Here it is Ladies and Gentlemen – Part Deux of the Engagement Series. The Actionables. The Golden Nuggets. The Big Kahunas. (Okay, I’m done with the idioms.) If you haven’t read Part One about Engagement Basics, then I suggest you start there or this may get a bit confusing! You need to lay the foundation of the house before you can get to the roof, AM I RIGHT? (Actually I’m not sure if I’m right. It just sounded good.) For those of you that are new to The Em Files… Welcome! You’ve stumbled across my free series on how to organically and authentically grow your Instagram account. That’s right – FREE! Because gaining knowledge is the first step to wisdom but sharing it is the first step to humanity. So let’s get started shall we? Today we are focusing on Increasing Your Engagement.
The Big Bad Algorithm
If you read my post about Engagement Basics, then by now you know that Engagement is the sum of likes and comments on an individual post. You also know that it represents your followers loyalty level – how invested they are in you. But what you don’t know is that on February 8th, Instagram changed it’s algorithm. And since then engagement has suffered for EVERYONE across the board. Why did Instagram suddenly up and modify something that seemed to be working perfectly well for us all? Because they went to war with spammers. Instagram set out to remove automation tools (bots that auto-like and auto-comment) from their platform.
I know what your next question is going to be: If I’ve never bought followers or used a bot then why am I being effected? The simple answer is, these bots caused so much traffic that when they were shut down, so was any engagement that resulted from them. For example: If you’ve ever used hashtags like #dogsofinstagram or #homedecor then I can assure you that people were targeting their automations towards those hashtags. So when they were removed from the platform, so was all their engagement. Does that make sense? The reality is, the engagement that was lost wasn’t real engagement to begin with. And that’s where the good news kicks in you may have lost the bots but you didn’t lose your true followers!
Pro Tip: You probably didn’t even know bots were interacting with you – liking your stuff and auto-commenting. Because they were a drop in the bucket compared to your actual followers.
So how do we get our engagement back up now that Star Wars has left the building and hashtags lead to shadow-banning? Instagram gave us some hints in a statement that they released to their Facebook on February 1st:
Utilize The Story Feature
Instagram told us to be a storyteller. They may not have straight up said, “Use our story feature.” But Jimminy Cricket.. let’s put two and two together here! As human beings we use our five basic senses to navigate through life – sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. On Instagram how many of those senses are we using? I’d say one – sight. (No, tapping and swiping don’t count as touch!) Now add stories to the mix. BOOM! You’ve just introduced the sense of hearing and instantly doubled the amount of ways that I can connect with you. Not buying it?
Let me explain further. I’ve always been a storyteller. I can tell tales and spin sagas until my heart’s content. But until you’ve heard the pitch of my voice and the cadence of my speech, you have absolutely no idea what my words sound like when reading my captions. Why do you find my writing so relatable? Why do you feel like you’ve just chatted with a friend? Because you’ve heard me speak, you’ve seen my gestures, and you feel as if you know me. I get about 10 messages a week saying that your husband or child can tell that you’re watching my stories from the sound of my voice. Now that’s power and if you’re not using it, that’s one less reason for your audience to engage with you.
Before I move onto the next subject, let me just hammer this home. Why are you here? Because in my stories I told you that I created a blog series to help with Instagram growth. Not only did you have to swipe away from my stories, go to my bio, and click on the link that I provided to read this but 50% of you will leave a comment. Now that’s real engagement. And that’s the ability of stories.
Pro Tip: I directed you to engage with my blog. However, why not use your stories to ask your followers to engage with your posts? Also, make sure that you’re actually showing your face. I want to see the person behind the squares!
Post During Peak Times
It’s obvious why posting during peak times is critical, right? Because that’s when the majority of your followers are on Instagram to engage with you. Some of my most frequently asked questions are, “What is the best time to post?” and “How many times a day should I post?” While peak times vary based on location, I have found several things to be true. Instagram audiences are much more engaged during the week. Which make sense. On weekends they’re off apple picking, going to the movies, climbing mountains. Ya know, that kind of stuff! So here’s where we need to think logically. When during the week can my audience be on their phones? If you said BEFORE and AFTER WORK then 100 points to you! For the best posting times, check out this awesome graphic that took me an hour to make:
Now here’s the real kicker: if you want strong engagement you should be posting around the same time everyday. Why? Because just like my dog Opal, we are creatures of habit. If I know that my favorite Home Decor account Danielle from @fleeting_interest posts at 9am and 5pm every single day, I’m going to head over to her page at those times to see what color she painted her walls this week. Seriously, Danielle posts like clockwork and because of this she experiences a ridiculous amount of engagement and growth. Consistency is the ultimate key. Don’t have time to post twice a day? Me Freaking Either! Start with once a day at the same time.
