Have you heard how important it is to increase your Instagram engagement rate? It’s the most important factor Instagram uses to determine who will see your content.
When I first started my small business (SilverFire Books) and chose to focus on Instagram as my main source of marketing, I had a love-hate relationship with the platform. I’m sure I’m not alone there.
As a new account, it’s tough enough to find followers, but it doesn’t stop there. You also need to find creative ways to engage with those followers. Otherwise, it will feel like your content is invisible.
I was determined to make Instagram work, because I knew it could be game-changing for my business (just like it can be for yours). So I absorbed as much as I could about it: blogs, webinars, even courses.
The one thing that was always mentioned as being most important? Engagement. Sure, having a lot of followers is great, but if no one is engaging with your content, you won’t make connections with your audience (or sales, for that matter).
So here’s what I’ve learned as far as which strategies work best to increase engagement on Instagram. But, first things first:
What is Instagram engagement, and how does it work?
Your engagement rate is how the Instagram algorithm decides what to show to users. So you definitely want to do what you can to boost it!
If you post a photo on Instagram and it gets no comments, the algorithm is much less likely to show that post to your followers.
Whereas, if your post is blowing up with comments (especially if it’s within about 15 minutes of you posting), it will show up in a lot more of your followers’ feeds. It may even show up in the Top Posts under a hashtag you’ve used, or on the Explore page.
There are more factors than just comments when it comes to your engagement rate (for instance: direct messaging & views or interactions with your stories), so here’s a list of the best ways to increase your engagement rate on Instagram!
1. Instagram Stories
This one is simple to do but easy to forget. It takes about 1 minute to put up an Instagram story, but if you don’t have a plan, you probably won’t be able to stay consistent.
Carve out 10 minutes once a week to decide which stories you’ll post that week and when. Here’s a time saving tip: re-use old photos you’ve taken as story backgrounds.
Need some ideas for Instagram stories to post?
I love using polls and questions, because I’m actually getting to know my followers & customers that way.
People love to discuss what they’re passionate about, and it’s fun to see their responses. It may even spark a new product idea for you!
Think of a topic that people in your niche enjoy. For example, in my niche (books & reading), I’ve polled to see if people preferred modern or vintage books.
I’ve also asked my followers questions like what’s their favorite children’s book and the best book they read this year. Don’t forget to provide your own answers!
Instagram stories are also perfect for announcements, shoutouts, and asking for feedback. Ask your audience about their favorite products of yours, or what new products they’d like to see you create.
And after you’ve created all those fabulous stories, use Instagram story highlights to save them so users can stumble upon them on your profile (or re-watch them) at any time.
2. Use Direct Messaging
Using direct messaging also improves how Instagram sees your account’s engagement. But don’t be spammy – start an organic discussion based on a related interest, or let your followers initiate the conversation.
Often, this will happen in response to your Instagram stories. Or, if they tag you in their own story, that’s another great way to open up a conversation.
Ask them how they’re enjoying your product, or even just thank them for sharing!
3. Encourage Users to Share Photos or Videos of Your Products
Okay, this is my favorite strategy because it combines increased engagement, social proof, AND free marketing. Heck yes!
Plus, it makes you feel wonderful as a business owner to see people loving on your products. 🙂 What could be better than that?
Other than using your posts and stories to encourage this, you can partner with brand representatives to share your products. That will help start the momentum, and others will join in.
Also, be sure to use unique & creative packaging so people are excited to open your products (a perfect excuse for them to share a video!), and to make your brand more memorable.
4. Like & Comment on Users’ Photos
This applies to both your current followers AND people not yet following you.
And please, I’m begging you: don’t just comment ‘Nice!’ or random, unrelated emojis. It’s a waste of time and feels forced. To be honest, when I see comments like those, I just shake my head and hit delete.
Put some real thought into your comments. It doesn’t have to be a novel! Just a few words of encouragement or appreciation can be enough (but more is better).
The user will appreciate the effort and you may even spark a conversation. Plus, then they’ll be more likely to follow you or comment back on one of your photos in the future. Win-win!
5. Add a Riveting Question to Your Posts’ Captions
This is the absolute best way to encourage comments on your posts & boost your Instagram engagement rate.
I know it will feel weird at first, especially if you don’t have a lot of followers. You may not get any responses. That’s ok.
You have to start somewhere, and training your followers to expect a question will make them more likely to respond in the future.
Plus, people love giving their opinions, and an interesting question helps open up a conversation between you and your followers. Of course, users are more likely to engage with a post that’s attractive to them.
If you need inspiration for your photography, I’ve compiled 35+ inexpensive props & backdrop ideas for Instagram & product photography here.
6. Engagement Groups on Instagram
This one is pretty controversial, and while I have never used this strategy myself, I want to tell you about it so you’re informed. You can decide for yourself if it’s something you want to try.
Please keep in mind: Instagram does not recommend using this method, but I do know some people are still using it.
What are engagement groups on Instagram? They’re small pods of Instagram users who agree to comment & like each others’ posts.
These groups can take up a lot of time, because you typically agree to comment right away when another user posts – so you need to be available whenever that happens. Ideally, there would be a specific time of day planned for these posts so it’s not so disruptive to peoples’ daily lives.
You can direct message other creatives in your niche to see if they would be interested in starting an engagement group with you. If they’re already in one, then maybe they’ll invite you to join. Just make sure to set up expectations ahead of time to avoid any awkwardness.
7. Go Behind the Scenes
Post a photo of your office space or shipping station. Snap a quick video of you creating your latest masterpiece. Write a caption about a cause you care about, or share the reason you started your business in the first place.
Your followers want a sneak peak into your everyday life and personality – it reminds them that you are human, quirks and all, and leads to deeper connections.
Conclusion: Remember, it’s not all about your Instagram engagement rate.
Lastly, have fun with it! Social media (Instagram in particular) is filled with interesting, creative people who are just waiting to discover your brand and your products. Don’t focus only on increasing your engagement rate.
It’s the perfect platform for getting to know your audience. The whole point of social media is to make human connections, so get out there and engage!
Want to know how I grew my online shop to over 5k followers (and over 2,800 orders) on Instagram? I wrote an eBook that walks you through the best growth & engagement strategies I’ve found! Learn more.