Seven Secrets for Increasing Your Instagram Engagement

hands holding white iphone displaying instagram

Instagram is a platform I never really took seriously. Until recently, I would ignore it for months on end, hardly engage at all and complain that it never did anything for my blog. 

Twitter, I can do. I've had an account for over 11 years so I know what's up over there (read my post about Twitter here). Even Pinterest I've mastered in the last few years and I now couldn't live without it, blog-wise (if you're struggling with Pinterest, read my post about that here).

I blamed Instagram for never bringing me any traffic, but as the saying goes: a bad workman always blames his tools. Maybe that should be updated to: a bad Instagrammer always blames the algorithm. I just didn't know how to use Instagram effectively. 

Recently (thanks to lockdown) I've found myself with a lot more time on my hands to dedicate to Instagram. I've also spent some time learning about how Insta actually works, and implementing those strategies. I've watched YouTube videos, read blog posts and attended virtual seminars. As a result, I've managed to grow my account and engagement quite a bit. 

For the past three weeks I've been averaging around 100 new followers a week, which may not sound like much to some, but before I was using Instagram consistently I was getting maybe 10 new weekly followers if I was lucky (I don't know the exact number though as I wasn't really tracking it). I've also been receiving more DMs, more engagement on my stories and made more genuine connections with people.

Are you ready to learn how to grow your Instagram account? Here are my seven top tips and, at the end of this post, five things not to do when trying to make it on Insta. Grab a notepad and pen because there's going to be a lot of valuable information in this post.

1. Switch to a business or creator account

If you're trying to grow your Instagram stats, it's helpful to know what they are to begin with. Anyone is able to switch to a business or creator account for free and then you'll be able to see all your insights and analytics. As I'm a blogger I've gone for a creator account, although I've had a business account in the past (and there's really not that much difference between the two). 

The insights will tell you which of your posts have achieved the highest reach as well as letting you know your audience demographics. You'll even be able to see when they're most active which is helpful for knowing when to post for maximum engagement. It's really easy to set up but let me know if you need help with this.


white iphone displaying instagram insights page

2. Don't try to 'beat' the algorithm

People talk about "beating the Instagram algorithm". Well, let me start off by saying that if this is your intention, your strategy isn't going to work. You will not beat it; it will always win. You need to learn how to work with the algorithm if you want to succeed on Instagram. 

We all know that the Instagram feed isn't chronological anymore, and hasn't been for a long time. Sometimes it shows me pictures posted three days before. The algorithm nowadays prefers engagement, and the way to get engagement is to make your content engaging

The cold, hard truth is that Instagram doesn't show your content to all of your followers. If you want more of your followers to see your post, you have to get the people who do see it to engage with it. Once Instagram notices people engaging with your picture, it will know you're sharing valuable content and show it to more people.

Instagram's primary aim is to keep you on the platform for as long as possible. The longer you're using the app, the more ads it can show you and the more money it can make. Therefore, it prefers users who are active, engaged and constantly producing content. It also means that the longer you can keep people on the platform, the more Instagram is going to favour you and your content.

3. Make your posts as engaging as possible

Instagram is a visual platform. This means that it's mainly made up of pictures, and they have to be aesthetically pleasing to get noticed. Boring photos will be scrolled straight past. Photos with a subject in them, such as a person or animal, tend to do really well. Put yourself in your pictures so your audience start to recognise you. Motivational quotes or anything a lot of people can relate to will probably get a lot of shares, meaning more eyes on your post, leading to increased engagement and possibly a few new (and hopefully engaged) followers. Also, tag relevant people and brands in your photos and they might repost you.

Start creating carousel posts. You can add up to 10 pictures in one feed post and people can swipe to see all the pictures one by one. The good news for you is that Instagram counts every swipe as one piece of engagement. If someone stops scrolling the feed when they come to your post and starts swiping to see all the pics behind it, you're keeping them on the app - and your specific content - for longer, and Insta will reward that. Just make sure that all the pictures aren't exactly the same thing, or completely unrelated. This will either bore or confuse people and they'll stop swiping and resume scrolling.

Your caption should be just as engaging as your photo. When writing your caption, try not to write just one sentence or a load of emojis (I've definitely been guilty of this). Your caption should educate, entertain or inspire your audience. Try asking them a question at the end to encourage them to leave a comment.

Finally, always reply to your comments, especially in the first half hour after posting. Those first 30 minutes are crucial as they're when Instagram determines how much value a post offers. If it's getting lots of engagement then they'll start putting it in more people's feeds. By replying to your comments you're doubling the amount of comments your post receives (or more, because the person may then reply to your reply) and getting that engagement up. And it's just good manners, really. If you reply to people they'll be more likely to leave you comments in the future. (I wouldn't bother replying to comments that are obviously from bots or just a load of emojis, though).


person taking photo of coffee with iphone

4. Post to your story every day

Stories are probably my favourite feature on Instagram. I've really been enjoying both creating and watching them recently and I've picked up a few good tips. 

