How to engage with others on Instagram

As a small business owner, you know you should engage with others on Instagram, but how do you do it in an authentic way that actually provides results for your business? Maybe you already spend lots of time on social media but aren’t getting much back from it? It can feel incredibly frustrating and you’re no doubt wondering if it’s worth all the time you’re investing. 

You may be tempted just to blame the algorithm, which seems to change its mind more often than people change their underwear, but it’s actually less about IG moving the goalposts and more about how you use the app to your advantage. It’s about taking intentional action to engage with others consistently. 

To help you do this, I’m sharing my six top tips to use your time wisely and get results.

Tip 1 – Identify your target audience

It can be challenging to find your ideal client on social media; we’ve all been there. Creating a list of people from your target audience makes it easier to know who you should be communicating with. Build your list up over a period of time and start with as many or as little as you like. 

You might be wondering what information to put on it. It only needs simple details such as their name, business name and social media handles.

Once you’ve built your list, go ahead and follow those connections. This is an important step, so don’t miss it. If you don’t follow them, you won’t see what they’re posting. If you’re really keen, you can even turn on notifications so you know when they’ve posted. Turn these notifications on and off as you need to.

Tip 2 – Start to engage

Now it’s time to engage. To begin engaging with your ideal clients, start by commenting and liking their posts. A few different ways to do this include: 

  • Sharing your opinion on something they’ve posted
  • Letting them know if something resonates with you
  • Talking to them about something industry-related

Not only does this help your ideal client see you’ve got something worth saying or that you’re knowledgeable about your area of expertise, it also enables other people to see that too. Often new followers will come to your account via comments you’ve made on other people’s posts – you’ve peeked their interest and curiosity and they want to hear more from you.

However, don’t forget about engagement on your own posts too. If you’ve posted and people are commenting, you need to respond to what they’ve said. ‘Don’t post and ghost’ is a great rule to live by on Instagram. 

After all, social media is just that… social. And the more social you are, the better your engagement will be. If you don’t respond to comments, people won’t bother commenting – it’s as simple as that. 

Some of the biggest accounts on Instagram hire people just to engage with their community in the comments, responding and interacting with people – it’s that important.

Tip 3 – Hashtags

Let’s tackle the burning question. Should you use 10 hashtags or all 30? In late 2021, Instagram changed its bloomers yet again and announced that using 3-5 hashtags would be the optimum number. This was probably because some Instagram users were spamming the 30 hashtag rule and ruining the party for the rest of us. The app is also using a more SEO-based approach, therefore recommending fewer, more relevant hashtags makes sense to them.

But according to research done by Later, posts with all 30 hashtags are still performing the best. Here at Jennifer Cooper Timesaver, we’re following Later’s philosophy of ‘go big or go home’ and mostly use all 30. In our opinion (and the research backs this up), the more hashtags you use, the more it increases your chances of your ideal client finding you and thus improving your engagement rates.

Having said that, it’s important to do the research and use the right hashtags for your business – you want to attract your ideal client to your business, not just randoms who are hanging out and spamming your comments with chances to win the latest iPhone. 

You can even follow relevant hashtags so that posts using that hashtag come up in your feed. When you click into that hashtag, you have the option to view the best performing posts or the most recent. For better results, choose the most recent posts to engage with and start getting to know people by following the steps in the first tip above.

Tip 4 – Stories 

Using stories is the ideal way to give your audience a chance to glimpse behind the scenes of your business. As much as beautifully crafted grid posts or videos definitely have their value, stories are the place where people can get to know a bit more about you. Sharing typical parts of your day, e.g. the coffee you enjoy or the walk you’ve done at lunchtime, can prompt greater engagement as your audience interacts with you. 

Use all the features that Instagram has to offer too. You could create polls on topics that could spark conversation with your audience or use the question feature to find out what your audience is thinking.

You might like to consider using that question feature to further engage your audience by taking a question someone has asked and using it as a topic for an IG live. Or if speaking live makes you want to change your underwear, expand on a question within the stories feature itself. 

Some of the best accounts do a weekly ‘ask me anything’ on their stories, using the question sticker, and show up consistently to answer those questions for their audience. 

The ‘close friends’ feature is a great tool because it enables you to ask for feedback or to gain market research with a smaller audience that you trust. It makes people feel special if you add them to your close friends list – why not offer it to your audience and let them know they’ll get even more great content that’s not available to all followers?

Tip 5 – Conversation in the DMs

Want to know the secret to engaging effectively with people on social media? You’ve guessed it, send them a DM. Start a conversation. Often this helps to build a closer relationship as you can start to get to know them on a personal level first before mentioning anything business-related. 

You may find this a little intimidating at first – and that’s perfectly normal. It’s a little like going up to someone new at a networking event and chatting to them for the first time – all the while hoping you haven’t got bits of custard cream between your teeth. But starting small and simple is the best way forward. 

So, once again, see if there’s anything in their bio, stories, posts or highlights that you resonate with. Get to know them. Remember that having a conversation is a two-way street and relationships take work. 

Keep the word ‘relationship’ at the forefront of your mind – imagine how you’d want someone to interact with you for the first time on social media and go from there. Take a genuine interest – people tend to get annoyed if you try to get to know them just to pitch your services or products to them after two messages. I’m sure you’ve met those people in your own DMs.

You’ll know when the time is right for selling or pitching. You may find your ideal clients even approach you first if they’re interested and have engaged with your profile. 

Tip 6 – Reward yourself

Running a business is hard work. Social media is a fantastic way to market your business for free. We acknowledge that it takes hard work and dedication to see results. Rewarding yourself for the hard work you’re doing can be easily overlooked.

To help you reach your bigger goals, set yourself smaller daily/weekly goals. When you reach them, treat yourself. It’s important to celebrate your wins no matter how big or small they are.

You may feel as though you have to spend hours on these engagement tips every day. But you don’t. Try spending just 30-minutes a day interacting and engaging with others on their posts and on yours. If you do consistently, you’ll soon see results. Some experts suggest the ‘5-5-5’ approach. Use your social media time to:

  • Follow 5 new people from your target audience
  • Comment on 5 posts from your ideal clients
  • Send 5 new DMs to people you’re building relationships with

The real key to success is consistency and patience. Show up regularly and engage with those around you. You’ll soon find your own corner of Instagram that really feels like your community. Not only full of your ideal clients but full of other small business owners too. 

And while these tips are for Instagram, you can implement them across other platforms too. By following our simple steps of creating a list, engaging with others using the different features and rewarding yourself, you can continue to engage effectively with your target audience – and grow your business.

If you would like more support with building your Instagram audience, please get in touch here.