Listen guys—we’re not gonna lie to you. This whole “Instagram” thing has been a rollercoaster from the start. It can sometimes feel like the rules of the game change the second anyone finds out what the game even is. (RIP to the good old days of posting a pixelated sunset photo with the Lo-Fi filter. ✌️)

How The Algorithm Affects Engagement

If you’ve been in the Insta-world for any amount of time, you’re probably familiar with the villain known as “the algorithm.” 👹 The algorithm is the name of the ever-changing set of rules that decide what content gains traction, builds engagement, and gets your name (and posts) out there to a larger audience. Coincidentally, it also decides which posts are shadow-banned and thrown into no man’s land, never to be seen by a soul.

What Can I Do to Help My Engagement?

With the Instagram platform still evolving, they like to keep a lot of the algorithm a mystery. However, the leaders of Instagram have shared a few things explicitly. While it started as a photo-sharing app, in order to compete with other popular social media platforms (*cough*, TikTok), Instagram has made a clear shift to favoring video content over photo posts. In fact, we wrote a whole blog about the announcement that Instagram is no longer a photo-sharing app, if you want to check it out!

But back to the matter at hand—engagement. First, let’s look at the kind of posts you can share and what kind of engagement you can expect from those posts. Then let’s dive into a few good user practices outside of posting that will also help with your engagement.

The Best Post Formats to Increase Engagement

1: Reels

In the last year and a half, Instagram has been very open about its favoritism toward Reels. In fact, the CEO of Instagram just announced that all videos on Instagram will now be Reels. We’ll keep you updated on what this looks like practically.

Anyway, back to Reels. This video format has become a popular choice for individuals, creatives, and business accounts to gain traction in a fun and engaging way. These short-form videos can range from 15-90 seconds in length.

Reels have been met with a variety of reactions from content creators. While some of us originally responded like Regina George (“Stop trying to make Reels happen”), most users have now come to accept that Reels aren’t going anywhere anytime soon—for better or for worse. And the truth is, they’re the best option to boost engagement and appease the gods of Instagram.

2: Carousel Posts

When it comes to engagement and visibility, your second best option is a carousel post. These posts are when you have a series of photo slides, and according to multiple analyses from 2019-2022, they are next in line for what the Instagram algorithm likes to see. Carousel posts can be a series of photos or educational graphics that add value to your audience.

This is good news to creators who still aren’t *quite* comfortable with Reels or other video content, because it gives them some engagement and visibility within the format they’re comfortable creating.

3: High-Quality Photos

Despite the fact that Instagram started as a simple photo-sharing app, a single photo is now the lowest priority on the platform. But it’s not all bad news, since sharing a photo is better than sharing nothing at all. Posting single photos with higher quality and more frequently can help offset drops in engagement. However, depending on what field your business is in, it may be more worth your time to focus on some of the higher-priority post types.

Our Top Non-Post Tips to Increase Engagement

As fun as it is to stress over constantly having to create content for your social media, posting isn’t the only thing you can do to help your engagement rates. Don’t get us wrong—we love the anxiety and relentless pressure to create endless content as much as the next person. 😅

Luckily, there are other ways to help with your engagement. Something important to keep in mind is the idea of “you have to give engagement to get engagement.” Instagram values interaction and time spent on their app—real people connecting with other real people. Things like scrolling through your feed, liking and commenting on other posts (remember, it costs zero dollars to “like” or comment on a post you see), and using the interactive elements of stories—such as polls and sliders—all help show the Instagram algorithm how devoted you are to them. When they see that, they’ll want to #bless you with improved exposure and engagement in return.

Also in case you’re wondering—no, “follow for follow” and “like for like” aren’t going to help you out in 2022. 😉

Final Thoughts

We know Instagram can sometimes feel like the lawless wasteland of Mad Max. However, there is some method to the madness. Engagement percentages have dropped across the board over the last few years, so even if you’re doing everything “right,” you likely won’t see the same level of engagement you did in 2018—and that’s okay.

However, between leaning into Reels, carousels, frequent liking and commenting, and posting fun behind-the-scenes Stories—you’re sure to see those engagement numbers go up.

Have any questions or need help overhauling your social media presence? Drop us a line, we’d love to chat!