Firstly, make sure you post to stories every day, multiple times a day. This will mean that your audience always has fresh content to look at and every time you add to your story you'll be pushed to the front of your most engaged followers' feeds. If you can't manage multiple times a day (let's face it, sometimes we're just too busy) then just make sure you post at least once in a 24 hour period so there's always something up for people to look at.

Mix your content up a bit. Too much of the same thing will get boring and make people swipe away to the next person's story. Show them something different with every slide (or frame, whatever you want to call it). Use a mixture of video, pictures, boomerangs, and something from the Create mode. Just use your imagination and post anything you think your followers would be interested in. Even one of those silly filters that asks you random questions can be fun to watch.

Video stories are a great way to connect with your audience. It offers them a peek into your life and lets them get to know you a little better. You could use your stories as a daily vlog to let everyone know what you're up to, or you could share some tips relevant to your niche - for example, a fitness blogger could share a few workouts for people to do at home. Make sure to add captions to all your talking stories for people who are hard of hearing or just watching with sound off.

As with feed pictures, stories also have to be engaging and encourage your audience to interact. Try adding stickers, polls (e.g. "Which top should I wear today: A or B?") and question boxes to your stories to get your viewers interacting and enjoying your content more. When you mix things up, entertain them and occasionally ask for their opinion, they'll start to look forward to seeing your face pop up in their story feed as they won't know what to expect...but they know they'll like it.

5. Be supportive

If you want other people to support you, you need to support them first. Start by engaging with the people you already follow. Like their pictures and leave meaningful comments on the ones that resonate with you (according to Instagram, a 'meaningful comment' is one that's more than four words long, but I'm sure you can do better than that. Go for at least two sentences).

Then go and follow 5-10 new accounts that interest you or are in your niche and start interacting with their content. Hopefully they'll reciprocate and you'll start to build a relationship.

Make sure you're also interacting with people in their DMs, but don't be spammy. Only message someone if you have something to say, and don't be fake. If Instagram sees two people talking to each other often via DM, it will know that you're friends and start showing your content to them whenever you post. 

Just as with comments, reply to all DMs you receive, unless they're creepy or obviously just trying to butter you up before trying to sell you something/ask you to 'join their team' (I know you know what I'm talking about).

6. Develop a good hashtag strategy

Hashtags are important for your reach and engagement. You're allowed to use up to 30 hashtags in one post, and most Instagram experts agree that using all 30 is the best policy as it's like having 30 lottery tickets and therefore 30 chances to win big. However, they disagree on whether it's better to put your hashtags in the caption or hide them in the first comment. I've heard good arguments for both ways (as well as trying both) and at the moment I'm still putting them inside my caption. See which works best for you.

Do your research when it comes to hashtags and use the ones that will give your post the best chance of being seen. Use a mixture of large, medium and small hashtags, by which I mean how often they get used, not how many words are in the hashtag. More niche hashtags have a smaller audience but more chance of attracting people who'd be interested in your content, while larger hashtags will be harder to rank for (as thousands or even millions of people are using them and your post will get pushed down quickly) but if you are discovered through one of them you'll get a lot of engagement.


woman engaging on instagram with her iphone

7. Post consistently

How often should I post to Instagram? is a question that most creators would like to know the answer to. Are you supposed to post every day or not?

There's no definitive answer, but as a general rule, 3 times a week is enough for feed posts. You don't have to post every day, and definitely don't post just for the sake of posting. It's better to post more engaging content, less often, than post substandard work just to get something up (which could actually hurt your engagement in the long term). For help planning a beautiful feed, check out my post on Tailwind for Instagram. 

You should post on stories a minimum of three times a day, and spread these posts out throughout the day. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening would be ideal. The more you're showing up on stories the better, really, especially if you're showing your face and speaking to your audience directly.

Those are the seven main ways to grow on Instagram and get your engagement rate up. Now let's have a look at some of the mistakes people make when trying to grow their account.


Five Things NOT to Do When Trying to Grow on Instagram  


I've already said at the beginning of this post that trying to 'beat the algorithm' is pointless. Here are some ways that people try to trick Instagram that I definitely don't recommend.

1. Follow for follow. This is when you follow people in the hope that they'll follow you back, or you specifically ask them to follow you back.

2. Follow/unfollow. This is even worse, when you follow people and then stop following them as soon as (or shortly after) they follow you back.

3. Following everyone back. You don't have to blindly follow back everyone who follows you, just to be polite. Only follow accounts you're genuinely interested in to keep your feed interesting and inspiring.

