This post is by one of our expert project managers here at Ignite Visibility, Danelle Conlon.
She has some great strategies for Instagram follower acquisition and engagement – John Lincoln
Instagram is one of the leading platforms for social engagement. In September 2015, Hootsuite reported that Instagram’s follower engagement rate is higher than Facebook and Twitter’s by a landslide, and the average engagement rate for Instagram photos is 4.21%. These surprising statistics surpassed my original prediction that the engagement rate for all these other platforms would be much higher. Why is getting an engaged following so hard? When my sister received an adorable English bulldog for Christmas, I used him (Bubba) as an opportunity to conduct my own Instagram experiment.
After re-reading our very own Complete Free Guide to Instagram Marketing, I hopped onto Instagram and made Bubba the bulldog an account. I set off on my Instagram journey with the goals of gaining a high engagement rate and a return in followers. In only three days and little time, I achieved an average engagement rate of 55.67%, and my top post had an engagement rate of 103.3%. Here’s how I did it:
It’s no secret that hashtags are essential for people to find your posts. Users will look on Instagram for certain types of pictures and will conduct searches using hashtags. If you include that hashtag on your photo, that user is likely to stumble across it. However, including certain hashtags are more likely than others to attract users that will engage with your photos.
- Niche Hashtags – The more specific the hashtag used, the more engagement you will receive because people are more likely to find exactly what they want. Instead of only including broad tags like #dog or #puppy, I found that including breed specific tags like #englishbulldogs and #englishbullies worked best. This can be applied to any other niche as well. For example, if I were promoting a post for Ignite Visibility, I might include hashtags like #SEO or #socialmedia instead of just something more generic like #business.
- Location Specific Hashtags – Including locations in hashtags are also a great way to increase your chance of engagement. When using a location, people will often feel like they are engaging in a community and are more likely to comment or like a picture, especially if they’re from the same place. Feel free to use location hashtags when at a landmark or place of interest. You can also combine it with a niche term like #sandiegobullies or #sandiegodog. Don’t forget to add your geotag as well.
- Do Your Research – Find exactly what people are looking for. Hashtagify.me will tell you how popular a hashtag is, what its related hashtags are, and their weekly/monthly trends. Also do some competitive research. Click around and see what other popular accounts are using. You can also scroll down to the very bottom of their pictures and see what sort of hashtags they used before they got popular. (You’ll find that very popular accounts no longer have to use a slew of hashtags because they already have enough followers, but in their early days, they all used a long list of them).
Pro Tip – While hashtags are important, using too many can look ugly and over-promotional. Consider writing a photo caption with only 2-3 hashtags. After posting the photo, add a comment with the rest of the hashtags you want to use. These will get buried in comments and not be as visible, but will still make your picture come up in those hashtag searches.
If your main goal is to have a high engagement rate on your account, you need to find the right kind of followers. Think, what sort of user will be interested in the content you are posting? Who will be most likely to follow back and be engaged? Here is what I did:
- Like and Follow Simultaneously – Instead of following a lot of people and just hoping they follow back, I found I had a lot more success when I liked 3 or so pictures, and then followed them. Users are much more likely to follow back if you like their pictures because they will feel more confident that you won’t be just a ghost follower. Liking several pictures and then following also means they are more likely to notice your account because they will have several notifications from you, versus one notification that may get overlooked on their feed. Keep in mind this method works best on accounts that aren’t super popular. Try this on accounts that have 150 followers or less, or pictures with 20 likes or less.
- Follow the Right People – To get engaged followers, you need to find people who will be interested in your content. Try finding users who seem interested in the type of content you are posting. In my case, I followed a lot of other dog owner and service accounts. Where to find these followers? Try starting with a related hashtag, and follow those accounts who used it. Also, when you follow someone while on their homepage, (not just from the hashtag feed), Instagram will give you related accounts (shown below). Try following those too. Also follow people who are engaging on other accounts. They will be more likely to engage with you too. Look at a similar account to yours and check out the people who are commenting. Like and follow them.
Pro Tip – If you want a lot of followers quickly, look up hashtags like #follow4follow. You will find people who claim they will follow you back if you follow them. This is a quick way to get a lot of followers, but be warned, they will most likely be ghost followers and oftentimes look spammy.
Contests and Features
While I haven’t won any contests (yet!) I find that entering contests with a certain hashtag, or tagging accounts that do features is a good way to get extra visibility. Oftentimes people will explore the competition and check out your account. And if you win or get a feature on a popular account, it’s an easy way for a large audience to discover your profile.
Instagram engagement is really driven, more so than any other social media platform, by high quality content – in this case pictures. It’s no surprise that the cutest picture I posted is the one that received the most engagement, even though there were other photos I posted with more hashtags. Only post content that you really like.
“You get what you give” – this is very much so for Instagram. To get engagement you need to be an engaged user yourself. Reply to all comments you receive on your photos, and like and comment on other’s pictures as well. People are not likely to comment again if they feel you ignored them.
Optimize Your Profile
Make sure your profile looks legitimate from a quick glance. Add a relevant profile picture and a short descriptive tagline. If you have a website or other account, this is where you would want to link to it. (The description area of your profile is the only place on Instagram where you can add a hyperlink.)
Was my dog Instagram a bit cheesy and corny? Perhaps. But I gave people what they were looking for, used the right hashtags, followed the right people, and in return I achieved a high rate of engagement in only three days. With proper research, I am confident that you can apply the same methods to your personal profile or brand to also have Instasuccess.