by Juan Robin II
Social media marketing has become a necessity for brand survival in today’s day and age.
But simply creating profiles on these platforms and hoping the rest will take care of itself is not an effective strategy. You need to be active on social media.
While you may have already recognized the importance of social sites such as Facebook, it’s time for you to focus on other platforms—specifcally, Instagram.
Instagram, with its features and benefits, was part of the top social media trends of 2018 I wrote about.
Instagram has more than 1 billion users. Of those users, 500 million use the platform on a daily basis.
Only Facebook and YouTube have more active users.
For the most part, Instagram users are younger. Nearly 60% of Instagram users in the United States are under the age of 30.
This is important to recognize if you’re segmenting your target audience with generational marketing.
How can you use Instagram to promote your brand effectively?
Your content might be great, but if nobody sees what you’re posting, you won’t have results. That’s why you need to focus on engagement metrics:
You need to measure all these to determine the success of your Instagram marketing campaigns.
If you need some help with this, I can steer you in the right direction. I’ve identified and explained the top 13 ways to improve your engagement rates on Instagram.
Review the tips I’ve explained in this guide, and apply the tactics to your brand’s page.
1. Utilize hashtags
Do you remember the days when we used to refer to the tic-tac-toe board as a pound sign?
Well, social media changed that symbol forever. Now the symbol (#) at the bottom right-hand side of your telephone keypad is more commonly referred to as a hashtag.
As a social media marketer, you need to incorporate hashtags into your Instagram strategy.
Research shows that the majority of posts by the top brands on social media only use a few hashtags:
If the top brands are using them, your brand needs to as well.
Furthermore, 70% of Instagram hashtags are branded. Posts with only one hashtag receive 12.6% greater engagement than posts without hashtags.
When deciding what hashtags to use, you want to be broad to appeal to the widest possible audience.
However, hashtags that are too broad will not stand out. On the other hand, if your hashtag is extremely unique, nobody will search for it.
You need to find some middle ground for your hashtag.
Even though the top brands aren’t using many hashtags, research shows that engagement rates reach their peak when a post has nine hashtags.
It’s also worth noting that hashtags with 21 characters have the highest engagement rates. And 24-character hashtags were second on this list.
You don’t need to be shy with the number of hashtags or characters you’re using. Just don’t go overboard, or you’ll appear too spammy.
2. Promote your Instagram posts on all your distribution channels
To have higher and more valuable engagement rates, you need to increase your social following.
If your social media marketing strategy is effective, you can convert your Instagram followers into customers. This needs to be your ultimate goal.
To get more followers, you need to promote your Instagram profile on all your distribution channels:
- include a follow link in your marketing emails
- share information about your Instagram posts on your website
- blog about it
- use your other social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to promote content you posted on Instagram.
As a result, you’ll get more traffic to your Instagram page. Because of this increased traffic more people will follow your page.
Even if people don’t follow you right away, at least they are exposed to your brand. Now your content may appear on their page, and they might engage with your posts in the future.
3. Run a contest
Contests are another great way to gain exposure for your brand.
In addition to the increased brand awareness, contests run on Instagram have been proven to dramatically boost engagement rates.
It’s because contests encourage user-generated content.
Plus, the fact that you’re giving something away to the winner entices people to participate. Overall, it’s a winning strategy.
The best contests incorporate hashtags, which is something I discussed earlier.
Set up a unique hashtag for each contest you run.
It will allow you to track all participants’ submissions.
Further, this will make it easier for you to judge the winner.
And this unique hashtag will also be a way through which other people can see your brand and its popularity.
Instagram users who may have never heard of your brand might see posts from contest participants.
As a result, these users may be enticed to follow your page. Once they start following you, they will be more likely to engage with your content.
4. Add emojis to your captions
These little animations are no longer just for your personal messages. Brands are starting to use them as well to drive engagements.
In fact, 56% of Instagram profiles use emojis.
In the last year, emoji usage on Instagram went up by 19%. Adding emojis to your post increases engagement by 2.07%.
This makes sense. Emojis in captions add a personal touch to your posts.
Users will feel as if they’re looking at posts from a friend as opposed to some giant corporation. The added comfort your followers will feel when seeing posts with emojis will encourage them to engage with your posts.
Besides that, you need to learn how to write Instagram captions that drive engagement.
Ask your followers to comment on your posts with their favorite emoji or an emoji that best describes the reaction to your content.
I expect the trends related to emoji usage to continue rising in the foreseeable future.
5. Share videos
While Instagram may have started as a platform for sharing photos, the social network has adapted to the new trends and made appropriate changes.
Initially, Instagram had a 15-second limit on videos when the feature was first made available in 2013. But that number jumped to 60 seconds a few years later.
As a result, the amount of time users spent watching videos increased by 40% in the first six months of the change.
It’s no secret that consumers want to see more video content.
But how will videos affect your engagement rates? Let’s take a look:
As you can see, videos on Instagram typically get more than double the number of comments compared to photos.
While photos get more likes than videos, your Instagram videos will still get plenty of views, even if users aren’t liking them.
Mix up your content, and start posting more videos. I’m not saying you need to shy away from photos completely, but try to find a balance between the two.
