How to Get More Engagement on Instagram

5 ways to get more engagement on Instagram - for bloggers, entrepreneurs, small business owners who want to grow an engaged Instagram following, get more likes, more comments, and more customers!

Since Instagram announced that they would be rolling out changes to the platform's algorithm a couple of months ago, there's been a lot of panic followed by a lot of requests to “turn on post notifications” followed by a lot of talk about “focusing on engagement” to make sure that people continue to see your content. I'm firmly on team panic-is-dumb-let's-take-action, but regardless of the algorithm changes, engagement has always been important. So let's talk about how you can actually get more engagement on Instagram!

How to get more engagement on Instagram

I hosted a webinar on this topic in April, but realized I've never really shared much about it on the blog – so I'm breaking down 5 actionable ways to increase your engagement!

Create Relevant Content

First things first – if you're not creating relevant content, you're going to have a hard time getting people to engage with it! Remember the purpose of your Instagram account – assuming you're using it for your business (or blog), what are you trying to share with your audience? Are you educating them / inspiring them / sharing behind the scenes with them?

Is sharing a photo of your avocado toast really relevant to your purpose? No? Then don't do that.

“Relevant” is obviously relative, so you need to know your audience. More on that in this post, but if you're trying to appeal to everyone, you're probably appealing to no one. And that's no fun. We've got ya covered with this handy list of 365 Instagram prompts! Need help figuring out what to post on Instagram for your business?

Remember your purpose, know your audience, and create content that's relevant to your purpose and relevant to your audience. 

For example, THIS <– I relate to this so hard. #bikiniseason #notready #hatesworkingout

Engage With Your Audience

Here's an easy one – if you want your audience to engage with you, engage with them. Common sense, right? But how often do you actually do it? 

Engaging with your audience means including calls to action in your captions to encourage your audience to actually do something. Ask them a question. Ask them to tag a friend. Tell them to click the link in your profile to get something VALUABLE.

Engaging with your audience also means responding to their comments (please tell me you are already doing this) AND engaging with their content. You don't need to follow all of your followers back, but taking some time to give some of their posts a little love can go a long way!

If you have trouble making time for engagement, I've found that it's easier if I carve out specific blocks of time for it. Rather than try to keep up throughout the day, I usually take a few minutes around lunchtime to respond to comments, etc. and then again at night when I'm watching tv before bed.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Remember your purpose, know your audience, and create content that's relevant to your purpose and relevant to your audience. ” quote=”Remember your purpose, know your audience, and create content that's relevant to your purpose and relevant to your audience. “]

Focus On Community Building

Of all the things I've learned in my  6+ years of blogging, one of the most important things is how much community building matters. You can only do so much on your own, but when you have a community of like-minded people to support you, the possibilities are endless. As an introvert, reaching out to new people is something I'm constantly working on, but on Instagram it's really not that hard to 1) find new people whose content you like / connect with 2) follow them 3) leave genuine comments on their photos. Seriously, that's it!

As you start to find more of “your” people, don't forget to provide value to them and find ways to give back to your community. You could literally give something away (by hosting a giveaway), but there are plenty of other ways to give back. Collaborate with people. Share their content. Learn from each other.

Planoly - best visual Instagram scheduling tool

Use Hashtags Strategically

If you want more engagement on Instagram (which I assume you do if you've read this far!), then getting more eyes on your posts certainly can't hurt. But not just any eyes – targeted eyes.

I could write an essay on hashtags (sidenote: Maybe that's a thing that people do in college these days? I'm so old… but recently a FIT student interviewed me about my dog's Instagram account for a final paper, so apparently that's a thing), but if you aren't using them strategically to help people find your content, you're missing out!

Your hashtags should be relevant to your target audience, specific to your brand / your niche, and popular enough that they are being used and searched by other people. 

So for example, if you want millenial-creative-entrepreneur-work-at-home-moms-who-love-watercolor-art to see your content, using a hashtag like #harleydavidson is not relevant.

And using a generic hashtag like #love is not helping your content get found because it's not nearly specific enough and probably has nothing to do with your business, but #lipsticklove could be relevant if you are a makeup artist or beauty blogger.

And #pleasedontusehashtagslikethis because #nooneissearchingforthem <– seriously.