Pro Tip: The amount of engagement you receive within the first hour of your post is critical. It decides whether or not you’re going to hit the Explore Page. What’s the best way to ensure that you’re receiving likes and comments within the first ten minutes? Head on over to @thedecorsocial where we have engagement posts every morning and evening.
Write Thoughtful Captions
There are people out there who will tell you that captions don’t matter until they’re blue in the face. As someone who relies on her words more than her pictures, I strongly disagree. Make your followers want to read. Make them slow down. Because again, didn’t Instagram tell us we should be storytellers? If captions weren’t important there wouldn’t be an option to write them. I spend just as much time creating a caption as I do styling a photo. And do you want to know what happens because of that? My followers engage:
For example, let’s look at the photo on the left. I’m betting that half of those comments are mine. (Because you should be answering every comment!) So 165/2= 83 comments from my followers. Now what if we divide that by the number of people who liked my post? 83/1274 = 6.5%. Almost 7% of the people who interacted with my photo, commented. Can you say the same about your posts? Are you writing engage-worthy captions? If so – YES! You are doing it right!
Maybe you’re not a good writer or you’re not funny… you don’t have to be. Tailor your captions to be uniquely yours. You have a platform and a chance to reach out to people – use it for something good. Whether you’re inspiring, witty, charming, or thoughtful, find a way to connect to your readers. Because yes, they’re reading. What’s my favorite trick in my bag? Call to Actions. Ask your followers questions. And not just, “How was your day?” Cause dang – if your kids don’t want to answer that question then your followers don’t either. Try something relatable like, “Anyone else losing their mind and wash their body with shampoo this morning?” (Yeah, that’s happened to me on more than one occasion.) This creates a dialogue. But don’t just stop at one post. Remember when I said consistency is key? Do it often, so that your followers start expecting these questions. This will result in more reading and more engaging.
Engage with Others
The last topic of the day is ENGAGE MORE. You need to give a little in order to get a little. Isn’t that how relationships work? I am the number one repeat offender for not engaging on anyone else’s posts. I focus so much on answering messages, e-mails, blog comments, and Instagram comments (all while supposed to be doing my full-time job) that I forget to engage with others. This is my shortcoming. Don’t let it be yours. There are a couple reasons why this is so important. First and foremost, if you are taking the time to like and leave comments that are thoughtful and MORE THAN FOUR WORDS then people are going to take note and return the favor.
Now let me tell you why this is the case. If you are in the Home Decor community most of the accounts that you follow are Home Decor. Is that safe to say? Because you want to see beautiful, inspirational photos popping up on your feed. So naturally, most of the people that you’re interacting with are Home Decor. Ask yourself this: how can I connect with my everyday followers who are looking to me for inspiration – the accounts that are private? I think this is the big question that people overlook. You can’t just go to their feed and drop them a comment. And even if you could, that’d be a little weird. So we’ve come full circle. The best way to engage more with followers that aren’t Home Decor accounts is to…? Have you figured it out yet?
I hope that was a bit of an AH-HA moment for you. You can’t connect with your private followers unless you give them a reason to engage. The best, most encouraging advice I can give is BRAND YOURSELF. Set yourself apart. Make yourself stand out. You may not be a business or a small shop but as an individual you can turn yourself into a brand! Nate Berkus and Em Henderson are two perfect examples of this. Be known for something. Make yourself accessible. Get your followers emotionally invested in you. Ask yourself, “How is this helping me to build my brand?” every time that you post something new. And if it’s not, then change it so that it is.
Still Need Help?
I hope this installment helped to get your gears going. As always, leave me a comment below with your thoughts and stay tuned for next week’s post!