Instagram Engagement Strategies to Beat the Algorithm

Noticed your Instagram engagement plummeting recently? Likes not coming as easily as they used to? Comments less frequent?

You’re not the only one. Across the board, influencers and social media managers have reported that their accounts have been seeing lackluster metrics, despite no changes in steady strategies.

This might be because of many things. With the discover feed feeling more like advertising space, Instagram experimenting with hiding likes and offering little guidance for companies, the platform has become a guessing game for marketing professionals.

Luckily, there’s something that is algorithm-proof: genuine connection with your audience. Here are a few Instagram engagement strategies to get your stats back up and climbing.

Strategy One: Use Instagram like an Instagrammer.

Despite its immense capabilities as an e-commerce platform, Instagram was built (and continues to be) a social network.

If you have your own personal Instagram account, you know that there’s still genuine enjoyment in scrolling, discovering, liking and interacting with other users. Try and rediscover that with your brand account. You’ll see the results reflected in your engagement!

1. Give to Get: Comment, Like & Share

via GIPHY

Instagram is rolling out a controversial plan to hide likes, but until then, they are still powerful currency when communicating with other users and followers on the platform.

Get into the habit of commenting on other prolific or responsive users. If likes do indeed go the way of Periscope (RIP), users will remember the brands and accounts that developed genuine relationships with them through interaction.

Its effort-intensive, and having a member of your team dedicating part of their day to social media management will help.

2. Find and follow other accounts you’re interested in.

It’s time to rediscover the ‘Discover’ feed and make fresh new connections. See who else is active in your circles and your spheres: who is giving the best advice, producing the most creative content, who has the freshest voice.

If they’re great at using IG, you can learn a thing or two from their feed, and if they’re actively engaging (which will be more important to drive success on the platform), then you can both benefit more a reciprocal arrangement.

3. Try an Insta-Takeover!

This is a fun and popular technique that lets a staff member, influencer, thought leader or celebrity take over your account for the day, whether that's for straightforward posts or through stories or live streams.

This does two things: it brings their followers to your account and brings your followers to their work (heightening both your profiles), and takes the work off of you scheduling content for a day!

It can also be incredibly effective. Check out this partnership between Stella Artois and Matt Damon, working for Water.org.

Coming far second to the fact that this was a great thing for the brand to support, the campaign was a hit, by Stella's standards and others.

We know it can feel risky ceding control of your account, so if it helps, you can establish some quick and friendly guidelines over what guest takeovers are prohibited from posting (e.g. no using profanity, no promoting political agendas).

Strategy Two: Use Instagram Like an Extension of Your Service

In a hectic month, it’s easy to throw up some motivational quotes, some smiling staff photos and call it a content strategy.

However, Instagram is a content distribution channel, and although many users are scrolling past very quickly, some are actively paying attention to what’s appearing on their screens, some are actively being funneled to your website, some are actively converting: these are the users you need to be thinking about and catering to.

Treat Instagram with the same care you would your Facebook or your blog, and watch your ROI increase.

4. Do a Content Audit

Do a thorough check of what’s really hit home with your audience - not just what got the most likes, but what sparked discussion, what stories people stayed on rather than skipped, what polls people answered, what posts got you follows (or unfollowed!) and learn from that.

Our audiences don’t necessarily respond to the same content we do, and we can learn a lot from keeping our ears open and being mindful that our personal opinions aren’t always the best barometers for what the most interesting topics are.

5. Hold contests and giveaways.

Contests? On Instagram? Yes! An underestimated tool, contests and giveaways are a proven way to get your audience excited about your products and brand. As powerful as they are, social media contests need effort and some degree of expertise to run.

Within this one strategy, there are myriad possibilities: you can do giveaways, hashtag contests, photo contests, caption contests: there are so many ways to generate interests and interaction with your users, and this remains one of the top ways to leverage Instagram's set up and capabilities for your company and your followers.

6. Use it as an Engine for User Generated Content

Hashtags are one of the best ways to harvest user-generated content from dedicated followers. By repeatedly using your own hashtag and encouraging others to use it, you can build loyalty and connect your product with a movement.

Take #AerieReal, for example. The brand has built up a reputation and an image around making clothes for women of all sizes and shapes. Their models are known for representing real women from all walks of life - from size to ethnicity to neurodiversity.

Their hashtag #AerieReal encourages women to celebrate what makes them unique, and women have contributed while wearing Aerie’s products.


Strategy Three: Use Instagram As a Creative Outlet

Initially, the platform’s square photos and grid layout may seem restrictive, but Instagram’s restrictions give you ample room to be innovative and captivating with your brand image.

7. Get playful with your feed

We’re consistently amazed at the creativity we see on Instagram feeds! For some inspiration, check out SkedSocial’s guide to Instagram Aesthetics.

For two examples, check out how Boss Babe Inc, a motivational brand for women, alternates between pink and white squares for a checkerboard effect, which is a highly effective aesthetic, and a great tactic for brands which may not have a lot of photo content, but want to keep up a consistent posting schedule.


On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Mr. Doodle’s series: he’s great at doing clear, high quality, similar themed posts. While his doodles could seem repetitive if he kept posting the same thing, he’s great at mixing it up by changing the angle or focus of his posts but keeping the overall feel of his account pleasing, playful and cohesive by maintaining a theme for a limited period, then moving on.


8. Start experimenting with IGTV

Although the platform was launched in 2018, it has yet to find a distinctive audience or establish itself as a reliable source for certain niches or popular markets. The platform is new and still in its potential stage - one that is also undergoing massive shifts.

The great aspect of this is that it represents a rare opportunity: the chance to get access to a massive audience and the chance to take real creative risks with your brand. For creative brands, IGTV offers a much greater breadth of expression. Videos can be up to 10 minutes long. For verified accounts or accounts with large followings, videos can be up to an hour.

They can be portrait or landscape, and decently high resolution.

Check out The Economist’s use of IGTV:


Also, MTV’s 60-second drawing series, which had celebrities sketching their own album covers in less than a minute. It’s a simple concept, and takes almost no set-up to execute, but is captivating and showcases the celebrities and MTV’s brand. See, for example, Lizzo drawing the cover for her album ‘Juice’.


Summary

This might seem overwhelming at first, but the key is to start slow and work these strategies into your workflow, rather than starting them all at once.

As a recap, here are the steps you can take to boost your engagement strategy.

  1. Give to get: Comment & Like
  2. Find and follow other accounts you’re interested in.
  3. Try an Insta-Takeover!
  4. Do a Content Audit
  5. Hold contests and giveaways.
  6. Use it as an Engine for User Generated Content
  7. Get playful with your feed
  8. Start experimenting with IGTV

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Written by Farahnaz Mohammed

Farahnaz (you can call her Farah) is a content marketer at Wishpond, with a background in journalism and a love for digital marketing, travel and dogs. You can find her on twitter @FarahColette.