Pay Attention To Your Analytics

Last but not least, if you want more engagement on Instagram, pay attention to the types of content that people are engaging with, and post more of that. I think that many creative business owners have a tendency to have lots of ideas and want to try new things, but sometimes the best thing you can do is focus on doing more of what already works. 

I use Iconosquare Pro to track Instagram growth and engagement and specifically look at the photos/video that get the most likes and comments to see if there are certain patterns or things that they have in common – then try to incorporate those things into future posts. This is such an easy concept (and yet something that a lot of people don't do!) – plus, you can use Iconosquare to determine the best times to post for your audience, so you can post during the times when they're actually on Instagram to optimize your engagement! 

But what else?

So those are 5 actionable ways to get more engagement on Instagram, but I know you might be thinking ok, great but…

Download 365 Instagram prompts for creative business owners!

5 Things I Learned From Getting 50,000+ Instagram Followers

5 things I learned getting 50,000 Instagram followers plus a free Instagram Resource Guide download.

Last week, we hit a pretty cool milestone – 50,000 Instagram followers. If you're new around here, “we” is me + my dog Mochi. She's obviously way more popular than I am.

This post not about how we grew from 0 – 50,000 followers but more about a few of the things I've learned along the way. Although you can read this post + this post!

There will always be someone ahead of you and someone behind you

This is probably the most general life + business lesson of the bunch, but I've found the need to repeat it to myself lately. I often struggle with feeling “good enough” to do things – as a recovering perfectionist, I feel this annoying need to be REALLY good at anything I do (or not do it at all) which is a really terrible thing for my mindset when it comes to basically everything I've done / tried to do for the past 2 years. I had the idea for Celebripet Boot Camp last year but it took several months for me to actually launch and make it happen (in part) because I was worried no one would want to take an Instagram course from someone with “only” 15,000 followers (when there were so many people with thousands more). And even now just a few months later with over 50,000 followers, I still occasionally feel like a small fish in a big pond in comparison to accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers.

This is silly. This is insane actually. To say that I still sometimes feel irrelevant with over 50,000 Instagram followers (which is more than four times the number of people in the city my parents live in, FYI) – kind of makes me want to slap myself into reality. You only need to know more than the person you're teaching to provide value. And just because someone else may know “more” or be further along, that doesn't mean you're not good enough. Period.

The most specific your niche is, the easier it is to find your people

I've mentioned before, niching down was something that took a few years to figure out, but once I did, magical things happened. This is something that many of my clients and students have struggled with as well – and to be honest I do think it takes some time to figure out, but when you do, it's easier to find “your people” and easier to create content that appeals to them. This post has several tips on finding your niche including 4 questions you can ask yourself to get more specific.

With that said, I don't think that you have to limit yourself to the same niche forever or even to one niche at a time!

[click_to_tweet tweet=”One of the keys to growth + success is acknowledging when something isn't working and knowing when to pivot. If you aren't seeing the results you want, change something.” quote=”One of the keys to growth + success is acknowledging when something isn't working and knowing when to pivot. If you aren't seeing the results you want, change something.”]

Creating “valuable” content is really all about your audience

Here's the thing – valuable content does not necessarily mean having professional photography or swoon-worthy design or 2,000 word blog posts. It really depends on your audience and what is “valuable” to them – so whether you are educating or inspiring or entertaining your audience, to keep them engaged you need to be creating content that actually makes them give a sh*t. You can create a 12 page download with tons of great information but your audience might find more value in a simple, 1 page checklist.

I've tried A LOT of different things (checklists, ebooks, free workshops, giveaways, etc.) when it comes to converting Mochi's Instagram followers into subscribers and you know what the #1 lead magnet has been? A digital Valentine. Seriously, she offered to email a Valentine to her followers and got hundreds of subscribers in a couple of hours. Sometimes the best things are the simplest. 

Analyze, tweak, repeat

I'm a total data nerd (in another life, I worked in finance), but the truth is, sometimes the data doesn't tell you what you want to hear. One of the keys to growth + success is acknowledging when something isn't working and knowing when to pivot. If you aren't seeing the results you want, change something. Sometimes that means improving what you have and sometimes that means creating something totally new. And once you've figured that out, it will probably be time to analyze again and make new adjustments.

