Instagram has caught the eye of marketers everywhere. It’s relatively new, at least compared to standbys like LinkedIn and Facebook, and is growing at an incredible rate. It boasts a monthly active user base of more than 600 million, and on top of that, it has one of the highest engagement rates of any social media platform.
That makes Instagram especially attractive to marketers trying to better connect with their audiences, but anyone who’s spent time managing an Instagram account knows that those engagements don’t just unfold naturally. You have to earn them, but if you’re not familiar with the advantages and customs of the platform, you might feel lost in the beginning.
So how do you get more engagements, including likes and comments, on Instagram?
1. Use Strong, Solid Colors
Your first job is to stand out from the crowd. All your users will likely be following dozens, if not hundreds of other people and brands — many of whom they’re close to. Cutting through all that clutter isn’t easy, but if you don’t do it, you’ll never grab their attention, let alone earn their likes.
According to a study by Curalate, images with blue as a dominating color tend to get 24 percent more likes than any other color — but images that are dominated by a single color almost always outperform those without one. Make sure most (if not all) of your images feature shades of one strong color to help them pop out of the newsfeed.
2. Use Calls to Action
Just like any other online marketing strategy, if you want to see results, you need a strong call to action. Your landing page is only going to get conversions if you tell your users what to do (whether that’s signing up for an email list, buying a product, or submitting information).
Instagram operates by the same principle; if you don’t give your users a clear call to action, they’ll be much less likely to do anything. For example, if you want your users to go to your site, give them a good reason to (you’ll have to include your link in your profile since Instagram doesn’t let you post links directly). If you want them to like photo, offer a conditional message such as “like if this has happened to you.”
3. Encourage Discussion
One strong call to action that encourages multiple levels of engagement is a request for discussion. You could state a strong opinion and invite a contrasting viewpoint, or simply ask your users a question — the goal is to get users talking amongst themselves.
Once you’ve gotten two or three comments, the comment feed should do a good job of attracting more comments all on its own. When the discussion is roiling, you can get involved as the brand and engage with those users directly — just be careful not to get too political or controversial.
4. Use the Right Hashtags
When used correctly, hashtags are a powerful conduit to achieve more visibility for your posts. People use hashtags to find images fitting certain themes, so any hashtags you use can improve your images’ chances of being featured in those search results.
However, be wary not to over-stuff your image captions full of hashtags; if you use too many, or use some inappropriately, you could turn users away rather than encouraging more interaction.
5. Include Faces
Faces are the first place we look when meeting someone new, bonding with someone, or trying to recognize someone from afar; it’s no mystery why we’re attracted to them. Faces trigger strong emotions in us, and help us form strong impressions of our environments.
Including faces in your Instagram images can encourage more social connections with your users, and therefore, more ongoing contact. Just make sure to use real people; not stock images.
6. AB Test Your Caption Strategy
Your captions can have a powerful effect on your users’ interactions, even though images take center stage on Instagram. Pay close attention to how the length of your captions, your choice of words, and your intonation seem to affect the likes and comments each of your posts receives.
The pattern may not be clear at first, but over time, you’ll notice some factors that clearly resonate with your audience.
If your brand is on platforms other than Instagram (as it should be), make good use of cross-promotion. Share your Instagram posts on your Twitter and Facebook profiles at a minimum, as users there will represent different demographics and will have more commenting and engagement options.
If you network with social influencers, you may also be able to leverage them as extensions of your brand network.
8. Learn to Time Correctly
I’ve seen conflicting reports on what the “best” time to post on Instagram is; some argue it’s weekdays between 7 and 10 pm, while others insist that Sunday night is better. Your results may vary, so take the time to learn how your specific audience reacts, and customize your strategy to fit their needs. And be sure to mix it up every once in a while so your account doesn’t become too stale or predictable.
There’s no certain formula for creating an Instagram feed that elicits engagement, but these tactics can help you find the “sweet spot” for your target audience and brand. Commit to taking the best photos you can, post often, and experiment regularly; eventually, you’ll see the growth you want.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!