• Zoe Barnett

5 Instagram habits to boost engagement for your small business account

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

Instagram? Pick a pretty picture. Write a caption. Choose some hashtags. Select a geotag. Annnnndddd... Post. That's it, right? Just wait for those likes and comments to come rolling in on Instagram? Actually, sorry, that's wrong. You may get a few likes. Which is great to a certain extent (and ends at the disingenuous double-tap and scroll feature of Instagram). Good Instagram engagement is so much more than just posting everyday.

Smart phone that shows Instagram marketing for Zo Connected and how to engage on Instagram
Getting into the habit of engaging on Instagram can really help your small business' social media marketing

Ever-changing Instagram?

Instagram, like many social media platforms, has gone through many changes over the years. And with these changes comes (usually) improvements to the user experience. And okay I admit it - sometimes more work for anyone marketing their small business.

How come?

Well, nowadays as a small business it's not just about showing up on Instagram.

It's about showing up, saying something witty or cool, getting involved with the conversation, helping someone out and being the life and soul of the Instagram party.


That sounds exhausting! *hides in introverted shell*

The good news?

With a few daily habits and routines you can increase your Instagram engagement naturally without feeling overwhelmed with the 'always present' feeling of social media.

Because as much I love Instagram I recognise that we need time away from it. It should not eat our lives!


So, nevertheless, here are...

5 easy habits to boost engagement on Instagram

(by engagement I mean likes, comments, shares, story replies and general interaction)

Put effort into your caption

Anyone who has read my blog before (or knows me) will know that I'm all about the words, baby!

More specifically - words that work.

Sometimes it's tempting to be swayed by the fact that Instagram is a highly visual platform and ignore the caption or disregard. Forget its importance, maybe.

This isn't a good tactic. Combine a great image with a great caption and you'll be Instagram gold.

Captions are your opportunity to talk to people by adding something more to your image.

Whether you tell a story or ask a question, always think about your audience and what would provide them with value.

Friendly open questions are a great way to get people to comment on your post. Well, if you don't ask you don't get - right!?

Trust me, it's a lot more likely to receive comments than a post with a few emojis and some hashtags on.

For more help with writing Instagram captions my blog post, How to write Instagram captions for your small business, may help!

Smile! Show off your PERSONal side

So yes, I love words.

But without a great image your caption risks falling on deaf ears.

To be sure an image will have great engagement I always say go personal.

And by personal I don't necessarily mean a picture of what you had for lunch (yawn).

I mean, PERSONal.

A picture of you or a team member?


Instagram analytics feed posts sorted by engagement to show the most successful posts are smiling people
Top tip: check out how your posts perform by visiting your 'Insights' page. You can view your feed posts by engagement. It's no surprise that my top performing post is a smiley one of moi! I told ya - people like people! Especially when they smile!

Why smiling specifically? It's well known that smiley happy pictures attract... well, other smiley happy people who feel drawn to your warm photo.

Smiley photos increase engagement. So go for it, I dare you to select a smiley photo of yourself before selecting a product image. Let's see how it performs...

Post Instagram stories

Instagram is so much more than 'the grid' nowadays.

In fact, if you ask most people they probably admit to spending more time tapping through stories than actually scrolling through posts.

Posting stories can not only regularly draw people to your profile but they can increase engagement through showing the real side of your business.

Stories are less curated (most of the time).

You can further increase engagement by using Instagram sticker's on stories. From opinion polls to 'ask me a question' stickers, you have lots of ways to encourage your audience to interact with you.

Instagram stories example using gif, hashtags, geotag and boomerang style.
Try a fun boomerang and play around with Instagram stickers (Gifs, polls, questions) to create a short entertaining look behind the scenes of your small business.

But remember: it's not all about you... so...

Reply to other stories

Great! You've posted a story so now you can sit back and relax?


Make sure you're replying to stories of others on Instagram.

It's a simple enough 'engagement tactic' because being nice usually encourages others to be nice back.

I.e. they comment on your stories back!

Which can make a huge difference to your algorithm as Instagram sees you as sharing valuable content that people are interacting in.

Anyway, isn't it just nice to be nice?

And you never know what 'business buddies' you might meet out there!

Image and caption about business and smiling at others

Comment on other posts *thoughtfully*

Notice 'thoughtfully' in asterisks!

Commenting on things you genuinely find interesting is a great way to also build relationships and in turn increase engagement on your own Instagram account.

It's the same logic as above. You create a community by commenting on others' posts. You will all be supporting each other.

Never and I say NEVER be tempted to be like a bot and just comment with emojis or one word like, "great!" as it just looks spammy.

Offer a little bit more. Think about how you can add to this person's profile. You can do wonders and it will pay off.

screenshot of instagram image with many comments and likes - image is a smartphone demonstrating how instagram marketing works
Okay I'm not saying 'there's no such thing as selfless act' but commenting on others' posts can make a real difference to your own posts' performance. Comments (when not bot comments) are so so so much more valuable than likes!

And definitely DEFINITELY do not be tempted to use a bot. Ever. *yuck*

Did you know that it's really good to engage for 10 minutes before and immediately after you post something? Instagram LOVES that kind of things as it shows what an engaged account you are with your community.

Small Instagram habits can add up to something great

Actually, not just on Instagram.

We know that in life a little effort can go a far way.

This is simply the case with Instagram.

There's a tendency to complain and lament Instagram's algorithm sometimes. I get it. Sometimes it can be frustrating. But perhaps, you just aren't approaching Instagram the right way.

Switching your effort up to focus on others and getting involved can sometimes be a lot more worthwhile than searching for the perfect photo.

After all, it's SOCIAL media, so shouldn't you be social on it?

Bonus tip: integrate social media into your everyday routine

One of the best ways I keep on top of engagement is I reply when I'm doing or waiting for other tasks.

So, if I'm at the gym on the spinning bikes I do some engagement then.

(Oh, and it really helps if you're like me and really DO NOT like exercise as engaging on Instagram totally distracts you.)

Or, if I'm waiting for the kettle to boil - I hop on and get chattin'.

It doesn't have to be complicated. And it certainly doesn't have to take over.

glass teapot on Zo Connected blog about social media instagram engagement
Have a cuppa and reply to some exciting and informative posts on Instagram that you genuinely like.

For more Instagram tips read my Instagram checklist for small business owner.

Instagram marketing help & support

I get it though, sometimes social media isn't your cup of tea.

You're running a small business for goodness sake!

"I don't have the time to do it all!"

And you don't have to.

There are people out there who are experts in all things social media marketing who can help you and your small business. And take social media marketing off your plate.

Like moi! *plug alert*

Check out my online marketing services here.

And, don't hesitate to get in touch!

I'd love to chat more about your business and see how social media marketing can help you.

Online marketer sat at desk looking at Instagram for business in home office
Let me help you with your small business social media marketing