7 ways to increase your views and engagement on Instagram
As with pretty much any social app, Instagram is governed by an algorithm. What that means in human language is that it surfaces and distributes some content more than others based on a set of ever-changing criteria. As much as it might cramp your style, the fact is that making nice with the Instagram algorithm will go a long way toward boosting your overall performance.
Marilyn Moser is the creator partnerships lead at Descript. In addition to advising creators on the best social media platform to use for each specific purpose, she’s also helped numerous brands fine-tune and target their marketing strategy. As someone who’s spent more than a few hours toiling away in the content mines, here’s the sage advice Moser had to offer on making the most of Insta.
- Face your audience. As an Instagram user, there are relatively few restrictions on what you can post. But what should you post if you’re trying to get those numbers up? “The truth of social media is, it’s all about people, stories, and community,” Moser says. No matter what you’re posting about, try as much as possible to center on human stories and human faces. Or, as Moser puts it, “Bringing the face in is going to make the algorithm happy.”
- Post more videos than photos. “[Instagram] started many years ago now as a photo-first app, and it’s [gone] completely the other way,” Moser says. So if you’re debating between image or video and both are viable options, Moser recommends going with the video. For one thing, video is more engaging, and — you guessed it — the algorithm will love you for it.
- Use Instagram’s shiny new toys. OK, so Instagram loves faces and videos. But, according to Moser, the app also loves to push the newer features out — and it rewards early adopters. While Instagram Reels and Stories aren’t fresh-out-of-the-box new, try to diversify your output with both standard in-feed Instagram posts and videos on Instagram Stories. “If you can stay on top of things like that and get experimental with it, you’re going to notice an increase in reach,” Moser says.
- Get to know your audience. Learn your followers’ likes and dislikes. Get inside their heads. The better you understand your follower base, the more you’ll be able to serve them the content they want. A big part of that is doing basic homework. Start by finding out what times of day your followers are most active, and let that guide your posting times. Moser cautions against following a one-size-fits-all model here, since every audience is different. Play around with when you post and follow up by checking your analytics. For example, Moser says, if you post similar content at noon and 5 p.m., “and the 5 p.m. one really took off … that’s gonna be your new sweet spot.”
- Get to know yourself. You need to figure out your brand and stick to it if you want to get anywhere in this crazy ‘grammin’ world. “The way these apps are designed is to feed outward,” Moser explains, “to really reach the niche” that your brand fits within. Yes, you’re a special flower, but try to pick a lane or two that makes it easy for the system to filter your content to a target audience.
- Talk to your followers in a real way. To really grow your follower base, according to Moser, it’s got to be more than that one-sided relationship. Don’t just post. Keep an eye on your comments and respond to followers in a substantive way. Similarly, another way to boost engagement is to prompt your followers with questions that make them more likely to respond. If you really want to go the extra mile, go for big swings like giveaways that encourage talkback or sharing. “All of those things work together to make people want to keep coming back to your page,” Moser says.
- Make good content. Sometimes the best approach is the most obvious one. If you post high-quality content, more people will engage with it. Aside from the various tricks and strategies you can use to make sure people see your content, Moser says, “All the rest boils down to what your actual product is.” Remember that Instagram is primarily a visual platform, so whether you throw stuff to the main feed or post Stories, don’t get so caught up in playing the algorithm game that you forget to create stuff your followers will actually like.
Once you’ve gotten a taste of success, you might wonder where to go from there. One other method Moser suggests thinking about is a well-targeted Instagram ad campaign. It might seem counterintuitive, but if you’re willing to shell out actual money to serve your content to people, organic reach can follow. Of course, your Instagram presence can’t be all paid — unless you’re Scrooge McDuck-level rich. For everyone else, a few well-placed ads could give you the extra boost you need once you have a solid grasp of who you are and who your audience is. Just remember: You may be able to fool the robots screening your content, but you can’t fool the actual people who are watching it.