How to Increase Organic Reach & Engagement on Instagram

A smartphone with the Instagram logo.

With its rich visual layout and fun, intuitive interface, Instagram has the potential to be a digital marketer’s dream platform. A key component to success on Instagram is organic reach and engagement. Read on to learn how to optimize your Instagram posts for maximum organic growth.

Planning Your Instagram Feed

The first—and most important—step towards a successful Instagram account is establishing your goals. Do you want to entertain or inspire an audience? Do you want to promote a product or service? Design an account plan outlining which types of posts best align with your account goals. If you want to inspire people, then eye-catching inspirational text images may be the core of your Instagram account feed. If you want to promote products or services, then you’d want to fill your Instagram feed with posts exemplifying the benefits of these products or services. For example, if you want to promote your online shop of succulent plants, then you’d share posts featuring images of the different succulents in your shop.

When planning your Instagram account, also ask yourself this: “What can my posts offer?” People are more likely to engage with your account if your posts offer something valuable in return, whether it’s knowledge, motivation, a unique perspective, or access to something most people don’t or can’t experience themselves. Returning to the succulent shop example, a large portion of your posts could feature information on how to care for succulents or different facts about their native habitats. These informative posts offer something to your audience, who in turn are more likely to engage with your Instagram account and visit your shop.

No matter which type of posts you share, aim to keep your overall Instagram feed cohesive, with the same look and feel throughout. Your followers should be able to recognize which account your posts are coming from at a glance.
Keeping those shop visitors in mind, it’s also vital to create a complete Instagram bio. If your posts reach and interest people, yet when they click through to your Instagram account to check out your bio, they’re met with a blank or minimal bio with no website link, then you risk losing these people as followers and potential customers. Lay out a digital welcome mat! Summarize what your Instagram account is about in a concise description, add a link to your website (use Linktree for multiple links), and add a location. Don’t forget the profile image! Grab a logo from your website or create a new one that sums up your Instagram account.

When & How to Post on Instagram

What does this mean for you as a digital marketer looking to use Instagram? In the past, it was easy to get a lot of reach and engagement on posts, particularly when using hashtags. With the crackdown on spam accounts, it’s become clear that some of those coveted likes and comments were from spam bots and therefore meaningless. If likes and engagement as raw numbers are what you’re after, then this is disappointing news. But if you prefer engagement with genuine followers, then this is excellent news!

Early mornings are the ideal time for Instagram posts. After you’ve been posting for a while, begin checking the analytics of your Instagram account. You first need to turn your account into a business account to have access to analytics. Analytics gives you access to valuable information about your followers, such as when they are most active, including days of the week and time. Make note of peak activity times and plan your posts for shortly before these times for maximum visibility.

A smartphone showing Instagram analytics.

Prior to 2016, Instagram feeds were in chronological order. In 2016, Instagram’s algorithms changed to rank the posts of family and friends first and those from marketers last. This led to posts on Instagram feeds appearing out of order, with days-old posts from friends showing at the top of feeds. In early 2018, Instagram’s algorithms reverted back to showing posts in chronological order. Yet with the new-old chronological feed, out came Instagram’s broom and dustpan. Over the winter of 2019 and 2019, Instagram cracked down on third-party follower applications, and in summer 2019, the platform began a sweep and shutdown of spam bots. This resulted in a cleaner, more user-friendly experience as well as a dramatic drop in engagement on public Instagram accounts.

Experiment with posting frequency—do daily posts seem to do better than posts every other day? What about multiple posts per day? As with any experiment, give each change in posting frequency a set amount of time; e.g., one month, before reverting to your usual posting frequency. Remember that consistent posting is rewarded by Instagram’s algorithm, leading to increased reach and engagement over time.

Add hashtags to the end of each Instagram post or add a comment with all the hashtags for that post. Experiment with hashtag numbers; Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags, but using the maximum amount for every single post may appear spammy unless you add them to a comment. Try to avoid popular or simple hashtags or your posts will be lost among a sea of 500,000 others each day. Check out Instagram accounts similar to yours and see what hashtags they’re using and cherry-pick the ones you like best. You can also experiment with creating your own hashtags. Switch up the hashtags regularly and always make sure they are relevant to the post they’re attached to. For example, if you create a post about jade succulents, then avoid using hashtags related to aloe plants.

Engage With Followers & Related Accounts

When people engage with you, engage back! When you receive comments on your posts, like the comments and respond to them in a timely manner. Maintain a warm and friendly demeanor when responding to comments, and don’t be afraid to use humor or relevant emojis. Negative comments can happen, and the best response is a simple one: “I appreciate you sharing your opinion.” If the negative comment is related to an issue with a product or service of yours, then you must practice good customer service and work to resolve the customer’s issues immediately.

Follow Instagram accounts relevant to your account and engage with them regularly. Comments left on posts by related accounts will alert the followers of those accounts to your account and lead to increased reach, engagement, and possibly followers for your account. Ensure that all your comments are genuine–don’t copy and paste the same canned comment on multiple posts. People will notice!

Share the Instagram stories of relevant followers with positive thoughts and comments. Via the story mentions feature, you can track mentions of your account in public stories and, in turn, share these stories to your account’s stories with your own commentary, emojis, and GIFs. The story mentions feature allows for a fun, layered engagement experience for multiple accounts and their combined followers.

Each Instagram account is as unique as the individual behind it, and what works for one account may not necessarily work for another. With these guidelines in mind, you can experiment and craft a seamless Instagram marketing experience that leads to long-term growth in organic reach and engagement for your Instagram account.

Are you looking for an agency to strategize and manage your social media accounts? Contact Aronson Advertising today to learn how our company can make your business stand out on social media! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram @AronsonAdvertising, and Twitter @AronsonAds for more digital marketing tips.

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