If you’re using Instagram for business, you know it’s more than just a platform for sharing your best product pics. With one billion people using Instagram every month, it’s a powerful tool to build your brand and cultivate an audience online.

But to reap the rewards, you don’t just need an audience: You need engagement. You need comments, shares, likes and other actions that prove your content resonates with the people who see it.

And engagement only works when it’s genuine — coming from real people who really care.

You’re not going to find any tips here about getting into an “engagement group” or “engagement pod,” buying likes, or anything like that. That just doesn’t work — and we should know! We tried it!

The reality is there’s no shortcut to quality engagement. You get out of social media what you put in. So take the time to craft that great post, encourage conversation, and genuinely connect with your followers.

Read on for proven ways to make an impact with your Instagram audience and build strong, lasting engagement organically. We’ve even included a free Instagram engagement calculator!

Bonus: Use our free 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 measures the interactions that your audience has with your content. It’s more than counting views or followers — engagement is about action.

On Instagram, engagement is measured by a range of metrics, such as:

  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Likes
  • Saves
  • Followers and growth
  • Mentions (tagged or untagged)
  • Branded hashtags
  • Click-throughs
  • DMs

Check out our complete list of social media metrics and how to track them here.

Actions like these evidence that people aren’t just seeing your content. They’re interested in what you have to say.

Why do we care about engagement?

First of all, it means that your content is making an impact on your audience. (They like you, they really like you!)

Secondly, strong engagement is a key factor in Instagram’s algorithm. The higher the engagement, the more likely the content will be boosted in the newsfeed, attracting more eyes and attention.

How to calculate Instagram engagement

Your Instagram engagement rate measures the amount of interaction your content earns relative to your followers or reach.

In other words, it shows the percentage of people who saw your post and engaged with it.

Depending on your social media goals, there are a few different ways to get to that number. You can calculate your Instagram engagement rate by impressions, posts, reach, or followers.

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

Use Instagram’s Insights tool, Hootsuite analytics, or another Instagram analytics tool to grab the raw data. Once you’ve got your stats, use our free Instagram engagement rate calculator to crunch those numbers.

Bonus: Use our free 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.

All you need to use this calculator is Google Sheets. Click the “File” tab and select “Make a copy” to start filling in the fields.

To measure engagement on a single post, input “1” in “No. of Posts.” To calculate the engagement rate of several posts, input the total number of posts in “No. of Posts.”

If you want an even easier way to calculate Instagram engagement, we recommend heading straight to your Hootsuite dashboard.

Hootsuite dashboard showing analytics for multiple social networks

Not only can you view all of your key metrics (including engagement rate) for Instagram and other social networks at a glance, but you can also:

  • Improve engagement rate. Hootsuite has integrated tools like Canva, a hashtag generator, and templates that help you beat writer’s block.
  • Save a ton of time by scheduling feed posts, carousels, Reels, and Stories ahead of time, even if you’re off the clock. Plus, bulk schedule up to 350 posts at once to avoid content gaps.
  • Reach more people by posting at the right time. Hootsuite will tell you the best time to post based on when your followers are the most active, so you always get the most engagement.
  • See which posts work best and measure your success with detailed analytics tools.
  • Simplify your planning with a calendar showing you all scheduled content for Instagram and other networks.

Try Hootsuite free for 30 days

What is a good Instagram engagement rate?

Instagram itself is coy about what a “good” engagement rate is. But most social media marketing experts agree that strong engagement is anywhere from around 1% to 5%. Hootsuite’s own social media team reported an average Instagram engagement rate of 4.59% in 2020.

Here are the global average Instagram engagement rates for business accounts as of October 2022:

  • All Instagram post types: 0.54%
  • Instagram photo posts: 0.46%
  • Video posts: 0.61%
  • Carousel posts: 0.62%

On average, carousels are the most engaging type of Instagram post — but just barely.

Follower count can also affect your Instagram engagement rate. Here are the average engagement rates per number of followers of Instagram business accounts as of October 2022:

  • 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.

Curious about engagement rates on other social networks? Check out Hootsuite’s Digital 2022 report (October update) for more performance benchmarking data.

How to increase Instagram engagement: 23 useful tips

Tip 1: Get to know your audience

It’s hard to make great content if you don’t know who you’re making it for.

The demographics of your target audience will help define the type of content you post, your brand voice, and even what days and times to publish.

For example, offbeat indie clothing label Fashion Brand Company targets people with a bold sense of humor. Both product offerings and the tone of its posts reflect that.

For more info on identifying your audience, check out our guide to conducting audience research.

Tip 2: Get authentic

Being honest and relatable is better than being perfectly polished on social media. Share content that goes beyond slick marketing campaigns. It’s time to introduce the real people and experiences behind your brand.

That might mean sharing behind-the-scenes footage or writing a cheeky caption. It might also look like taking ownership of any mistakes.