6. Don’t be boring
As I just finished saying, you need to change up your content strategy on Instagram.
Posting similar photos from different angles and just changing the caption slightly will bore your followers. Nobody wants to follow accounts like that, and people certainly won’t engage with your posts.
Post funny content. If you make people laugh, they’ll be more likely to tag their friends in the comments.
This will help increase your engagement metrics.
If it fits with your brand image, you can even post content that’s edgy, controversial, or even somewhat sexual in nature—anything that’s going to raise some eyebrows and grab the attention of users.
Share crazy news. Be provocative.
Post surprising or shocking photos and videos.
Just don’t do anything that might damage your brand reputation.
But try to make sure you’re not posting the same thing over and over again. That’s boring and won’t drive engagement.
7. Know the best times to post
To get high engagement on your posts, you need to make sure your audience sees your content.
That’s why you need to determine the best times to post.
I’m referring to the time of day in addition to the best days of the week.
There are lots of different answers to this question, depending on whom you ask. That said, I like these results from CoSchedule:
Their research shows that Mondays and Thursdays are the best days of the week to post although, for the most part, your metrics on weekdays will be pretty similar.
Engagement on Sundays is the lowest.
That’s probably because people are out and about doing things on the weekend. If they’re busy, they won’t be active on social media as much.
The times you post will also be determined by your target audience.
For example, let’s say your brand is targeting consumers who live in the United States. It’s worth noting that 80% of the US population is located in the Eastern and Central Time Zones.
These are the types of things you need to take into consideration before you post something.
8. Form relationships with social influencers
In addition to sharing your Instagram content on your distribution channels, you can leverage your relationships with social influencers to expose your profile to a wider audience.
These people can promote your brand, products, and profile to their followers. Since social influencers have great engagement rates with their audiences, those results will translate to your page.
That’s because users trust social influencers.
If they endorse your brand, it will increase the chances of more people viewing your page. Now that they’ve landed on your page, they’ll engage with your content.
You can combine this strategy with one of the other tips I’ve discussed, such as contests.
Let a social influencer give away one of your products as a promotional campaign for your Instagram page.
Influencers are also great options for account takeovers, but we’ll discuss this strategy in greater detail shortly.
9. Post pictures of faces
You know you need to post content on a regular basis. But what type of photos should you be posting?
I highly recommend posting images with faces.
That’s because photos with faces receive 38% more likes than photos without faces.
Look at how Nike used this concept on its Instagram profile:
As you can see, eight of these nine consecutive posts contain faces.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the only type of content you should be posting. But when in doubt, share a picture that shows someone’s face.
10. Add subtitles to your videos
We already established you need to share video content on Instagram to drive engagement.
But I’ve got a way for you to make your video strategy even better. Add subtitles.
Video subtitles increase view times by 12%.
It’s worth noting that on Facebook, 85% of videos are watched without sound.
Since Facebook owns Instagram, we can safely assume those numbers translate to Instagram as well.
11. Tag your location
You posted a picture of someone’s face and added a hashtag to your caption. It’s time to post, right?
Not so fast.
Before you post your photos, you should tag their locations. Research shows that posts with tagged locations have 79% higher engagement rates.
You can add a location tag even if you aren’t actually there. If your office is in San Francisco but you’re trying to promote something in Miami, you can still add Miami to the tag.
Just don’t get caught with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background of your photo, or users will know you’re not in Miami.
Check out this example from Lululemon.
This image was shared on July 28, 2018.
The date corresponds with the Hermosa Beach Open, which is an AVP beach volleyball tournament.
Was this photo actually taken on this day at this location? Maybe. But maybe not.
Either way, it’s promoting beach volleyball gear during a beach volleyball tournament at that location. So the location fits the post.
12. Announce a new post in your story
You need to learn how to use Instagram story to promote your business.
When you add a new post to your profile, announce it on your story. This will double your engagement metrics.
First, you’ll get a view and impression on your story.
Then, users will be enticed to view the new post. After that, you can encourage them to like and comment on the post by implementing the other strategies I’ve discussed so far.
13. Leverage takeovers
This relates to the discussion about social influencers.
An influencer may allow you to take over their account for a period of time. You can post content to their story or even broadcast a live video.
On the flip side, you can let an influencer take over your account. Here’s an example from Shopify:
Amber Mac not only took over the Shopify account but also promoted it on her profile as well.
Now her followers have a reason to visit the Shopify profile to see what she’s up to over there. This will boost the engagement metrics during that time period.
Furthermore, if those users like the content you post as a guest of another account, they may end up following your page, which increases your chances of having additional engagements with those users moving forward.
Your Instagram profile is a valuable marketing tool. But you’ll be successful only if you know how to use this tool correctly.
Ultimately, your content needs to drive engagements.
Getting users to like, comment, view, share, and click on your posts will increase your brand exposure and help you generate more leads.
As a result, your business will be more profitable.
If you’re unhappy with your current engagement rates or if you think there’s room for improvement, refer to this guide.
Implement the tactics listed above to boost your Instagram engagement rates.
How is your brand using Instagram to focus on user engagement?