4. Buying followers. Paying for fake followers or likes is one of the worst things you can do. Other bloggers will be able to tell (trust me, it's sooo obvious) and this is actually something that Instagram will suspend or delete your account for.

5. Using engagement pods. This is a group DM where you let everyone know when you've posted new content and they all go and like/comment on it. The problem with this is that it's not organic engagement, and Instagram is also cracking down on these.

There's really no point in having lots of followers if they're unengaged. You won't grow if the people already following you aren't interested in your content and interacting or sharing it. Concentrate first on building a stronger relationship with your loyal followers who already like you and work up from there.


iphone lying on table, displaying instagram feed, next to succulent plant

As you can tell, engagement is key when it comes to Instagram, just as with every other social media platform (that's why it's called social media, after all). The more you give, the more you're going to receive in return.

If you enjoyed this post, why not give me a follow on Instagram @nics_healthylife? I'd love to connect with you over there.

There's so much more to growing on Instagram and everything I've written here is just the tip of the iceberg. What are your best Instagram tips? Let's all help each other out and share them in the comments. 



Let's get social!



Comments

  1. This was a really useful post, thank you for sharing! I didn't know that carousel posts count as additional engagement so I'll be looking to use them more from now on on my Instagram feed.

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    1. I'm glad you found it useful! Yes, I only recently learnt about carousel posts giving extra engagement and I was mind blown. It's an easy way to get your engagement up!

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  2. Great tips, it is like a game, you have to learn how to use social media for it to work best for you, thanks for sharing!

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    1. You definitely have to work WITH it rather than against it.

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  3. These are fab tips. I used to be obsessed with Instagram before I started blogging but then I lost interest. Only within the last 6 months have I enjoyed using it again and I've definitely seen my followers and engagement go up since I started posting things I actually enjoyed and was passionate about!

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

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    1. That's great, I'm so glad you're enjoying Instagram again. Once you start posting things you care about, the passion comes back.

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  4. I don't use Instagram at all for blogging so this was really interesting to read - I might have to suggest it to my Instagram using friends x

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    1. Thanks for sharing it with your friends :)

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  5. I must admit I've been neglecting Instagram, but your psot has made me want to try again.
    belsbling.com

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    1. That's great! I'm glad I inspired you to give it another go. Good luck!

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  6. I really need to up my Instagram game. I dont often post because I dont have many ideas of what to post to be honest and I'm not the biggest fan of it for various reasons. I do realise though how important it is for my blog and for my creative process. Now I've started posted regularly on my story and trying to find different things (travel and lifestyle -related) on my feed that's engaging. I was following some of your tips without even realising it and they definitely make a lot of sense. Great to read a post from you again :)


    Johnny | Johnny's Traventures
    https://johnnystraventures.com

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    1. I think stories are definitely easier to make than feed posts. They don't have to be as polished. You could just throw up a quick selfie or snap of your lunch. They're also a great way for your followers to get to know the 'real you' a little better. People like to see behind the scenes content because it makes them feel closer to the content creator.

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  7. Some great tips for Instagram. My main blogging area is my blog site and Instagram. The best for traffic wise to my blog is twitter and Facebook.

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    1. Thanks for sharing. My main sources of blog traffic are Pinterest and Twitter, but I'm really enjoying learning how to use Instagram effectively.

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  8. WOW!! I learned so much from reading your post. The main points I'm taking away are consistency, engaging and supporting. I engage and support but I'm not very consistent. I just know this will help me tons to getting my content in front of others. Thanks for sharing!

    Natonya | https://JustNatonya.wordpress.com

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    1. I'm so happy you learned some new things from this post. You're right that the three main things when it comes to Insta are consistency, engagement and support - I'm glad that's what you're taking away from this :)

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  9. Fantastic tips. I'm doing all of the above apart from posting consistently. I find it so difficult sometimes to take a load of photos that I can upload throughout the week, my photography is far too spontaneous and I need to come up with a plan.

    Kate | thelittlecrunch.co.uk

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    1. I can definitely relate to that. I take photos when I see something inspiring, so my photography is just as spontaneous as yours.

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  10. This is extremely valuable at the moment, especially now that organic reach is dropping on Instagram! Will for sure apply these points, and let's hope they work :)

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    1. Organic reach and engagement has definitely dropped recently and still seems to be going down for most people. Hopefully this post will help Instagrammers to get it back up!

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  11. This is probably the most useful post I've ever read related to Instagram, and I really appreciate it! New info for me is encouraging carousal posts (the reasoning is fascinating) and replying to comments within the first hour to remain useful to IG. Thank you very much for this resource!

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    1. Thank you so much, I'm glad you found it useful. And yes, make sure you respond to your comments right away, or as soon as you can!

