Understanding Instagram Engagement

Are you at a loss for understanding Instagram engagement?

As of June 2018, Instagram has over 1 billion active users. Users can create photos and video for their feed, stories and IGTV.

When it comes to Instagram engagement, you’re competing against other creators and even your own profile to get people to look at your feed, stories and IGTV.


At one point, FrenchieCute followed every French Bulldog account on Instagram, excluding feature accounts, just to see how many French Bulldog accounts are out there. I stopped at 4,000 French Bulldog accounts since it’s pretty obvious there are a lot in addition to a lot of dog accounts on Instagram.

Following 4000 accounts is unrealistic for interaction so I started unfollowing when I scrolled my feed and saw a low quality image.

Instagram Algorithm

The six main factors impacting the content of users’ Instagram feeds:

  1. Interest. Based on previous interactions with similar content, Instagram predicts how much users will care about a post and ranks it accordingly high. 
  2. Recency. Fresh posts will appear higher than the old ones. 
  3. Relationship. Posts from people you frequently interacted or were tagged in pictures with in the past will appear higher in the feed. 
  4. Frequency. Depending on how often you open Instagram, the app will show you the top posts published since your last visit. 
  5. Following. If you’re following multiple people, Instagram will select content from a wider selection of people as opposed to focusing on a single person
  6. Usage. If you use Instagram for multiple short sessions, it will show you only the top content since your last visit. If you spend more time during a single session on the app, it will add other posts to the mix.

Several of these factors, frequency or usage, are beyond your control and depend on the way your followers use Instagram.

Debunking Rumors

In 2018, Instagram met with journalists and not only shed light on the factors impacting the content of users’ feed, but also debunked widespread rumors. The Instagram algorithm is not doing the following:

  • Shadow banning
  • Hiding posts in the news feed
  • Favoring videos over photos
  • Upranking posts from users using Instagram-specific content formats, such as Stories
  • Downranking users for publishing too often
  • Giving more exposure to personal or business accounts specifically

What makes Engagement?

  • Followers
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares

According to Instagram, users under the age of 25 spend over 32 minutes a day using the platform and users 25 and over spend more than 24 minutes daily on the app. 

If you think your engagement is down, think of your own habits in using Instagram. Are you spending less time on others’ accounts? Are you mainly focused on adding your content and running down a list of chore activities for accounts you know through groups chats or pods, but not genuinely interacting on others’ content?

Improve Your Odds

  • Photo Quality – bright images get 24% more likes compared to dark images
  • Post at the Optimal Time for your audience – if everyone is posting at 9am EST is that the best time? Or does that mean you’re competing with many other accounts to be seen in the same time frame?
  • Call to Action – want your audience to interact with your content? Give them a clear CTA in the caption
  • Don’t Post & Ghost – Post when you have 15-20 minutes to interact on others’ accounts
  • Return Comments – if people have taken the time to comment on your post, don’t just heart the comment, reply and even visit their account to comment
  • Be Consistent – train your audience that you show up by a certain time with quality photos so they seek you out

Quick Action

Think of Instagram engagement as John Lennon’s misquoted McCartney lyric: And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give

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