Every brand on Instagram needs to understand how to create authentic, organic Instagram engagement. Posting content is great, but if no one likes, comments, or shares it, your account will flounder. You need engagement to tie your Instagram efforts to real business goals.
This post will dive deep into how you can increase engagement through legitimate strategies that reach real people (not bots). We’re not going to talk about buying likes or followers, except to say right here that you should not do that.
There’s real engagement out there waiting for you on Instagram. Here’s how to get it.
Bonus: Use ourfree engagement rate calculator to find out your engagement rate 4 ways fast. Calculate it on a post-by-post basis or for an entire campaign — for any social network.
What is Instagram engagement?
Instagram engagement is a measure of how many people interact with the content you post on Instagram. But it’s much more than just a metric. It’s actually a collection of metrics that together tell you how well your content connects with your audience, and how passionate your online community is about your brand.
Instagram engagement is important because it indicates people are stopping to interact with your content, rather than scrolling on by. It also indicates that something in what you posted connected with them and made them feel something about your post, or even your brand. Those feelings are the heart of brand loyalty.
Engagement is also a key ranking signal for the Instagram algorithm. A little early love for a post, Story, or Reel can help get it in front of more eyeballs, leading to even more engagement.
What exactly do we mean when we talk about Instagram engagement? On Instagram, engagement is measured by a range of metrics, such as:
We’ll talk about where to find those metrics and how to analyze them later in this post. For now, let’s dive into some tips for how to increase engagement on Instagram.
How to calculate Instagram engagement
Use the calculator below to find out your Instagram engagement rate by post.
Note: If you’re calculating your account’s total engagement, include information about all your posts (e.g total number of posts published, total number of likes, and so on). If you’re calculating the engagement rate of a specific campaign, only include the details of the posts that were part of the campaign.
Engagement rate calculator
If you’re looking for more detailed data or you want to calculate different kinds of engagement (like engagement rate by reach or engagement rate by impressions), download our free spreadsheet calculator that will do the math for you.
Or, better yet, start a free 30-day Hootsuite trial to easily track the performance of all your social channels in one place (so you can replicate what works and get more engagement). Hootsuite Analytics collects your stats from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok.
With Hootsuite Analytics, you can also:
Find out when your audience is online
Get personalized recommendations for your best times to post for each of your accounts
Easily view industry benchmarks and see how you compare to competitors
At its core, the engagement rate formula is pretty simple. Divide the total number of likes and comments on a post by your follower count (or post impressions, or reach) and then multiply by 100.
Engagement rate = (Interactions / Audience) x 100
15 ways to increase engagement on Instagram
1. Lean into Reels
If you’ve been paying any attention to Instagram at all this year, you know that Reels are the platform’s current favorite child. Reels are the easiest way to get your content in front of an audience that extends well beyond your current follower list.
Look at the jump in the number of accounts reached for my own Instagram account when I posted just one Reel earlier this month. And look especially at the huge jump in the dark blue portion of the bar that represents non-followers.
All those new eyeballs give your content a much greater chance of racking up likes, or even going viral. And if your Reels are compelling enough, they can draw new visitors to your Instagram profile, resulting in potential new followers and even more opportunities for engagement.
We’ll talk about specific Reels features to make your short videos more compelling in the next tip. But if they seem overwhelming, just start small. Reels don’t have to be complicated to make an impact. Here are some ideas for memorable Reels to get you started.
2. Experiment with different Reels features
Posting just about any kind of Reel has the potential to up your Instagram engagement, but for the maximum bump you need to increase watch time. That means you need to hook viewers in the first three seconds of the Reel and keep them interested throughout.
Some key Reels features to experiment with are:
Transitions: These quick cuts from one scene to the next allow you to create dynamic motion. Use the align tool for smooth cuts.
Timed text: Call out specific words or phrases or just label individual moments in your Reel.
Trending audio: Using trending audio in your Reel can hugely increase your exposure.
Voiceover: This works particularly well if you’re explaining or describing something, like a process or a recipe.
Templates: Starting with a Reels template makes it super-easy to sync your photo and video clips with an audio track.
Check out this video for our top Reels editing tips:
3. Focus on Instagram SEO
For a long time, getting your content seen was all about understanding the algorithm. We’re not going to tell you to ignore the Instagram algorithm. But we are going to tell you to put some energy into Instagram search optimization (SEO) as well.
Instagram SEO is all about getting your content seen when people search using keywords on Instagram. People who find your content through SEO are an ideal audience to increase engagement since they are specifically searching for what you provide!
To get the best search rankings, you’ll need to understand what kinds of words and phrases people use to look for content like yours. On that note…
4. Get to know your audience
It’s hard to make great content if you don’t know who you’re making it for.
