20 Ways to increase Instagram Engagement without using AI

Followers are vanity, engagement is sanity. Yet, a large following on Instagram continues to blind many. Yes, it’s impressive but without meaningful engagement, your Instagram presence becomes worthless. It’s like shouting in the middle of Wembley Stadium to thousands of spectators, thinking they care what you have to say. They don’t. So, the question you must address is how do you increase Instagram engagement?  

Engagement, characterised most commonly by likes, comments, and shares, is the true currency of success. It’s a sign that people actually care what you have to say. You go from being the weirdo who shouts in the middle of Wembley Stadium at a U2 concert, to being Bono.

Yet, getting engagement continues to be problematic for many. This has left a situation where people are turning to automation and AI to help deliver results. Yet, as we will find out this rarely leads to you being influential. Using AI in social media is much more complex and restrictive than many people claim. Therefore, it’s critical to understand how you can increase Instagram engagement in an organic, natural way. This need to be done in conjunction with understanding how to get more Instagram fans.

What is Instagram engagement? Understanding the basics

If you are serious about increasing your Instagram engagement you need to understand the basics. Therefore, you need to track performance over time.

The most common method of calculating Instagram engagement is:

  • Engagement (likes, comments, shares/number of followers x 100)

This is a simple way to measure the level of interaction your content receives relative to the size of your follower base. Yet, for a more complete picture, you may want to also factor in views. This is perhaps the least discussed critical factor to success on Instagram.

Use data to increase instagram engagement

How to Increase Instagram Engagement

It would be a mistake to analyse how to increase Instagram engagement without understanding how to get more reach and views. This needs to be studied in more detail alongside how the Instagram algorithms work.

But, to get more Instagram engagement you can follow some key steps. As always, these steps should be just the start of your journey. You will need to deep dive into each to understand how it works.

1. Get your niche right to get more engagement on Instagram

From our experience, this is the step that causes most people to fail in getting more engagement on Instagram. It’s therefore imperative to understand how to identify a niche.

For example, a health optimisation clinic may decide to create an Instagram account focused on the latest biohacking trends. From NMN to cryotherapy the clinic spends hours creating content but fails to get engagement. The reason for this is that Instagram’s algorithms are likely to be confused.

Whilst health optimisation might be an industry niche, it’s not necessarily an Instagram niche. Instead, you need to spend time learning what niches Instagram has. To do this avoid looking at large accounts. These accounts play by different rules and have grown because they were either on Instagram at the start or have had significant publicity elsewhere.

Without a focused niche, people following your account may have vastly different interests. Whilst some follow you for your insights into supplements others may like your infrared light posts. In short, you are splitting your audience.

Therefore, spend time looking into what Instagram niches there are. Look at serval factors from fast-growing accounts to hashtags. Consider using AI tools like Gemini or ChatGPT to help you brainstorm your ideas. However, don’t become over-reliant. These AI systems do not understand Instagram well enough. This is unlikely to change in the immediate future.

2. Get into the minds of your audience to increase Instagram engagement

If you already have a following, it’s important you take a step back and try and understand who your followers are. This will help you to create content that resonates with them.

However, rather than taking a snapshot of Instagram’s analytics that outlines audience demographics such as age, gender and location, dig deeper. Instead, learn how to perform a psychographic analysis. This looks into an audience’s mindset and belief systems.

For instance, imagine you have an account focused on improving people’s lives and health span through non-processed foods. Using a demographic first approach you may discover most of your audience is female and aged 35. As such, you tailor your audience to things you think 35-year-old women like.

But, does that really mean all 35-year-old women are interested in healthy food? A quick walk to Mcdonalds’ probably tells you otherwise. Yet, by performing a psychographic analysis you will likely discover your audience doesn’t fall into these preconceived ideas. Therefore, creating content around people’s beliefs can help drive more Instagram engagement.

AI can be super helpful in analysing the data needed to perform a psychographic analysis. However, this will depend on the quality of the data you have.

3. Understand what triggers your audience

Once you understand your audience and their belief systems you can start to investigate what will trigger them. This doesn’t mean upsetting everyone, although that can be effective. Instead, you want to look at ways to ignite an emotion.

For example, imagine you have an account focused on at-home weight training. You could create a video of you doing a push-up in the middle of a gym. But this will not trigger anyone.

Instead, use words or images that ignite an emotion. For instance, doing that push-up in the middle of Tower Bridge, London is likely to trigger people more as they recognise the landmark. Moreover, telling people the average number of push-ups people can do is likely to create a reaction.

