Three years ago, all the focus was on the size of an influencer’s audience – how many Instagram “followers” they had. Brands and marketers alike assumed that with more followers, meant more earned for every dollar spent, or so they thought.
As marketers navigated their way through the complex jungle of influencer marketing, a new important metric emerged: the engagement rate (ER).
An ER measures how much of an audience is engaged with an influencer’s content. A low ER is a reason for concern, yet the cause of which could be a number of things.
Before I tell you how to increase your ER, I’ll lay out some of the main factors in what can cause it to be low.
- Bot or inactive followers
- Poor quality content
- Posting too often
- Not providing value
- Number of followers
To calculate your ER, you can use one of the free Instagram tools such as the Phlanx Engagement Rate Calculator. It’s calculated by adding together your comments and likes and dividing it by your follower count – usually given as a result of the average ER over the last 30 posts.
While a 2.5% ER for an influencer with 2,500 followers would be considered low, it’d be considered average for one with over a million followers. That said, let’s look at some industry benchmarks. Below is a guideline for an influencer with 10,000 followers:
Less than 2% = Low engagement rate.
Between 2% and 4% = Good engagement rate.
Above 4% = High engagement rate.
Why is your engagement rate important?
Like I said, marketers value this metric and hold it high when assessing what they’ll offer you, or even if they’ll contact you in the first place. A poor ER means they’re putting their marketing dollars at risk. Whether you use Instagram for business, or for yourself, increasing your ER should be top of mind.
Top 6 Ways To Increase Your Engagement Rate
- Grow your audience with authentic followers
One of the easiest ways to grow your follower count is by follow & refollow, which I laid out in my guide to growing your follower count. Although, this approach should not be relied on as your core growth strategy as it attracts a majority of bots and other influencers who are simply just following and unfollowing.
I believe building your account to acquire more social proof is important. Having over 10,000 followers gives you more status. Now when real Instagrammers land on your profile, they’ll be more likely to follow you.
If you watched my video on how to increase your follower count, you would have seen that engaging on niche hashtags with personalized comments and a strong call-to-action to follow you, is one of the best ways to grow an authentic audience that values the content you create for them.
2. Increase the quality of your content
Certainly one of the most important factors in increasing your ER is the quality of your content. Ensure that every photo you post is bright, crisp, and exciting. It’s also no secret that Instagram captions are key to creating engaging content. The caption you write should also include at least one question (preferably as the first sentence).
If you doubt your creative ability to curate high quality content, gather inspiration from other successful influencers. Follow those you aspire to be like and start mimicking the content they create, right down to what’s in the backgrounds of their photos and what Instagram filters they use. Did they post a photo licking ice cream with one leg in the air, standing on the sidewalk with a palm tree in the background? Great, copy it.
While you may not consider yourself artistic or creative right now, you can copy people who are until you yourself are. These are skills that can be developed with practice, not a matter of “you either have it, or you don’t.”
You have the answers to the exam, all you need to do is copy them onto paper.
3. Post according to your audience insights
If you haven’t already switched your Instagram profile from a personal to a business account, do it now. There are no downfalls to having a business account, nor is it even reserved for businesses. Among other perks, you’ll get access to audience insights. This will breakdown when your audience is most active, providing you with the best times to upload your posts. However, you should aim to post an hour or two before your peak engagement window, especially if that window falls 9PM or later. Reason being, your post will only be seen for a few hours before most of your followers will be shutting off their phones for the night before heading to bed.
This way, you’ll allow yourself an hour or two to gain likes and comments, before hitting your peak engagement window where you can then ride the Instagram algorithm.
4. Focus on providing value
If you’re a student in our How To Become An Expert & Sought After Influencer course, you’ll have seen me preach again and again on providing value to your audience. I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again; people do not care about you, they only care about what you can do for them.
Family and friends aside, strangers will only be drawn to you if they believe you can provide them value. Be it entertainment, business coaching, fitness tips, or tech recommendations – you need to decide what skill set you have that others can benefit from.