For example, AllBirds knows their audience is particularly interested in the brand’s sustainability initiatives. Sustainability is their USP. So, while they do post pretty pictures of their shoes and clothing, they also dedicate a lot of space in their grid to talking up their environmental focus.
Another great way to learn what your audience wants from your Instagram content is to ask them. The polls and question stickers in Stories allow you to get real-time feedback (and bonus engagement!) from your loyal fans.
Stories in particular provide an excellent opportunity to connect directly with your audience through interactive features like questions, polls, and countdowns. This chance for followers to talk directly to you creates genuine two-way communication – aka engagement.
You might have noticed that Instagram is a visual medium. And while you don’t need to be (or have) a professional photographer to thrive on the platform, creating images that stand out is important.
To get engagement on main feed images, you need something that stops thumbs in their tracks and encourages followers to stick around long enough to like, comment, or share.
There are plenty of tools you can use to give your feed posts a little oomph. They also help you make your Instagram look consistent, so followers recognize your content and pause to see what you have to say.
You might also want to experiment with adding music to feed posts. It’s unclear yet how this new feature will affect engagement overall, but some simple testing should help you see how your own audience responds.
8. Post carousels
Once you’ve gotten the hang of creating eye-catching images, try posting a few with carousels.
Carousels are Instagram posts with multiple images – and they are a great way to build engagement.
Hootsuite’s own social team finds that their carousel posts get 3.1x more engagement, on average, than their regular posts. Globally, carousels have the highest average engagement rate of all types of Instagram posts (0.62%).
Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long. While short and sweet can sometimes be the best choice, don’t be afraid to take up space when you’ve got a good story to tell. No matter the length, good captions add context and showcase your brand’s personality.
10. Create informative content that inspires saves
Fact-based content like infographics and resource material can be useful for followers to save in their Collections. This is a powerful form of engagement because it means users will return to your content again and again, and may share it with their own followers too.
Add a “Save this post” call-to-action to a carousel post with tips, a how-to guide or a recipe video to encourage saves.
Social media is a conversation, not a broadcast. One way to engage with fans is to repost or share audience content. If someone tags your tequila brand in a post about a wild Margarita Monday, share that post in your story.
They’ll feel thrilled you were listening, and other followers may be compelled to tag you in their content.
If you want to share user-generated content in your main feed, make sure you get permission from the original creator, and be sure to give them credit. Using a branded hashtag is a useful way to collect UGC, but the hashtag alone does not imply permission to repost.
When the comments start flying in, it’s only polite to respond. Joining the conversation makes your followers feel seen, heard, and excited to chat with you again. Ignore them and they’re likely to ignore you right back in the future.
Make it easy on yourself and your team by using a tool like Hootsuite Inbox to share the load among team members, respond to public and private messages all in one place, and set up saved replies to simplify the work of replying to common questions.
Reach beyond your own account to engage with others in your niche as well. Comment on relevant posts within your industry, like posts from your top fans, and just otherwise look for ways to be a good Instagram citizen. When you share the engagement love, it comes back to you in spades.
14. Get experimental
The only way to find out what works best for sparking engagement with your brand is to test, measure and tweak.
The beauty of social media is that it’s made for experimentation. If something works, you know pretty quickly; if it’s a flop, lesson learned with little risk.
So get creative… just keep a close eye on your engagement metrics to see the impact of your grand ideas. Dig into our guide to social media A/B testing.
15. Create topical content
If there’s already a buzz around a current event or holiday, look for opportunities to join the conversation with topical content of your own.
If there’s a trending hashtag or trending audio involved, you’ve got an instant hook.
You don’t want all your content to be of-the-moment – evergreen content is also important for filling out your grid. But if you’ve got a hot take on a current meme or trend, put it together and get it out there fast while the subject is still getting attention.
Looking for inspiration? Instagram posts a trending Reels report every week on their @creators account.
At its core, the engagement rate calculator formula is pretty simple. Divide the total number of engagements with a post by your follower count (or post impressions, or reach) and then multiply by 100.
Engagement rate = (Interactions / Audience) x 100
Here are the global average Instagram engagement rates for business accounts as of October 2022:
Follower count can also affect your engagement rate. Instagram average engagement rates per number of followers for business accounts as of October 2022 are:
Fewer than 10,000 followers: 0.76%
10,000 – 100,000 followers: 0.63%
More than 100,000%: 0.49%
Typically, the more followers you have, the less engagement you get. That’s why “smaller” Instagram influencers with a high engagement rate are often a better bet for influencer marketing partnerships.
Increase your Instagram engagement rate using Hootsuite. Schedule and publish posts and Stories, respond to comments, measure your performance over time, and run all your other social media profiles — all from one simple dashboard. Try it free today.