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January 14, 2021
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If your goal in 2021 is to increase your engagement rate on Instagram, then firstly: great goal.

Focusing on engagement rate rather than obsessing over followers and likes is a brilliant strategy to have in the new year. 

But now you’ve decided on your Instagram goal, you want to know what qualifies as a good engagement rate, right?

And you’re also probably keen to find out how you can improve your engagement rate. 

👉 Reels? 

👉 Shareable content?

👉 Hashtags?

In this article, we’ll demystify engagement rate and provide some actionable steps to help you improve yours.

Because there’s no surer sign of a healthy content strategy and a captivated audience than a great engagement rate.

What is a good engagement rate on Instagram?

So first things first, what does “engagement rate” actually mean?

Your engagement rate tells you how involved your followers are with your content. This is demonstrated through a variety of actions including likes, shares, saves, and comments. 

To calculate engagement rate (more on this below), you measure the amount of interaction your content generates relative to followers or reach. That’s why you might see some Instagram accounts with big followings have a poor engagement rate.

This is because the level of interactions the content receives in comparison to the account’s audience size is very low. 

And what does that tell you? That despite a huge quantity of people following a brand online, a very small proportion of those people are actually interested in their content.

That’s why it’s more important to monitor engagement rate over followers. It provides a more accurate picture of whether your content is working.

So, at this stage you might be wondering what exactly is a good engagement rate.

Great question 😉. 

Iconosquare recently conducted a study of more than 30,000 Instagram profiles and found that the average engagement rate is 4.7%.

Other studies have found the average engagement rate to be 1.22% and 4.59%

These statistics are averages and vary from industry to industry. For example, Iconosquare’s study found that Public Figures generate an engagement rate of 5.77%. 

Another study found that the Higher Education industry achieved an average engagement rate of 3.57%.

While engagement rate fluctuates from business to business, it’s safe to assume that a good engagement rate on Instagram falls between 1% and 5%. 

Now you know the engagement rate benchmark for success, you might be wondering why this matters.

Why is it important to monitor engagement rate above follower growth, for example.

Why does engagement rate matter?

Measuring engagement rate matters because it tells you whether your content strategy is working.

Growing followers is great, but what’s the point in increasing that number if those followers don’t resonate with your content? 

If they’re not commenting, saving and sharing your posts or sending you direct messages, clicking on the link in your bio or engaging with your Stories then it doesn’t matter if you have 50 followers or 50,000 followers.

So for now, I want you to focus on engagement rate above all else. 

On a granular, day-to-day level, keep track of which content is generating high levels of saves, shares, comments, and website taps.

Not every single post will perform well for every metric – that’s ok. That’s normal. Different posts will serve different purposes. 

However, to remain proactive and on top of your content strategy (as opposed to reactive and slower to make necessary changes), notice when particular content formats or topics cause a surge in one, or some, engagement metrics. 

That way you can repurpose highly engaging content – expanding on an idea, changing the format from static post to Reel – and replicate your past success again and again. 

On a monthly basis, keep track of your overall engagement rate per post and average engagement on reach to see if those numbers are moving in the right direction. 

How to calculate engagement rate

Iconosquare uses the following formula to calculate engagement rate:

ER = divide the sum of [likes, comments + saves] on your posts by the amount of followers that you had at the time of the post.

However, a more accurate engagement rate formula we include within the platform is engagement on reach:

Engagement on reach = divided the sum of [likes, comments + saves] on your post by the reach number at the time of the post.

Reach rate: the number of people who have seen your post divided by the number of your followers.

For example, if you have 100 followers and your post got 30 likes, but 150 people have actually seen it, your traditional engagement rate would be 30%. However, your engagement on reach would be 20%. The latter is more exact if you want to determine the success of your post beyond vanity metrics. 

When monitoring your engagement rate, it’s important to not only compare yourself to industry averages. Remember to review how your engagement rate has changed over time, comparing your current metric to where you were a few months ago.

Is your overall rate increasing or decreasing? Are certain posts generating many more shares, saves and comments than others – and why might this be? You can use these observations to do more of what’s working and continually improve your engagement rate. 

To help with this, you can use Iconosquare to keep on top of your Instagram analytics and performance overall. 

However, it’s also a good idea to get familiar with your Instagram Insights and understand what they mean and where they live. You don’t need to track every single metric available and it can feel overwhelming to look at your Instagram Insights if you haven’t done so before. A great place to start is our recent piece on the only Instagram metrics you need to monitor in 2020. 

How to improve your engagement rate on Instagram

Now onto the juicy details. From knowing your audience well to utilising (but not obsessing over) the right hashtags, these are our top tips to help you improve your engagement rate. 

Know your audience inside and out

Before you try to employ any other tactics to increase your engagement rate, it’s vital that you know exactly what makes your audience tick.