On Instagram in particular, I learned that some of the things that worked when we had 10,000-15,000 followers are not the same things that work now that we have 50,000+ but that's ok. In business, sometimes the things that work when you're first starting out aren't the things that work a year or two down the line. Your audience might change, your services might change, your entire business might change . Honestly EVERYTHING in my life has changed over the past 3 years (except my husband, thankfully he's still sticking around!) – but with each season of change comes new opportunities. 

Sharing your knowledge positions you as an expert

I mean duh. But for some reason, this is was somewhat of an unexpected realization for me. When I launched Celebripet Boot Camp and started actively teaching Instagram strategy through the course, but also through webinars and live workshops, more people (including people who weren't dog people) started asking me about Instagram. Almost all of my consulting clients over the past few months have hired me specifically to talk about Instagram strategy, and I've gotten a random assortment of other exciting opportunities lately because of Instagram as well. Basically my life revolves around Instagram (and my dog) at this point – and I don't hate it!

Instagram has changed my life in so many ways over the past year, so I'm pretty passionate about the platform and sharing what I've learned along the way. Click below to download my Instagram Resource Guide which includes everything you need to plan, create, and schedule your Instagram content!

Instagram Resource Guide for shooting, editing, scheduling photos

3 strategies to quickly double your instagram (how we grew to 30,000 followers in 2 months)

Double Your Instagram - the exact strategies we used to grow from 15,000 to 30,000 followers in just 2 months plus a free checklist of the 8 things you should be doing for every instagram post!

About 2 months ago I shared 10 ways to grow your instagram following detailing the exact ways I grew my dog's instagram account from 0 to 15,000 followers last year. It was my most popular post of 2015 (thanks to Pinterest!), so I'm sharing an update now that Mochi's instagram following has doubled from 15,000 to 30,000 in just 2 months! Use these strategies to double your Instagram followers!

Let's back up for a moment – in case your wondering, “why this post is about your dog?” As a digital marketing strategist, I consult AND manage a number of different Instagram accounts, but for privacy reasons it would be weird for me to give you a behind the scenes look at the growth of my clients' accounts. So my dog's account is like a “test account” where I can show you her exact statistics and share the strategies that I've used to grow her account. Also, she monetizes her account as a digital influencer and plans to utilize her Instagram account to sell her own products this year, so I'll be sharing a look at exactly how that works in future posts. Seriously though, if MY DOG can earn an income from Instagram, you can too!

Don't miss: 10 Ways to Grow Your Instagram Following

First of all, I'll say it was definitely easier to grow from 15,000 to 30,000 than it was to grow from 0 to 15,000 – in part because I had mastered these 10 things, but also because I think when people see “popular” accounts they think, “Oh! If all these other people are following along, I should too!” I say this not to discourage anyone who is starting from 0, but rather to say, it DOES get easier! 

Planoly - best visual Instagram scheduling tool

3 strategies to quickly double your instagram

The TL;DR version is we incorporated seasonal content, were strategic about repost potential, and changed up the timing of some of our posts.

In November of 2015, I set a goal of growing from 15,000 to 25,000 by the end of the year. I didn't really have any plans to change our Instagram strategy because I knew 25,000 was attainable given her growth rate at the time. But we hit the goal a few weeks ahead of schedule so I thought about what (intentionally or not) I had done differently during this period. She's now averaging 2,000+ net new followers per week so we're on track to hit 100,000 this year!  

How @mochiandthecity grew her instagram account to 30,000 followers

Incorporate seasonal content

Sharing seasonal content is not a new idea when it comes to blogging or marketing in general, but I didn't really think it would have as much of an effect on Mochi's instagram growth. It's true though – people LOVE seasonal content! We shared a photo of her Halloween costume that got high engagement, so I wanted to be more intentional about sharing holiday photos in December – and I'm so glad I did because a few posts like this little Santa outfit was featured in the Huffington Post and this photo in front of our Christmas tree resulted in several hundred new followers. I am really selective of the sponsored content we share, but this ad we did for Walgreens was also particularly good for exposure as it was timely for the holiday season.

