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How to Get More Likes on Instagram (They Still Matter)

Whether or not you can see Instagram likes, they’re still an important engagement signal for the Instagram algorithm. Likes can help your posts get seen — here’s how to get more of them.

Alyssa Hirose January 9, 2023
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Likes are just one of Instagram’s many metrics that can be used to measure your success. Seeing how many likes a post, carousel or Reel has is one of the quickest ways to tell how well you’re doing.

But just how important are they? Do hidden likes still count? Should you buy likes on Instagram?

To answer that last question: No. Don’t do it. Buying likes on Instagram won’t work. The good news is, we’ve compiled tons of strategies for getting those hearts the legit way — the best things in like are free.

If you’re short on time, this video summarizes the most important tips from the list below:

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a fitness influencer used to grow from 0 to 600,000+ followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

Do Instagram likes still matter, even if they’re hidden?

They sure do! Likes matter as much as ever.

In case you missed it: Instagram announced in May 2021 that it would give people the option to hide public like counts.

Ever since, there have been two ways to go about hiding likes:

  • You can hide like counts in your personal Instagram feed (so that you don’t see how many likes others are getting)
  • You can hide likes on your own posts (so others can’t see how many likes you’re getting)

But whether we can see Instagram likes or not, the Instagram algorithm continues to work like it always has, according to the platform — and likes are one of the success metrics that help it decide whether a piece of content should be displayed to more people.

How to get more likes on Instagram: 24 tactics

1. Use the right hashtags

Using Instagram hashtags will help get your post in front of more users, leading to more likes. Once you use a hashtag, your post will appear on the page for that hashtag. That makes it easier for people to find you (and like your content).

Indochino Instagram post (wedding shots) featuring branded and contextual hashtags

This post from Indochino uses the hashtags #Indochino, #IndochinoWeddings, #WeddingWednesdays and #BlackFriday2022, making it very easy for users searching for wedding content (or Black Friday content) to find them.

2. Tag relevant users

Tagging other users in your IG posts will send those users a notification—and not only will tagged users usually like the post, they’ll also probably share it. More visibility = more potential likes.

This super artsy post required a collaborative effort from a poet, stylist and several ceramicists, and each of the creatives involved are tagged (and mentioned in the caption). This expands the post’s audience to all of the followers of all of the collaborators.

3. Write compelling captions

Instagram is a very visual platform, but it’s still a good strategy to use your words (after all, text is far easier for the algorithm to read than images are). Take time to write thoughtful captions to tell your audience more about your post — it helps to showcase a more well-rounded perspective of your brand. And Instagram users like that.

This reworked clothing maker puts a lot of work into her products, and she shares stories about the items in many of her captions. Her audience not only sees the final product, but also learns about the creation process (for example, that the coat above took over 8 hours to make).

4. Make a Reel

Even if videos aren’t your thing, try making an Instagram Reel. Reels are quickly taking over the platform, and have a higher Instagram engagement rate than still posts (and likes count as part of that engagement).

At first glance, this painter’s work would be better suited to a photo than a video — but instead of just posting a picture of the finished work, the artists showed their process in an interesting and engaging Reel.

5. Run a like-to-win contest

Appeal to the universal human love of free stuff and run a like-to-win contest to really get those <3s rolling in. There’s lots of excellent strategies for running a successful IG contest, but no matter what, you’re guaranteed to earn more likes if that’s part of a contest entry.

This giveaway asks users to like the post (in addition to tagging friends and following the page) in order to enter the contest. Tagging friends is another genius component of Instagram contests—tagged friends will be notified of the post, prompting them to also enter (and like).

6. Post good photos

Eyeroll, right? Obviously, one of the most basic ways you can get more likes on your photos is by posting photos that are good: think high-quality, well-composed, engaging images that are as shareable as possible.

This chicken sandwich is a good example. It really shows off the sando in all its juicy glory—tough for any foodie to resist liking. To create eye-catching, beautiful graphics, try using Canva right in Hootsuite Composer or one of these 21 other Instagram photo editing apps.

