Scrolling through your competitors’ Instagram feeds, careful not to accidentally like an old post from their accounts, which you don’t follow, you find their content to be widely popular. People hurl thousands of hearts at influencer X’s obviously staged just-woke-up selfie, and brand Z’s perfect breakfast arrangement receives more heart-eyes emojis than deserved. Instagram is a battleground for recognition, and you’re determined to best your contenders.
No single, perfect solution exists for increasing post engagement. The strategy that works for one may not work for another. Observation and testing, however, have proven to be effective. As a fellow avid Instagrammer who has spent too many hours a day on the app, I’ve learned a thing or two about increasing engagement.
Observe Holidays and Weekends
When I posted a vibrant image of me donning a yellow wide-brimmed hat, sitting by a fountain on Olvera Street on the Fourth of July, I expected the image to earn the likes of my followers—It was a flop. Then it hit me: People aren’t sitting on their couches at home, noses pressed to their screens. They’re out watching fireworks, grilling burgers, and downing drinks to celebrate the emancipation of America.
I’ve noticed the same decrease in engagement during the weekends. On this phenomenon I made the same conclusion: Most people prefer to enjoy their weekend out with friends or families, rather than staying at home, scrolling through Instagram all day. With so much to do during this brief two-day period, people’s time on the app are reduced, making the weekend the not-so-ideal time to post content.
I find, instead, that posting during the weekday works best for my engagement. My analytics, for example, shows Monday to be the day when I receive the most interaction on my account. When I look at my numbers for reach and impressions, Monday yet again receives the most numbers while Friday, followed by Sunday, receives the least.
It may seem logical to post themed content during a popular holiday, such as a selfie under the Christmas tree on the 25th of December or a Boomerang of a dazzling fireworks display on the Fourth of July, but doing so may lower your engagement because people are out, and by the time they check their apps, your post will have been pushed down their feeds by competing content.
Before you post on a busy holiday or during the weekend, analyze your previous posts and compare the performance of holiday or weekend content against weekday content. If you find your engagement plummeting during holidays or weekends, save your posts for the middle of the week, when your followers are surreptitiously scrolling through Instagram at the office.
Post What Has Proven to Work
As a seasoned stalker, I have made an important observation: People love milestones. An image of a new mother posing with her newborn son: instant likes. An image of a recent college graduate in cap and gown, an accompanying caption that makes light of crippling student debt: an outpouring of laughing emojis. I have made a similar observation with my own Instagram posts. Anniversary pictures with my partner are always an instant hit. Even followers who scarcely interact with my posts are eager to throw in likes.
Yes, people care, and they like seeing you succeed. If you’re celebrating a milestone—a birthday, a new job, a newly purchased home, a big move—post it on Instagram and wait for your app to ping! incessantly with notifications. Make sure to accompany that post with a caption explaining the special day.
Of course, milestones may not be the only type of content that performs well with your audience. My followers, for example, would rather see solo pictures of me than my partner or my friends. The solo posts receive double the engagement.
To determine which content resonates with followers, compare the engagement numbers between posts of different types. For example, compare portraits to landscapes, objects to people, or group images to solo images. Alternatively, you can simply ask followers what they’d rather see on your feed, using the poll feature on Instagram Stories.
Engage with People’s Posts and Reactions
After posting your picture to Instagram, immediately engage with followers’ content. This practice will increase your engagement for two reasons. One, many Instagrammers who recognize the value of likes believe in reciprocity, also dubbed “like for like” by the Instagram community. When you like their posts, they will like yours in return. Two, when you like people’s posts, your profile will appear on their notification feeds. If they’re curious to know who’s suddenly giving them attention, they will likely visit your profile. They may find your content appealing and, consequently, like your posts or, even better, follow your account.
Don’t reserve this practice for only your followers. Do the same for Instagrammers who don’t follow you but follow accounts similar to yours. If you run a pet account on Instagram, like or comment on the posts of followers who follow a similar account. Take this practice a step further by engaging with competitors’ accounts. This increases your exposure to potential followers who will likely be interested in your content.
Once engagement pours in, don’t forget to respond to every comment. A simple like will suffice, but a genuine response will make the most lasting effect.
Post at a Frequency You Can Maintain
Although posting too often has worked against me, posting at a higher frequency has worked for numerous brands, such as Fashion Nova. The international clothing brand posts a whopping 30 times each day, a significant increase from the average 1.5 per day. Glossier, too, posts frequently, although not as often as Fashion Nova. The beauty brand, in promoting its new product Lidstar, posted an average of 10 times each day.
Posting frequently is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, posting often will increase your reach. The more often you post, the more likely your followers will see your content. On the other hand, because of the current algorithm that allows days-old posts to appear on top of users’ feeds, posting too often can spam followers.
When in doubt, stick to the average 1.5 per day. If that doesn’t satisfy you, post frequently but cautiously, keeping quality over quantity in mind. Never post for the sake of posting. Only do so when you have good content to share. Additionally, when you choose a posting frequency, always remain steadfast. According to entrepreneur Neil Patel, when you fail to maintain your frequency, for example, posting less often than you did the previous week, you will lose followers and engagement on posts.
Use Searchable Tools
Instagram provides two tools that bring your posts to search results. One is the popular and widely used hashtags and the other, location. Hashtags have proven to increase engagement on posts. Adding those little pound signs next to relevant keywords files your post under the keywords of your choice. When users search for the hashtags you used, your post will appear to search. Location works similarly. If you tagged Griffith Observatory on your post, users who searched for that location will likely see your post in search results.
While location tagging has existed without controversy, hashtags have been regarded by many users with distaste, especially when they see a post include too many. When you add hashtags to your post, bury them under five dots placed on each new line, keeping them hidden from the text preview. You can also hide your hashtags in the comments section, as an alternative.
Implementing the strategies outlined here is only half the work. Never neglect to monitor your results, paying close attention to the strategy that works. Doing this will help you gain the engagement you covet.
By Anne Felicitas, editor