Instagram is a great channel for increasing brand awareness. But all too often I see companies who are either completely under utilising their account, or just shouldn’t be using it as a social media channel at all.
Because of this, their engagement is low, and they come to us wishing to improve it.
There are a number of steps you can take to improve your Instagram engagement through organic methods. Take a look at the following 6 tips.
Is it the right channel for you?
I see this all the time. Companies coming to us for help, who are completely unsuitable for Instagram, then wondering why their engagement is so low.
Take a moment to really think about who your audience is, and what it is you do. You might be offering fantastic retail financial products, but what would you be posting on Instagram that would engage and inspire your audience? Realistically, probably nothing (unless perhaps you were aimed specifically at teenagers), which is why your account only has 10 followers, and why Instagram probably isn’t the right channel for you.
Also consider your goals. Why are you using Instagram? Usually the goal is brand awareness, and this is perfect if you’re selling a hotel in the Maldives or a great new bag brand and can really make the most of imagery. But if you’re raising awareness of a new tech software, what type of photos can you publish, and is your audience even looking for those types of images on Instagram?
So you’ve determined that actually yes, Instagram is the right channel for you, but your photos just aren’t getting the engagement you expect.
Take a step back and look at your Instagram feed. What feelings does it evoke in your audience – happiness, wanderlust, motivation, inspiration? Is it cohesive? It’s all too often I take a look at a brand who is perfect for Instagram, but they’re completely under utilising their images and have a chaotic, mismatched feed. Whether that’s overdoing it on the filters (hello 2011), taking blurry shots of an uninspiring shop or putting up product photo after product photo.
You want to inspire your users, make them wish they had that lifestyle that your brand will give them.
Take a look at competitors, what are they doing? You might see they have loads of beautiful and professionally shot photos and think that you can’t possibly do that. But it’s possible for anyone to do, and can be time and cost effective. Book a day and get a professional photographer in and get loads of great photos of your product, people using it, and other lifestyle-related photos. If you plan it properly, you can have enough photos for at least 6 months worth of regular uploads.
Are you using hashtags?
OK, as a brand, using hashtags might seem a bit scary. We often have clients who refuse to use them for one reason or another. But until you’ve built up a large and engaged following, this is how people are going to find your photos.
Hashtags enable users to find new photos, by searching for that keyword. Adding 15 – 30 hashtags at the end of your caption, or even in a new comment, will help your photo to reach new people.
Some hashtag tips!
- Make sure that they aren’t too generic, or too specific. E.g. #food is too generic and will get lost, whilst #chocolatecupcakewithsprinkles is too specific and no one will search for it. So make sure to find that middle ground
- There are tools out there that allow you to do hashtag research, or simply just use the Instagram search bar to find inspiration
- Never post the same hashtags in the same order for every photo – as this can lead to a shadowban from Instagram. Instead, mix them up and include some specific ones for that particular photo
You want engagement, but are you actually engaging with your audience in the first place? Engagement isn’t just a one-way street!
Simple things like asking questions in your photo captions, can encourage users to take part in the conversation and engage with your photos. Likewise, if someone stops to leave a comment or ask a question on a photo, respond to them. That doesn’t mean you need to respond to every single comment (you’ll get some generic ones), but if it’s specific or if there’s a way for you to engage with the user, then do so. Starting conversations shows that you care and will help to build up that all-important brand loyalty.
Example of how you can easily add questions to your posts to engage your users
Instagram stories are getting bigger, with 25% YoY increase of daily active Story users (from 400mil in 2018 to 500mil in 2019), and if you’re not utilising them then you’re really missing a trick.
Stories are a great way to show ad-hoc photos, behind the scenes shots and more. You don’t need to be utilising perfectly polished photos here, so anything goes. Include videos where you can too.
If you do utilise stories, make sure to include hashtags or location tags – just one per story will do. By doing this you increase the chances of that clip appearing in that hashtags story – massively increasing the reach of your story and your brand.
Engage with others
Sitting back and waiting for users to find you is all well and good, but actually taking the effort to go out there and engage with others is really valuable.
Now, this is time consuming. There are bots out there that can do this for you, but Instagram doesn’t allow bots and this could result in your account being shut down if they notice suspicious activity. So consider that option carefully.
Instead, just spend some time every day liking other photos, following new accounts, and commenting. Find your audience and engage with them. Even better, go to the effort of writing personalise comments on their photos, so it shows that it was actually a person engaging, and not a bot.
This does take time, and so it’s not for everyone. But if you’re gone through the other steps and still find engagement is low, it’s worth giving it a go.
What other ways do you think are useful to increase Instagram engagement?