Monday, 15 May 2017

 

7 Easy Ways to Boost Your Instagram Engagement – Top Tips & Handy Apps

I've had my Instagram account since the app became available on Android but I never used it for my blog. Instead I posted very irregular random updates of my life that didn't really have any cohesiveness to it. And if there is one buzzword in the Instagram world then it's 'theme', and you should apparently have one to create a clean feed that people want to follow and engage with. With my Twitter account growing quite slowly, a little over a month ago I decided to put my efforts into Instagram instead and see if it'd be worth it. Could I grow this channel to become a valuable addition to my blog? While my audience isn't big, in one month I did grow by over 50% to 500+ followers with an engagement of 20%-30 on each photo. In this post I'll share some of my learnings and useful apps I've found, and I hope they help you grow your Instagram engagement too.


Why focus on engagement?


First things first, why is Instagram engagement so important? If you're on the social sharing platform you'll have noticed that it has become a lot harder to be seen. Rather than photos from those you follow showing up in chronological order, a new algorithm decides for you what you want to see based on posts you've engaged with in the past and those that are most popular; especially after they've just gone live. Quick likes and comments are everything to actually be seen by your friends and to rank high in searches.

With so many people buying likes and followers (yes this is an actual thing, and no this is not allowed or honest – they're easy to spot though, if someone has 10k+ followers and just 100 likes per photo, for example, then something isn't right) growing organically has become a lot harder because your photos are seen by less people. So here is where the focus on engagement comes in. A higher engagement rate (likes and comments) equals greater exposure, which ultimately leads to more followers.

I've been experimenting a lot on Instagram for a month to figure out how to get the best engagement, and I've learned a lot along the way. While having great quality photos is a given, here are my top tips to maximise your engagement on these photos!

https://www.instagram.com/zarinainlondon/

1. Pick your key topic areas & be consistent

I personally think the buzzword 'theme' is overrated. Yes, it looks gorgeous to only post in a single colour, or about a single object, but you'll be restricting yourself considerably and stressing yourself out to only find things that match it. I noticed this myself when for a few months I posted photos of book post and felt I could then no longer post about my travels as it didn't match the style.

However, posting about a few different types of things that match your blog does create some sort of cohesive feeling and will really get your personality across. And personality and authenticity are key on Instagram. My (current topics are travel, pretty things in and around London, and food. This might change over time but it suits me and my blog for now. I also try to edit them similarly for consistency in look; I up the brightness, highlights and shadows, and add a touch of sharpness. I don't use filters as I haven't found any that work for me yet.

What also helps to create a clean and consistent look of your Instagram feed is using a planner app such as Unum or Feedly. This allows you to upload images into a grid you can rearrange so you can test what it would look like in that order before actually posting your photos onto Instagram.


2. Do your hashtag research first

Follow accounts similar to what you're going for to see what kind of hashtags they use and then do your research from there. Hashtags are a key to being found by people that do not know you yet and the goal is to appear in the grid of nine photos (top posts) for a hashtag for maximum exposure. You can only use 30 hashtags per photo so use them wisely. There is no point in just using something generic like #London because so many people use it that it'll be hard to reach the top nine. You'll also have to add more specific hashtags such as #thisislondon, #visitlondon and #prettylittlelondon.

If you search for a hashtag on Instagram (even a generic one), you'll also get a list of suggestions at the top, so play around with that too to create your ultimate list of 30 for a particular post. I now have several lists of hashtags saved in my phone notes relevant to places I've travelled to and other things I post about so I can copy/paste them when I need them. This saves me a lot of time and ensures that I get the most out of them each time.



3. Find your optimum posting time

While there are tools that tell you when most of your followers are active and plenty of websites saying when is best to post, the only way to actually find out what works for you is by experimenting. For the first week or two post at different times and get an idea of what time gets the most engagement. It doesn't just depend on when your followers are most active, but also when those using and checking the hashtags you've decided on are on the platform most. For me, weekdays around 11am have worked best so far, but other people post early in the morning or even in the evening. Once you've found your best time, stick to it so people know when to expect a new post from you.