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  12. Thank you for this post. It was so useful as I've been struggling to build my engagement especially on Instagram.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. I hope it helps you to build your Instagram Engagement.

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  13. This was really useful! I only created an Instagram for my blog last month (I wish I'd done it sooner tbh!) and so I'm still getting to grips with growing my account. I have taken these tips on board, thank you!

    - charlotte / charlottesspace.com

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    1. Instagram is such a useful tool for a blogger, especially if you're hoping to work with brands in the future. Good luck with growing your new account, I hope these tips help!

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  14. Oh my gosh this is so useful. My instagram has been doing nothing for quite a while and it's because I've not put the time and effort into it, but also because I haven't really known how either. I've seen a lot of guides on Pinterest recently, but it's so satisfying seeing a in-depth useful one for Instagram - thank you!

    Lindsey | https://aramblingreviewer.wordpress.com/

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    1. Thank you for your nice comment and I'm glad you found the post useful. You're right, I haven't seen many in-depth guides on how to grow your Instagram either and it's a platform that a lot of people struggle with so I wanted to try and help.

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  15. Thank you so much for this valuable post, I am going to use every single advice you mentioned here and following you on Instagram:))

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  16. Thank you for sharing these tips! I'm trying to use Instagram a lot more to generate blog traffic so these tips are super helpful to know :)

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    1. I'm glad you found the tips helpful. Instagram can be good for blog traffic when you know how to use it properly.

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  17. This is a fantastic post, so insightful and informative on a healthy way of using instagram and growing organically, love this post.

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    1. Thank you, I'm all about the organic growth and engagement!

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  18. I'm so far away from perfect on my Instagram and Twitter but I am not giving up and I am on a good way as I already upload things everyday!
    Great post!
    Monika
    Writing Overload
    https://writingoverloadtime.wordpress.com/blog-2/

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    1. That's great. Keep going and don't give up!

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  19. I actually find Instagram hard to use especially for blog. This information is useful to help with IG engagement. Thank you for sharing

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    1. Instagram can definitely be hard but I'm glad you found the information in this post useful and it helps to get your more engagement.

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  20. I've neglected my beauty ig for months. Going to give your tips/strategy once I've caught up on my blog! Thanks for sharing :D

    Mari | http://i--am--mari.blogspot.com/

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    1. That's great. Give them a go and let me know how you get on!

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  21. Great tips! I really need to work on increasing my engagement

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    1. Glad you liked the tips, I hope they help to get your engagement up.

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  22. This is incredibly helpful thank you!😊

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  23. Love the tips. I am the same, blamed it for lack of traffic/conversion but never really committed to a strategy. I knew what to do but didn't implement it. Since being more consistent, I have definitely seen an improvement. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. This was definitely me. I'm enjoying Instagram a lot more now I'm using it properly!

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  24. This was really useful and interesting for me! I love Instagram but don't take it too serious and go through phases of never posting and wondering why I can't gain followers (stupid me!!) Going to keep refering to this post to try and action some of these tips! Also off to read your Pinterest one as I'm totally clueless where to start with that!! Thank you!!

    Laura x
    www paletteofthoughts.co.uk

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    1. I'm glad you found it useful and I hope you enjoy my Pinterest post too (it's just as detailed!) Good luck with growing your accounts :)

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  25. Great tips here! I'm covering pretty much all of these, particularly stories, my IG story game is strong :D But I still average on 10 new followers/week. It's slow af but it's still progress so I'm grateful. And you're absolutely right, the way to grow is to engage with the people on the app!

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    1. You're definitely killing it on IG, I can see you know what you're doing! Growth can definitely be slow which can be irritating when you're working hard but as long as the numbers are going up instead of down that's all that matters.

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  26. Absolutely love this post. I have to agree with everything you say there. I'm only getting into Instagram and am trying to engage as much as possible. I do need to put more of me in my posts tho! Thanks for sharing

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    1. Yes! It's important to put more of yourself and your personality into your posts (and stories) so your followers can get to know you a little better.

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  27. Love this & fully agree! I'll be implementing some of this for myself!

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  28. This is such a useful post! I'm finding Instagram so difficult at the moment - I'm lucky if I get 10-20 likes on my pictures!

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    1. I'm glad you found it useful. Hopefully some of these strategies will help you to get more likes and engagement on your posts.

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  29. Really liked the do nots to balance the article. It's so easy to always be doing the right things you can forget about the wrong things.

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    1. That's so true. I'm glad you liked them.

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  30. Those are very useful advice thank you! Instagram is really not that easy but we love to spend time finding out the perfect phography! It's very addictive.

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  31. I genuinely learnt from this list, so thanks for sharing!

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    1. That's great, I'm glad you learnt something! :)

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