We need to stop trying to “figure out the algorithm”. I think Instagram has made it frustrating and unsolvable for a reason! Think about it: How much time have you spent stressed out, frustrated, and focused on “figuring Instagram out” vs. the amount of time you’ve spent reflecting on your own work and testing what works for you?
This blog is going to be a two part-er. In this post I’m going to focus on the general questions I received from you all about engagement: How do you build an engaged audience? How do you get in front of new people without the “follow unfollow” method? Then in next weeks post, we will get a little more specific and I’ll answer questions like: How do you know which hashtags to use? Do I have to promote my post to be seen? And more! Now let’s get started.
I think we need to calm down, take a breather and tell ourselves “its okay to not know everything” when it comes to the wizardry of this ever changing algorithm and go back to the basics. Let’s use what we do know to our advantage and increase our engagement that way.
What does “engagement” on Instagram mean?
If we take a look at the definition of “engage” we have this:
So when I talk about ‘engaging with others’ or ‘receiving engagement’ in this post, I mean more that just mindlessly scrolling and liking photos. I mean, grabbing someones attention by leaving them a thoughtful comment. Following the accounts that actually peaks your interest. Sending someone who inspires you a DM to grab coffee. We’re talking about being INTENTIONAL not “going through the motions”.
What do we know about Instagram?
“Instagram is a social media app that allows users to share photos and videos from their lives, add captions, edit filters, tweak settings, engage with others, explore and creep, and so, so much more”
Let’s keep in mind these two key points.
“Instagram is a social media app”
“allows users to...engage with others”
What do we know about the algorithm?
The order posts show up in ones feed is not chronological anymore
Hashtags have the potential to allow our posts to be seen by people who wouldn’t normally see our posts
Now this may not seem like a ton of information but it’s everything we need to move forward and answer the top two questions I received about increasing engagement.
“How the heck can I get in front of people without just following thousands of people?” - Question from @sipsandsojourn:
“How do you encourage people to actually engage with your posts? I tried asking questions but that doesn’t seem to work. And emojis are great but I want to have a conversation and build friendships! How do you build an engaged audience? ” - Question from @ashvedo
I chose to combine these questions because they have similar answers.
We learned above that Instagram is a SOCIAL media app created for us to ENGAGE with others. Meaning it was intended for us to be social. Duh.
Let’s use our every-day life as an example. When you want attention from others, what do you do? Do you stay quiet? When you have a cute outfit that you want people to notice, do you stay in your room and just wait for someone to walk in and notice? Do you stalk people from afar until they notice you? When you walk down the street do you expect someone to come up to you and give you a compliment? If you said yes to any of those, I highly suggest you reconsider your answer because none of those are smart efficient ways to capture attention.
The same thing goes with Instagram. TALK TO PEOPLE. Speak up, go out, build relationships. Etc. Find people who are liking similar photos you do, who have similar interests and like their photos, shoot them a DM, comment on their photos with something more than “nice pic”. If someone comments on your photo, comment on one of theirs. The more people you intentionally engage with like this, the more eyes you’ll be in front of and they will engage with you. Instagram is basically implementing the #1 mom rule around the world “treat others how you want to be treated”.
I won’t lie to you and say it's easy. It can be a lot of work, and be very time consuming. BUT if growing engagement and being seen are your goals, it’s worth you investing time into.
Before I wrap this post up I want to answer a question you might run into when you start to take all of this advice into action.
How do you find “the right” people who are more likely to engage back? How do you “target” (for lack of a better word) Instagrammers that will stick around?
The answer is easier than you think and I’ll break it down for you
Find 3 Influencers with a similar style and niche as you, who have great engagement rates and active audiences. One influencer with 500k+, one with 100k+ and one with 10k+ followers (of course you can have a list of multiple but this is to keep it simple).
Use these Influencers followers and supporters as your target people because, after all, if you chose Influencers with a similar style as yours, you KNOW their audience is going to be interested in you!
Engage with their recent followers and people who are commenting on their photos. Why? Because if you want people who will follow you and comment on your posts then you need to find people who you know are already doing that on other accounts!
Next week we’re going to dive into the specifics of increasing our engagement, using hashtags, when to promote your photos if you have a business account etc. Feel free to screenshot your favorite part about this post and send it to me on Instagram (@itsmodernmillie) for a shoutout! I love to hear from you on what you enjoyed and what you’d like to read more of.
Follow your joy,