You can use AI tools like ChatGPT to come up with some concepts although much of this will depend on your creativity. Therefore, spend time testing and learning what works.

4. Headlines can cause emotions which increases Instagram engagement

Headlines are super useful for smaller accounts. They offer a way of creating a stop effect and triggering a response. Using AI tools can be super useful here as they can automatically suggest a number of different alternatives. However, the best thing is to spend time on Instagram to see what has worked for others. Moreover, headlines that are trending can be really powerful.

For example, compare the following headlines:

  • Headline 1: Shockingly, only 5% of people can do this core exercise
  • Headline 2: Have you tried this core exercise?

Which one is more likely to get you to stop scrolling and engage? If you said headline 2, it’s clear journalism is not a career for you. Headline 1 is more likely to get people to comment and like because it creates suspense and intrigue.

5. You are not so important you can’t engage. Talking to your audience will increase Instagram engagement

This is a simple trick and surprisingly one we see many people overlook. If someone leaves a comment, talk back. After all, imagine going to work and refusing to talk to your colleagues when they ask you questions. I know it’s tempting because Dave from Accounts is so boring, but it’s not exactly a way to win friends and influence people!

That’s the point of social media. People want to feel connected to the people they follow. Moreover, the more you comment back, the higher the chances of conversations happening. This is important for engagement as it helps drive reach and encourages others to join in.

However, you may question this advice because many large accounts do not comment back. But, if you are reading this blog, it’s unlikely you have become influential on Instagram. Large accounts follow different rules and do not need to constantly comment. They have already built a strong loyal following who want to engage with their content. However, even large accounts can benefit from commenting back.

Moreover, avoid automated responses. Whilst you can use AI to help draft some responses you should write something thoughtful. It’s important people feel connected to you and your brand.

6. Nobody likes corporate releases. If you don’t adapt to the platform, nobody will care

In our experience, most companies make the same mistake. They use their Instagram accounts as a place for corporate updates. Look, I am happy for you that you have just hired 34-year-old James but nobody else really cares. Not even his mum.

So, if you have a health testing company, what else can you post about you ask? Tell people about your tests.

Hmm…not quite. Instead, you should focus on your unique insights or the area of health you test. For instance, if you have gut health tests, create content about the gut-brain axis or gut foods. You can then mention how your tests can help.

7. People want to see your personality. Show it!

Showing who you are is important to getting engagement. After all, people are following you for who you are. Therefore, give them more of you.

How you show personality will depend on your account and theme. For example, you can show people places you go or share your inner thoughts about things. Just make sure you are authentic. If you are a naturally funny, happy person, show it. The more people see of it the more likely they are to engage.

This is another reason why AI should be limited in your creative process. People want to connect with you not an AI.

8. Authenticity is critical to growing engagement on Instagram

To increase Instagram engagement, you also need your content to fit the platform. On Instagram, there is such a thing as being too perfect.

For instance, imagine you are scrolling through Instagram. What are you more likely to stop to look at? A post or video that looks like it’s an NHS TV advert created by a creative agency telling people about heart health or a sneak peek into someone’s health journey at an advanced health clinic. It’s likely to be the latter because it’s more authentic. Also, people are just really nosy.

9. Avoid using AI to create content. Instead, use it to be your assistant

At this point, it’s hopefully clear that to get engagement your content needs to resonate with your audience. So, what’s wrong with AI? Surely AI can understand what people want much more effectively based on millions of data points?

Theoretically, this is true. However, AI currently does a poor job of connecting fully with humans. Moreover, Google has already started removing AI-generated content. Moving forward, Instagram and other social media platforms are likely to follow. After all, if everything is fake, why would anyone spend time on the platform?

Interestingly a US consumer study found 58% of respondents follow an AI influencer. This means content that is created by AI. However, the study concluded that purchase recommendations from these AI-generated influencers were not as popular. This is because people want to buy from people.

Therefore, if your entire engagement strategy is based on using AI content, you may receive a short-term boost but it will unlikely last for long. Instead, you need to build an effective social media strategy that considers multiple elements.

A better use is to use AI as an assistant. Use it to help you track what is working and what isn’t. Ask it to help brainstorm ideas with you. Just don’t ask it to create content.

10. Don’t buy engagement to increase your Instagram engagement

We have seen it before. An “influencer” releases some content and five minutes pass and there is no engagement. Six minutes pass and the account’s engagement has increased to 1323. Something is clearly wrong.

