In this day and age, engagement matters.
Your social media content has to do more than catch a person's eye - if you want it to bring you business, it has to get that person to act.
But getting people to engage isn't always as easy as it seems.
To help, here's a step-by-step approach you can begin today that will increase your Instagram engagement.
1. Find Your Hashtags
Hashtags are the secret sauce to getting your content engaged with on Instagram. That's because people use hashtags to find content instead of relying solely on scrolling through the news feed. Without a hashtag, your content could get buried faster, making it harder for you to reach a target audience.
Whether you're new to the social network, or you've been on it since its inception, hashtag research is fundamental. It takes ongoing work to cast a wider net and reach more people.
Instagram makes this research easy. Start by typing in #keyword and Instagram will show you several other hashtags being used with that same keyword.
For example, typing in #yoga you'll also find #yogapants, #yogaeverywhere #yogalove #yogaeverydamnday and more.
Underneath each result is the number of times people have used the hashtag. The higher the number, the more popular the hashtag.
Another way to find the best hashtags to use in your posts is with a free tool called Hashtagify.
Hashtagify enables you to find related hashtags that people are using. Here's an example of a hashtag map based on "Yoga" as the keyword.
You'll notice the main keyword (the one you search for initially) is in red with the suggested hashtags in the blue bubbles.
Hashtagify's a great tool for finding keywords on a specific subject that fall under other categories. For example, when searching only on Instagram, you'll only find hashtags with the word "yoga" in them. Searching on Hashtagify, you'll find others, such as #meditation, #yogi and #health.
Used in conjunction with each other, you can expand your research horizons and give you more opportunities to reach people.
Mulpix is a search engine for discovering photos and videos on Instagram. Search for captions, mentions, and multiple hashtags on Instagram.
2. Complete Your Profile
With your hashtags in mind, take a look at the foundation of your Instagram presence - your profile.
You might be thinking, "people don't engage with profiles, why should I think about this?" You're right about people not engaging, but having a strong profile is what drives new people to you, so it's important to focus on.
Here's an example of a strong profile on Instagram from the folks at Whole 9.
In it, you'll notice several components.
1. They use hashtags. Use the research you found in step 1 to add your top hashtags into your profile.
2. They also use keywords to describe their business. "Healthy" and "balanced life" are some keywords that represent their business well.
3. They tag others. This account is co-managed by a couple of other accounts under their brand's umbrella, including the founder @dallashartwig and their product @Whole30. By tagging them, they're driving engagement on other profiles too.
4. They add a link to the profile. This drives people beyond Instagram and over to their website, which helps them make money from their social media presence.
Look at your profile and see if you have the same components. If you're missing any of these, add them in where appropriate to help attract more followers.
3. Create Your Images
Although Instagram was originally created to allow users to upload images taken on their mobile devices, it's evolved. Now, brands can add social media images that contain text and pictures combined.
These images pop out in a news feed. They get people to stop scrolling and start reading. As soon as you get a person to stop scrolling through the newsfeed, you're at a huge advantage. You're far more likely to attract a like or a comment when the person spends a little more time with your post.
There are a few great tools to let you easily create images with text to use on Instagram.
Canva is a free design tool. You only pay for the images you use from their database of pictures and icons that you can buy for $1 a piece. It's easy to use for beginners. No design skills required.
Pablo is Buffer's answer to Canva. It's another tool that lets you create images easily without having a degree in graphic design.
4. Weave in Hashtags
Remember those hashtags you researched in Step 1? It's time to put them into practice.
With your images in place, it's time to attach some copy to the graphic. This copy is how Instagram's algorithm determines how others find you and who sees you. You must use your hashtags to get found and get engaged with people already looking for you.
When writing your post, be sure to keep it easy to read and engaging. If you want to tack on hashtags, do so at the end of the post or wherever it makes sense in the readability of the post.
Here's an example:
In this, the copy reads, "Oops only just discovered split screen" followed by several hashtags.
She made a statement and then followed it up with relevant hashtags to the post. Some of these are highly targeted, such as #fashionillustration and #artistsoninstagram while others are more general, such as #amazing and #design.
In either case, she used hashtags to help her post get found
5. Sprinkle in Emojis
Engagement isn't all about getting found by the right people. You have to be entertaining too.
Emojis are an easy way to break up the black and white text, and make your posts pop out on the page.
Here's an example of a post with a few emojis sprinkled in from Scott Lazerson.
The dessert and flower emojis directly describe what's happening in the picture while at the same time, the color makes the post stand out in the news feed. The more you can get your posts to pop in front of your audience as they scroll through their feed, the more likely you are to get someone to engage.
It's important to note here that not all brands will benefit from using emojis. Analyze your audience to determine if these images will resonate.
If you do use them, be sure to cross-pollinate your marketing. For example, incorporate the emojis used in your SMS campaigns with those used on Instagram. This creates consistency and makes your brand stand out even more in the news feed, thus increasing engagement.
6. Create an Editorial Calendar
You know the expression, "if it's not on the calendar, it's not going to happen?" The same is true in social media.
Once you have your hashtags in place, plan for how you'll use them. If you don't, you probably won't post often enough with them to pay off. Scheduling your posts increases the likelihood that you'll incorporate your hashtags and maximize your engagement.
There are several tools for scheduling Instagram updates that you can use including:
- Latergramme (now Later.com)
Make a plan for how you'll promote your content, then start scheduling. The ideal number of posts for Instagram is 1 - 2 per day. If you plan your posts in advance, you can make your schedule extend far out. Start with a month's worth of posts and then slowly add on each week as you watch which posts get the most engagement.
7. Comment on Other People's Pictures
You've gone the distance to get your content found. Now, it's time to find others and bring them to you.
Social networks are about building relationships with other people. As in the real world, you shouldn't wait for people to come to you. You should also seek out relationships that make the most sense for you.
Here's an example:
The three commenters on this picture (@fitmomtasha, @kd_combo and @thebellybumpapp) are not friends with the person in this picture. They're commenting because of the hashtags she used.
Each one of these businesses caters to pregnant women. Chances are, they scoped out one of the hashtags used (#36weekspregnant, #babybump or #babyboyontheway) and then left a comment.
Note how they commented. They didn't try to sell the person posting, they simply left a personal note in hopes that she would click over and check out their profile.
Using the hashtags you researched in Step 1, do a bit of digging. When you see a post that's relevant to your brand and by someone in your target market, hit like and/or leave a comment. The more you engage with others, the more likely others will be to engage with you.
Boosting Your Numbers
Very few platforms are built primarily for mobile. Instagram is. In a world where websites frustrate mobile users, taking advantage of this social network designed to make the mobile experience seamless is critical.
But it's not enough to just post and hope people will engage - these seven steps will turn your account into a magnet for engagement.