Instagram recently changed the software behind the social network, which has caused a decrease in user engagement.
First, Instagram began to crack down on accounts that had a large number of fake followers or that bought likes and comments. This trend had been creating a severe authenticity problem. While it may be tempting to buy engagement, it will always hurt the user in the long run.
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Second, they changed the structure so the immediate performance of your post dictates how many people see it. Without solid engagement immediately after posting, your posts will likely limp along and not receive the engagement they ought to.
Here are 7 tips to help you boost your engagement on Instagram following the recent changes.
1. Avoid bots.
Because of powerful algorithms that can separate real users from automated bots, Instagram can tell if you are using a bot.
What makes this worse is that you will never be able to fully know if you have been shadowbanned or not. Overall, bots will hurt you in the long run more than they will help.
2. Limit yourself to one post per day.
Since Instagram’s new algorithm means content can pop up for a longer period of time, it can actually be detrimental to post too frequently.
Some users only check their Instagram once a day or less, and so Instagram curates the posts they have yet to see at the top of their feed. If you post more than once per day, this causes your posts to compete with one another. The result is that both will have poor engagement.
Rather than opting for the second daily post, start to use Instagram Stories more, since this exposure with followers can boost your engagement and allow access to more filters and features, and will probably increase the performance of your regular posts as well.
3. Optimize post timing.
Due to the importance of having immediate post engagement in order to gain preferred placement on feeds and discovery, ensure you post at the optimal time so that a wave of engagement will kick off the post.
As you begin posting, find the times when your follower demographics are most likely to be online. Ideal times include when they are waking up in the morning (8 to 9 a.m.), when they are going to lunch (noon to 1 p.m.) and when they are getting off work and relaxing (6 to 8 p.m.). You can also use a tool like Owlmetrics to see what time your posts are getting the most engagement.
4. Optimize hashtags.
Hashtags allow you to appear on more discovery pages, giving you a boost of engagement. Understanding which hashtags appeal to your demographics and are best aligned with your content can help you be seen by more potential followers.
If you do well enough early on, you might even get featured in the “top posts” section for a hashtag and enjoy extended exposure. In order to use hashtags optimally, you need to find 15–30 hashtags that will offer peak engagement.
Instagram limits users to 30 hashtags, but also shadowbans posts with certain hashtags that are too “spammy.” These hashtags are along the lines of #likeforlike and #followforfollow. Make sure your hashtags are aligned with your audience and are not used purely to try and drive meaningless engagement. Think about what your audience enjoys and take the time to browse their posts to see which hashtags they use on their posts.
5. Join an Instagram pod.
An “Instagram pod” is a group of users in a group message on Instagram who share posts in the group message whenever they post. All the users in the group like the post and leave a meaningful comment.
Usually, Instagram pods have a set of rules for members. The rules may involve liking and commenting within a certain timeframe and have correlated penalties if members fail to follow through. Joining one of these groups will give your posts a jump start and allow you to get the best exposure on your followers’ feeds.
6. Add calls to action.
One of the largest problems accounts have is figuring out how to get users to leave comments on pictures. Since comments factor into Instagram’s algorithm for engagement, it is important to structure captions in a way that encourages users to both like and comment.
Calls to action—such as “What would you name this cute puppy?” or “Which pair of sneakers would you buy?”—allow engagement with followers to be more seamless and kick off the conversation between the post and followers.
7. Host a contest.
Contests are great ways to entice users to engage with your posts and increase brand reach. The typical Instagram content will involve a collaboration between 2 different accounts: 2 influencer accounts or 1 influencer and a brand.
The post will be a picture of something coveted by the audience, such as an expensive product or a vacation destination. The caption will state that it is a giveaway, and then clearly lay out the rules, which usually involve following the 2 different accounts, liking the post, leaving a comment and potentially tagging a few friends. A winner is chosen at a specified date from those who have completed the required tasks. Contests are a brilliant way to grow and engage with multiple audiences.
Following the changes to Instagram’s feed, engagement is more important than ever for the success of your brand’s content and channel. Working to develop strong, meaningful content and staying away from tempting shortcuts are easy ways to boost your engagement. Using Instagram pods and contests can boost your brand’s profile.