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Engagement, Hashtags and Ads…OH MY!

July 8, 2019

Hashtags, stories, promotions…oh my!

Welcome back my lovelies!

Today we are getting into the nitty gritty of Instagram and I’ll be answering the questions YOU asked me on Instagram. We’re talking hashtags, increasing engagement within the first hour of posting, promoting images, and more!

Last week we talked about Instagram engagement in general and the ultimate secret to increasing your engagement when you forget about the silly algorithm. If you haven’t read that post yet, PAUSE RIGHT NOW and take a moment to read it because that post is the foundation to everything else we will be talking about today. Don’t worry I won’t go anywhere!

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s get this party started:

“How do you ensure more engagement within the first hour of posting” – Question from @sammi.haines

This is something I’ve been testing the past few weeks. Of course figuring out which hashtags work for you has something to do with it, but we’ll get more into that in the next question. The photos that did really well for me in the 1st hour all had these things in common:

  • I spent intentional time engaging with other users within my niche before and after posting. To be more specific, I spent 30 mins in the morning when I woke up, 30 minutes before posting and 30 minutes after posting. On days I didn’t do this, my engagement DROPPED 50%!

  • I used an insightful, thought-out caption that told a story, gave advice or asked a question.
    Below on the left, you can see screenshot of my best performing photo from during this testing. You can see the hashtags didn’t do incredibly well, the photo isn’t some crazy beautiful view of us traveling but I spent extra time engaging with others and the caption kept the viewers attention! The screenshot on the right shows the engagement from when I put 0 effort into a caption. These results shocked me because usually my outdoors photos perform better for me but not in this case.

“How do you know what hashtags actually work for you? I’ve been struggling so hard lately because that analytics will say it’s working in my favor but then the same tags don’t do my next post any favors” – Question from @ashvedo

I am still on the quest to conquer the hashtag game, I definitely don’t have it all figured out but this is what I do know:

  • Constantly change your groupings of hashtags. If you’re a photographer and you have a set of 30 hashtags you use every time, maybe those photos will do well in those results for the first few times using them but the more you use those hashtags, you’re constantly reaching the same audience and competing with your other photos in that ranking.

  • Use hashtags that directly relate to your photo. If you post a great photo of you indoors at dinner with a bottle of champagne and use hashtags like #wanderlust #earthoutdoors #workingfromhome, as great as those hashtags are in terms of how frequently they’re used on Instagram, they have no relation to your photo. So even when you show up in those results, as great as your photo is, it is simply NOT what people are looking for when scrolling through that hashtag and users probably won’t stop to interact with your photo.

Solving the problem:

  • Here is what I did/do. I spent time researching hashtags and put together a list of over 400 hashtags to use that I have saved to my phone on the Notes app. These hashtags are categorized into Travel, Lifestyle, Business Tips, Couples, Fashion etc. Within each category the list contain hashtags that have between 10k-250k uses on Instagram. When I say “I spent time researching” I mean I went to Instagram, and searched through the “tags” tab. If I looked up #bloggerbabes here Instagram will suggest a bunch of related tags you can use!

  • I like to think of hashtags as lottery tickets. You have 30 free tickets, so what are you going to do with them? Do you want to use 5 or all 30? Are you going to put your tickets in to compete with MILLIONS of other people (ex. Using #travel with 419 million uses), or are you going to spread your tickets out into smaller groups where there is more chance for your ticket to be chosen (ex. #getlostnow with 165k uses). There will be a lot of trial and error but this is where testing what works for you comes into play.

“How often do you post on insta (story or feed) out of fear that you’ll become forgotten or irrelevant? I post every single day lately because I don’t want to get lost in people’s feeds. – Question from @ashvedo

I feel like this topic could be a whole blog post on its own, but until then this is my take on Instagram stories. The more you post to your story the better. You have more opportunity to get in front of more eyes, and, if using stories strategically, you can draw viewers to increase photo engagement. So how often should you post to your story? I try to ALWAYS have something on my story with the goal of posting 3-5 times a day. Why? When I post one thing every 24 hours, my average viewers are 200-300 people. BUT when I post every few hours/more consistently my viewers literally double or triple to 600-700! Also something you should know about the value of stories: There is a prediction that sharing with Instagram stories will surpass sharing through Feed views sometime in the middle of 2019. Think about it, when you open up your instagram, do you start scrolling, or are you checking to see who has a new story up? I know I always look at stories first.

“Do you promote your images? – Question from @ashvedo

Yes and no. I only promote my images when I know the investment will return a positive conversion.

When to not promote an image:

  • When you are bummed the engagement sucks. Don’t just promote a photo because you want more likes. That’s a silly business expense.  Instead, start engaging with others like I talked about in the last post and draw people to you organically.

  • When its a collaboration and the brand didn’t give you the money to promote it. The rule here can vary per person but this is my belief. If a brand didn’t give me the money to promote their product through my profile, I’m not going to use my personal money to promote it myself. If they willing to pay you, try to calculate the promotion in the initial rate you tell them. If you charge $100 per post and plan on promoting the collaboration, plan to charge the brand $120.

When to promote an image:

  • When the whole package (photo, caption, message etc.) is a great representation of you, your brand and/or business.

  • When there is a clear call to action that will grow your page or email list

  • When others can benefit from what you posted

Here’s an example for when I promoted an image:

  • When I released my free pitch templates teaching how to pitch to brands. I chose a photo that was a great representation of me, what I look like, working from home with a high quality image
    I wrote an attention grabbing first few words in my caption to stop people mid scroll. Then had two “call to actions”. They could download the templates for free through the link in my bio and encouraged readers to comment below suggestions on free templates they’d like to see in the future or something they struggle with when it comes to pitching. This created a pull to my email list AND increased engagement on the photo itself. THAT for me was worth investing money into.

Alright everyone, hope some of this information helped you! Don’t forget to screenshot something you learned/loved, share it to your Instagram story for others to see and tag me for a shoutout (@itsmodernmillie)!

Follow your joy,

  1. Madison Rolley says:

    wow great post Millie! It is crazy how much views increase when you post to your story consistently! Thanks for sharing! xoxo, Madison Rolley

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