM on Thursdays.
Sunday was recorded to be the least engaging day for Instagram users.
Weekend posters are also recommended to post around 11 AM CDT on Saturdays. People are usually out with friends at this time,
While it’s smart to use this as a rough guide, you should also consider the type of audience you’re catering to, as results may differ among industries.
Tip #2: Engaging Your Audience Through Meaningful Captions
Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long – so use this to your advantage!
One of the ways the algorithm determines ‘quality’ content is by measuring the amount of time users spend on a post.
What better way to keep your audience further engaged than by writing out a meaningful caption?
This isn’t always the easiest part of the ‘gram. After all, we all tend to run dry of witty one-liners and food for thought.
The good news is, you don’t need to be professional writer to come up with a successfully engaging caption. The key is to simply add context and personality to your posts, while encouraging some form of action from your followers.
For example, fitness influencer Kayla Itsines continually posts descriptive updates on her pregnancy journey and her health goals along the way.
Below, she discusses her fitness plans post-pregnancy, and asks her followers for any specific challenges they’d like her to take on.
While the photo posted isn’t a necessarily of her pregnancy (but rather, her previous figure), Kayla provides some engaging context by talking about her plans on ‘returning’ to fitness, while providing a call-to-action by asking her followers a question.
Encouraging her audience to read and comment on the post gives her Instagram engagement rate an effective boost. This signals the algorithm to acknowledge this as valuable content.
For even further engagement in the comments, it’s also recommended to tag friends – who are likely to leave a comment as well.
Tip #3: Growing Your Engagement Rate Through Different Story ‘Channels’
Instagram stories are all the rage, with influencers using them as ‘windows’ to moments in their day-to-day.
This provides audiences with more personable, on-the-go updates from their favourite users.
While this is a quick, fun way to keep audiences engaged, these posts are still ultimately short-term content. They wouldn’t be attracting further attention beyond their lifespan.
Luckily, Instagram provides you with the option to save your stories into mini ‘highlight’ reels displayed below your bio. These can then act as smaller, sub-sections of extra content to pique viewer interest.
Vogue Magazine, for example, categorizes their saved stories by each special event they’ve covered, as seen below.
This new level of exclusively sectioned, story-heavy content shows that your profile is active and consistently engaged with its audience. This impression draws in more followers, and thus – more Instagram engagement.
Tip #4: Collaborating With Brands and Other Users
In the age of social media influencers, collaborating with other brands and users are a must to grow your business.
Teaming up with like-minded folk on the platform serves as a win-win for both users, as they get to extend their content to wider, new audiences. At the same time, an intriguing collaboration can grab viewer attention, drawing them to engage with your posts.
Your aim should be to partner up with users who share the same business goals as you do. Authenticity here is key. Collaborations are set for better success when both parties truly believe in what they do.
Beauty brands like Maybelline work with influencers in their field to promote certain products to their audience.
Michelle Tan does this on her Instagram, but also discusses the benefit of the product and how it ties into her day-to-day makeup routine.
Companies also incentivize this practice by gifting their products to these influencers for free. Once again, the key is to build an authentic relationship with these users, and to ensure that such products or services fit their brand too.
Otherwise, you can risk having your influencers called out for ingenuine marketing. Such incidents include the case of fashion influencer Chriselle Lim and her partnership with Volvo.
Or they may even trash your brand altogether, like what Benjamin Burnley (lead singer of rock band “Breaking Benjamin”) did in his controversial post below.
Tip #5: Join Instagram Engagement Groups (But Proceed With Caution!)
Instagram engagement groups (also labelled as ‘pods’) are a well-kept secret of avid, high-profile users. Though barely discussed in the public domain, they’re a potentially effective tactic for growing engagement.
These exclusive groups are exactly what they sound like: little hubs of Instagram users that commit to engaging with one another’s posts, ‘gaming’ the algorithm into acknowledging their posts as ‘quality’ content.
The system then promotes these posts in the ‘Discover’ tab, getting more eyes on their content. This, in turn, increases their Instagram engagement rate and improves their chances of gaining new followers.
While some groups will focus on all types of engagement, others may keep to simply liking or commenting on their fellow users’ posts. Some may be specific to a niche, while others are broader with a larger member count.
As a strategy that’s often kept under wraps, finding a group to join can be hard to do. The key is to ask around and network on social media.
The use of engagement groups are a tempting ploy to boost your impressions in a small span of time, but be warned. Instagram isn’t a fan of users trying to cheat the system, so it’s no guarantee that the practice is foolproof. You may still be at risk of getting shadowbanned if the platform notices any fishy activity.