7. Post user-generated content

Posting user-generated content (with permission, of course) helps you to foster a stronger relationship with your target audience. Encourage users to post photos of your product and tag your brand, so you have plenty of great content to choose from.

For example, the photo above was originally posted by a vintage clothing brand that tagged Girlfriend Collective, the brand that makes the pocketed skirt. Girlfriend Collective reposted the photo (crediting the original poster) and earned some free—and funny—content showing off their product. It got 25 thousand likes.

You can encourage your followers to post user-generated content by creating a hashtag. That’s what actor Stephanie Hsu did to get people to post their Everything Everywhere All at Once Halloween costumes. Post-Halloween, there were over a thousand posts with that hashtag.

8. Post behind-the-scenes content

Not every photo and video that you post has to be perfect and polished—sharing some of your process, or behind-the-scenes content, gives your followers a more holistic view of your brand.

This carousel post (and the accompanying caption) goes in-depth into the process of how the creator makes her products. Her followers can better appreciate—and like—all of the work that goes into her handmade jewelry.

9. Host a takeover

Ask someone affiliated with your brand (an employee, partner, collaborator etc.) to take over your Instagram for the day and share a more personal side of the work that you do. This opens your content up to a wider audience, as the individual taking over your Instagram account will likely share the content on their personal feed, as well.

For example, the English National Ballet had one of their dancers take over their Instagram and share a little backstage magic. This works in the takeover-er’s (that’s the technical term) favor, too—they’re exposed to your audience, and vice versa.

10. Post content at the right time

You’ll get more likes on your post if you publish it when your followers are online. Use a tool like Hootsuite’s Best Time to Post feature to make sure that you’re posting at the optimum time for your audience.

Best time to publish on Instagram heatmap in Hootsuite analytics

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11. Embrace the memes

Show a more lighthearted sign of your brand (and convince Gen Z you’re not cringey) by posting relevant, relatable memes.

Memes don’t overtly advertise for your brand, but they’re fun, shareable and—if you do them right—hilarious. Chipotle nails the meme content on their Instagram feed, and earns tens of thousands of likes for their brilliantly bizarre posts.

12. Share posts to your Story

Since many Instagram users tap through stories instead of scrolling through their feed (and the Instagram algorithm sometimes means your posts won’t pop up on their feed, anyway), it’s a good idea to share new photos or reels to your Story.

Hers new reel sticker share post to story
Source: @hers

When doing this, it’s a good idea to give your followers some motivation to go to the actual post (and like it). This story from Hers shares a new reel with a “new Reel” sticker, encouraging viewers to go to the post itself to see the content. (If you’re looking for 32 Instagram Story ideas, we’ve got you).

13. Collaborate with other creators

No brand is an island. Collaborate with other creators or influencers in your industry to foster your online (and personal) community. In addition to making new friends, collaborating with others also helps further expand your audience and reach.

Nike’s collab with Naomi Osaka is a good example — the two work in related industries, so the partnership makes sense. Nike’s fans are introduced to Osaka, and Osaka’s fans see her support for Nike. It’s a win-win (and a like-like).

14. Be creative

Here’s an obvious but important bit of advice: as a creator, you’ve got to be creative. Sometimes, getting likes is as simple as coming up with a unique or clever idea.

Take this post from Pantone. It’s good marketing for the Pumpkin Pie and Pecan Pie colours, it’s a beautifully composed photo, and the idea overall is creative and fun. It’s got almost 40k likes.

15. Be funny

Why so serious? A little humour goes a long way on social media (see: Embrace the Memes) and it also creates a more well-rounded image of your brand.

The above post from Monday Hair Care nails a humorous voice, and also references the very-popular annual release of Spotify Wrapped. Relatable, funny content (example: “Your morning started with 2,786 hours sitting in your towel after showering) is super likable and super sharable.

