Recent COVID and work-from-home restrictions have been a boon for Instagrammers and other social media marketers … if they were giving followers valuable, engaging content. While followers were locked inside, engaging visual content connected those wannabe travelers into global communities. But it takes a lot more than pretty pictures to grow your Instagram account.
You need a carefully crafted strategy.
For instance, you need to know how to use tags and captions, what day and time of day to post, how often to post, and what kinds of posts resonate with your audience—so many things to consider.
But you don’t have to figure all of that out for yourself. Hubspot and Mention’s “Instagram Engagement Report: 2022 Edition” gathered engagement insights from 110 million Instagram posts from 1 million users (85 million posts from North America and 1.6 million from the United Kingdom and Ireland). (In their report, Hubspot and Mention define engagement as the total number of likes and comments on a single post divided by the number of followers a user has. That number shows “how engaged a user’s following is, big or small.”)
The 59-page report digs DEEP into the Instagram user community and provides info on top accounts, average follower counts and engagement rates, hot spots for global activity, and the content users engage with most. That’s a lot! For now, let’s cover the top five takeaways you can quickly apply to get an engagement boost in your account.
What are 5 things you can do now to increase engagement on Instagram?
- Tap into influencers.
- Use hashtags, tags, captions, and @mentions to expand reach and engagement.
- Expand your content type.
- Schedule your posts for nights and weekends.
- Measure and adapt.
First, know your benchmark
Instagram account owners saw dramatic YOY increases in followers: In 2020, more than half (52%) of all accounts had 100-1000 followers. In 2021, only about a third (34.7%) had 100-1000 followers. That shift was because many of those accounts had grown to the next bracket of 1000-10,000 followers, which now represents 45.7% of all accounts, up from 38% in 2020.
Now, get your benchmark so that you can set goals and measure growth. To calculate engagement, first get average overall engagement by adding the total number of likes and comments, divided by the total number of posts. Then divide that number by the number of followers to get your engagement rate.
Instagram’s average engagement rate is 5.86%. To set your goal, you might choose a percentage somewhere between your current engagement rate and Instagram’s average.
Takeaway 1: Tap into influencers.
There are 1.4 million active Instagram users worldwide, so there are plenty of followers to go around. According to the report, over half of Instagram’s most popular users have 100 million followers. Developing a strategy to tap into their influence is a good first step to expanding your reach.
After @instagram, the eight most followed accounts are:
@natgeo (196.2M followers, #12)
@nike (186M followers, #15)
@realmadrid (107.3M followers, #26)
@fcbarcelona (103.5 followers, #28)
@championsleague (85M followers, #32)
@nasa (71.8M followers, #35)
@nba (61.8M followers, #590)
The report also identifies top North American, UK, and Ireland celebrity and brand accounts to give you a jump start on locating influencers to target. But don’t just look for influencers with lots of followers, says Philippe Kattou, from Hivency. “Target influencers who share your values and your world.”
Your influencer strategy doesn’t have to start out as a paid affair. Try the tips below to get your content in front of an influencer’s audience as a first step. When you do have the budget to start a paid influencer campaign, test your ideas with a nano-influencer.
Takeaway 2: Use hashtags, tags, captions, and @mentions to expand reach and engagement.
One way to get your content in front of a broader audience is the use of captions, hashtags, tags, and @mentions. I’ll start by tagging versus @mentions because those seem to cause the most confusion because Instagrammers use the terms interchangeably. They are separate actions, but both get the attention of another Instagram user.
@mention (put the @ symbol in front of another Instagram user’s name) another user in your comments or in your caption to get their attention. In the same way, click on your image and type the @ symbol followed by an account name. Select the account name you want to tag. The tag is now clickable, so your followers can visit the tagged profile. The @mentioned and tagged user are alerted that they have been included in your story.
“Unless you already have a large, established following (and even if you do, it can’t hurt), tagging multiple accounts is the best way to get people seeing and engaging with your content. Just make sure not to be spammy and keep things relevant!”
Hashtag use is a hotly debated subject. The report advises readers to use them liberally. But Instagram Creator’s Account recommends three to five hashtags per post. My best advice is to test what works best with your audience.
Takeaway 3: Expand your content type.
Instagram started out as a wannabe photographer’s paradise. Grab your smartphone, snap a shot (didn’t even have to be a great shot!), play around with the Instagram filters, post with a fun caption and hashtags and voila, you’re an Instagram star! Well, this social media teenager is all grown up now. Today, you can post video in four different formats, including live.
But if you are a diehard still photographer, consider putting your photos in carousels. Hootsuite found that “on average, their carousel posts get 1.4x more reach and 3.1x more engagement than regular posts on Instagram.”
Takeaway 4: Schedule your Instagram posts for nights and weekends.
“People love Instagram in the evenings when they’re unwinding after work or getting ready for bed. Since most of us work during the day, these findings are pretty intuitive.”
The best time of day to post is between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Inversely, the worst time is between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. Don’t forget to schedule some posts for the weekend, especially Sunday as it’s the day with the best engagement.
Just as with all other takeaways from the report: Test this with your audience. If you are providing tips for using Excel or other business-related content, it may have peak engagement during office hours.
“Consistency is key. Whenever you start, give your audience something to look forward to,” says Julia McCoy, CEO at Express Writers.
Bonus Takeaway: Measure, adapt, measure, adapt
To be honest, it’s not mentioned much in the report, but you can’t win at anything unless you track your progress and make changes based on what’s working and what’s not working. Instagram has onboard analytics tools that provide insights into your account, including reach, engagement, followers, and Instagram ad performance. You can also get more robust analytics with downloadable, customizable reports and other rich reporting from providers such as Hootsuite, Iconosquare, and SproutSocial.
Once you’ve chosen your reporting platform, read this post by Zontee Hou titled, “Which Social Media Measurements Matter Most? It’s All in the Customer Journey.” She maps the various metrics you should be tracking along the customer journey.
Take these five tips to heart when planning your Instagram strategy.