Lauren Osselton
Lauren Osselton 20 August 2019

7 Tips for Increasing Instagram Engagement

Depending on the nature of your business and your target audience, you may have opted to include Instagram in your Social Media Marketing strategy. Have you noticed that Instagram engagement has been at a record low? Even professional Digital Marketers like myself aren't immune! That's why I'm sharing 7 tips for increasing your Instagram engagement that I believe in and personally employ on my channels every single day.

Depending on the nature of your business and your target market, you may have opted to include Instagram in your social media marketing strategy. If you're marketing to certain demographics, this decision makes a lot of sense, as Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media channels, especially for millennials. Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users, with 64% of 18-29-year-olds actively using the platform.

Instagram is wonderful in that it's a visually appealing tool for content curation, and the nature of the platform encourages dialogue and engagement. That said, Instagram engagement is one of the most volatile metrics as the algorithm changes quite frequently, and even marketers struggle to master it! Understandably, you may be vexed about how to get your engagement climbing on the platform, especially when you're considering engagement beyond a simple like (think more about growing your comments, shares and DMs too!)

In this post, I discuss methods for how you can increase engagement on your Instagram. I use tips that I believe in and personally employ each day. Throughout the post, I'll also include stellar resources that I rely on and love.

1. Focus on Relationships, Not Follower Counts

The number of followers you have should not be the focus. Yes, I know - that sounds counterintuitive. Since the dawn of Instagram time, follower count has been unfairly linked to measurements of authority and trust. However, that's truly not the case with the advent of technology and advertising available to grow a following. This is not to say your follower count is useless by any means, but I encourage you to shift your focus away from the follower count to instead looking at the meaningful relationships you develop with followers.

When you take the time to develop meaningful, worthwhile relationships on Instagram instead of growing followers, you are building a much more meaningful metric than a follower count. Followers do not equate to money in the bank. In fact, you could be making more money with 1,000 followers than a business with 10,000 followers. Remember that.

By developing more significant long-term relationships with your followers, you're going to be building a much more valuable audience. When these individuals need someone in your field, they're going to go to someone they know, like and trust. How do you get them to know like and trust you? By providing long term value. Which brings us to our next point!

2. Provide Value to Build the Know, Like & Trust Factor

There's been a recent shift in social media marketing towards providing value. While you can still use your Instagram to promote your business and sell, this truly should no longer be the focus of your strategy. Instead, I want you to start thinking in terms of providing value to your followers.

Why? Because the more time you take to show your followers that you are knowledgeable, helpful and experienced, the more they will know, like and trust you. A big element of this is the 'know' factor, meaning you want to ensure you are posting frequently enough that you develop a presence. You by no means need to post daily, but if you can post between 3-5 times per week, you're doing great.

By developing this know, like and trust factor, when the individual is ready to invest in services that are in your field, they're going to think of you. Why? Because they know that you're up to the challenge. They know you're helpful, and that you know what you're talking about. Because you have a relationship. Always remember the relationship, and think in the long-term. Avoid practices like asking for the sale too soon, and instead focus on continually building value.

What is valuable to your followers will depend on your industry. Ultimately, a good way to know if your posts are valuable is to ensure that each and every post has a purpose, has something tangible for the viewer to takeaway, and is something that you'd be delighted to see yourself.

Recommended Resource: Want to know more about developing the know, like and trust factor and not going for the sale too soon? Christina Nicholson and Rebekah Radice do a great job of explaining this more in-depth in this SEMRush webinar on how to promote yourself on social media.

3. Don't Go "Fishing" for Followers

As a digital marketer and social media manager, this one is particularly important for me to share with you. Nothing is more annoying to your potential audience than for you to bait them simply for a follow back.

What do I mean by this? Have you ever noticed that someone with an incredibly high follower count follows you, then the next time you look they no longer are? This comes down to a trick that I like to refer to as 'fishing' for followers.

Accounts who 'fish' for followers will use their following of you as bait for you to follow them back. Once you follow them back, they unfollow you. If you don't follow them back, then they'll continue to follow you until either you follow back, or they give up and unfollow you before refollowing you again in a week or so. Now, they're not typically used to a marketer sitting on the other end noticing this behaviour and hope you won't notice and unfollow them. And the average user won't, which is how they grow their enormous followings.

This is NOT the way to build up a following. It's spammy, annoying, and frankly, if someone notices you're doing it, they're going to like and trust you much less. When I see someone pop up as a new follower who has previously done this practice to me, I typically don't follow back again. Why? Because to me they're cloaking and trying to appear more popular than they truly are by gaining followers in an inauthentic way.

This practice is growing more and more popular with the introduction of software to manage your Instagram marketing for you. Keep in mind these investments may improve your time management, but could actually be harming your know, like and trust factor if they're being used in icky ways like this. If you're looking to save time, consider using automation for scheduling posts. But keep your follow building more organic, natural and authentic.

4. Use the Post Body Text to Tell a Story

While the visual aspect of Instagram is certainly the most noticeable, your caption should be equally beautiful and compelling as the photo you select for the post! Marketers are typically writing longer captions than ever before. Why? Because a major trend in content marketing and copywriting is to have your web and social copy tell a story.

