05 Oct 2017 19:46 IST

7 tips to increase Instagram engagement

The better your leverage your Instagram presence, the bigger your business will grow

Instagram has come a long way from its early days as just an image sharing platform. Today, with 800 million users, of which 500 million are active every day, this app has exploded to become one of the best ways for brands to reach their audience .

Instagram has the potential to give much higher levels of user engagement than any other platform. However, with growing number of active users, brands are finding it difficult to drive engagement for their posts and videos. High user engagement is crucial on this application because it allows your post to be featured on the ‘explore’ page and helps reach out to your audience better.

So how do you maximise user engagement? Here are seven tried and tested strategies that you can experiment with.

Use hashtags the right way

Below every picture on Instagram, you’re likely to find a flood of hashtags, which is one of the most useful tools on the platform you can use to expand your following.

Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags under each post, so make full use of them. These will help you reach your target audience and help them discover your account. However, be smart about your hashtags. Avoid generic ones like #lifestyle or #travel because that only means you will get lost in the crowd. Stick to more specific labels that will help you reach the top of the featured posts and make your account more discoverable.

It’s also important that you stick to hashtags that are relevant to your posts and your brand. Unrelated, spammy hashtags will only backfire and do nothing to increase user engagement.

Include a call to action

The easiest way to get your users to engage with your post is by simply asking them to. A call to action is anything you ask your audience to do after they view your post. To structure your call to action, be very clear about what your objectives are: Do you want users to leave comments on your picture? Do you want them to follow your account? Or do you want them to visit your website?

Comments are an important parameter that Instagram’s algorithm uses to measure engagement. When you have higher engagement, your posts are more likely to appear on the featured page, which, in turn, will increase engagement further. To get more comments on your post, simply ask a question and tell your audience to leave their answer in the comments. If you’re a fashion brand, for example, you can post an image of different pieces of your jewellery and ask, “Which one would you wear on a date?”

Get innovative with your captions

Far too many people believe that Instagram is simply about beautiful pictures, and completely ignore the quality of their captions. However, ignore the written word at your own peril! Yes, beautiful pictures are very important, but the true potential of your Instagram page doesn’t end there.

Once you’ve captured your audience’s attention with a gorgeous picture, you can entice them by getting them to read your caption and learning more. Captions are a wonderful way to engage with the potential customers and help them understand your brand and personality better. Often, the posts with the highest user engagement are those that successfully combine great pictures with interesting, well-written captions.

Know when your audience is most active

To maximise user engagement, you need to post pictures on Instagram when your audience is most active. There are multiple analytical tools that businesses can use to understand what times their audience is active on the platform.

In general, users are most active in the mornings when they wake up, in the afternoons during their lunch breaks, and when they finish work in the evenings. When you post your content during these time slots, you’re more likely to get higher user engagement, which will make your posts more visible and lead to more engagement.

Stick to one post a day

When it comes to Instagram, less is always more. Many users find that if they post more than one image a day, their user engagement drops significantly. The new Instagram algorithm allows your posts to remain discoverable for a much longer time. Additionally, most users check their accounts only once a day.

This means that the algorithm curates only the most relevant posts that they are yet to see: the time when the image was posted isn’t given as much importance. If you post two images in a day, both will have to compete with each other for higher user engagement, as a result of which both posts will have much lower engagement.

Instead of focusing only on uploading multiple images in a day, start paying more attention to Instagram stories instead . If you’re new to using them, there are plenty of reasons why you should jump on the bandwagon. Many users find that their posts get greater engagement when they post to Instagram stories. This also increases your chances of getting featured on the ‘explore’ page, thereby increasing your account’s visibility.

Host give-aways and contests

If you want to increase your user engagement dramatically in a very short period, contests are the way to go. Everyone loves winning freebies, so use this to your advantage. Contests are one of the most effective marketing strategies on Instagram .

If you’re marketing a product, give-aways is a great way to get users to try out your products and spread the word. You can also partner with an influencer to host a contest and talk about your product to their audience. Most Instagram contests work by asking your audience to follow you and comment on a post, and sometimes even tag their friends in your post. All this increases your user engagement very quickly and effectively markets your brand.

Ditch the bots, join a pod instead

To ‘trick’ Instagram into featuring posts on the explore page, some users turn to automated bots which generate thousands of likes and comments on their posts. This theoretically sounds like it could work, but it doesn’t.

Instagram’s new algorithm is very vigilant against posts and accounts that use bots. Using a bot could mean that your posts don’t show up at all. Some accounts that extensively use bots even get banned from the platform because they violate its terms of use.

A much more effective way to get organic likes and comments on your posts is to join an Instagram pod. A pod is a group of Instagram users who have similar content and are trying to reach out to a similar audience. Instead of competing with each other, they join a ‘pod’ where they like each other’s posts and comment on them.

This is a mutually beneficial arrangement because it increases engagement and gets all of them more followers. When you’re looking to join a pod, make sure the users you request to form a pod with, have around the same reach as you do and are looking for similar audience.

When done right, Instagram is an amazing way to increase your audience base and market your brand effectively. With consistently high levels of user engagement, brands can even drive conversions through the platform . Ultimately, the better your leverage your Instagram presence, the bigger your business will grow.