If you’re not getting as many likes and comments on Instagram as you used to, don’t worry. You’re not alone and you’re probably doing nothing wrong.
Ever since Instagram introduced its non-chronological feed in June 2016 engagement has been steadily dropping. With each algorithm update it seems to sink even lower and it’s (understandably) frustrating the hell out of people.
It’s not just Instagram’s fault though. As the platform grows there are more and more posts competing for our attention, which means some things will inevitably get lost in the shuffle. The average user follows hundreds of creators – 822 according to one study – so there’s no way they could engage with all of them in one sitting.
To avoid completely overloading us the algorithm gives us what it thinks we want to see. Unfortunately that results in many creators missing out on hundreds if not thousands of likes. If you’re one of them don’t feel bad. Your followers haven’t abandoned you, they simply don’t see your content anymore… but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
How do I know that? Because I was able to increase my engagement rate at a time when most people’s are quickly nosediving. My number of average likes received grew by 29.3% over the course of last month!
In other words, my engagement is increasing even as my follower count grows – nearly 80,000 amazing people follow my account @girlvsglobe. That’s why I’ve decided to share my favourite ways to increase Instagram engagement and hopefully help you kickstart yours again.
None of the tips I’m about to share require you to pay for any services or use dodgy tactics. I believe in honest, organic and sustainable growth that is a reflection of who you are as a person. Despite what you might have heard you do not need to use the follow-unfollow method, bots or even comment pods to succeed on the platform. Don’t trust me? I’m confident that after reading this article you will.
Are you ready to make peace with Instagram once and for all? Then grab a cup of tea and let’s get started…
1. Do not cheat the system
Let’s start off with the thing nobody wants to hear. Using bots, buying likes and followers or playing the follow-unfollow game are all stupid practices that will hurt you in the long run. Instagram is really cracking down on shady activity at the moment and if you’re engaging in foul play you may not just see your reach drop – you might even have your account disabled.
I’m not saying any of this to scare you, it’s just the way things are at the moment. I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people who cheated their way to the top and while they definitely exist it’s a bad strategy for many reasons. For one – do you really want to be known as that shady Instagrammer with fake followers? I didn’t think so.
2. Improve your photography
Yawn. I know. But I’m starting with these blatantly obvious statements because they’re the truth. You can’t get very far on Instagram if your photos aren’t great so if there’s just one tip you can focus your energy on it should be this one. Many successful Instagrammers shoot on DSLRs or mirrorless cameras and use manual settings to ensure top notch quality.
That doesn’t mean you can’t build a great following just by using a smartphone. But have a look at what content other people in your industry are producing and try to match its quality. You can do that by getting creative with angles and your editing style, not just by using the latest piece of technology.
Tip! For most niches it’s a great idea to include yourself in the photos. People find it relatable which makes them engage more.
3. Develop a consistent editing style
Speaking of editing, you should try to keep it as consistent as possible. The way your photos look in your gallery really matters because it will help others decide if you’re worth following. Developing a style isn’t something you can do in one afternoon. It takes time, practice and lots of trial and error. But it’s definitely something you should start thinking about.
What kind of aesthetic do you prefer – soft and dreamy or colourful with lots of contrast? These are by no means the only two possible answers. There are as many styles as there are photographers and finding yours will feel incredibly rewarding. I feel like I’m finally beginning to understand mine (you can see it on my account here) and that makes me really happy.
4. Be an active Instagram user
This is the second most fundamental thing, right after posting amazing pictures. Being active on Instagram is incredibly important if you want to increase your engagement. Leaving thoughtful comments allows you to meet new people, form meaningful connections and make the whole journey a lot more fun.
Not pragmatic enough? It also signifies to the platform that you’re an active user which is something they greatly appreciate, which means the algorithm will reward you with increased reach. Reach is the number of unique accounts that see your posts so a very important step toward getting more likes and comments.
5. Interact with the right people
While you can interact with whomever you want, being strategic pays off. Who do you want to follow you? In my case it’s young women interested in responsible travel. How do you find them? I use hashtags like #responsibletravel or #girlsvsglobe and interact with the people that use them. Another good strategy is commenting on popular photos in your niche. Other people may notice your username and head over to your profile to check it out.
6. Change your profile picture
Does your profile picture accurately represent who you are? Is it interesting and in keeping with your aesthetic? If you saw it in your notifications tab would you click it? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself. People make a lot of snap judgments on social media and your profile picture can either make a great first impression or, well, not.
