10 Quick Wins to Increase Engagement Rate on Instagram

GRIN also recommends: Quick Guide to Earned Media Value 

A man taking a photo of a dog with his phone for Instagram

Currently, Instagram is one of the best places to connect with buyers online. With in-app shopping features that make it easier for consumers to browse and checkout products, it’s no wonder that Instagram dominates social commerce. It functions as a virtual playground for users to be inspired and complete their next purchase.

10 Quick Wins to Increase Engagement Rate on Instagram 1
Image via InsiderIntelligence

Engagements show marketers where these “consumer playgrounds” exist. Meaningful interactions among IG users offer brands the opportunity to learn more about their audience and build long-term relationships with them.

At one point, Instagram simply listed newsfeed posts in chronological order. But as the platform became congested, brands have to be more strategic about their IG posts if they want to increase their engagement. Today, there are too many users and posts to show them all. 

The first step to increasing your brand’s engagement on Instagram is understanding how its algorithms work.

How does Instagram’s algorithm work?

“Instagram doesn’t have one algorithm that oversees what people do and don’t see on the app. We use a variety of algorithms, classifiers, and processes, each with its own purpose. We want to make the most of [the user’s] time, and we believe that using technology to personalize your experience is the best way to do that.”

Instagram, June 2021

Because of the platform’s AI complexity, there’s no real way to “work” the system in your favor other than to build relationships through compelling content. That said, understanding how IG’s algorithms work can help you execute an effective posting strategy.

The first thing to know is that Instagram breaks their algorithms into one of three categories:

  • Feed & Stories – IG wants users to connect with those whom they feel most connected to in real life. That means that one’s Feed and Stories tend to show content from their friends and family. A user’s views and engagement alert the algorithm that they prefer a certain person’s content over others, even if that person isn’t strictly friends or family.
  • Explore – IG notes a person’s behavior in Feed and Stories to show other posts they may also like from non-followed accounts. This encourages users to engage and follow accounts they may not have heard of. 
  • Reels – IG states that it’s goal with short-form videos (Reels) is to entertain users. The Reels slideshow in one’s feed is designed to introduce them to videos they’d like from accounts they don’t currently follow.

Depending on the type of content you post, these algorithms impact what kind of engagement you can expect to achieve.

Algorithms for image post content

For your followers, Feed algorithms have the greatest impact as to who sees your posts. The more frequently your followers engage your posts, the more likely it is that the algorithms will push your images into those follower feeds.

Similarly, Explore algorithms attract engagement from users who’ve liked similar content to yours. Many of your new followers and engagements will come from the Explore algorithms.

When it comes to your image posts, Instagram takes the following factors into account:

  • Who engages your posts
  • How people engage your posts (likes, comments, shares, etc.)
  • Interactions with posts similar to yours
  • History of engagement with your past posts

Algorithms for video content

The most common types of Instagram video posts are Stories and Reels, though you can also Go Live, upload a IGTV, or add video into a Guide.

Graphic showing Video's role in internet traffic is predicted to be 82% in 2022 with graphics of phones on the right
Image via Oberlo

Current trends in social media demonstrate that the future of digital marketing relies heavily on video. For this reason, Instagram goes the extra mile to increase video post engagement and discoverability.

That’s also why IG dedicates so much algorithm power to Reels. These short-form videos enjoy some of the highest engagement rates online. 

Factors impacting your video engagement include: 

  • Who engages your posts
  • How people engage your posts (likes, comments, shares, etc.)
  • Interactions with posts similar to yours
  • History of engagement with your past posts
  • Whether or not your videos have a watermark
    • IG actively reduces performance on watermarked videos
  • Whether or not your videos are connected to politics or election candidates
    • IG actively reduces performance on political videos

Algorithms for Creator/Business accounts

Instagram insists that platform algorithms show no favoritism on posts originating from a personal, creator, or business account.

That means that each of the factors listed above apply to your business account, as well as to any creators you plan to work with.

Maintaining a business account comes with certain perks, such as Instagram Insights and free in-app shopping. Additionally, maintaining a professional account makes it easier for you to perform analytics with a third party social media management tool. 

10 Ways to boost post engagement on Instagram

1. Prioritize authentic, relevant content.

“Authentic content is any media – web page, blog, email, text, social post, etc. – that is honest, compelling, and bigger than a mere product or service.”

– GRIN, What is authentic content?

Publishing authentic content is often easier said than done. The idea is that you don’t want to come across as fake to your audience. Authenticity resonates with others and attracts like-minded people to your brand.

One of the best ways to understand what authentic content looks like is to consider the why behind your brand. In other words, what are the deeper needs that your products/services solve?

