15 ways to improve your instagram engagement

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There’s a funny mood in the insta-air. For the first time in my memory, people are stepping away. Twitter is awash with people saying it just doesn’t work for them any more – for inspiration and for engagement – and the frustration is growing daily.

I have a lot of thoughts on this – on why it’s happening, and how it might change. There’s too much to include in this post, so I’ll save most of that for another day. I remain hopeful that more changes will happen, perhaps for the better.

As a bigger user, I’ve been pretty well insulated from the changes, but I’ve heard from lots of you who’ve seen a real negative impact, & so I wanted to share some ideas.
The tips below aren’t a solution – ultimately we need instagram to evolve (back) towards something more democratic again – but should give you some tools in the interim.

ways to get more likes and comments on instagram

1. Like more. Liking pictures often leads users to visit your page in return. Don’t only like the posts on your home feed – especially now Instagram control what you see here. Visit your favourite pages directly, and then go and like whatever is fresh and popular under your favourite hashtags. You can test the impact of this by having a ‘liking spree’ – explore a hashtag and like your faves for ten minutes. Watch what happens to your engagement immediately after.

2. Comment more. It’s good Insta-etiquette to try and visit the page of anyone who comments, and return the favour, and most people do this. Comment widely outside of your immediate circle to reach out to different users.

3. Comment awesomely. Making those comments count – by being funny, sassy, meaningful or kind – is all the more powerful. It’s easy to fall into the “lovely” or emoji trap (and that’s fine, btw – we’re not made of free time!) but if you have something better to say, then say it. People are more likely to investigate the person behind an intriguing comment – both the account you’re commenting on, and any other users who see it.

4. Reply to comments (also awesomely). Your captions and comments are your opportunity to show who you are, so make it count. Replying also means users get a reminder that they liked and commented on your post in their notifications, keeping you fresh in their mind.

5. Consider your profile picture. If people are clicking over from comments, likes, or followers, they’ll judge you based on a tiny thumbnail of your profile pic. Something that translates well even on a tiny scale is helpful here.

6. Optimise. Despite hopes and fears to the contrary, the changes haven’t completely removed the relevance of posting at a key time for your audience. Post when most people are online to get a better immediate response to your photo, and therefore a higher ranking in Explore & hashtag ‘top posts’.

7. Up your hashtag game. Without hashtags, you’re essentially posting to a private account. Make use of the full quota and switch them up regularly. Following my hashtag advice and subscribing to my free monthly hashtag emails can help you stay up to date. (You can sign up at the bottom of this page.)

8. Up your photo game. Brilliant content will always win out! You can read lots of my tips here and over on the Inkifi blog, and youtube is a goldmine for tutorials. If you’re struggling to find inspiration on Instagram (I know I am 😔), try Pinterest for a fresh hit of ideas. I have a dedicated insta-inspiration board here.

9. Share elsewhere. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always worth sharing your posts on other social media. Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest can all send new followers your way, and embedding photos directly into your blog means readers can add to your like count.

10. Enter contests. A feature from another, big account is a great way to reach out to a wider audience. Many run monthly, daily or weekly hashtag competitions that you can enter by uploading a photo. Check out my hashtag emails for suggestions, and this list on Mollie Makes to get started.

11. Rainbow colours. I’m loathe to suggest playing along with the Explore trends, for reasons I’ll explain in my next IG post – but then again, it does work. Images that are eye-catching thumbnails work well right now. Rainbow colours are generally a hit.

12. Negative space ticks the same box as rainbow colours. Combine the two and you’re on to a winner, engagement-wise. Whether you’re selling your soul to the insta-devil is a different point entirely… 😉

13. Find a new audience. How many Japanese accounts do you connect with? Finnish? Korean? Brazilian? One problem with the algorithm is that it’s rapidly creating an insta-echo-chamber of middle-class white peony-shoppers. Step outside of this and find new inspiration worldwide again, and probably a new audience there with it.

14. Work with me! Ha! Sorry, but I had to, right? Due to overwhelming demand I closed the doors on my mentoring packages a few months ago, but I do have a handful of slots opening up in late September. If you’d like to work 1:1, drop me a note to be added to the waitlist & be the first to know.

15. Tell Instagram. If people used to like your posts, and aren’t now, it’s reasonable to assume that the changes have reduced the number of people who see them. While I don’t think blaming Instagram is especially helpful, a polite, friendly message letting them know how the update is working out for you can’t hurt! They don’t have a public email address for customer support, so a tweet or Facebook message is probably the best place to do this.

a twitter chat

Starting Tuesday 30th August at 8pm, I’ll be hosting a monthly Twitter chat to discuss Instagram issues & ideas. Follow me over there now to get more details, & look out for more info here & on my other channels once I finally decide on a hashtag! What do you guys think of #instaclinic?

More help

If you liked this, then you should love…

What’s working well for you on Instagram right now? Are you enjoying the changes?

  • These are great tips, I love your instagram posts they are so useful! 🙂 I actually didn’t know about your Inkifi blog! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Alice | Whiskey Jars Blog

  • Great advice!

    Hannah | Oh January

  • yablon28

    you continue to be an inspiration to so many. x

  • Interesting post Sara! As an Insta follower, I was always okay with having a small Instagram account because I never really invested the time to post more often, better pictures, with hashtags in mind etc. Personally, I used Instagram daily to catch up with friends and bloggers I love, to see what they got up to day to day but I don’t see anything from them anymore: either really small accounts, things from a while ago, or ads. So over a few months, I’ve gone from spending 25 minutes on Instagram in the morning and 25 minutes in the evening to maybe an hour a week which is obviously a very sharp decrease. To me, Instagram has really lost the feeling of instantaneity. What I notice myself do is that I don’t use the app anymore but I tend to catch up with people’s feeds on desktop, like their 5 to 10 last pictures all at once. The problem with that is that I’m often not logged in and it won’t always feel relevant to comment so past the publishing date so it becomes much more about window-watching than an interaction if that makes sense. Hope you have been well xx

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  • Thank you for this 🙂 as a browser I’m not so keen on the change as I like things to be ordered and by time posted made me feel happily organised! And as a brand I’m finding it a bit more difficult to keep engagement up (not helped by moving house and not having internet during ‘the change’ I expect)

  • Good sensible advice. I do all of this but it’s well worth a reminder (especially awesome comments). My likes are definitely down this week but comments up… go figure.

  • Thanks for these ideas. I’ve not found my likes impacted that much but it has required a lot more work and research. As someone else mentioned, it’s comments that have increased while likes are more static Luckily I still enjoy IG and being on there and finding new accounts to check out and potentially follow. I’m a colourful/rainbow fan, so happy that’s trending even if mine aren’t as colour popping.

    Will be hopping to join the chat, could be interesting to find out other’s views and find some other potential accounts to follow.

    (I mention you in a recent blog post on IG if you want to check it out)