Your Instagram engagement rate is the new “it” number. As I shared in this post, there are now three numbers that matter more than followers. And hint: yes, they all have to do with engagement!
(ps. want to find your Instagram engagement rate? It’s the # of likes + comments received on a post / divided by / the # of followers at the time.)
Followers? Sure, they’re important, but with the Instagram algorithm changes it’s all about good quality followers that actually care about and engage with your brand.
And as it turns out, Instagram really likes comments… they’re kind of becoming the new currency as it shows real interest, since it takes more time than a few double-taps and because it’s harder to automate.
If you’re not aware, Instagram’s been seriously cracking down on the use of ‘IG bots’ to automate Instagram likes/comments to help clean up the spammy accounts. Plus, using one of those bots to leave comments often makes you look incredibly odd when you’re shouting “so inspiring!” when I simply asked a question about your favorite scheduling tool… (but that’s a conversation for another day)
So, what’s the trick to increase Instagram engagement that everyone’s forgetting?
It’s actually dead simple. Stop killing the conversation!
Just like you want to be writing engaging captions, don’t forget to be just as charming when replying to comments left on your posts 😉
Because every comment counts… including yours!
So take the time to respond back as if you were in person. If someone gave you a compliment face to face, would you just say thanks and walk away? Or worse yet, stare back at them and say nothing at all? Of course not!
Yet so often I see accounts reply back with a simple “thanks!” or “it’s in my shop!” …which pretty much stops a conversation dead in its tracks.
Or the worst – they mass reply back to everyone tagging them and throwing a “thanks all!” out there which makes everyone feel a bit un-special. Plus, you’re not doing yourself any favors by short changing the number of comments your post could have received.
OR the actual worst… giving no reply at all! I mean seriously, how long would you stick around and talk with someone if they never said anything? #awkward
So my challenge to you is simple: Don’t kill the convo before it even begins.
Think of how you’d respond in person and give a little more back. I’ve had fantastic conversations with people and it’s honestly so refreshing to actually “chat” on Instagram versus the usual drive by commenting.
Plus, I’ve seen amazing results as my average comments per post has grown!
A few ideas for commenting on Instagram:
- Say thanks and tell them more about the product/image/story you shared
- Respond back with a comment about them (you can easily check out their account)
- Ask them a follow-up question
- Share a funny story about what you posted
- Respond directly to their comment if they mentioned something specific
One question I received when I shared this on Instagram was “What if they just leave an emoji or something super simple like “cute!” Same rules apply?” (thanks Stacy!)
As I mentioned earlier, this has become really prevalent with the increased use of auto-bots on Instagram. Crappy little comments that don’t quite relate or definitely don’t add to your story at all. So what’s a girl to do?
I say, go ahead and reply anyway!! Chances are they may be “bots” or people quickly going through and commenting (I mean hell, sometimes I really do just wanna 😍😍😍 *heart eye emoji* the shit out of everything); but it still helps with your engagement if you take the time to respond (win!) and I think it shows true customers that you’re responsive.
Just be sure your response is longer than 3 words as rumor has it Instagram is no longer counting comments less than that! Plus, people are usually more comfortable initially leaving a comment when they see others already have, so really they’re helping others work up the nerve. So worst case scenario: you help increase your Instagram rate. Best case scenario: they come back to reply and actually spend more time with your account. I’d say try it!
10 More Tips to Increase Instagram Engagement Rate
1 | Get a Little Vulnerable
It’s amazing what can happen when you open up a bit. No, you don’t (and shouldn’t) share all your family secrets. But share a little more than you’re comfortable with when it’s something that would resonate with your audience. People want to feel a connection and sharing something a little personal helps open up that relationship.
2 | Vary Caption Lengths
Keep your followers on their toes! We all get used to endlessly scrolling sometimes, so varying your captions keeps your account fresh and interesting. Sometimes a huge story is needed and other times a fun witty pun will do.
3 | Make Friends!
