We are talking about Instagram engagement so much that you must’ve rolled your eyes. But why is that such an important topic? Instagram algorithms are more complicated than ever. And while that is constructed the way it is to boost “real” brands which are greatly supported by their audiences, small businesses are struggling. Their audience is not extremely big, reach is not as they would want it to be, likes are ok but that brings nothing, and random and automated comments made of one word or an emoji don’t help at all. Apparently, the comment needs to have at least 4 words to be recognized as valuable engagement by Instagram.
A practical example
When I was first starting to learn about how Instagram marketing works, I wanted to learn it first hand. So, I created 3 different business accounts. Let’s call them Account 1, 2, and 3 for the purpose of this post.
- Account 1 was meant to promote “girly stuff” and I posted mostly empowering quotes and photos and videos of girls dancing, smiling, etc. I used pink, purple, and teal colors.
- Account 2 was some kind of a pet “blog”. I created posts with useful tips on how to take care of your pets, promoting adoptions, and creating free downloadable cartoons and infographics.
- Account 3 was made of mere photos of the city I live in, and posts were written in my native language. I have personally taken all photos and edited them with Adobe Lightroom, but I am not a professional.
I have posted every day (on each account) for 3 months and followed approximately the same amount of people. Also, I used hashtags I found by using methods we explained in the post Instagram Hashtags Research: Strategies for Beginners. I was pretty surprised by the results.
Account 1 was a total fail. I got briefly 150 followers. The engagement on that Instagram account was next to nothing: one or two likes per post, no comments, and two saved posts (in 3 months!). What I got was a lot of DMs, mostly generated requests for collaboration. And a few offers from sugar daddies. (No, I’m not joking.) I learned that what I post has no value at all. It’s cute and it was pleasant to see, but Instagramers are looking for something they can relate to, the real stories, and real people who stand behind the account they manage.
Account 2 gained 860 new followers and quite a high number of likes per post. Because, who doesn’t like cute pets, right? But again no comments. Even my posts were educatable and had purpose and value, this time the problem was the wrong audience. Most of these followers were people who created accounts for their own pets. They followed me because they wanted me to follow them back, and we were in the same niche. But they were primarily interested in their own engagement and audience, not caring to communicate with me.
Account 3 was the biggest surprise for me. I got 630 followers, which doesn’t seem too much, but these people were truly interested in what I do! There is no single post that is not commented on. I got several requests to resharing my content and numerous DMs about how they like the photos. And one guy who is asking me who I am, and can we meet for coffee. (Again, not joking.)
Why did that happen?
The content problem
Even the content on the first two accounts wasn’t bad, it was somewhat generic, made in Canva. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Canva, use it every day and I think it’s an awesome tool. But, on the other hand, the photos posted on the third account were “real” photos. Someone (in this case me) was there, with the camera, on the streets that these followers are passing by every day. That added some extra value to it.
The audience problem
The number of followers on the third account was not so high, and more than half was from the city where I live. The rest was mostly from the same country. A very small amount of followers was from different countries, which was expected, but it turned out to be a great thing. People liked to read captions in their native language (although there is a translation option), about the things they consider close and familiar to them. They felt a higher need to engage in that content. That gives hope to small, local businesses.
We have a post How to find highly targeted leads on Instagram which explains how to find a similar audience.
What have we learned about Instagram engagement?
That it is possible to affect your number of comments (and other Instagram engagement actions), of course. And that you don’t have to be influencer-superstar to connect with the audience you need for your business.
So, I’ve put together a short list of tips I used to improve my comments:
- Put a lot of effort into creating original, valuable posts. It is not always easy to do something different, but it’s possible.
- Ask questions. And make sure that questions are relevant to the topic of the post, and your brand overall. Sometimes, no one will answer. But sometimes, they will. That will help you to determine what your followers like.
- Engage back. Always respond to comments, even if it’s just a simple “thank you”. Your followers will be more motivated to leave more of them in the future.
- Comment on other’s people posts. What you give is what you get.
I hope that these tips will help you boost your comments and engagement altogether. It will take some effort, but if you use them wisely it will pay off in the long term. Good luck!