Hard lessons learned from a long-time Instagrammer.

Zulie Rane
Oct 17, 2018 · 4 min read
“silver iPhone 6 turned on” by Le Buzz on Unsplash
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Meet Chumbo and Astrid, above. I’ve been running my cats’ Instagram for about 10 months now. It’s not hyper-successful by any means, but I do have a little niche following.

A while ago, I committed to really getting into it. I started posting every day consistently, I learned how to edit the images, I started really thinking about the captions. In short, I started doing all the things every ‘Influencer’ webinar and blog tells you to do.

However, I found my engagement was really variable. Some posts would get an engagement of 15–20% whereas others wouldn’t break 5%. I couldn’t tell why — I didn’t change anything, it was all in the same style and tone. Why was this happening?

FYI: engagement is calculated as (number of likes + comments)/(number of followers). One of my most successful posts had ~500 likes and comments, at a time when I have about 2500 followers, giving me an engagement of about 20%.

I had a breakthrough when I received a really nice comment on one of my posts. Cheered, I clicked to her profile and had a quick browse of her feed, liking some of the pictures.

That’s when I realized that humans are, by nature, reciprocal.

When people feel that you appreciate them and their content, they’ll be more interested in reciprocating.

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. You give me a nice feeling, I want to help you out.

It’s like our monkey brain is telling us to build relationships and communities.

The fix? In order to get engagement, you have to engage yourself.

In practical terms, that means going on some of the smaller hashtags that are associated with your niche, and leaving some heartfelt comments. It also means spending time on your own feed and giving some comments and likes to the people you follow.

DO’s

  • Focus on smaller hashtags (e.g. for me, I go in on #mainecoonkitten or #catladyproblems rather than #mainecoon or #
  • Leave genuine comments reacting to photos. Respond to the caption they posted. If there’s nothing inspiring, just point out what you like about the picture.
  • Enjoy your browsing time! My cat account follows exclusively other cat accounts so my feed is FULL of adorable cuteness. Your feed should be popping with amazing niche-specific content. Enjoy it!
  • Get to know the people you follow. Build a little community! Direct message, respond to stories, reply to comments, get conversations going! We’re all people out here.

DON’Ts

  • Go on #f4f or #likeforlike hashtags. This might get you a few likes in the short-term, but shortcuts are not the way to move forward in building your account.
  • Leave generic comments like ‘cute’ or ‘nice’, or even worse: only emojis! People can tell this is fake and uninteresting.
  • Scroll mindlessly, just trying to like as many as possible. Be selective: if a photo isn’t good, don’t like it! Keep your scrolling and liking as mindful as possible.

My results

I don’t just talk the talk, I also walk the walk. For the sake of this article, I went out there and liked LOTS of cat pictures on Instagram.

Here are my stats.

On a day when I did NO outside engagement, I posted this photo:

It’s on 243 likes as of the posting of this article, but for the purposes of this little experiment, I can tell you it had 183 likes and one comment in the first 24 hours of posting.

183 (likes) + 1 (comment) / ~2900 (followers) = 6.3% engagement

By comparison, three days later: this is one I posted on a day when I liked and commented on different hashtags, some of my followers, and sent some direct messages out.

It’s currently on 482, but at 24 hours after posting it was at 315 likes and 6 comments, which is over 10% engagement!

315 (likes) + 6(comment) / ~3000 (followers) = 10.7% engagement


The takeaway?

People like to be liked. It’s basic human psychology. And when they feel that you appreciate them and their content, they’ll be more interested in reciprocating. Sometimes you have to take the first step.

Not only does this get you more engagement but it also builds a community — people similar to you who are interested in the same things.

Engagement is not the only thing that matters in this world.

Personally, for me, I went from kind of dreading my daily Instagram time to looking forward to it- a chance to catch up with some accounts, see their content and build those relationships. That, to me, is worth the extra time and effort it takes to like and comment on more pictures.


The Post-Grad Survival Guide

We're confused twenty-somethings. We dish on our post-grad blues, successes, failures, and everyday life right here. Featuring topics related to work, relationships, travel, finances, and so much more.

Zulie Rane

Written by

Lover of writing, mother of cats, drinker of cheap red wine. She/her. Want to make money by writing on Medium? Get my starter kit here: tinyurl.com/y4c43ha7

The Post-Grad Survival Guide

We're confused twenty-somethings. We dish on our post-grad blues, successes, failures, and everyday life right here. Featuring topics related to work, relationships, travel, finances, and so much more.

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