Ah, Instagram. The reason I got a smartphone. The app that has become anything but “instant”. In some ways I don’t even want to get started on this topic! But as someone who has educated dozens of creatives on how to effectively use Instagram, I want to take a little bit of time to talk about a few things you shouldn’t be doing, and how they hurt you. Let’s dive in.
Okay, I get that this is kind of a double negative so you’ll have to forgive me, but one of the chief complaints I hear from new clients is that people don’t engage with their accounts. And let me tell you something: it’s not the time of year. Even a couple months into 2021, people are busy in new and different ways. People are always busy. So no, it’s not because it’s summer or Thanksgiving or Spring Break. Now let me ask you this: Do you engage? Because if you’re looking for better engagement numbers, the accounts you follow and those that follow you are, as well. Stop complaining … and put in the time.
Here are a few ways you can improve engagement on your posted content:
- Be sure you’re posting relevant content
- Include calls to action in your copy. What do you want someone to do once they read your post? Should they visit your site? Save the post? Share a personal story? Leave a comment?
- Reply to those who engage with you. You’re not allowed to complain about engagement if you’re not engaging!
So, Start Engaging on Instagram
Wanna hear something crazy? Not only will engaging on Instagram make you feel good, but it will help you grow your following! If you feel like no one sees your posts, and your likes and comments are going downhill, you engaging can be a really easy way to see forward progress.
By simply leaving a sincere comment, others have a chance to see your comments and discover you! And yes, people are much more likely to follow those they can see are actively participating on Instagram than those that operate according to a post-only philosophy.
If you aren’t currently engaging intentionally, start with 10 minutes a day. Set a timer for yourself and only comment on and engage with other content on Instagram. Not only will it feel great to support others, but you’ll also be placing yourself in prime position to be found by their followers.
It’s up to you to change your approach. If you’re more intentional on Instagram, you’ll find that others are more likely to engage with you. They won’t feel like your call to actions are just words. Instead, they’ll begin to trust that you care about creating connections. You can stop reading all those random articles or Facebook threads about ‘beating the algorithm’. You’re welcome.
Forming Instagram Pods
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, an Instagram pod is a set group of accounts that are typically similar in some way (photography businesses, for example). They get together and agree to engage with each other’s content when they post (by liking, commenting, etc.).
3 Reasons Instagram Pods Don’t Work
When you’re engaging with other’s people content in this obligatory way, it can have an affect on how you yourself use Instagram. So instead of posting content that’s relevant to your followers, you’ll wonder “Am I doing this pod thing right?” every time you post. Joining a pod because you want more likes and comments isn’t going to do anything for your business. Instead of joining a pod, think about how you can create content relevant to your ideal audience!
Let’s chat about another problem with pods: they’re time-consuming. Pods take up your valuable time. Do you want to be engaging with these profiles? If you don’t, the Instagram algorithm will think you do and will only show you posts from your pod or similar accounts. While pods can hold you accountable to posting consistently, they also take up time that could be spent on more effective engagement. Worst case scenario, you get consumed only by what is happening within your pod and forget to look “outside”.
Finally, when you participate in a pod, the draw of comparisons becomes irresistible. Pods are fast-track roads to burnout. Does the beautiful photographer with the perfect feed pay her actual bills with her business? Is the interior designer whose clientele is in Los Angeles sucking the life out of you because your business base is in a small town in Arkansas? In the long run, Instagram pods don’t do anything for your confidence or mental health.
Instead of trying to beat Instagram at its own ‘game’ (spoiler alert: you can’t), focus on why you’re even on the platform in the first place. Do you feel like you have to be there or is your heart in it? If your heart isn’t in it, what are some actions you can take to change this and make Instagram an inspirational and supportive space?
Playing the Follow/Unfollow Game
I’m just going to say it. If you do this, you’re the worst. There are way too many “brilliant” businesspeople out there using this “strategy”. It’s not a strategy. It is dishonest. It’s gross. It’s slimy.
I’m not even going to explain how it works because I hate it so much. If you’ve fallen victim to this scam, you know exactly how it makes you feel. You think you’ve made a connection, and then – nothing. Ghosted. I’ve seen women I previously admired do this and not only have they lost my respect, I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll never work with them. How can you trust someone who engages in this type of conniving? It’s disheartening.
Instead, Engage With Those Who Already Follow You
When is the last time you checked out the profiles of the people who most recently followed you? Did you spend a few minutes liking their content? Have you spent any time commenting on their posts? Supporting other people is a gamechanger. If you’re not already, be sure you reply to any and all legitimate comments on your posts (I say legitimate because you shouldn’t engage with bots or spam accounts, and you should know how to spot them). I don’t care who you are. You’re never too cool or too big to do this. Show people that you appreciate them. When people see that you’re active, they’re more likely to continue to answer your future call to actions.
Research the hashtags that provide you with results. Follow those hashtags! Spend time in those hashtags engaging with other accounts that use those tags.
Utilize Instagram Reels & Instagram Stories
Use these tools to engage with your current followers! Post a poll, ask questions, respond to DMs, share an AMA (Ask Me Anything). Engaging in this way helps you be confident about what you post and what your followers engage with and want to see!
Any of my clients can tell you that when it comes to social media, I’m passionate about engagement. Followers are great, but an engaged following is more valuable than a large following. Even advertisers are wising up and starting to ask more about engagement numbers. Engaging in seedy practices like follow/unfollow won’t help you grow your audience in an authentic way. To be frank, eventually most people figure this out, too, and if enough people discover you doing this (or the wrong person does), your reputation will suffer. Community over competition, every time.
Instagram should be a platform where you grow and inspire. So next time you’re wondering if you should do one of the three bad practices I’ve listed in this post, I want you to think about using Instagram with heart and intention. Remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others …” The more you authentically and meaningfully pour into others, the more you’ll receive in return. Show up, make friends, and see how you grow!