This meme shared by A Practical Wedding garnered thousands of shares and comments. Looks like their audience found the less-than-perfect joke about wedding culture ultra-relatable.

Most people appreciate honesty over perfection… after all, don’t you?

Find more tips for sharing your authentic side here.

Tip 3: Share great images

Instagram, in case you didn’t notice, is a visual medium. And while you don’t need to be an Annie Leibovitz to thrive on the platform, creating images that stand out from the news feed is important.

Even if you’re not a great photographer or graphic designer, there are a million tools to help you give your pic a little oomph.

You can edit photos directly in Hootsuite and add text and filters. (Or use one of these many other apps to take your Instagram posts to the next level.)

This image promoting Fast Company’s Creative Conversation podcast takes a standard headshot of model Ashley Graham and gives it a creative graphic treatment that helps it pop.

Tip 4: Post carousels

Once you’ve gotten the hang of creating eye-catching images, try posting a few with carousels. Carousels — Instagram posts with multiple images — are a great way to build engagement. (As luck would have it, we have some beautiful Instagram Carousel templates right here!)

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%).

The algorithm re-serves these posts to followers who didn’t engage the first time around. That means carousels give you a second (or third!) chance to make an impression.

Hack: Create your carousels in advance and schedule them for publication at the optimal time with Hootsuite. For step-by-step instructions, check out our guide to posting to Instagram from a PC or Mac.

Tip 5: Post video content

Video is both eye-catching and engaging. So engaging, in fact, that posts with video receive about 32% more engagement than images.

Here’s a video from Carly Rae Jepsen, sharing some images from a new photoshoot set to music. How can you look away?!

Don’t overthink it, though. Video content doesn’t have to be overly polished or perfectly edited. (Remember that “authenticity” tip from earlier?) Shoot now, give it a quick edit, and get it out into the world.

There are a million tools to help you combine scenes or add music or text. We recommend downloading a free or paid video editing app, like InShot or Magisto. We’ve got plenty of other suggestions on our list of the best Instagram apps for business.

Tip 6: Write strong captions

A picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words are… also worth a thousand words.

Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long and include up to 30 hashtags. Use ’em! Good captions add context and showcase your brand’s personality.

Nike tells a compelling story with its caption here and asks its followers to share their own stories in the comments.

Get our tips for crafting the perfect caption here.

Tip 7: Create saveable content

Creating reference material your audience will want to save in their Collections can also earn you a little engagement boost.

Instagram account So You Want to Talk About creates accessible reference material on complex topics. These posts are perfect for saving in a Collection or Story Highlight.

Add a “Save this post” call-to-action to a carousel post with tips, a how-to guide or a recipe video to encourage users to revisit this content later.

Tip 8: Go live

Using Instagram Live to stream live video is a great way to connect directly to users, share news and build engagement.

29.5% of all internet users between 16 and 64 watch a livestream each week. Your audience is there — give ’em what they want!

With Live video, you can answer questions live, welcome viewers by name and generally welcome your audience into your world in an intimate, engaging way. You can also build an ecommerce audience with Instagram’s Live Shopping feature.

Here’s our Instagram Live how-to guide for getting your broadcast going.

Instagram Live
Source: Instagram

Tip 9: Craft compelling content

Posting product pics every day will get a little old after a while. Mix it up with a varied content schedule.

Contests, polls, questions and quizzes break the routine and encourage your audience to get involved and active.

Hi Alyssa Comics, for instance, did a custom card giveaway to celebrate a follower milestone, prompting users to share and interact with the post.

Find more Instagram post ideas here.

Tip 10: Share audience content

Sure, treating your Instagram account like a one-way street is tempting. But social media is a conversation, not a broadcast. Make sure you’re listening and engaging with fans when they reach out.

One great way to do that 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.

The Las Culturistas podcast shared listener compliments of its 12 Days of Culture holiday countdown in its own Instagram Stories. A shout-out within a shout-out, like a little Stories Inception.

share audience content
Source: LasCulturistas

They’ll feel thrilled you were listening, and other followers may be compelled to tag you in their content.

Make sure you don’t miss a mention with the help of Hootsuite or other social listening tools for business.

Tip 11: Create custom stickers and filters

Sprinkle a little of your brand dust onto other users’ posts by making custom stickers and filters available in Stories.

Sephora launched a special “Holiday Beauty Q&A” AR filter for fans to use on their own Stories over Christmas. Features like this help spread the Sephora brand and build community.

Here’s a step-by-step for making your own AR filters here.

Tip 12: Respond to questions and comments

When the comments start flying in, it’s only polite to respond.

When you join the conversation, your followers feel seen, heard, and excited to chat with you again.

Sunscreen brand Supergoop prompts followers to share their favorite products in this post. But they also chime in to share recommendations and offer support for everyone’s choices.