Assuming you are probably not going to go dress up as Santa for instagram photos (or if you are, that's cool too), there are still a lot of ways you can incorporate seasonal content into your Instagram posts. If you are a blogger or small business owner, seasonal content could be anything like… the best boots to wear in the winter / a Valentine's Day gift guide / DIY Easter decorations / ten recipes for 4th of July BBQs / tips for making the most of your summer vacation / the ultimate to fall nail polish / holiday essentials for the busy entrepreneur. Kind of a random list there, but you get it. Seasonal content is shareable content because its relevant and relatable!

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Many accounts repost photos from their community, so take a look at some of the popular accounts to see the types of photos they tend to repost, and use their hashtags strategically. ” quote=”Many accounts repost photos from their community, so take a look at some of the popular accounts to see the types of photos they tend to repost, and use their hashtags strategically. “]

Be strategic about repost potential

One thing that I did do strategically was that in November I made a list of hashtags to use that would increase Mochi‘s exposure. I looked for accounts that reposted dog photos and specifically made lists of 1) niche pet accounts with over 100,000 followers and 2) dog-friendly brands with over 50,000 followers. I took a look at their feeds to determine the types of photos that seemed to get reposted more often (for example, outdoor photos vs. indoor, close up vs. wide angle, funny vs. heartwarming) and then strategically posted these types of photos with relevant hashtags.

One example is West Elm (650,000+ followers) – a dog-friendly brand that often posts photos of furry pals on their main instagram account as well as their smaller city specific accounts. We happen to have a lot of West Elm furniture, so I use their hashtag #mywestelm on any photos of Mochi that we post that include West Elm furniture. Since most of our photos are taken in our apartment, this was an obvious choice, and it paid off because on Cyber Monday West Elm reposted this photo of Mochi and a couple of the store accounts like West Elm LA and West Elm St. Louis have also reposted her photos which is pretty cool.

Another example is Dogs and Pals (300,000+ followers) – this niche dog community reposts select photos with their hashtag and I noticed that whoever curates their account seems to like photos that are close up vs. far away and photos of dogs looking cozy in bed seem to be featured often. Most of our photos of Mochi are close up + cuddly, so I started using their hashtag more intentionally, and sure enough about 4 weeks ago they reposted this photo.

No matter who your audience is, there are probably accounts in your niche with larger followings. Many accounts repost photos from their community, so take a look at some of the popular accounts to see the types of photos they tend to repost, and use their hashtags strategically. You can check out a few great posts on hashtags for creatives / bloggers / entrepreneurs, here, here and here

@mochiandthecity best times to post on instagram analytics

Don't Be Afraid to Change Things Up 

The last thing that we did during this period to double Mochi's instagram following was somewhat accidental. Mochi was posting twice a day on a pretty regular schedule – I look at her analytics in Iconosquare regularly, and had identified the times with the highest engagement, so I pretty much stuck to them. During December we were traveling for the holidays and with everything going on plus a time difference, I posted at a few random times and thought – oh well, if her engagement is low, I won't be upset. It turns out the opposite happened and a few of those random times led to some of her highest engagement ever PLUS brought in a stream of new followers. You'll see on the chart above a large dot on Sunday around 4pm when we posted this photo and around 11pm when we posted this photo.

These are not times on her “typical” schedule, but to be honest, I had stuck to the same schedule for the past 3-4 months. In that period, she gained almost 20,000 new followers, so of course her “best” times to post may have changed! I am going to make more of an effort to experiment with timing moving forward as her audience grows.

So those are the 3 “new” strategies I used to double Mochi's instagram following from 15,000 to 30,000 in two months – but as I mentioned, I also continued to do these 10 things. I've enjoyed documenting her progress, so perhaps I'll share another update later this year when she hits bigger milestones like 50,000 or 100,000. It's still a little crazy to me that SO MANY people follow her (I mean, she's super cute, but she's not exactly providing life changing content to the world), though it's also cool to see her grow as a brand – she currently earns a small but consistent income, and has BIG plans for 2016!

P.S. You should probably be following Mochi already. And if you haven't been planning your Instagram feed in advance (so you KNOW it's going to look good!) – click the link below to try my favorite Instagram scheduling tool!

Planoly - best visual Instagram scheduling tool