The question that we get asked more than any other is how to boost engagement on Instagram — and understandably so, because it seems to plummet more with every passing year. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong and you’re definitely not alone! 

We’ve got a few tricks of the trade, but first up, there’s actually a reason it’s happening.

The Covid 🥴

We’ve just been through (I say this optimistically) a pandemic — everyone’s been stuck at home for 16+ months and we’ve all been scrolling wayyyyy more than usual. I’m writing this on the cusp of Summer 2021 and the world is starting to get back to normal, which means more actual face-to-face time and less time on social media… which is a good thing!

Instagram’s Gettin’ Old

We saw this happen with Facebook, and it’s happening with Instagram too. The Android version of the app was released in 2012, which means it’s coming up to 10 years. Wowza! (Honestly I’m impressed. Ten years is enough to fossilize in the tech world.)

As the platform ages, there are more and more users — and with more users, comes more content. The sheer number of posts on the platform mean it’s that much harder to reach a person… and that’s where the paid advertising comes in. Ugh.

Instagram’s Gettin’ Fat

Sorry Instagram, but it’s true. They roll out a major new feature every few months and overtime it’s actually gotten pretty complex. Remember when it was JUST the grid? Can you imagine?!

Now, Instagram users need to keep up with the grid, stories, IGTV, guides, and reels — there are tons of places to hang out within the app… which means that each individual portion is getting less eyeballs.

There’s More Garbage

When there’s this much competition for attention, people are going to resort to crazy measures to get it… which means the content has gotten a lot more gimmicky. (ie “how I got to 10,000 followers in 3 months. Buy my program to learn how to do it.” I may be being cynical, but YUCK. Quit it.)

We’re Over It

Despite Instagram’s best efforts to keep it fresh — in fact, maybe because of those very efforts — habits change as the platform gets older too. When Instagram was just a close circle of friends, it was much easier to be mindful about our consumption. Now, we know that there’s going to be new content every time we open the app — and we’re tapping it out of habit.

Not only are we cracking the app opening without thinking about it, but we’re consuming content on autopilot too. Ever spend 10-15 minutes scrolling and realize that literally nothing has made it past your skull? Yeah. That.

That explains a little bit about your crappy engagement right?

Allll of that being said, I still love Instagram. I really do.

Engagement rates are down across the board, but of course it depends on your content too! Here’s how to amp up your engagement:

Post consistently.

I know, I know, you don’t want to be on the platform all day every day. But build a routine so that your readers know what to expect from you.

I hang out on stories on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays — but other than that, things are pretty automated. I tend to do outward engagement every weekday, which brings me to my next point…

Give a little. 

If we’re all sitting back waiting for the other person to make the first move, well, no moves will be made.

There’s no magic right answer on how to engage (ie do 10 comments on 10 stories in hashtags that your person might be following, and then leave 3 comments on 1 account but they have to be four words or longer UGH) — just play with it till you find something that works for you!

Here’s what I’m doing right now, maybe there’s a nugget for you in here:

  1. I use the General and Primary tabs in my Messages folder to split up my audience. (People fall into the Primary tab by default.)

    Once I move someone over to the General tab, they’re considered a VIP and I’ll check in on their account to start a conversation every day or two.
  2. You can also flag people in your DMs, so I use that as an extra layer of “don’t forget about this person!” (A hot lead gets flagged.)
  3. If I’ve got extra time, I’ll tap on my followers and just start going through the list. Remember that it’s important to love on the audience you already have, instead of always trying to get to a bigger number! You already know that they like what you’ve got going on, so they’ll be thrilled if you spend time getting to know them too.

Give a little more.

It’s a good idea to drop a few comments, a quick story, or even reply to your DMS around the time you plan to post on Instagram. (I know, this sounds gimmicky… but we’ve tested it and it does make a difference!)

Use the tools.

Instagram loves it when you use all of their bright and shiny features (especially the new ones), so tap into those if you haven’t yet! Make it easy for people to have convos with you using group lives, Instagram story stickers, and reels.

If you don’t post videos regularly and your engagement sucks, THAT is the answer. The app works best when you’re social in relation to your business, and cookie-cutter posts — no matter how well crafted they are — just don’t cut it anymore. (Read this post for how to get comfortable on camera!)

Clean up your followers.

The number of followers you have might FEEL important but it’s quality, not quantity that matters. You have fake & inactive accounts that are following you and hurting your engagement rate. Yes, you!

Go through your followers list & remove accounts that have:

  • No profile photo
  • No bio
  • No posts
  • A small number of followers, and following lots of accounts

Be bossy.

Don’t forget to tell your readers what you want them to do after they read your post! I’ve posted the same exact thing with and without a call to action and it’s CRAZY what a big difference this makes, especially on post saves & shares. 

If you want them to comment, make it as easy as possible. Don’t expect your audience to pause their scroll for an entire minute to answer a profound question you asked about them. We’re not here to share our deepest, darkest secrets – we’re here to be educated, inspired, and entertained.

Post content that’ll spark a conversation. (No need to chit-chat about the weather – ask us for an opinion and we’re much more likely to pause & reply.)

When we DO comment on your post, put some effort into a reply! Getting a sentence or two out of your audience is a pretty big ask, and if all we get is a “heart” in return – well, that kinda sucks. Those comments are gold and when your audience is making an effort to chat with you WHY ARE YOU NOT TALKING BACK?!! (I get a little fired up about this one 😂)

Think of your social media as a customer service platform rather than a promotional platform. Stop stressing about the algorithm and show up to SERVE, from the heart. Keep at it. The metrics will follow.


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3 Reasons Your Instagram Engagement is Low