If you are an Instagram creator, you know the challenge of increasing your following and engagement. With so much great content on the app, it’s a battle to win attention each day and inspire follower likes and comments. To become successful on Instagram, it is important to continually grow your following and for those people to actually see and interact with your content. This will open many doors to you as a creator, leading to exciting networking and collaboration opportunities.
If you’ve hit a slump in engagement, don’t stop trying. Start testing and tweaking your content to learn what works -- and what doesn’t -- with your unique audience. What should you test? It’s helpful to review these engagement basics for some inspiration.
1. Create interactive content
This may sound like a no-brainer question, but are you making it easy for your followers to engage with you? For example, a post that shows a relatable photo with a caption that asks a question is more likely to have higher engagement than a post that does not induce emotion and has an overused quote as the caption. Social media is all about being social. So make it easy for your followers to interact with you.
Not getting engagement? Try a different type of caption:
Ask an open-ended question instead of making a statement.
Offer two options and ask your readers about their preference.
Share a personal experience or thought that others may
Ex: “Our family is going to a theme park this weekend and we are all very excited! What is one theme park memory that brings a smile to your face?”
Ex: “We are updating our kitchen backsplash and trying to decide between dark/cool tones and light/warm tones - which do you guys prefer?”
Ex. “Sometimes I have to remind myself that Instagram is only a snapshot of a moment in time and no one is perfect. I try my best to embrace my imperfections.”
Below is a great example of someone using the first few words to engage their audience with an open-ended question. The influencer tells her audience exactly how to respond, making it easy for readers who may be on the sidelines watching.
2. Respond to your followers’ comments
Getting your followers to engage with you is the goal, but if you don’t respond, they are likely to feel unimportant and might not engage again. When someone comments, take a minute to leave a response for them.
It can be time-consuming to reply to every single comment. So if you can’t respond to each comment, try to prioritize responding to people who take the time to leave a unique or thoughtful comment over the more simple “So cute” (or similar) comments. Also, since it takes very little time for you to “like” a comment, consider doing that if you don’t have time to reply.
3. Engage with other Instagram accounts
A third way to bring more engagement to your own page is to engage with other creators. If you expect people to engage with you, but you never engage with others, your page is likely to get lost in the crowd. Engage with the people you follow and even find new accounts to interact with through hashtags. You don’t have to be following another account to engage, but there is always the chance you will discover new, interesting accounts this way and it often leads to more followers as well.
4. Establish a clear voice
People crave connection. If you are successful in establishing a clear voice or a personal brand for yourself, it will make it easy for like-minded people to connect with you. Followers are more likely to engage with an account that has a clear voice and is either similar to them or aspirational. It is okay to occasionally talk about different topics, but if your page’s theme is inconsistent, it is harder for followers to understand who you are and will lead to a disconnection and overall lower engagement.
5. Take advantage of Instagram’s latest features
Instagram is constantly updating their platform to allow creators to share content in different ways. Not only is it a great way for you to test and learn the best way to reach your audience, but Instagram often rewards creators who use new features by pushing their content higher in their followers’ feeds. Recent examples would include Reels and new story features they have released with new updates.
For example, when Instagram introduced reels in 2020, some influencers that quickly adopted this new format were handsomely rewarded with thousands of views and profile visits. But, it's not as easy as simply adopting the new feature -- you have to figure out how to use it effectively for your audience. So try, try, and try again. Even though it's hard to endure each failed attempt, when you reach success, it's truly sweeter!
6. Network Offline
Yes, in-person meetings can help you build online relationships that lead to engagement. Look for events near you that might attract people with similar interests. Consider hosting a meet-up with fellow creators or even with fans. Create business cards to share when having in-person conversations. People that you meet face-to-face will likely feel a deeper connection to you and can become your most loyal fans.
DON’T BE TEMPTED BY SHORTCUTS TO GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT
Building an engaged audience takes hard work. If you grow your followers organically (i.e., people follow you because they find value in your content), you will truly be influential and valuable to brands and companies.
Don’t confuse having many followers with influence. Shortcuts to growing your followers or engagement will backfire in the long run. Imagine having to remove thousands of fake followers in the future because your engagement rate is too low. Imagine having an opportunity to collab with your dream brand slip through your fingers because your engagement rate is too low.
Do not buy fake followers
If you are looking for a quick way to grow your page, buying fake followers may seem like a cheap and easy way to do it, but will hurt your page in the long run. Not only will it tarnish your reputation as an influencer, but Instagram is cracking down on fake followers. They will remove those fake followers and may even ban accounts that are repeat offenders. Trust us, it is not worth it!
Do not buy fake likes or comments
Buying fake likes or comments can become expensive and defeats the purpose of creating an influential page. You cannot be influential if all of your interactions are not real. As technology advances, many brands and agencies have the ability to spot accounts that are buying fake engagements and they do not want to work with those creators.
Do not use engagement bots
Engagement bots are similar to buying fake engagement, but can be even more risky on your account. Typically, access to an account is given and the “bot” automates fake engagement on other accounts, hoping for that engagement (or even a follow) to be returned. Instagram has taken steps to reduce these bots and is cracking down on accounts that use them. Don’t risk it!
Avoid follow trains and loops
Follow trains/loops are gaining popularity. But think about it. Do they contribute to your ultimate goal of increasing your influence? Follow trains typically require you to follow a bunch of other accounts with the promise that they will follow you back. A “follow for a follow” might sound like a good idea at first. But if you continue to participate in them, you will soon be following thousands of accounts simply out of obligation, not because you actually like them or want to interact. You will lose touch with the accounts that you really care about.
On the flip side, you will be followed by thousands of accounts only following you for a follow back, not to interact. Accounts that grow on follow trains do grow quickly, but they tend to crash later on. Engagement for these accounts is minimal and it’s easy to understand why. They are not being followed by people that actually want to engage with them and their accounts rarely grow organically.
Growing followers and maintaining high engagement can be a challenge. But try to use the tips mentioned above to grow your influence and not just grow your followers. Avoid fake engagement and followers. Your account may grow more slowly in the short term, but you will have real followers with real engagement, and you will learn how to engage your audience -- and that is what matters the most.
About the Author
Tori Steiner is the Creator Success Manager at ApexDrop and the owner of the popular Instagram account called @lifewithcollies. With over 50k followers, Tori has experienced the challenges and benefits of growing an IG account. Have a question you’d like Tori to address in a future article? Reach out to her at Tori@apexdrop.com.
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