While sometimes a cute and coy short caption will do the trick, in general, your Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long with up to 30 hashtags. That's a whole lot of real estate that could make a HUGE impact on your engagement.

For your caption, think of the following:

  • Front-load the important stuff: Remember, not everyone will click the 'see more' button. You want them to get the main message of your post right at the top.
  • Entice! The posts that I actually read the copy for are the ones that grab me with something right off the top.
  • Be human; don't just regurgitate your brand messaging on the post. Be authentic and genuine and tell a story.

When selecting hashtags, remember the following:

  • Don't use the same hashtags in every post - variety is favoured by the algorithm
  • Don't use 30 hashtags if you cannot find 30 relevant ones - quality, not quantity
  • Select hashtags that are niche and relevant to your content of that exact post
  • Look for hashtags that have an array of performance - some that have high volume, some with low, so that you have a better chance of getting visibility.

Bonus tip: Create a spreadsheet of all potential hashtags you could use and their post volume. When it comes time to post on Instagram, you have a full list you can work off of.

5. Use Stories & Direct Messages to Further Engage Audience

Stories and direct messages are later additions to the Instagram interface that have been quickly adopted as major outlets for social media marketers. Let's start with stories.

Stories are an excellent way to add more candid, of-the-moment content to your profile. It's also an excellent way to put a face forward for your business. Even if you're more shy to do so, hopping on your stories a couple of times a week to just chat with your followers is a great tactic for building your know, like and trust factor (especially the know). Don't know what to post about? Here are a few ideas:

  • A behind-the-scenes look at your office or workspace
  • A tip about something relevant to your industry
  • A daily productivity tip for your followers

Also, don't be afraid to dig into all the stickers available in stories such as polls, questions, location, hashtags, gifs, countdown, chat and quizzes! These stickers are awesome when you want to build engagement. Keeping things open-ended and polling your audience will also give you a great idea of what content they want to see. You'll also start to see what times are the best for reaching your followers.

When it comes to direct messages, many marketers use this as an opportunity to start a conversation, which is excellent. That said, using that as an opportunity to automate the start of a conversation, isn't. I don't automate any DMs to my followers, but thoughtfully and personally reach out and engage with those I wish to nurture and move through my sales funnel. I also don't start this conversation until they've actually engaged with my content, or been following me for a while.

Recommended Resource: Later does an excellent breakdown of all the different stickers that are available in stories that you can employ to engage audiences.

6. Don't Be Afraid to Get Candid and Vulnerable

More and more businesses and entrepreneurs are using their Instagram in a more thoughtful and personal way. The most engaging posts to me are the ones that make me feel something. I am way more likely to comment when I see someone being brave and using the platform to be honest and share something that is hard for them, or something they've personally worked through.

Found a unique solution to a problem? Share it! Had a really tough day that you need help with? Ask for it!

Just remember that you ultimately want to stay on brand. Don't over-share or share things that aren't helpful. Just be willing to get more candid and vulnerable when you know it's going to help your audience, and continue to properly represent your brand.

7. Get Creative, Keep Content Fresh & Encourage Conversation

Ultimately, the best tip I can give you for growing your Instagram account is to get creative and curious. If you're always looking for new ideas to keep content fresh and engaging to your followers, then you're doing great! Just always be thinking and evolving. You never want your content to get stale so continue to follow others in your industry to keep up with content marketing trends and tactics.

Some post ideas to boost engagement on Instagram are:

  • Offering giveaway contests: this is a very popular tactic now and can be giving away something as simple as a book. It's a great way to get engagement, but should only be done occasionally to keep people on the hook!
  • Fill-in-the-blanks: this is something I've done a bunch of times. Simply getting people to fill in the blanks or asking them a more general question opens the floor to discussion.
  • Inspirational quotes: this is one that is actually doing well for my engagement. The trick is to find unique words that represent your brand. Think of advice you'd pass on to others and then make that into an inspirational quote. If it speaks to one of your followers, they're likely to reshare it... especially if it's an original quote.


Hopefully, now you have a better idea of how to increase your Instagram engagement. A final piece of my sage advice for you... be wary of comparing yourself to others. Especially if you want to build an authentic community and brand on your Instagram, it's going to take time. Instagram has a great way of showing the highlights of people, businesses and brands - so keep that in mind. Don't look at other accounts and feel you're less than because you don't have as many followers (remember, that isn't the most important thing).

Also, keep in mind that when it comes to choosing social media platforms for your business, it isn't all or nothing. Not every platform will be aligned with your business goals, where your target audience is, or your brand. Also, keep in mind that it's best to start small with 1 or 2 platforms, then scale up from there.

Connect With Me on Social

Twitter: @LaurenOsselton | Facebook: @OssieMarketing  

Instagram: @LaurenOsselton_Marketing | Pinterest: @LaurenOsseltonMarketing

Click to read the original publication from our blog, "Instagram Marketing: 7 Tips For Increasing Engagement"

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