16. Engage outside your feed

In its ongoing attempt to give the people what they want, the algorithm prioritizes Instagram posts from accounts that it thinks are “close.” How does it measure closeness? By monitoring how much accounts interact with each other.

So, if you want to expand your reach, and, therefore your chances of getting likes, don’t be a wallflower: go forth and interact. Get generous with the likes and comments.

17. Change things up

If you’re using your Instagram for business, most of your posts have marketing in mind. But it’s good to change things up every once in a while so your feed isn’t just a collage of ads for your brand. Every once in a while, consider posting cool and engaging Instagram content that doesn’t necessarily have to do with selling something.

This post from Brooklyn Candle Studio doesn’t mention candles at all—instead, it celebrates the fall colours in New York. The content is still related to the brand, but it doesn’t directly “sell” anything to followers. It’s a refreshing break from more traditional marketing efforts, and a very likable photo that fits aesthetically with the rest of their content.

18. Give back

We’re not suggesting philanthropy for the sake of Instagram likes—giving back should always be a goal—but sharing the ways in which you’re supporting your community is important.

Along with proving to your followers that you’re in this for more than just the money, you might encourage other brands to do the same.

Cheekbone Beauty’s scholarship fund is a good example. It’s a mindful, socially conscious effort to support their community, and sharing the post on social media is a great way to spread the word. And more likes = more exposure = more applications and more inspiration for other brands.

19. Get on the explore page

The explore page (a collection of public posts and videos) is like a personalized bulletin board, and it’s a great way to showcase your content to a new audience. Getting on the explore page requires employing many of the strategies already mentioned in this post: using those relevant hashtags and geotags, writing descriptive captions and taking great photos.

This post from Trader Joe’s is a good example: there’s hashtags for #TraderJoes, #Brie, #Cheeseboard and #Charcuterie, plus a clear and informative caption. The photo is visually appealing, too—the perfect recipe for a 12k likes.

20. Make great merch

Merch is a good strategy for making money on Instagram, and cool and creative merchandise will earn you likes, too.

A24’s post of their adorable Marcel the Shell figurine earned over 24 thousand likes, as well as over a hundred comments. Not all of those users would have bought the merch, of course, but those likes show support for the brand and give the post a good algorithm boost.

21. Share useful information

Think of this kind of post like a service you’re providing to your followers: what expertise can you offer that will make their lives easier? Posting free and useful information is a great way to get more likes (and more importantly, a great way to share important information).

This Reel sharing Indigenous-owned brands to shop during the holiday season is a perfect example. It’s timely, practical and valuable information communicated clearly and concisely.

22. Watch what works for your competitors

Competition makes you better—especially when you perform a competitive analysis. Think of the superstars in your industry and use their strategies as inspiration for your own.

For instance, if you’re an up-and-coming skincare brand, you might want to take a page out of Fenty Skin’s book. Their Instagram contests, beautiful photography, engaging Reels and more are a great place to start.

23. Share satisfying content

Regardless of your industry or niche, satisfying content almost always does well on Instagram. Think about how you can share elements of your brand that feel gratifying to watch (timelapses of cleaning, packaging, building or destroying things are a good example).

Hydraulic Press Channel is all about this type of content—even if you’re not particularly passionate about hydraulic presses, everyone “likes” seeing Skittles turn into noodles.

24. Tag your location

Geotagging your location is a way for more people to find and like your photos. It’s even more helpful if you’re a brand with a brick and mortar location, as you build up a sense of community with your regulars… and potential regulars. (Just remember to make sure your physical coordinates are correct so that you appear on the map.)

Beaucoup Bakery geotags their (very tasty-looking) photos of treats, making it easy for pastry lovers to find them.

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By Alyssa Hirose

Alyssa Hirose is a magazine editor, playwright, comedian and comic artist based in Vancouver, B.C. She attributes her great sense of humour to 9 years of braces and good ol' elementary school bullying (unrelated, unfortunately).

Read more by Alyssa Hirose

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