Are you successfully attracting Instagram followers? Wondering how to hold onto your audience for the long-term?
In this article, you’ll discover eight strategic tips to help you build, engage, and retain your Instagram followers so you don’t lose them.
How Instagram Engagement Works
Before we get into the practical tips, let’s define our terms. What is engagement? And what impact does it have on your Instagram presence?
Engagement is when someone actively responds to your content or profile. If lots of your Instagram followers respond to you, you have a high engagement rate. If you have a large audience but don’t get many interactions, you might have an engagement problem.
In fact, low engagement can cause serious damage over time. The Instagram algorithm chooses which posts to show by constantly assessing whether your content is relevant and interesting to followers. So if no one interacts with your content, the algorithm will see your content as low-priority and your overall reach will get smaller and smaller.
But it’s not just about maintaining a big audience. Engagement is also a good predictor of whether someone will actually purchase from you. And when you get right down to it, that’s the main priority for most businesses on social media.
Not sure whether your engagement on Instagram is at a healthy level? There’s a quick calculation you can use for that. Take the average number of likes and comments from your recent posts and divide it by the number of your followers. Then multiply this number by 100 to get a percentage.
The standard range for Instagram engagement is between 1% and 5%. If you get more than 5%, you’re doing great. If your engagement rate is below 1%… well, this article is here to help.
However, it’s worth noting that likes and comments aren’t the only type of engagement you can get. They’re a useful metric but there’s a lot more on offer. Let’s take a look.
Different Types of Instagram Engagement
Instagram engagement can take many forms and each can work for different goals or tell you different things about your audience.
Here’s a quick list:
- Likes are the most basic interaction on Instagram. They’re a positive sign of engagement but don’t take much effort from your followers.
- Comments imply a higher level of engagement. They can also be a useful source of information and inspiration.
- Shares via DM or Story demonstrate that people have connected with your content and really want to respond. Make sure you have sharing enabled for all of your posts.
- Saves are Instagram’s answer to bookmarks. They’re increasingly seen as the metric for high-quality engagement.
- Follows also show that your content is having an impact, helping to grow and sustain your audience over time.
- Mentions can work in two ways: Users can either tag you in their posts or tag their friends in your posts. Both types of mention indicate a high level of engagement.
- Profile visits are a valuable but oft-neglected metric. If someone sees your content and taps through to your profile, they’re interested in learning more about your business.
- Link clicks are only available for some types of posts on Instagram but they’re a very valuable interaction. Link clicks are the only type of conversion that moves followers off of the social network to your website.
You can learn more about engagement by opening your Instagram Insights and tapping on Post Insights for individual posts. You’ll see a screen that lists the number of different interactions and gives you a total. Most usefully, it also shows you the proportion of accounts reached who already follow you and details about whether people found the post through hashtags or directly from your profile.
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Now that you understand how Instagram engagement works, here’s how to hold onto your audience through community, engagement, and interaction.
#1: Create a Regular Instagram Posting Schedule
The most significant factor in your success on Instagram is showing up. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.
Having a regular posting schedule makes it easier to keep posting. When you have a clear structure to work with, it’s easier to plan your content ahead of time.
For example, you could decide that you always share a customer review on Monday, a featured product on Wednesday, and a behind-the-scenes video on Friday. You can turn weekly slots like this into an event that your followers look out for: regular lives, themed stories, and even product announcements.
Use the tools available to make this easy on yourself. First, track your Instagram Insights to find your followers’ most active days and times. By posting at strategic moments, you’ll get more engagement effortlessly. As a general rule, most people are active on weekdays during working hours and evenings. But your audience may differ or change over time.
Secondly, use scheduling tools to save time—and your sanity. If you run several social networks, you may have a centralized scheduling tool. If you’re only looking at Instagram and Facebook, Facebook’s own Creator Studio is a decent free option. You can schedule posts and IGTV videos, backdate them, and even access detailed features such as image editing, tagging, and alt text.
Pro Tip: Make sure your posting schedule has gaps, too. You don’t want to cause follower fatigue by posting too often and overwhelming your audience’s feeds. Too much content can lead to an active drop in engagement as people become frustrated.
#2: Post Instagram Content That No One Else Can
Your Instagram followers have chosen to follow you. They could have picked anybody else, but they chose you. Why? Because you’re unique. There’s something about your products or services, brand image, customer service, and values that appealed to them. The secret to strong engagement on Instagram is to focus on whatever it is that makes you unique.
Try to share content that no one else can. Share detailed knowledge about your field. Show behind the scenes of your business. Profile your employees. Offer advice that can only come from the experience of running your business.
This kind of content will keep people coming back because it’s detailed, valuable, and irreplaceable.
#3: Encourage User-Generated Content on Instagram
Producing genuinely unique, attention-grabbing content for Instagram is a lot of work. Fortunately, you can give yourself a break by introducing other content into the mix. Remember, you still want to show what makes your brand unique… but you can outsource the content production.
