Instagram Advanced Tips

Last update

08 MIN.

How to Improve Your Instagram Engagement Rate

Wondering how to improve your Instagram engagement rate?

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

How to Improve Your Instagram Engagement Rate

Wondering how to improve your Instagram engagement rate?

With 200 million Instagram users visiting at least one business profile daily, there’s never been a better time to use Instagram to build a community and connect to potential customers.

However, as the app grows so too does the competition for attention and engagement. Instagram in 2020 is a very different place to Instagram in 2017.

Even as recently as three years ago, brands and creators could achieve great engagement with high quality content and strategic hashtagging. That was enough.

Today, the rules have changed. High quality imagery and hashtags are still super important. But to maintain a good Instagram engagement rate, there’s some other things social media marketers should be aware of.

Let’s take a closer look at them.

Use Instagram’s new features

In 2020, the big social media platforms – Facebook/Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn – are vying for users’ attention like never before.

In a bid to win the battle of users’ time and attention, each platform regularly releases new features to sustain consistent interest and engagement.

So, what does this mean for social media marketers? Let’s just say it can really pay off to be ahead of the curve, keeping an eye on the latest Instagram trends and testing out new features to see how they impact engagement.

Recently added Instagram features include the Instagram Stories Collage layout and IGTV series. Another feature currently being tested is the ability to save Instagram Lives straight to IGTV once a broadcast is over. This will allow brands and creators to create Live “series” that continue to capture the attention and engagement of followers in the days and weeks after the Live is over.

By utilizing new features before everybody else does, savvy social media marketers stand to benefit from higher reach and improved engagement. Instagram has been known to favour accounts that make the most of its new features, pushing innovative content to the Explore page and prioritizing it in people’s feeds to encourage mass adoption.

Get on video

To keep people engaged for longer, it’s worth social media marketers testing more video content.

Video requires people to stop and look. And they’re the single best way to start developing more meaningful relationships with people and improve your Instagram engagement rate.

There’s multiple ways you can incorporate video into your Instagram content strategy: video main-feed posts, Stories, Lives, and IGTV.

And video production doesn’t have to be intimidating or expensive. For Instagram Stories and Lives, often the realer and rawer the better. Instagram users are used to engaging with content from their friends and family, and they have similar expectations of their favourite brands.

When it comes to IGTV and main-feed video content, you don’t have to think about these formats as a completely separate strategy. How can you repurpose what you’re already creating into IGTVs? For example, are you already creating video content for Facebook/YouTube that could be turned into an IGTV series?

And once it’s possible to save Lives as IGTVs, this will only help social media marketers streamline their content efforts further.

On March 24 Facebook announced that Instagram Live views doubled over the course of a week, and that overall time spent on its platforms (Facebook & Instagram) increased by 70% since the coronavirus crisis hit the U.S.

The beauty of video content is that it offers brands the opportunity to go deeper on a particular topic or tell more of a story than is possible with a static image. That means more space to educate, inform, inspire and connect with followers – and the opportunity to improve a brand’s Instagram engagement rate.

The key is to ensure that the beginning of any video content is captivating enough to hook people and keep them watching. This results in better completion rate and enhanced Instagram engagement.

Here are some examples of brands using video content really well.

Nudestix’s bite-sized beauty tutorial Instagram Lives and IGTVs

In a recent article, Taylor Frankel, the founder of vegan make-up brand Nudestix discussed how IG Lives are proving more engaging for the brand than IGTVs. However, in the main-feed, “customers are just so much more engaged on IGTV than they are on a typical Instagram video.” In March and April, the brand’s IGTV engagement increased (compared to the end of 2019) with views up 39%, likes up 36% and comments up by 59%.

The Great British Bake Off’s cleverly repurposed in-feed videos

The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) is a great example of not re-inventing the wheel when it comes to its Instagram video strategy. It uses a hero piece of content (i.e. the TV show) and tailors it to Instagram. The short clips are cleverly edited so you don’t need to be an avid GBBO watcher to know what’s going on. They end with either trailers or details of where to watch the next episode, seamlessly helping the viewer to stay engaged.

The Serhant Team’s behind-the-scenes IGTVs

Calling all (MTV show) Cribs fans! Real estate agency The Serhant Team gives interiors fans exactly what they crave (whether they’re in the market for multi-million dollar apartments or not) with their “Unlocked” IGTV series. A recent property tour garnered 38k views and 130 comments.

Rachel Hollis’s soulful IGTVs

Queen of personal branding, Rachel Hollis shares regular IGTVs that call her audience to action. Recent IGTV headlines include: “What if you only had 3 years left to live” and “The world needs YOUR story.” Her direct, relatable and inspiring IGTVs generate huge Instagram engagement. The two mentioned achieved 194k and 803 comments, and 285k views and 1.2k comments respectively.