Finding a few buddies (or a whole shop squad if you will…) can make the Instagram world a little more fun. We all like to see friendly faces we recognize and building a rapport will a few folks means you’ll always have a few friends you can count on to support your posts, start the comments off, or just show up for you each day.
4 | Always Comment Back
Always! I obviously went into this quite a bit above, but seriously… try it out for a week and let me know what happens. I think you’ll like it.
5 | Ask Questions
Often people need to be “prompted” a bit… some still feel a little awkward about chatting with strangers online (not in a creepy AOL chatroom sense, but you get it) so opening up the door with a question shows you want + are looking for them to say something. Much easier!
6 | Encourage Them to “Tag a Friend”
Not only can this help you grow your followers since it’s a recommendation of sorts, but they’re also likely to leave a comment to tell their friend why or share a laugh about something.
7 | Include Your Hashtags Immediately
Previously, you could throw hashtags in even on an old post and it’d pop up on the hashtag feed by when the hashtag was added. That little gem is now gone as Instagram got wise to it. So now images are sorted by when they were originally posted, regardless of when you add the hashtag. So if you forget to do it for 30 mins, your post will show up in that hashtag feed 30 mins back and you’ll potentially miss out on being found.
Are your hashtags pulling their weight? Find your best hashtags with this guide.
8 | Know Your Best Content
Kinda makes sense, right? But it’s important to regularly review your best performing posts and draw conclusions on why they outperformed others. Was it the image style? Or a particularly good caption that struck a nerve? Maybe a mix of both? If you’re able to find patterns, make note of what your audience responded to and try to replicate that going forward.
Want to easily find your best posts? Iconosquare rates them by most liked, commented and overall most engaging. You can easily view your top four for each category. You can get an inside look at the analytics in this post.
Here’s an example:
If you’re interested in Iconosquare, you can use my affiliate link to save 20% off the yearly Plus plan, just $43.20 for the full year (works out to a coffee a month, $3.60)
9 | Post at the Right Time
While there’s some research about the overall best times to post on Instagram, I still advise testing out a few times and figure it out for your particular audience. Think through their average day… are they shuttling kids to school and busy preparing lunches in the morning so they probably won’t check until midday or later? Or are they sitting on a train commuting to work killing time on Instagram? Test a few different times morning, afternoon, and night to find your ideal time!
Again, Iconosquare can help you easily identify your “most engaged” time to post or if you have the IG business account, they also share optimal hours.
Below is an example from Iconosquare, the darker the square, the better the engagement.
10 | Create a signature look
I’ve talked about this a few times before, but it can also help with engagement! When your customer is quickly scrolling through and just knows its your image before they even see your account name, they’re instantly more likely to like or engage with it to see what you’re up to!
What do you think? My challenge to you is to reply to every comment for the next week with a thoughtful, conversation starting mindset and see where it takes you!
Then come back here and let me know how it worked!
Feature image from Marlena Pearl Photography – She has a gorgeous stock shop, go check it out!
This was very informative and helpful. Thank you.
Glad you found it helpful Melissa! Let me know if you try it out!
Great post, Thank you! I will try out you advice next week 🙂
awesome! let me know how it goes 🙌🏻
hi Kate, I feel like I’m at the Kate Institute this afternoon, having emails with links is working 😉 I plan to work on the commenting back but also when I leave comments on others’ accounts doing more than an emoji. With the hashtags, should I put them in the caption or just be sure to immediately post them as the first comment? I see it done both ways and seem to be inconsistent in how I do it.
hahah ah Beverly, thank you!
YES – I think you’ll be happily surprised how much of a better response you’ll get by taking a few moments to leave a more thorough comment, you’ll definitely stand out!
For the hashtags – it doesn’t actually matter from my experience, I like the cleaner look of putting them in the comment, but it’s easier for scheduling just to leave some spaces between your caption + hashtags right in the caption field (to create space, add a * or like a dash or dot for 3-5 lines)