7. Optimise your bio
Great, this random Internet stranger has decided to click on your profile! They’re reading your bio now and… whoosh they’re gone. Have you ever heard of the elevator pitch? Great, now condense that to 150 characters and don’t forget to sprinkle in some personality. It’s not easy to do but it will really help you convert those visitors into followers.
8. Use all the hashtags
Commenting on other people’s photos is not the only way to get new eyeballs onto your profile. Not by a long shot. One of the easiest and most underused is effectively using hashtags. You can post 30 hashtags underneath each photo and you should be making full use of all of them. If somebody handed you thirty free lottery tickets would you just play a few or all of them? Exactly. (But also, please don’t gamble because numbers games were essentially invented by the Italian mafia and just nope.)
Don’t use any more than 30 hashtags though. There are tricks you can use to cram in as many as 60 but if you do it’s actually going to make all of them invalid.
9. Choose the right hashtags
Don’t be lazy with your hashtags and do your research. Widely used ones like #travel or #fashion will do you no good unless you’re already hugely popular. You need to find smaller, more specific hashtags for which you could appear in the top posts. If you’re a female traveller you can use my extensive list of Instagram accounts that feature female travellers and use it to find the right ones for you.
If you’re struggling to find the right hashtags please let me know in a comment below and I’ll make sure to dedicate another post to it.
10. Always geotag your photos
Geotagging is another example of people not using all the opportunities given to them. According to some studies posts tagged with a location receive up to 79% higher engagement [source]. That’s absolutely insane so don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not including it!
11. Experiment with captions
Instagram may be a visual platform but your words still matter. The caption limit is now set at 2200 characters so you can say as much or as little as you’d like. There’s little statistical evidence that captions directly influence how many likes you get, but it’s their indirect effect I’m after. My followers often tell me that my vivid storytelling and silly personality are the main reasons they keep coming back. All thanks to the humble caption!
12. Include a call to action
A call to action is an instruction to the audience meant to provoke an immediate response. It can come in many forms from “comment below” to “tag a friend who would love this”. Calls to action can be a little cheesy but they do work. My favourite way to mobilise my followers is asking them lots of questions. This feels natural on my account because I’m a very curious person, but it may feel a little forced to you. If that’s the case try to find a trick that goes well with your voice and personality instead.
13. Tag others in your photos
If you’d like feature accounts to notice you and perhaps repost one of your images, tagging them can be a great way to achieve that. Unlike hashtagging it can feel a little spammy so don’t overdo it. But as long as it’s done in moderation it can be a great way to get noticed.
I do not recommend tagging other users who don’t typically repost other people’s content. Lots of people tag me every day and while I don’t mind it, I definitely find it confusing. So focus your efforts on accounts that are actually actively seeking out new content to share with their followers.
14. Stay on topic
Is your Instagram all about travel? Then don’t suddenly start posting photos of quinoa salads or your latest manicure. Those photos may be beautiful but if they’re not in keeping with your niche your followers will be confused by them. They may even unfollow you if this becomes a recurring thing.
All this is not to say that you can’t be creative or that you have to keep doing the same thing over and over. Don’t be afraid to experiment, just take it slow and observe your audience’s reaction to this new direction. When I switched my focus to responsible travel I didn’t just spring it on my readers – I’d been teasing it for months and made sure they were ready for it.
15. Work in big trending topics
What you can do is make your content super topical. Here’s a list of celebrations around the world that might come in handy. Talk about women’s rights on March 8, human rights on December 10 and the psychological value of towels on May 25 aka Towel Day. No, spending the next ten minutes learning more about Towel Day is not going to be a waste of your time. Just make sure you come back here afterwards – we still have ten more tips to go through.
16. Keep a consistent schedule
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If your followers know that you post in the evenings, they’ll already be looking out for your next photo and are more likely to engage with it. You don’t need to post every day but often enough that people remember you exist. I personally post around 9pm UK time on my account – that way I’m also reaching my LA peeps around lunchtime and NYC at 4pm.
17. Post at the right times
All these tips to increase Instagram engagement will go to waste if you post while your followers are asleep. Finding the perfect time can be difficult if, like me, you have an international following. Luckily it’s easy to gather all the data you need, either by switching to a Business Account or registering for a service like Iconosquare which I use an love. Don’t forget to set alarms or schedule your posts using an app, otherwise you might forget.
