Various changes to Instagram in the recent year may have caused the decline of engagement on the platform. It isn’t certain, but many believe it is either changes to Instagram’s recent algorithm, or the “Instagram shadowban” as it is called. This is based on the purchases of ads on the platform by businesses. Those using Instagram for marketing are likely finding this decline problematic – however, there are a few ways to get more likes and follows to your Instagram account.

Apart from the daily basics of sharing great content, engaging with your followers, and growing a thriving community, here are 5 tips to help you take your Instagram account to the next level.

1. Curate Your Instagram Hashtags

Many have been discussing how Instagram has been penalizing accounts to deter spammy behavior. However, in the process, non-spammy behaviors have been included, such as the use of the same hashtags repeatedly, or using banned hashtags. Referred to as the “Instagram shadowban”, users have found that using even one banned hashtag will deem their post not visible in hashtag searches for any hashtags used.

This has been described by users as a way for Instagram to minimize influencer marketing, while encouraging business accounts to invest in paid advertising. To avoid dealing with this issue, it would be wise to review your hashtags to ensure that they haven’t been banned by Instagram. The best way to find out is to search for the hashtag, and if only Top Posts show, then it likely has been banned. If this is the case, refrain from using these hashtags.

Having your post landing in the Top Posts is a great opportunity for high exposure. There is an algorithm behind how this works – it considers: engagement the post received, hashtag popularity, and how quickly the post receives likes and comments. Focusing on these factors can get your post into Top Posts.

Suggested Tool: Hashtagify

2. Schedule Your Instagram Posts When People Are Most Active

Finding out when your audience is most active is a major key to increased engagement. With this boost, posts will be more likely attracted to the Instagram algorithm to appear higher on users’ feeds. Scheduling posts can ensure this happens right on time. Be warned: some users have found that too many posts per day can decrease engagement. If this happens, attempt posting less to see if things change.

Suggested Tool: Later

3. Dip Into Automation to Boost Engagement

In an age where every day people use automation to simplify their lives, automating your engagement helps make your account look active as often as you’d like. Choosing the right automation tool starts with making sure your engagement is targeted to the right audience – which is where choosing the right hashtags matters. It’s also meant to supplement to your existing marketing efforts, not replace; this is a common error with people who misuse automation. Use an Instagram automation tool to connect you with new users so you can start the dialog. Engagement doesn’t end with a follow!

Suggested Tool: Growr

4. Add a Call-to-Action to Your Instagram Posts

Utilizing a call-to-action in your captions can make a world of a difference in terms of Instagram engagement. Encouraging users to engage with posts will not only make them view posts for a longer period of time, but Instagram may consider it as a Top Posts for hashtags. In order to do this, some power users ask followers to respond to the post in the comments, like it, or even directly message you.

5. Join the Team: Instagram Pods

Instagram’s switch from chronological posts to an algorithmic feed, has resulted in users joining together to create private groups called Instagram pods. Bloggers or businesses that share similar audiences can join together to increase their Instagram engagement. Pod users sharing posts are able to share them with the group. This way pod members can engage and leave a comment, leading other users to engage with the post as well.

To join a pod, you need to be accepted(or request an add) to a closed Instagram group. Typically done through word-of-mouth, search for similar themes to yours amongst the various Instagram-themed Facebook Groups, including Instagram Marketing Mastermind or The Gram Gang. Each group has its own rules and restrictions – play nice in the sandbox, and you’ll be rewarded with great engagement.

While Instagram pods may seem unorthodox, they aren’t prohibited to use by Instagram. Just be hesitant about promoting content doesn’t align with your audience. Each pod operates differently – if the shareable content appears useful to your users, then you’re good as gold.

Suggested Groups: Instagram Marketing Mastermind, The Gram Gang

6. Take Advantage of Instagram Stories

The boom of Instagram Stories has helped thousands to popularize their Instagram accounts and boosting their engagement. Some say that they may even experience more engagement by using it.

While it’s not guaranteed, poorly performing posts can be posted to Instagram Stories for an increase in engagement. This also opens up many new features on Instagram Stories to help increase awareness and popularize your content. Instagram Stories also includes the Explore page, which displays a row of Instagram Stories at the top of the page. Suggested stories are based on the accounts you follow and the posts you like. It really allows for an opportunity to discover new users and get ideas for great content. The more targeted your Stories are to a specific audience, the greater chance Instagram will add you to the recommended Stories!