To track any indirect mentions happening outside your page, just set up search streams on your Hootsuite dashboard. That way, you don’t miss a chance to keep the conversation going.

Bonus: Use our free 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.

Get the calculator now!

Tip 13: Get experimental

You’ll never find out what works best for your brand until you 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 metrics to see the impact of your grand ideas. Dig into our guide to social media A/B testing here.

Tip 14: Post consistently and at strategic times

The more you post, the more opportunities your followers have to engage. Commit to a consistent schedule to keep your feed fresh and your followers intrigued.

Of course, posting consistently at the right times is key, too. Because if you’ve got a post going up when your audience is asleep, you might struggle.

Here’s our guide to finding the best time to post on Instagram for your audience.

Tip 15: Drive traffic from other sources

Get your Instagram handle out there in the world everywhere you can. You can share it in your Twitter bio, include it in your email signature, and throw it in your company newsletter.

This London account (alas, not the city) uses its Twitter bio to drive attention to its Instagram handle and content.

London Twitter bio

The more people you point towards the platform, the more chances for engagement.

Tip 16: Start the conversation

You wouldn’t just wait to be spoken to at a dinner party (a fun one, anyways), right? Some of the time, you’d be prompting the conversation.

The same goes for Instagram. Responding to questions and comments is great; getting out there and starting convos on other posts and pages is even better.

Think of it as a balance of reactive (responding) and proactive (conversation-starting) action.

Tip 17: Create topical content

If there’s already a buzz around a current event or holiday, squeeze yourself into that conversation.

Taylor Swift’s pandemic albums got everyone talking about cottagecore, and clothing brand Farewell Frances took advantage of the opportunity. Tagging coats with #cottagecoreaesthetic allowed them to align themselves with the conversation.

If there’s a trending hashtag involved, you’ve got an instant hook.

Tip 18: Get active on Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories have incredible reach. Half a billion people use Stories every day, and 58% of users say they’ve become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Stories.

Satirical news site Reductress shares its cheeky headlines in posts and Stories. That means two different opportunities to capture readers’ attention.

Satirical news site Reductress shares headlines via posts and stories
Source: Reductress

Not only will people be watching, but with Stories, you can engage with stickers.

Questions, Polls and Countdowns are all opportunities to connect directly with your fans.

Here are some creative Instagram Story ideas to get you started. Plus, we’ve got all the hacks and features every master Instagrammer should know.

Tip 19: Add strong calls to action

Want more engagement on your posts? Sometimes, it just comes down to asking nicely.

Welks General Store didn’t just tell the world it had puzzles with this post. It gave specific information about how to purchase them.

When done with care, a compelling call to action can prompt activity, likes, responses or shares. Check out our guide to writing the CTA of your dreams here.

Tip 20: Harness the power of hashtags

Instagram hashtags are a double-edged sword. Used correctly, you can drive some serious traffic and build buzz. Overdo it, and you come off looking spammy.

Be thoughtful and strategic about the hashtags you use. You can use them to reach a specific community, join a trending conversation, push a campaign or identify your service offerings.

Illustrator Cecile Dormeau, for example, tags her sweet drawings with both art-related hashtags and mental-health ones.

The consensus is that 11 or fewer hashtags are the right number to look professional but not desperate. More info on making the most of Instagram hashtags over here.

Tip 21: Boost your posts

Getting your post in front of more eyeballs is a good way to increase the odds you connect with the right audience. You might even increase your follower count while you’re at it.

With a potential audience of more than 928 million users on Instagram, your next superfan could be out there, just waiting to discover what you have to offer.

Using Instagram ads or boosted posts can be a strategic way to get your name in front of the right people. Check out our Instagram ads guide here for more details on maximizing your reach.

boost posts to maximize reach
Source: Instagram

Tip 22: Slide into their DMs

Sometimes, the strongest engagement can happen in private.

Direct messages and story interactions are great opportunities to engage audiences and make direct connections. When someone reaches out in your DMs, make sure to reply and treat ’em right.

Tip 23: Embrace Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels joined the Insta fam in the summer of 2020 as an alternative to TikTok. With Reels, users can create and edit short multi-clip videos with audio and effects.

Drag artist Eureka O’Hara is using Reels here (well, a repurposed TikTok video within Reels, anyways) to promote an upcoming season of their show We’re Here.

Meta’s betting big on Reels, which means video posts are getting more love from the algorithm these days. More eyeballs mean thousands more people get to enjoy these sick dance moves.

Any new feature to social media tools typically gets a boost in the algorithm, so it’s in your best interest to try out the latest and greatest offerings. Reels are all over the Explore page, so embrace this new content form. You might just find yourself in front of some fresh faces.

Take a peek at ideas for memorable Reels here.

Whew! There you have it: your crash course on Instagram engagement. Check out our social media marketing guide for an even deeper dive into building a successful social strategy.

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.

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With files from Shannon Tien.

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