When your audience looks to you for help and guidance on a particular subject, they’ll naturally be more in tune with your content. I use this example a lot, and for good reason:
You’re a fashion influencer who specializes in providing affordable fashion advice to lower and working class folk. You teach people how they can dress stylishly, without breaking the bank. Your audience loves your content and seeks your advice – you provide them value.
Yet, most fashion influencers just share their favorite outfits in overly staged photos with straightforward post captions. There’s nothing that makes that influencer unique and their audience’s interest in them often stops at appearance.
If you’re struggling to find a way to provide value, begin by becoming a student of your own craft. As you create content and grow your audience, engage in Facebook groups, masterminds, and subreddits. They say you’re the subject of the five people you spend the most time with – why can’t one of those five be entire communities in your field of interest or expertise?
When you feel confident enough to begin teaching others your craft, incorporate it into your content. You can even use Instagram Stories to poll our audience to see what kind of content they’d find valuable.
5. Archive or delete low engaging posts
Quick, easy, and straightforward. Sort through your posts and archive (or delete) any that either doesn’t fit the aesthetic of your page, or received low engagement. This will instantly increase your ER as these posts will no longer be skewing your numbers.
6. Use niche hashtags
You likely use hashtags already, but how much thought do you give to which ones you use? The reason hashtags work for some people is because they either already have a large account and can show up in the ‘Top Posts’ for that niche, or they’re smart and choosing niche hashtags.
Create a bank of 3-5 separate lists of 30 hashtags and save them in your phone’s notes or in Google Drive. Immediately after you upload a post, paste them into the first comment.
When building your bank of hashtags, focus on those with between 50,000 and 500,000 unique tags, as in, the number of times those hashtags have been used in a comment or post. If you select only those that have been used millions of times, you’ll only show up in ‘Recent’ for a few minutes before you’re too far down the feed for anyone to find you.
I’ll actually share with you one set of 30 hashtags that we use, here you go:
#instagramtips #instagrammer #instagramfollowers #instagramarketing #digitalmarketing #socialmediahelp #contentstrategy #socialmediatip #socialmediamarketingtips #socialmediamanager #growthhacking #socialmediatools #influencerswanted #brandambassdorswanted #microinfluencer #influenceragency #influencerstyle #influencerlife #instainfluencer #discoverunder5k #discoverunder50k #discoverunder10k #discoverunder100k #lblogger #brandinfluencer #digitalinfluencer #digitalmarketingtips #socialmediaguru #socialmediamarketing #marketing101
7. BONUS: Join engagement pods*
Alright, I’ll give you one bonus tip for those of you who have not seen this in our course. Engagement pods are Direct Message (DM) groups of influencers of up to 32 people, who will each share their posts to the group to have the other members go in to like and comment on their posts.
You can find these pods by looking on Reddit or within Facebook Groups. They’re simple enough to find within a matter of minutes. Ensure that you’re active in them, liking and commenting on each member’s posts.
While these can be effective, they do have their downfalls. It’s common practice to post generic comments like “OMG I need this” on group member’s sponsored posts, which is easily spotted by brands. When the only people commenting on a post are other influencers, it’s clear that they're active in engagement pods.
They’ll also be time consuming as you’ll often have to like and comment on dozens of posts each day. Who wants to open their Instagram app and find that they have 87 posts that they need to like and comment on? Not I. If I were you, I’d only use them to kickstart your growth and then ditch them once you have momentum.
What’s the buzz around Instagram automation tools?
Don’t. Did Instagrammers not learn their lesson when Instagram banned millions of accounts for buying likes and comments? These Instagram bot automation tools are not only expensive, they don’t guarantee any results and are often run by 17 year old, self-proclaimed marketing gurus. They’re also against Instagram’s Terms of Service, which means there’s a high risk of getting caught in one of their mass account cleanups they do a few times per year.
How would you like to spend all the money and time growing an Instagram account through automation tools, only to open the app one day and see your account was banned? I don’t imagine you’d find that enjoyable.
If you want to take this seriously, follow my advice above. Relying on anything other than the strategies I mentioned in this article can actually negatively affect your long-term success as an influencer. You can also consider taking our How To Become An Expert & Sought After Influencer course.