In case you missed the memo, Instagram is the new homepage. Best make sure that you're driving as much engagement to your account as you possibly can with a solid social strategy. Below are 5 tips to help you master the algorithm to drive engagement—that's how to get noticed on Instagram nowadays.
Social media measurement is today's most valuable currency, and Instagram engagement is worth its weight in gold on the market. The thing is—as you know— it's a really dicey landscape to navigate, especially in times of a fickle and seemingly-impossible-to-crack algorithm. Fortunately, it's something that a really robust Instagram marketing software can help you scope out to determine a course of action.
That said, a lot of brands have reported a decline in engagement in the past year, while others have continued to soar and experience Instagram growth. But a quick Instagram analysis would reveal a lot of frustration coming from the business community, which mostly stems from dubiously piloting a non-chronological feed. Publishing quality social media content is more important than ever, and it's also your first step to generating more engagements around your visuals. But why is engagement so important in the first place?
Social marketing tips 101: engagement is correlated to your reach and your audience, and it's a direct reflection of how your followers are responding to your content. It's one of the most important Instagram metrics to track and measure because it represents how your brand marketing visuals are resonating with your followers, who are current or potential customers. If they feel emotional about your posts to the point of taking an action around them (either a like or a comment, or even a save or a DM share), you're one step closer to a sale. That's a direct impact on your bottom line.
Engagement also means ranking higher with the algorithm, which in turn means getting in front of more eyeballs. Hate to say it, but it's a popularity contest—the faster your posts garner activity, the more likely they are to appear when your followers are scrolling. The problem is that it's also a bit of a catch 22: to drive high engagement to a post, it has to be hot to begin with, but how do you receive engagement if you don't have any to drive more in the first place? Woof. We're exhausted just thinking about it.
For that reason, we put together a list of short-term actions you can take that will undoubtedly help settle your engagement woes and give your posts that push they need to earn more double taps. 💕
1. Rethink Your Captions
If your typical post caption is under five words or only consists of emojis, spoiler alert: you could be doing much better. First of all, it's really important to develop a brand tone of voice, for which captions is the vehicle. Second, if you don't relay worthy messaging in the text slot, you're missing an opportunity to connect with your audience. Aaand you're also probably not reaching your full engagement potential.
If you run your own Instagram audience insights survey, you'll likely find that some people scroll super quick without stopping to read. But if a visual is high-quality and compelling, they will stop to find out more, aka look to its caption for additional thoughts. That's your chance to hook a user and get them to do something. Perhaps formulate your descriptive to pose a question, prompting followers to leave a reply. The more time a user spends ogling your post, the higher it will rank with the algorithm. It's a neat little metric called dwell time, and it's a thing.
If your caption is long enough (no novels, please) it will cause longer pauses. If there's a call-to-action in it, you're giving people a reason to hang around even longer as they weigh their response. And then
if when they do type in their comment, that's an extra engagement for you—aka even more algorithm points. Score!
2. Use Every Single Instagram Functionality
Instagram rewards the accounts that make use of the app's tools. The logic is pretty simple: the sprites at Facebook don't develop new functionality to let it sit untouched, collecting dust. Helllll nah. They want to keep users on the app as much as possible for as long as possible. Integrating the functions Instagram puts at your disposal into your content strategy is a wise way to nudge the algorithm in your favor.
Lucky you, we've got some pre-packaged tips for this if you're not already active with Instagram Live, slideshows, video, and last but ever so not least, Stories (and then get your Instagram Stories benchmarks here).
3. Be an Active Member of Your Community
Because your brand is the authority, you are your community's leader. People have congregated around your account because of their common affection for your business. So don't be a passive captain on your own ship. Fostering your community is of critical importance, but what we mean here specifically is answer the comments on your own posts.
There are so many reasons for why this is an important action, one being that it humanizes your company and makes your followers feel special, consequently deepening their loyalty. The other (less obvious) reason is that it helps your engagement (really!). You see, a comment is a comment no matter who leaves it. That means that one of your replies counts as an engagement, which alerts the algorithm that your post is hot hot hot. Which leads to it ranking higher in people's feeds and being seen by more users. Can you feel the temperature rising? We can.
And now you don't have to spend any time on your phone tapping a tiny screen to do so, you can get busy with your replies directly from your desktop on your Dash Hudson dashboard. So in reality, answering your commenters is a fail-proof double whammy: wins you extra loyalty and ranks you higher with the algorithm. Win-win.
4. Consider Your Image Format
Ok, this one may be abstract, but it's cause for ponder. Yes or no: the bigger the real estate, the bigger the coverage? The logical answer is yes. Now, riddle me this: why would you choose to self-efface by purposely adopting a smaller image size for your posts?
Your first chance to catch people's attention as they're scrolling is with your visuals, so the sensible thing to do is to take up as much room as is permitted. Instagram's portrait image format (4:5) grants a post the largest maximum surface in a feed. The eye is automatically drawn to photos of this size because there's more to look at, simple as that.
We know that white borders are a thing for some accounts, and that certain users make an aesthetic choice to have them, but if you're trying to focus on engagement, it might be time to ditch them. Same goes for the landscape format: it makes for a more limited plot of land. There are no Instagram statistics to prove this (yet), but think about it. 🤯
5. Make Your Account Discoverable
Since Instagram was built around the idea of creating communities, there's a lot that can be done for organic discovery in both your regular feed and Instagram Stories. You can make a significant dent in your engagement with location tags, hashtags, and account tags. True (Insta) story.
If you tag a location in a regular post, you're opening yourself up to being discovered by people who search those locations. If you use a niche hashtag, you're likely to be spotted by someone from that creative community. That's a high-probability scenario given the fact that Instagram now enables people to follow hashtags.
Meanwhile if you tag other accounts, you're reaping all the benefits of being a UGC practitioner, so A+ for that. But you're also seizing an opportunity to be discovered by another account's fans. See this particular example where REVOLVE tagged @gigihadid, making themselves discoverable by her fans who religiously search everything that mentions her.
In Stories, a location tag is also a discovery tool, as locations have their own Instagram Stories made of aggregated user posts. You can search hashtags on Stories as well, and can have your photo or video repurposed by an account you've tagged. You'd be surprised by how much people are looking through these active discovery engines.
The holy grail with social media marketing on Instagram is that it means nothing if you're not engaging an audience that is really keen on your brand. Putting out content that resonates with followers is a testament to the health of your social activities, which is the reason why you're allocating resources to this area of your business.
The engagement you receive is the barometer for all of it, and in this day and age, it's also the measure by which the algorithm decides to show your posts to more or less people. It's complicated, it's tough, and it's trying. But you got this. 💪
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