Some other questions to help you understand your brand’s why are:

  • In what ways does your brand improve the quality of life for certain people?
  • Why do you build and deliver products a certain way?
  • What sets your brand apart from the competition?
  • Who do you consider to be like-minded customers? What values do you share with them?
  • After 10 years of technology upgrades, what about your brand would remain unchanged?

If you have a mission and vision statement, you probably answered most of these questions already. Going back to your DNA will help you visualize a strategy that prioritizes authenticity.

2. Know your audience.

Your brand can’t be all things to all people. In fact, the more narrowly you can define your niche audiences, the easier it will be to reach them on Instagram.

Bar chart of distribution of Instagram users in the US as of July 2021 by age group
Image via Statista

A great tool for conquering this step is to create buyer personas or ideal customer profiles. Build an avatar that represents one of every perfect customer that’s ever used your products and include as many details about that customer as possible.

To reach those audiences on Instagram, you’ll need to create content that appeals to each.

3. Start posting – then evaluate post performance.

You’ll never have all the data you need to be perfect, so at some point, you just need to publish your first batch of posts. These first few posts are going to give you enormous insight into what works and doesn’t work with your target audience

If you’re working with influencers, you will significantly increase your initial success. The main advantage you have with creator collaborations is that your creators are representatives of your ideal customer profile. As such, they will have more creative intuition about which posts will perform better than others.

4. Get comfortable with Instagram Insights.

Your first analytics tool will be Instagram Insights. Eventually, you’ll want an analytics tool that gathers more detailed information about your posts. But for now, you have everything you need to know which posts generate the best engagement.

Snapshot of Instagram Insights Overview where you can determine engagement rate on Instagram

Under each post type, you can view engagement metrics that show you how popular certain posts are compared to others. 

It’s also important to distinguish between different kinds of engagements. It’s nice when someone takes the time to like a post or follow your brand. But comments and shares signal a greater desire to connect, and you can enhance your post performance by responding to shares/comments with valuable information, positivity, or shoutouts.

5. Improve your hashtag and tagging skills.

Using popular and relevant hashtags helps you with post discovery. That is, users who favor posts with a certain hashtag are more likely to find your posts if you use those same hashtags on your posts.

This is also true when tagging other people, brands, and places. Tags notify other accounts that you gave them a shoutout, and those shoutouts can increase your posts’ reach.

That said, overusing hashtags and tags can hurt your engagement. Too much tagging or too many hashtags can come across as spam, and IG takes great pains to minimize spam.

6. Use compelling copy for captions and comments.

While Instagram is primarily a visual platform, post captions and comments do make an impact. If your written content on IG posts appeals to your audience, they will spend more time on your posts and inform algorithms to push your posts into those feeds and exploration pages more often.

7. Keep current on Instagram feature updates.

Each new IG update launches after product developers examine user behavior and discover better ways to delight those users. If you take a little extra time each week to check on new updates, you’ll be better prepared to deliver content that attracts engagement.

Currently, the two best places to stay up-to-date on Instagram features are:

8. Partner with Instagram creators.

Instagram creators take their content curation online seriously and publish compelling, lifestyle content full-time. 

Instagram continues to add new ways for creators to make money online, which in turn makes it easier for users to develop their profiles professionally.

Creators don’t just make great content, they are also informed consumers. By building relationships with influencers that genuinely love your products, you can reduce the number of touch points it takes to move customers through the buyer’s journey.

Additionally, a creator’s followers can become your followers if you leverage those creators to connect with audiences on Instagram. High-performing influencers know instinctively how to create authentic content, and a strategic collaboration can greatly enhance your engagement rate on Instagram.

9. Encourage follower participation.

Sometimes the best way to increase engagement is to ask your followers to participate in a virtual event. Contests, giveaways, and going Live make your followers excited about creating user-generated content on behalf of your brand.

10. Cross-promote popular posts from other channels, and vice versa.

After a few months of posting and tracking performance, you’ll have a pretty good idea about which posts best resonate with your audience. The same is true for your post performance on other channels.

One great way to further increase your engagement rate on Instagram is to cross-promote your posts. For example, make sure that your Instagram Stories also post to Facebook. Or try adding your popular Reels onto your brand’s TikTok account (and vice versa).

If you repost on a platform that has different formats or ideal dimensions, make sure that you adjust your posts to fit that platform. For example, YouTube videos don’t perform as well on Instagram if you retain the horizontal format. Instead, consider editing the video so that it displays well in a vertical format.

This approach won’t just attract more followers to your Instagram, but it will also increase your engagements on your other channels.

In Conclusion: A good engagement rate on Instagram is all about nurturing genuine relationships with your followers.

Like any marketing strategy, excellence takes practice and testing. The effort that you put into understanding your brand’s Instagram audience will pay off with higher post engagement.

As you become more skilled in increasing your engagement rate on Instagram, you will find ways to leverage that engagement toward achieving other marketing goals, such as website traffic and sales. 

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