Yes, we’re talking about user-generated content (UGC). That’s anything that people produce in response to your business: comments, reviews, unboxings, ideas, photos, and more. With the creator’s permission, you can reshare this content as part of your own posting schedule.
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To encourage followers to share with you, set up a dedicated hashtag and include it in your bio and all of your posts. Then maximize the effect by always reacting and responding to UGC. Let people know that their efforts are appreciated.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to update your account’s privacy settings so everyone can tag you in their posts. If you keep this setting switched off, you might miss out on useful new content.
#4: Write Longer Instagram Captions
Look, it’s been literally decades since people used text-speak on the internet. And while I love a good emoji, nothing can replace a thoughtful, well-written caption.
And the longer, the better. The average Instagram post is currently a little under 500 characters. But the social network gives you 2,200 characters to play with. That’s almost 10 times the character limit on Twitter.
As Instagram content starts to lean toward photo carousels and videos—content that takes longer to consume—long captions are becoming popular, too. Don’t just drop a cryptic one-liner and a few emojis. Tell a story.
For example, this Instagram post has a long caption that’s full of mentions and hashtags for extra reach.
Longer Instagram captions will take up more of your followers’ attention, give them more opportunities to respond, and keep them coming back as they refer to the post. You’re aiming to write a caption that makes people save the post—whether it’s inspirational, instructional, or a fascinating conversation.
#5: Ask Questions
It’s one of the constants in social media: Everyone has an opinion. Everyone likes to share their opinion. So one easy way to increase engagement is by asking people what they think.
Instagram Stories is especially good for this type of engagement. There are lots of sticker options designed to ask questions and start conversations.
The goal here is to get a reaction at least, a comment or direct message (DM) at most. Then it’s up to you to continue the conversation and eventually make a sale.
Of course, the content of the question is up to you.
Some businesses ask questions in their post captions or stories to trigger a discussion. Others use questions to educate their followers, especially with the quiz sticker for Stories. Still others use questions for market research.
In this Instagram story, the Novo Nordisk cycling team includes a quiz that aims to educate followers about their history of campaigning for diabetes.
#6: Respond to Comments, Mentions, and DMs
This shouldn’t seem like advanced advice, but it is. A shockingly low number of businesses on Instagram actually take the time to respond to comments and mentions. But a simple like or reply can have a huge impact on your brand image. Not to mention that an increasing number of people think of social media as another customer service channel.
Of course, it’s also important for social media managers to feel supported and protected. So you can start by going to your privacy settings and tapping the Comments option. Here, you can automatically filter offensive comments and mute specific words, phrases, or emojis. These settings can apply to direct messages as well as post comments.
Next, you can take care of frequent customer queries. By setting up saved replies to common messages, you’ll free up time to respond to more interesting, urgent, or complex messages.
This feature used to be known as Quick Replies. It still works the same way but now it’s called Saved Replies. You draft a set reply to a query and choose a keyboard shortcut to match it.
Then, whenever you type that shortcut in a direct message, a little speech bubble will pop up next to the Send button. Tap the speech bubble and the saved reply will appear in full. So that’s 2 seconds of typing, instead of 2 minutes. It all adds up.
Now that you’ve filtered out bad comments and managed your time, you can afford to respond to all of your followers.
I recommend switching on notifications for DMs that show up in your general inbox or as message requests. Followers might not realize that their messages have been filtered to these inboxes and they’ll be upset if they feel ignored.
Remember, engaging frequently is just as important as posting frequently. People aren’t just on social media to hear from you; they’ve got something to say for themselves.
#7: Avoid Bots and Engagement Pods on Instagram
I’m sure you’ve come across engagement pods before. They show up on Instagram all the time, even though their effectiveness is doubtful.
In an Instagram engagement group, people agree to interact with each other’s posts on a regular basis. There will often be rules about how often or how much you have to interact. The idea is to game the Instagram algorithm by showing a lot of activity.
But it doesn’t work. Nor does buying automated Instagram bots to like your posts.
Why not? There are a few reasons.
First of all, the accounts involved in Instagram engagement pods are at risk of being marked as spam. They don’t have that much power over the algorithm.
Second, this kind of engagement isn’t valuable. It’s not from your target audience, doesn’t tell you anything meaningful about your business, and has no connection to conversions or sales. If you’re serious about improving your engagement rate, steer clear of these scams.
#8: Bring Engaged Customers From Other Platforms
If you already have an engaged audience on other social networks, your email marketing list, or your website, it’s worth trying to bring them across to Instagram. All it takes is a social media button and perhaps a preview of your content on the social network.
However, it’s essential to check those links regularly. I often find broken social media links on websites. Another common issue is websites built with Shopify, where the social media buttons default to Shopify’s accounts if you don’t update them.
The ideal on Instagram is to create a thriving, active community that feeds back into your business, supporting your marketing strategy and helping you to be better. But you get out what you put in. If you want to grow and engage your audience on Instagram, the key is to be active.
Get More Advice on Instagram Marketing
- Improve your Instagram reach.
- Attract the right followers on Instagram.
- Create Instagram ads specifically designed to sell products and services.
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