The Five Point Formula to Increase Instagram Engagement.

Easy steps to succeed on Instagram.
Anand Srinivasan
June 5, 2018 - 7 min. read

Between 2014 and 2018, the number of monthly active users on Instagram quadrupled from 200 million to over 800 million. Close to 500 million Instagram users are active each day.

For perspective, that is almost double the population of the United States.

And the most impressive part for marketers? The average time spent on Instagram has been increasing by 80% each year.

On the flip side, you have a lot more competition to deal with in 2018. Standing out from the crowd on Instagram can get tough, especially if for brands.

Capturing an HD shot and applying a unique filter is no longer adequate. This explains why the per-follower interaction rate on Instagram fell from 4.213% in 2014 to 2.261% in 2015.

At a broad level, increasing your Instagram follower engagement is a matter of trial and error. What works for one user or follower profile may not necessarily work for another.

However, the process for identifying the right metrics and strategies to follow is more or less the same. In this article, we have boiled that process down to a clear five-point formula.

  1. Find the right metrics
  2. Understand your audience profile
  3. Research your content
  4. Find a content perspective
  5. Caption. Caption. Caption.

Also see: 21 Tips to Massively Increase Instagram Engagement in 2018.

Find the right metrics

Engagement levels on Instagram are often measured by the number of shares, likes and comments that a post receives.

But the absolute number of likes and comments do not always reveal the complete picture.

For starters, an Instagram account with just a few hundred followers always sees fewer likes compared to accounts with thousands of followers.

As we noted earlier in this article, the “per-follower interaction rate” is undoubtedly a better way to measure engagement.

Another point to note here is that not all interactions carry the same weight.

Instagram likes are, for all practical purposes, a vanity metric. They do not further engagement.

At the same time, comments on your post help further the discussion. An engaging discussion could invite other lurking users to participate, which helps increase your engagement even more.

That does not mean that likes do not help at all.

Also see: 7 Underrated Social Media Metrics You Should be Tracking.

Along with comments, likes and shares play a direct role in influencing your posts’ visibility among your followers.

The way Instagram works is this—when you submit a new post, the algorithm shows your post to a small subset of followers. Instagram then compares the engagement among these followers with the engagement your posts received during similar submissions in the past.

Based on these insights, Instagram then pushes your post up or down in the feeds of your other followers.

In essence, a spurt in likes and comments in the first few minutes of your submission can determine the overall engagement metrics of your post. So, the absolute number of followers you have can play a role in influencing engagement.

This may seem contradictory to optimizing for the per-follower interaction rate we recommended earlier.

The idea here is that although you must focus on absolute numbers over the long term, a truly engaging post is one that has a high per-follower engagement rate.

To sum it up, here is a list of metrics that decides how engaging your content is:

  1. Number of likes, shares and comments in the first 15 minutes after posting
  2. Total number of likes, shares and comments
  3. Comments as a percentage of total interactions
  4. Total interactions per follower

A successful Instagrammer should see all these numbers go up steadily each month.

Also see: 5 Tips for Running Powerful Instagram Ad Campaigns.

Understand your audience profile

The objective of social media marketing is to enhance your visibility among target buyers.

Once you know the metrics to target, the next step is to make sure that you are targeting the right followers.

You could start by promoting your Instagram account among past buyers and users who follow your account on other social media channels.

This provides you with a critical set of niche followers who will help spread the word about your account to other users in this niche.

Another way to target users in your niche is by identifying the specific hashtags that your target group identifies with and including these in your posts. But before we get there, it is important to build a buyer persona.

Most businesses may have already worked out a buyer persona for their marketing campaigns.

If you have not done this for your business yet, here is a quick guide to building a persona for your Instagram marketing campaigns.

  1. Create a ‘contacts’ list of people who you have done business with.
  2. Import these contacts to your Instagram account—in doing so, you will see a list of contacts who are on Instagram.
  3. Identify the followers with the most posts and followers. This is the user profile you should be targeting.

Content research

The next step is to know what kind of content will work for this audience. There are two primary methods of figuring this out.

At this point, you may have a list of customers who are active on Instagram.

To begin your content research, go to each of their profiles and hit the ‘Following’ option. This section will provide you with a list of hashtags that the user follows.

increase Instagram engagement

If there is a hashtag from your industry, then the next step is to explore the hashtag to identify the kind of content that resonates with your target customer.

In addition to the type of images being shared, also make a note of the description and hashtags used within the post. All this provides you with the information required to make your post click with your target audience.

The second type of content research should come from your direct competitors.

Identify a list of competitors who are active on Instagram and sort them by the four engagement metrics we have identified earlier in this article.

Once you have a list of Instagram accounts with the highest engagement levels, make a note of the kind of posts that gain the most engagement, including the descriptions and hashtags that are used.

Find a content perspective

The next step in the process is to identify a unique content perspective for your posts.

The objective of an Instagram marketing campaign is to stand out from the crowd and enhance visibility.

Content research provides you with the specific type of content that resonates with your audience.

However, depending on your industry, this type of content may have already been overdone and publishing similar content may not help you connect with your audience.

The right way to do this is by identifying a content perspective that will align with what your audience likes and stands out from the crowd at the same time.

For example, a coffee shop may post unique latte art on their Instagram feed.

increase Instagram engagement

A fitness center may post shots captured from their training classes on Instagram.

increase Instagram engagement

You may identify a similar content perspective that can connect with the hashtags and content that your target audience responds to.

You may also identify a content angle that can help you maximize engagement. For instance, a fitness school posting pictures from their classes gets the opportunity to tag their participants.

Participants that receive a notification tend to engage with the post early on, which helps enhance the post’s visibility and engagement.

Caption. Caption. Caption.

The pictures and videos you share can make or break your success with Instagram marketing. But having said that, captions are absolutely crucial when it comes to engagement.

As we already noted earlier in this article, comments play a larger role in Instagram engagement than either likes or shares.

Further, captions heavily influence the kind of comments that you receive on your posts. Take this example of a post from a business that offers barista training classes.

increase Instagram engagement

Each of their captions are a call to action for baristas who want to get their latte art featured on the account.

As you can see from this shot, there are four comments and over 858 likes. Comments as a percentage of total interactions are extremely low in this case.

In comparison, take a look at this post instead.

increase Instagram engagement

In this case too, the post calls for baristas to tag their photos to be featured.

But a simple question (“how many cups of coffee have you had today?”) has helped increase the number comments as a percentage of total interactions.

A question like this gets people to comment instead of merely liking the post. Comments beget more comments, and this helps tilt key engagement metrics in your favor.

It is likely that you may not succeed with improving engagement the very first time you try.

When that happens, it is a good idea to revisit the steps above—especially those related to content research and perspective.

At the end of the day, successful engagement is nothing but a continuous process of trial and error.

 Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and services. Hubbion’s email finder service helps sales managers discover the right email addresses of the prospects they want to reach out to.

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