3 tips to improve the engagement rate of videos

1. Grab your viewers’ attention quickly

Whether you’re sharing an Instagram Story, Live or IGTV, make the first 30 seconds of the video compelling. You want to capture people’s attention and give them a reason to keep watching.

If you’re creating an Instagram Story or Live, make sure it has a clear beginning that sets the scene for viewers (should they expect a behind-the-scenes/“how to”/Q&A?), middle (that delivers on these expectations) and end (wrap up with a clear call-to-action).

If you’re creating an IGTV, ensure the title is as scroll-stopping as possible (use a question or a controversial statement to pique interest).

2. Be mindful of length

The key with video is to frontload the most important information. The sooner you get to the good stuff, the more likely viewers will be to continue watching.

If you’re wondering about the optimal length for Instagram video content, remember that brevity always wins. The more succinctly you can convey your message, the better. So aim to keep Stories to 12 – 15 segments maximum, and IGTV Stories 10 minutes or less in length.

3. Use hashtags and subtitles

It’s always worth mentioning that video content, just like static imagery, benefits hugely from strategic hashtags.

But don’t forget the importance of subtitles! So many people use Instagram without sound (while they’re on public transport/during lectures/half asleep in bed), so keep them engaged with the addition of subtitles. Without them, you run the risk of people scrolling straight past your content… a big no-no for Instagram engagement.

Create content that people want to save or share

People come to Instagram to be inspired and informed. And with “likes” now hidden for most regions around the world, other metrics have become more important to track.

Those include saves and shares. These are active forms of engagement (as opposed to the most passive “like”) and are a great measure of how valuable a brand’s content is.

Shareable content is a great way of getting more eyeballs on your Instagram account. And more exposure = more opportunities for potential new followers, prospects and customers.

And saveable content proves that your content is valuable enough for people to want to reference it later. Both of these actions, saving and sharing, are positive signals to the Instagram algorithm. The more a post receives, the more people it will be shown to and the higher priority it will be given in the feed.

So how do you create irresistibly saveable and shareable content? Here are 3 tips.

  • Educate your audience

People come to Instagram to be informed or inspired, so think about the small ways in which you can enrich someone’s life through helpful, educational content. Educational content doesn’t have to mean a swishy video. And it doesn’t have to be food, fashion or interiors-related. Educational content can be a simple carousel, like this from graphic designer turned entrepreneur, Chris Do.

  • Appeal to their values

The better a brand knows its target audience, the easier it is to connect their values to those of the audience. It could be conservation or supporting the local community or living intentionally or female empowerment – hone in on what matters to your target audience, and create content around it. Here’s a great example from Sweaty Betty.

  • Make it relatable

One way of creating incredibly shareable content is being hyper-aware of current events and cultural moments. Right now, the world is responding to Covid-19. This has impacted everybody’s lives and brands shouldn’t shy away from talking about such momentous events. Instead, they should talk openly and honestly about the way it impacts their particular niche or industry. For example, this post from clothing brand Reformation.

Be polarizing

It might sound strange to suggest being controversial to improve your Instagram engagement rate, but hear me out.

If you always try to appeal to everyone, your content runs the risk of being bland.

And wishy-washy content doesn’t receive great engagement. Content that makes a stand for or against something receives great engagement – particularly shares.

Yes, it might turn some people off, but that’s ok. What matters is that the position a brand takes aligns to its own values and beliefs. According to a 2018 Edelman report, nearly two-thirds of consumers want companies to take a stand on social issues.

So how do you create polarizing content that generates shares and improves your Instagram engagement rate?

Here are some examples to inspire you.

Use interactive Story stickers

You probably don’t need me to tell you the value of brands and businesses using Instagram Stories, right?

You definitely don’t need me to tell you that more than 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories every single day, with almost everybody swiping through Stories when they first open the app, right?

But do you know just how valuable the interactive stickers are? I’m talking about the emoji slider and the quiz, poll and question stickers.

These Instagram Story features are a golden opportunity to improve your Instagram engagement rate.

Whether you want to get feedback on your products, conduct market research or entertain your followers, they’re a great way to engage with your Instagram audience and gather valuable information.

And if you want to take your Instagram engagement to the next level, you can take the time to actually respond to the people (or a proportion of people) who interact. Here’s how.

  1. Create a Story and include a poll sticker or emoji slider
  2. A few hours later, click into the sticker results and send a message to as many people (that interacted) as you possibly can
  3. End your message with a question to encourage an ongoing dialogue with those followers

Having 1:1 chats with followers in the DMs is a fantastic way of building relationships and warming leads.

Use interactive Story stickers
alice benham
charlotte bn

In the future, when you share Stories promoting a new offer or asking for responses to help with market research, those followers that you’ve already been having direct conversations with will be much more likely to engage and respond.

