9 super tips for upping your business’ Instagram engagement

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Instagram is my personal favourite social network. I love pretty pictures, and this social network is an easy way to digest a huge quantity of prettiness with a big ol’ dollop of inspiration too. It’s also the social network I write about most, like in my article about 3 Bristol businesses nailing Instagram.

Instagram is a perfect marketing tool for a lot of indie businesses. From communicating a brand culture, to the more literal showing off your incredible products, it’s a great way to get your name in front of potential customers.

So, at the beginning of this month I shared 9 easy tips for increasing your Instagram engagement via Instagram – and now I’m sharing them here too, with a little more detail.

1. Search local

Social media is social, an aspect that is so often forgotten. To get the best engagement, you need to find and interact with people who could buy from you.

Now this tip I should really keep to myself, as it’s worked out pretty awesomely for Studio Cotton. Spend 5-10 minutes, twice a day searching for posts in your location. Heart the nice ones, comment when you have something to say , and follow accounts that pique your interest.

Commenting is the most genuine way to truly engage, but my golly does it feel weird at first. Start with the basics, use specific compliments about images (to show that you’re definitely not a robot), ask about things that you like, and try to add to the poster’s content.

2. Stop selling, start sharing

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of selling on Instagram, sharing products and prices and forgetting about what’s important – beautiful imagery and video.⠀

Take a step back and think about what your customers really want to see in their feed. It isn’t sales messaging. When I plan Instagram content, I try to think of what the audience will literally see on my profile – that grid of 9-12 posts depending on the size of their screen.

As a rule of thumb, aim for only one sales message per 9-12 posts. This means that at any one time, if someone views your profile and debates whether or not to follow you, they won’t be put off.

Once you get a loyal following sales promos will be far more welcome!

3. Preview your feed

I blooming love playing with my Instagram feed as a whole. That’s why at the moment, all the Studio Cotton posts are themed in multiples of three, as I find that moment when the rows come together to be pretty damn magical.

This also means that I am obsessed with previewing our Instagram feed. Partly because without a preview I can never work out which way round to post one of these grid-based collages.⠀

Previewing your feed also gives you a really good idea of the story your telling, and makes it easy to identify when you’re going too hard on a single subject matter or if something is out of place.⠀

When it comes to Instagram scheduling, I don’t think you can beat Later.com – it’s also free for up to 30 posts a month which is plenty for most small businesses.

4. Be ever so lovely

I know you’re lovely. You know you’re lovely. Now let everyone know you’re lovely. ⠀

Comment, like and follow other Instagram accounts. It sounds obvious but this is by far the easiest way to grow brand awareness and loyalty, as well as meeting new people and businesses for colab opportunities.⠀

Just as we said with searching local earlier, make sure to keep interacting with people through your main Instagram feed. You’ll quickly work out who is the most receptive, and will likely find that your own indie business community welcomes you with open arms.

5. Stay Original

Your Instagram account should scream your brand identity. Every picture should tell your brand story and show off your talent and creativity.⠀

Invest in creating original content. This doesn’t always mean spending loads of time and money on expensive photographers and designers, just spend half an hour a week creating something new from scratch.

Be inspired by what others do, but always think, “how can I make this more ‘me'”, and “how can I do this better than anyone else?”⠀

6. Hashtag everything

Hashtags can look damn ugly, just check out the mess under the original post for this tip. However, they’re an important tool for Instagram accounts of all maturity levels to help find new followers.⠀

I use a similar approach to search engine keywords to find hashtags that work for me, and use the following 5 groups to try and make the most of my 30.

  • Brand, e.g. your company name, your personal name
  • Location, e.g. #bristol, #bristoluk #igersbristol
  • Service/product, e.g. #hairdressing #necklace #cactuslovers
  • Campaign, these are tags specific to the image you are posting
  • Generic bot attractors, e.g. #love #ootd #woman – to boost your like count through those pesky robots

7. Post with purpose

This is probably the most important Instagram tip of all. Do you ever find yourself thinking “I haven’t posted to Instagram in a while, I better put something up now”.


This kind of reactionary social media leads to a decline in quality and means you could miss out on important messages.

Get yourself an A3 year planner and highlight every day your business should talk about. Next spread out a few key business messages like free delivery and product launches.

If you have any particularly big empty blocks, find a professional to help you fill them with a photoshoot.

Now you know what at least 40% of your content should be, and will always have something ready to go. I try to aim for 90% of content ready in advance because I’m super lazy and can never think on the fly.⠀

8. Tag your location

Super simple tip – the location button is there for a reason. Facebook and Instagram love location-based targeting, and so do your customers.⠀

By adding a location, you’re more likely to get in front of people near you. Mix up your tags so you’re not always in the same place. I use a mix of the Studio Cotton office, our client’s businesses, the generic ‘Bristol’, and ‘Southville’ when I’m at home.

9. Share what you love

You can tell when an Instagram feed is unloved. The content is bland, lazy and well, boring.

You need to be a bit selfish on Instagram, as that’s the only way to be successful. Only post images that you LOVE – and post lots of them. Be fussy – if someone in your business shows you something they want to share, and you don’t love it, don’t share it.

Take absolute pride in what you do, because you’re great at doing it.

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