4. Think about your photo captions

It's all good and well posting pretty photos with lots of hashtags to get some likes, but to get real engagement (comments and follows), it's not just about the photo anymore. You should have a meaningful caption that gets people interested in you as a person; let them get to know you so they will come back for your posts. Also try to include a question at the end of your caption (I can personally do a lot better on this!) to entice them to leave a comment. Know that comments of at least four words are necessary to be counted as engagement by Instagram (to get you in those previously mentioned top slots in certain hashtags and also to show up on your friends' feeds as the Instagram algorithm doesn't show photos in chronological order but it shows more popular posts instead).

https://www.instagram.com/zarinainlondon/

5. Post frequently & consistently

As I mentioned before, I used to post very infrequently and this didn't work in my favour. I would grow my a handful of followers each week but then would lose them again the next; people just weren't interested. When I started posting daily I instantly saw an uptake in followers and while I would still lose some (unfortunately lots of people do the follow-unfollow game hoping you'll follow back and they grow their numbers), most of them would stick. I had just over 300 followers when I started the experiment and grew to 525 within a month's time, a growth of over 200 followers! As a test, I stopped posting for a week after posting daily for a month and I did lose a few followers again, but this was in the single digits only. So once you've build up a following, you can take some breaks.

I post only once daily because I don't have time to do it more, but if you can post twice a day for maximum exposure and growth opportunities do it. I did do that in the first week and it really worked for me. Instagram doesn't allow you to schedule posts in advance, alas, but you can use apps such as Hootsuite and Later to draft posts when you have a spare hour or so and it'll give you a notification on the day (on a time set by you) to actually publish. You can of course make your photo edits, do your hashtag research and think of your captions all in advance. And doing it in bulk will save you lots of time during the week.


6. Participate in Insta pods & shout outs

If you're just starting out it can be hard to stand out and get seen, and teaming up with Instagrammers in a similar niche can be worth while. There are two ways to do this that I've tried.

First of all there are Instagram pods; private messaging groups on the platform of up to 15 people that post about similar things (for example travel or food/drink). Once a day you can share a post as a DM to the group and the other members will then like your post and comment on it. This should be done as soon as possible to increase the visibility of the post and grow engagement quickly. This has worked for me in the first few weeks, but contribution dies down quickly as it can become time consuming and unfortunately some people just share their own posts without actually engaging with the others.

The second quick win I've heard a lot about is shout outs. This means reposting a photo (or a photo collage) from a fellow Instagrammer with a similar following number to your own audience and telling them why they should follow this other person. I've done this twice now and not gotten any more followers on the back of it, but I do know that at least one of the people I did it for got a handful of followers in return. So it can work, I've just been unlucky so far.

https://www.instagram.com/zarinainlondon/

7. Engage, engage, engage

Lastly and most importantly, make sure you engage as much as you can on Instagram yourself. Browse hashtags relevant to your content to find new people to follow, like their posts and make sure you leave meaningful comments (of at least four words each time). And when people take out the time to comment on your photos, make sure to like their comments and respond where applicable. Instagram engagement is not a one-way street and you should reciprocate to build relationships and create long term engagement.


And that's it...

This is what I've learned about Instagram engagement after posting daily for just a month so far, and I really hope it's been helpful to you. If you have any other tips, do share them in the comments below as I'd love to learn more ways to boost my engagement and increase my Instagram followers.



Follow me on Instagram!

If you found this post useful, I hope you'll give me a follow on Instagram. Please do let me know if you do, so I can return the favour ♥

http://instagram.com/zarinainlondon/
(This is a screencap from a few weeks ago, hence the lower follower number, but I really love the aesthetic)



8 comments:

  1. Lovely content. Following u on instagram. do follow back as i'm a newbie too <3

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    1. So glad to hear you enjoyed this :)

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  2. Great advice and beautiful pictures! I live in London. I've followed you (rebeccagharis). Would love if you followed me back!

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    1. Thanks so much Rebecca, I have followed you back!

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  3. This is so helpful! I've been watching quite a few YouTube videos & reading up on this myself but you never know what results people have had. You've helped me so much with Instagram, this is the icing on the cake! X

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    1. You're far too kind, but I am very happy to hear that I have been able to help in some way! x

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  4. Nice post. Now, You have a new instagram follower from Spain. I will apply some of your tips in our account.

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, I'm glad you find it helpful and good luck growing your engagement too :)

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