18. Switch to a Business Account
I just mentioned Business Accounts and want to make sure you know exactly what they are. It’s a free service provided by Instagram that gives you insight into various metrics, from impressions and reach to how many times your photos have been saved. You’ll also be able to add information about your blog or company which allows people to email you in one click.
But there’s a brand new feature that outshines them all in my opinion. You can now add links to your Instagram Stories which used to be reserved for verified users with a blue tick. It’s so exciting and if you use it effectively it will bring tonnes of traffic to your website.
Before you take the leap you should know that Business Accounts are shrouded in mystery. Many people claim their engagement dropped significantly after making the switch. I only did it about a week ago so cannot confirm or deny that just yet. If you’re curious to learn more about my experience look out for a future post where I’ll share my findings.
19. Listen to your analytics
Whether you get your analytics directly from Instagram or a third party service like Iconosquare, pay close attention to them. What kind of content is performing well? When do you get the most comments? Who are your followers and where are they from? The more you know about your audience the easier it will be to produce engaging content for them.
20. Respond to comments
As your account grows this will become harder and harder to do. But if you’re trying to grow replying to your followers is incredibly important. It lets them know that you value them and makes them want to stick around. It takes time but it’s definitely worth it. After all, how rude would it be not to reply to someone’s compliment in real life? Pretty rude so try not to do it online.
To stop this from becoming a full-time job feel free to only reply to longer comments. If someone just posts a row of emojis or something along the lines of “great gallery!” they’re probably using bots anyway.
21. Use Instagram Stories
If you’re still bitter about Instagram ripping off its rivals, I get it. But it’s in your best interest to start using this feature because it’s an amazing way to connect with your followers. I try posting daily but let’s be honest – half my life is spent in my PJs in front of the laptop which isn’t exactly riveting. Whenever I do post the response is amazing though. I get tonnes of messages and can definitely see a difference in the number of likes and comments on my most recent post.
22. Try Instagram Live
Instagram Live is probably a little scares than Stories. It’s raw, unfiltered and the fear that nobody will show up is real. But it’s also the next best thing to actually sitting down for coffee with all your followers one by one.
It’s about more than just showing them who you are though. When you go live your Story will immediately move to the front of the queue, making your face the first thing your followers see when they open up Instagram. That’s a pretty powerful spot to occupy, even just for a few minutes at a time.
23. Post more videos
Instagram is owned by Facebook, and as you probably know Facebook loves video content. The Instagram algorithm certainly seems to favour it as well, so why not jump on the bandwagon? Video may be harder to produce than photos but it also allows your followers to get a much better grasp of who you are. You have up to 60 seconds to make an impression, so give it a whirl!
24. Promote your Instagram on other networks
If you’re a blogger or a business of any sort, you probably have a myriad of social media accounts. I’m personally active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest, as well as Instagram of course. Using those other networks to promote your Instagram is super simple and can bring huge results. Facebook in particular really favours Instagram content and makes it as easy as clicking “share” on a photo you’ve already posted.
25. Partner with your fellow creators
I’ve always been a firm believer in the importance of collaboration. Other Instagram creators are not your competitors – they’re friends you haven’t made yet. If you admire someone’s work reach out to them and see if there’s a way you could work together. Be realistic here. A professional photographer with 1.5 million followers will likely get quite annoyed at your request to promote each other, even if your selfies are on fleek.
Instead reach out to other people in your niche with a similar following size. You can find them through hashtags and even meet them outside of Instagram, in various Facebook groups that focus on your niche. If you’re a female travel Instagrammer I highly recommend you check out Girls vs Globe, a community of 12,000+ women I founded a few years ago.
Once you find the perfect collaboration partner start brainstorming. If you both live in the same area you could meet up in real life, but if not this is the Internet we’re talking about! Anything is possible! You can work together on the creative project you’ve been dreaming about for months or just feature one another in an Instagram Story. It’s all up to you and how much work you want to put in.
At the end of the day that’s basically all it comes down to. If you work hard and smart, using these twenty five tips, I’m confident you’ll start seeing results very soon. Instagram can be frustrating at times but the platform rewards you for the time you put in.
I’ve done a lot of talking today – 3,152 words to be specific! – and I’d love to hear from you now. So here are my questions for you…
What are your favourite ways to increase Instagram engagement? What are your experiences and struggles with the platform? If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to leave them in a comment below. Please don’t forget to pin and share this article if you enjoyed it, I’d really appreciate it!