Typically, this occurs because the influencer has either knowingly paid for engagement or got sucked into the promises of a shady agency or platform. They will promise to rapidly increase your engagement using advanced AI algorithms.

Yet, none of it’s real. As a digital agency for health brands, we know the tricks that are used. Yet, we strongly advise all our clients to avoid them.

There is no AI platform or agency that understands how to hack Instagram algorithms. Just think about it. Instagram is owned by Meta, one of the largest tech firms in the world. They have an army of developers building the algorithms. Do you really think Tim from some random platform or agency can really outsmart them? Obviously not.

Not only does buying engagement look stupid, but it’s also a waste of time. If you want to build a loyal following so you can potentially sell to them, then you need to focus on building your engagement strategically. This obviously takes time, but the rewards are worth it.

11. Reels are the best way to increase Instagram engagement

Since the launch of TikTok, Instagram has been looking over its shoulder. So, what better way to compete than to copy them?

Enter the birth of Instagram Reels. Reels are the most effective way to both grow on Instagram and also to get more engagement. Reels are short-form videos that are less than 30 seconds. The key is to engage people quickly.

Yet, many companies struggle with Reels. Instead of adapting to what works on Instagram, they will talk to the camera about their products or services. This rarely works.

For example, imagine you sell biological age testing kits. Many people talk about how their test is the best or why telomere testing is important. Whilst many people are on Instagram to get information, they are also on the platform to be entertained. Moreover, most people don’t know what a telomere is.

A better solution would be to create reels that give surprising insights into telomeres by simplifying the message. For example, “Did you know cardio exercise has a bigger impact on longevity than any other form of exercise?”

12. Views are the key to increased engagement on Instagram Reels

Up to now the entire focus has been on likes, comments and shares. However, the key metric you need to understand to increase engagement on Instagram is views.

Views indicate how many times your Instagram Reel has been watched. Naturally, the more views you receive the more engagement you can obtain. Therefore, you need to spend time learning how to get views on Instagram reels.

The key is to make your reels short, sharp and immediately engaging. It’s a tough skill and takes time to master. However, the impact on your engagement can be transformative.

13. Content can be the same but the engagement is vastly different

Imagine you have a mental health app. You look at the top influencers in your niche and come across Andrew Huberman. He has over 6m followers and gets thousands in engagement. You are happy because his account looks like the ideal place to copy or use as inspiration.

You then create some content that is almost the same as his. You may even decide to republish the exact same content from Huberman to your account. Yet, you only get 2 likes whilst he has 23k.

This is an important lesson to learn. Content can be exactly the same but differ vastly in engagement. This is because contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about your content. You also need to understand where you are in your journey and learn to appreciate what the Instagram algorithms want.

Instead, focus on learning what other accounts of a similar size are doing and ask yourself how they get engagement.

14. Real influencers can help you get more engagement. But, not all influencers are influential

The influencer market tripled between 2019 to 2023. It’s now one of the go-to strategies to both grow an online following and to increase engagement. This should come as no shock. In a study of 1,000 consumers, it was discovered, that 69% of people are more likely to trust a recommendation from a friend or influencer than a brand.

Moreover, the study found relatable influencers were more important than experts. Therefore, getting an influencer who is like your audience, can have a big impact on your engagement. For example, if you are a sports performance clinic it would be better to have an influencer that mirrors your audience’s journey than someone who is an expert in Vo2 max.  For instance, this could be an amateur athlete.

However, there are a couple of caveats to note. Doing joint posts with influencers can be really effective but is perhaps not sustainable. Unless you have a huge budget or ability to give free products away, you will still need to create content without influencers. Therefore, this step should be an add-on to the other steps.

Moreover, not all influencers are actually influencers. We have spoken to many companies who have worked with influencers only to see they get very little engagement. This is likely down to the influencer using AI or automation tools to buy both followers and engagement. Unfortunately, you can’t trust everything you see.

Moreover, 58% of marketers claim to use some form of AI platform to source influencers. Whilst these platforms can be effective at connecting you to people, they don’t necessarily understand who has faked their engagement or follower base. If you are going to use influencers, you should spend time understanding the platform and your niche on it.

15. Use hashtags to drive engagement

Finding the right hashtags can be effective at driving engagement. They help provide additional information to Instagram that your content is relevant to a specific audience.

However, finding the right hashtags can take time. Whilst there are AI platforms that provide hashtags based on a keyword, they are not particularly effective. This is because they don’t understand the mindset of the people who use it or the type of content that is most commonly associated with it.