Fortunately, some of these groups will provide you with a strict set of guidelines that can hopefully prevent such incidents. Follow these carefully, and keep your wits about you.
Tip #6: Optimizing Your Stories For Higher Engagement Rates
As aforementioned, Instagram stories are effective for grabbing your audience’s attention with fleeting, daily updates.
Like regular Instagram posts, you can also tag other accounts, locations and trending hashtags in each story. This increases the chances of your content being seen.
Let’s say you were attending a concert in California. You can tag the location, the accounts of the organizers and the artists themselves, and add related hashtags on top of the post.
While hashtags are useful for viewers to click on and explore, some may find it ruins the general aesthetic of their story.
Fortunately, you can reduce the text size of your hashtags with the pinch of a finger, and cover them up with a large, more appealing Instagram sticker.
Along with stickers, Instagram stories allow for plenty of other customization options that are absent in regular feed posts.
Play around with the wide range of GIFs, emojis, and sticker images you can add to your posts to make them look more exciting. You can also choose from a variety of story ‘types’. These include Live video, Rewind, Stop Motion, Boomerang, Superzoom, and Hands-Free.
Each option comes with its own unique visual feature to entertain viewers. Alternate between these types to keep audiences actively interested in your daily story updates.
Tip #7: Using the Right Hashtags For Higher Engagement
When building a brand on Instagram, one of the most vital factors in making your content searchable is the optimal use of hashtags.
Each post on Instagram allows a maximum number of 30 hashtags. While some users make use of all 30, data research by TrackMaven has revealed that nine hashtags are likely to garner the most Instagram engagement.
It’s recommended that you experiment with both broad and niche hashtags for your post. Hashtags directed towards a more specific brand, industry, or time-sensitive event allow you to better target your intended audience, allowing for more quality engagement.
For example, tagging ‘#coachella’ will help you reach others interested in the same specific event, rather than simply tagging ‘#music’ or ‘#festival’.
Better yet – assuming the event is still hot and trending – tagging ‘#coachella2019’ takes advantage of current hype and targets those actively following the event.
While playing around with hashtags is essential for discovering the most effective ones, it’s best to avoid those that are irrelevant to your post. It’s also advised to continuously change your hashtags up, rather than using the same ones repeatedly. If you aren’t careful, both these practices can result in a shadowban.
Finding the right hashtags can be tough at first, but with enough digging around, you’re sure to find the ones that work best for you. Suggested starting points include:
- Looking at what tags influencers in your industry are using
- Exploring Instagram’s search
- Using related hashtags
There are also plenty of hashtag generating apps you can use, such as Focalmark or #HashMe.
To keep track of how effective your hashtags are, tap on ‘View Insights’ under specific posts. Here, you’ll discover your impressions based on the hashtags you’ve used.
Tip #8: Promoting Engagement On Other Platforms
Lastly, it is highly recommended for establishing brands to cross-share their content onto other social media platforms.
Instagram makes this quick and simple for users by adding the option of ‘Also post to’ before sharing your post on your feed.
Here, you can enable sharing on other social media accounts connected to your Instagram. Once you hit ‘Share’, your content is immediately posted – caption, hashtags, and all – onto the other profiles you’ve chosen.
If you’ve got your own business website, it’s also a good idea to embed your Instagram feed onto your site homepage.
This not only provides your site with additional, eye-catching visuals, but serve as ‘evidence’ of your online activity, presence, and interaction with consumers.
BlackMilk does exactly this, integrating their Instagram feed at the bottom of their homepage. This allows visitors to not only view their products outside of a typical studio setting, but on satisfied customers and fans of the brand.
Get Those Rates Up!
Increasing your Instagram engagement rate all boils down to effective social media marketing, which include a strong, thorough understanding of their algorithm, optimal posting times, and what content your audience values.
When applied consistently, each of these tips should eventually garner you the content reach your posts deserve.
Of course, for many of us busy-bees that don’t always have time to manage social media, it always helps to have the assistance of a third-party service.
KENJI is an Instagram bot that helps you do just this. The app focuses on the right followers, hashtags, and locations that can help you improve your post reach and engagement.
By entering hashtags and accounts relating to a certain niche, KENJI does all the hard work to find your optimal audience group to target.
Not only can you then sit back, relax, and allow your account to grow; but you’re expanding your reach through an organic, engaged following. It’s the perfect solution for any small business, influencer, or brand that’s just finding their footing in the wild west of social media.
So, get cracking on those engagement rates! With the right tools and knowledge, those numbers will be shooting through the roof in no time.