Make proactive Instagram engagement part of your daily routine

Want to “beat” the Instagram algorithm? Your best bet is to focus on relationships.

If a certain user interacts with a lot of your content, it tells the Instagram algorithm to prioritize your content in their feed. This not only helps improve your Instagram engagement rate, but also, by default, deepens relationships with your community.

So make community nurturing – i.e. commenting on people’s posts, interacting with their Stories and sending them DMs – a part of your daily routine.

Why should you be proactive, rather than sitting back and waiting for the engagement to come to you?

Because a few years ago, it was enough to post high quality imagery on Instagram coupled with strategic hashtags. That was a good enough strategy to (almost) guarantee a high engagement rate and growth.

But with Instagram more popular than ever, and more than 95 million photos and videos uploaded every single day, in 2020 you’ve got to be much more proactive to see results.

And engagement breeds engagement. The more effort you put into leaving thoughtful comments and messages, the more likely people will be to return the favour.

Practice this habit often enough, and you will accelerate your growth community and improve your Instagram engagement rate in no time at all.

Here’s 3 tips to make daily engagement a part of your routine:

  1. Decide when it’s most feasible for you to engage – morning, lunchtime, evening?
  2. Set a timer so that you can keep your engagement focused
  3. Start by engaging with your existing community, and then use #’s to engage with people that look like your ideal customers/clients

Include calls to action (CTA) all over the place

Don’t ask, don’t get.

Are you noticing a trend here?

Social media marketers don’t want to leave their Instagram engagement rate to chance. Take control of it! That means being proactive (as mentioned above) AND telling people to engage every single time you post.

Don’t hold back on those CTAs:

  • Comment below
  • Tag a friend
  • DM for more info
  • Drop an emoji below
  • Hit A/YES or B/NO [on the poll]
  • Add your thoughts [in the question sticker]

It might feel uncomfortable at first to ask people for interaction, but remember this:

“In stories, characters never take action on their own.” – Donald Miller, Building A StoryBrand.

The same goes for your Instagram audience.

If they are not challenged to take action, they will do nothing and your engagement rate will stagnate. They are bombarded with brand messages 24/7. If yours isn’t clear and compelling, it will be ignored.

So don’t skip out on CTAs because they feel pushy or you’re worried you’ll get no responses. It will take time for people to get used to them. But if you continue to include them in posts and Stories, gradually more people will respond. Think of it as building habits within your audience. It’s our job to do that 😉

Here are some examples of brands including clear CTAs.

Get intimate with your Instagram insights

The best way to improve your Instagram engagement rate is to truly understand what is working (and what isn’t) for your brand. And to do that, you need to keep a close eye on your Instagram insights.

Check in with the reach, views, comments, shares and saves of your main-feed posts, Stories and IGTV content on a regular basis (at least monthly) to see what’s resonating with your audience.

Notice trends around particular topics or types of content because this could serve as inspiration for future posts.


Improving your Instagram engagement rate is all about experimenting, analyzing, and understanding your target audience inside and out so you create content they just have to engage with.

The best place to start is to see what types of content have performed best for your brand to date. Notice any trends in topic or medium (carousel/video/static image) and work on creating more of what works.

And experiment with new features and formats! You’ll never know the potential if you don’t try, and since everybody is always looking for new and interesting ways to engage with a brand, creating an IGTV series or hosting regular Lives might just be the key to improving your Instagram engagement rate.

the writer
Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Copywriter @Iconosquare

Hey! I'm Bella. Super curious about any new feature released on social media platforms. I do have a preference for Instagram, even though each platform has its specificity ;)

Free Instagram Audit

Is your Instagram Business account well-optimized? Run a quick audit courtesy of Iconosquare.

Free Instagram AuditRun my audit

for weekly updates

Get your weekly dose of quality content in the form of blog articles, podcast episodes and expert tips and tricks. Why hesitate? Sign up now!

Thank you !
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form
Emily Marsh
Icon ESm2

Discover our podcast

Every week, Emily interviews top brands, renowned influencers, and hidden agencies with one goal in mind: to understand what happens backstage of their social media strategies.

Listen to esm2
Social Media Calendar

Social Media Calendar

Get your hands on our free, downloadable 2022 Social Media Calendar with over 250 trending dates, all preloaded and ready to use.

Download for Free
Customer stories

Customer stories

Read about how other business, agencies and entrepreneurs were able to level up their social media game with the help of powerful analytics and expert strategies.

Inspiration this way
YouTube tutorials

YouTube tutorials

Need a hand using the multiple features Iconosquare has to offer? Wondering how you can use them to maximize your perfromance on social media? Check out our tutorials on YouTube.

Best pratices

How do you perform on social media?

Find out in a minute using our audit.

How data-driven social media marketers get the job done