For example, imagine you want to use the hashtag, mitochondria. This is because your content is about how zone 2 running can impact it. Yet, a closer inspection of the hashtag will tell you most of the content is about healthy gut foods. It’s unlikely to help you because your content is not aligned with what people who follow that hashtag want. More importantly, it will confuse the Instagram algorithms because it’s not aligned.

Therefore, spend time doing research. Don’t just take trending hashtags because they are often too big or too vague. Instead, brainstorm hashtag ideas and research them to see what the most common type of content is for that hashtag. If you are stuck use ChatGPT to help. Instagram will also provide suggestions for a specific keyword.

16. Experiment with all of Instagrams features to increase engagement

What works for one account, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Therefore, it’s important to spend time using all of Instagram’s features. For example, you can now use polls and questionnaires on Instagram Reels. Moreover, there are different content types you can experiment with.

However, it is important to stay up to date. Instagram is constantly evolving and they are known to favour accounts that utilise their features. This is because it helps them to understand what people like and don’t. Therefore, be open to being a guinea pig and try all their features as they get released.

17. Stories provide deeper connection which can help grow loyalty and engagement on Instagram

Whilst stories won’t directly increase your engagement on Instagram they can do so indirectly. You should use these as an opportunity to give people an insight into your life.

For example, if you run a health clinic you could create Reels about some of the tests you perform. You may even decide to give people progress updates on how you are working on improving your Vo2 max.

The stories are also rich with features. For instance, we use quizzes and polls to great effect. A simple question like “Which of the following features is most important to consider when buying running shoes” followed by 4 options often gets a lot of engagement. Creating these quizzes is often straightforward. We utilise Gemini to help generate quiz suggestions which we then adapt.

The more engagement you have on your stories can really help drive engagement to your main content. It helps you to build a connection with your audience whilst sending positive signals to Instagram.

18. Giveaways can help but are not sustainable

We are not huge fans of giveaways because it increases Instagram engagement for that post but not necessarily on all your other content. Many people will engage in a giveaway because they want something. However, they are not loyal followers.

Therefore, this option should be used sparingly. Moreover, giveaways are much easier for companies that have lower-cost items. For instance, if you sell hyperbaric oxygen chambers, giveaways are not ideal because of the cost. Yet for a company selling longevity skin-cream, it could be a good option occasionally.

Instagram Engagement might increase through giveaways

19. Test what time you post

The optimal time to post is one of the most peddled theories. Yet, from our experience, it only makes a minor difference if any at all. However, it’s important to test what works for you so remains sound advice.

The key is to look into Instagram’s insights and you will need a professional account to do that. Under the followers section you will find the times of day your audience is most active. The idea is to post when most of your followers are online.

However, it’s important to note that often these times are peak periods. Therefore, it also increases competition.  So, it’s best to test different times and learn if timing makes a difference for you.

20. If you want to increase engagement on Instagram you need to spend time on the platform

Instagram like every other social media platform, rewards users for spending time on the platform. Therefore, it’s not enough for you to use some random AI tool that creates content and distributes it for you. It won’t work.

On average Instagram users spend 12 hours per month on the platform. Yet, that includes ordinary people who simply want to be entertained. Influencers on the platform will spend considerably more time.

However, it’s not enough to just leave your app open. You need to spend time looking at content and engaging with it. In an ideal world, you will also comment and engage on accounts you follow. This can help build loyalty and increase your Instagram engagement because those people will want to support you. Remember, it only takes a few likes or comments straight after publishing content to drive engagement. Most people are waiting for social proof to engage with you.

If you increase your engagement on instagram it can generate lots of opportunities

Increasing engagement on Instagram is the real currency of success

Which of the following is better?

  • Account 1: 50k followers and an average of 30 engagements per post
  • Account 2: 5k followers and an average of 200 engagements per post

It’s clearly account 2. Whilst increasing followers is important, account 2 has greater influence. Ultimately, obtaining influence is the purpose of creating an Instagram account for your business. Therefore, increasing engagement on Instagram should be one of your main priorities.

However, it’s important to avoid falling into the trap of using automation or AI if you want influence online. Admittedly, having fake followers and engagement can provide a perception that you are influential. Therefore, it can be effective if you are in a niche and want to use your fake account to gain access to certain people and platforms. We have seen some “influencers” do exactly that. It gives them influence, just not on Instagram.

However, if you want to get real influence on Instagram it’s important to increase your engagement by following organic methods. This will help you to build a loyal following who come to see you as an expert in your niche. In the end, this can lead to significantly better results.

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