Understand your audience as individuals. Know their problems, desires, and how your product or service can help them overcome and achieve these.

It’s also important to know the kinds of brands they love and other media they consume, as this will help you understand the type of content that resonates with them. Not to copy, but to get a better idea of their preferred tone, format, and style. 

All of this information will help to give you a great starting point for your own content. And if it’s been a while since you conducted market research, why not take this opportunity to do some afresh? 

There’s no such thing as having too much audience insight, so reflect on how well you really know your followers before jumping into the next tip.

Make Instagram Reels

Since Instagram changed the entire layout of the app to include the Instagram Reels shortcut at its centre, talk of Reels isn’t going anyway anytime soon. 

Instagram is making this short-form video format it’s focus, and that’s why you should consider making it your focus, too. Try sharing just one Reel a week and see how it impacts your engagement rate. 

SInce Instagram is prioritizing this new feature in an effort to encourage mass adoption, many users are reporting higher reach and engagement on Reels compared to other content. A recent study found that Reels see an average engagement rate of 2.7% versus 2.2% for main feed videos.

That’s why now is a great time to experiment with Reels and see how your community responds. The great thing about the feature is that Reels can be made natively. They don’t require any additional tools or fancy editing software. 

And, almost any idea you have planned in your content calendar can be turned into a Reel. They can be humorous, educational, personal or promotional – the sky’s the limit. All that’s required is a good idea told succinctly. 

Create more video 

One of the best ways to increase your engagement rate on Instagram is to get in front of your followers. Literally.

Getting your face (or members of your team’s faces) on camera will work wonders for building intimacy and deepening relationships between you and your audience. Trust me 😉.

Not only does video help convey the personality and values of a company, therefore more effectively attracting the right kinds of followers and ideal customers; it’s also an extremely powerful way of communicating the benefits of products and services.

In a recent study, Wyzowl, a company that makes explainer videos, revealed that 96% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service.

And, when asked how they’d most like to learn about a product or service, ⅔ of people (66%) said they’d prefer to watch a short video. 

These insights are compelling – and are reflected by the updates Instagram is making to the platform. It’s clear that video content is very much the focus.

In 2020 we saw the rollout of Reels, the introduction of Instagram Live Shopping, IGTV monetization and multiple new features tested on Instagram Stories

It’s no surprise that Instagram is focusing so heavily on video. In 2020, Instagram saw a 70% increase in Live views from February to March.

Video should be a core part of every brand, business and content creators’ Instagram strategy in 2021 to better connect with audiences and increase engagement rate.

After all, Instagram updates the app and adds new features in response to consumer trends. If video is where the platform is headed, it’s because this is how the majority of people prefer to consume content. 

Post shareable and saveable content

If you’ve been measuring your engagement rate on how many likes your content receives, try creating content that generates other, arguably more valuable, engagement metrics.

More specifically, saves and shares. 

These two engagement metrics are strong indicators of your content’s performance. And, while typical engagement rate formulas don’t include shares (Iconosquare’s ER calculation includes likes, comments and saves), there’s nothing stopping you from keeping track of this separately.

So, why create content with these two metrics in mind? Because saveable and shareable content is viewed very favourably by the Instagram algorithm. Every time someone hits “share” or “save” it sends a positive signal to the algorithm that your account is valuable. 

Saveable content is helpful, informative content that encourages people to save to reference back later. Tutorials, how tos, tips and tricks, and myth-busting are all examples of saveable content ideas. The best content format for saveable content is typically (but not exclusively) a text- or info-graphic.

For example, this post by @joyoushealth about 6 tips to sleep better. 

Shareable content is content that evokes an emotion in the viewer. Think about what makes you want to share an image or video with your friends and family in the DMs, or your wider community via Instagram Stories. 

It’s typically content that is funny, relatable, inspiring or a little bit controversial. And it’s typically presented in a meme, repurposed Tweet or text graphic. 

For example, this post by product photographer and coach Tamera Darden. 

If you’re looking for a way to revive your engagement rate on Instagram, saveable and shareable content could be great content types to experiment with. 

Write engaging captions

Comments are one of the metrics that Iconosquare uses to determine your overall engagement rate. 

They’re a powerful metric to monitor. Why? Because a piece of content that motivates someone to take a minute out of their day to write a response is a big deal in 2021’s noisy online world.

Many Instagram users prefer to passively swipe and scroll through their feeds, occasionally pausing to double tap an image or take a few seconds to watch a video.

For someone to engage with a piece of content that compels them to not only double tap but to (most likely) use two fingers to write a few words is a testament to the strength of that content.

And, more often than not, it’s because of a well-written, engaging caption that includes a strong call to action. This doesn’t mean you have to write essays for captions every single time. But it does mean you should really consider the purpose of every caption you draft:

  • What are you hoping to achieve with your captions? 
  • What emotion are you trying to evoke in the reader? 
  • And, crucially, what action do you want them to take once they’ve finished reading?

Check out our full guide on how to write original Instagram captions. In the meantime, here are our top tips for captions that increase engagement rate:

  • Make sure your first line is short and irresistibly clickable (we want people to have to click that “read more” button)
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs super short to allow people to skim read
  • Double-check the purpose before you post
  • Include a clear call to action within its own standalone line at the end of the caption (e.g. “comment below”, “share your thoughts”, “save this post”, “share with your friends”)

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to length. I suggest mixing it up depending on the piece of content it corresponds to.

The only “rule” to remember is to avoid sharing too many “fluffy” captions that don’t inspire much of anything. 

For example, “Happy Tuesday!”, “Sunnier days!” or a generic quote we’ve seen a hundred times before.

Make engagement a priority

You get out what you put in. So if you’re willing to increase your engagement with your followers, you will see this returned in kind.

If you haven’t already, schedule some time in your diary every week to proactively connect with your audience. It can be 20 minutes per day or 1-2 hours one day per week – it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s happening regularly.

The reason this is so important is because relationships matter to the Instagram algorithm. The better your relationship with another user, the higher priority Instagram places on showing your content to that user. 

More visibility = more chances for engagement. And if you’re a regular giver of engagement – you make a habit of leaving comments, interacting with Stories and sending thoughtful DMs – you’re not only increasing your visibility but also building genuine relationships with people.

And when your audience feels like they have a connection with you, they’ll be more likely to engage with your content. 

Utilise Instagram Story stickers to start conversations

This is one of my favorite and often overlooked strategies for increasing engagement on your Instagram account.

Instagram Story stickers are your secret engagement weapons. The quiz, question and poll sticker are all tools you can use to get your followers to interact with your brand and continue the conversation in the DMs.

Let’s look at some examples of how to use these stickers to spark engagement.

Poll sticker

Give your followers something to vote on. Whether that’s which training (A or B) they’d like to see from you, what color your company’s next product should be, or whether you should have coffee or tea with your breakfast that morning.

Open the Story giving people this choice and use the poll sticker to allow them to vote. Now, here’s the fun part. You don’t need to create the rest of your Story based on which gets more votes. I recommend you have in mind the training/color/beverage you want to talk about on Stories and proceed with that idea regardless of what people choose. 

The reason you’re including the Poll sticker isn’t to dictate the content you share. It’s to get people interacting with your Story. Check the results of the poll a few hours later and direct message the people that voted. Whether they chose the “right” answer or not doesn’t matter, you can use this as an opportunity to start a conversation in the DMs and let them know that their feedback is valued. 

Question sticker

This sticker is a great opportunity to hand the mic to your followers and give them the chance to ask you anything. Or, if you’d prefer, a specific subject you’d like to get feedback on.

This sticker sparks engagement, provides you insight into the common questions your ideal customers have, and allows your followers to get to know you better.

Use hashtags strategically 

Don’t obsess over Instagram hashtags, but do ensure you’re using them strategically alongside your content. 

They won’t increase your engagement rate on their own, but they’re a great way of helping to get your content in front of the right people. That is, if you use the right ones.

Be sure to use a mixture of hashtags with each post, maintaining a balance between very popular, high volume hashtags (with a density of 150,000+) and smaller, lower volume hashtags (with a density between 1k and 30k). When I say density, I mean the number of posts that have used that hashtag.

If you type a hashtag into Instagram, you’ll see a little number alongside it. As a general rule of thumb, use hashtags that have a lower number to ensure that your content isn’t competing with hundreds of thousands (or millions in some cases) of other posts for exposure on that hashtag.

Repurpose your most engaging content

Last, but definitely not least, is to ride on the wave of your past success by repurposing your most engaging content again and again.

What do I mean by repurpose?

Well, take a look at your Instagram Insights and filter your Content Interactions by Saves over the last 3 months. Now analyse your most saved post. 

How could you share this idea again, in a different way? Could you turn the idea into a Reel? Is there something in the caption that could be elaborated on in an Instagram Live?

Success leaves clues and you certainly don’t need to reinvent the wheel every month when you sit down to plan content. 

Look at what’s already working and resonating with your audience and find ways to make that content work harder. Not only will this streamline your content planning efforts, but it will help to boost your overall engagement rate on Instagram.

Conclusion

It’s true that in 2021, Instagram is an incredibly competitive place to market products and services. But that doesn’t mean you can’t grow a highly engaged community that loves what you do.

It just means you might have to mix up your strategy a little. Try new things, focus on your followers, and repurpose past successful content. Then sit back and watch your engagement blossom. 😍

About the author
Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell is a door obsessive and Instagram educator, teaching small businesses, solopreneurs and content creators how to build engaged communities on Instagram in less time. Read more from Bella on her website: bellafoxwell.com

More posts by Bella Foxwell

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