7 Easy Ways To Improve Instagram Engagement with Visuals

Struggling to improve Instagram engagement?

Here are 7 visual strategies to boost your reach and engagement on Instagram.  

Some of them only take a few seconds to do!  

7 Easy Ways to Improve Instagram Engagement with Visuals
Camera by Shutterstock

If you are wondering how to get more eyeballs on your posts (and improve Instagram engagement) then listen up.

These Instagram Engagement tips can be implemented easily (some of them take just a few taps of a button).

Many of these tips are Instagram Engagement Features that you may not even realise are there.

Which is nothing to worry about. Let’s face it… Instagram has added some pretty COOL features over the past year.  I can barely keep up!

The thing I love about all of these features is that they link back to effective visual storytelling on Instagram.

Let’s jump in and take a look at 7 Instagram Engagement TIps (with Visuals) that you can start using NOW in your Instagram Marketing:

7 Ways to Improve Instagram Engagement

1.  Create an Engaging Photo Series

Instagram was built upon the idea of sharing beautiful, engaging photos.  But how can you get people to come back for more?

Tease them with a photo or video series.

It’s all about getting them to come back for (and engage with) more of your content in that series.

Someone who does this really well is Lauren Bath, a photographer and Instagrammer who works with tourism brands around the world.

Lauren posts her images as a series of photos over a few days which encourages her followers to check back in.

Whether it’s the Rocky Mountains, Zimbabwe, Norway or Japan – Lauren posts stunning images.  I’ve posted about Lauren’s images before, but today I am going to give a shameless plug for my country, Australia.

Here are a few recent images from Vivid Festival in Sydney as part of a photo series:

 

 

 

 

Lauren is a skilled storyteller. She rolls her story out over many images. Be sure to click through to the actual images to read the longer captions.

Lauren’s photographs speak for themselves.  However, by continuing the story in the captions, she engages her viewers.  This adds something special and keeps you coming back for more.

Want to do a photo series to Improve Instagram Engagement? Here are some ideas for you.  You can post: 

  • images or videos around a particular location if you are a tourism brand
  • tips or how-to images or videos
  • a series of posts by your community using User Generated Content. Be sure you get permission using a tool like Tack. (See No. 7 below).
  • Bonus points if you add a colour theme or filter style to your series so that it looks great on the feed.

2.  Leverage Captions for Storytelling

Instagram is a platform where users like to stay “on” the platform.

If you ask someone to go to another site for something with a call to action, make sure it is really important.

For the most part, people like to stay on Instagram. So when storytelling, take advantage of everything you can. That includes leveraging your captions.

As with Lauren’s example above, it’s smart to tell stories in the captions to improve Instagram engagement – add more context, give detail, expand on your image.

Branden Harvey grew a huge following on Instagram by doing just that – telling amazing stories in the captions of his (amazing) photographs and portraits:

 

Today I had the pleasure of meeting my new friend, Godelieve. When we walked into her front yard, she gave each of us the biggest hug ever and we sat down to hear her about what life is like being HIV positive. She is a mother of 4 and grandmother to 1. While visiting, we asked her what word she would choose to describe her life, and she said “strength”. . Sixteen years ago, when Godelieve learned that she tested HIV positive, she found it incredibly difficult to accept. She felt like it was the end for her – she was afraid of being excommunicated from the community & was afraid she’d never live a healthy life again. . Her community health workers helped assure her that those things were not true and that life could still be good for her, as long as she accepted her condition & the treatment available. She now takes her medication every day and has a healthy life, along with all of her children who are all HIV free. They live on a piece of land that they farm & are raising a cow together. She said dreams her kids will receive a good education and will be grow up to be leaders for the future of Rwanda. #REDinRwanda #endAIDS

A post shared by Branden Harvey (@brandenharvey) on

 

It’s amazing to sit in the same place that I used to sit years ago when I visited in high school. In a lot of ways, the time I spent here really made me who I am today. . I think we all have those places that are uniquely meaningful. Because I was so social, connected, and online growing up, I think it makes sense that my meaningful place was remote— miles from towns or houses, no cell service, and few if any of the people from my hometown. . I think Malibu sticks out to me in a lot of ways because I needed that contrast from my normal life. And though there’s a lot of time spent with people or time spent doing crazy things, I really enjoyed the peaceful moments in nature. . And like all meaningful places, Malibu was an incredible place to get to know myself better, understand my faith more, and learn more about what it means to be a human being in this world. . It’s nice being back here at @younglife’s Malibu Club getting to know myself in all these ways again.

A post shared by Branden Harvey (@brandenharvey) on

People love longer captions on Instagram.  They want to immerse themselves in your storytelling. 

It’s different to Facebook, so remember that. You can tell longer stories.

And of course, you can send people to your Instagram story for more context, information, behind the scenes information. But more of that below.

3.  Create a Slideshow of Images and Video

Instagram has always been about great images and videos.  But have you heard about Instagram Slideshows?

It’s another way that you can share content and improve Instagram engagement.

It’s great for those times when you have more than one great image, or perhaps another story to tell visually.

Or when you just can’t make up your mind about what to share!  (Yep, that’s me…. often).

Here’s an example of an Instagram slideshow from the Indian Bike Touring company Trails of India.  Click the arrow to “swipe” right” or if you are on a mobile, click through to their Instagram account and swipe right to view the entire slideshow.  Their slideshow showcases tips for bike riding across India:

 

I like how Trails of India gets creative with their content – they use slideshows in many ways to encourage engagement with their audience:

 

They also showcase events and trail rides with multiple photos of the participants – sharing content about their community to improve Instagram engagement.

Slideshows work particularly well when you have extra (great) content that you want to share beyond the main cover image or video.

I speak around the world about visual storytelling, often at tourism conferences and the benefit is that I often get to go on some amazing tourism experiences.

Here’s one such bucket list experience where I just couldn’t choose the image to share…so I maxed out my slideshow with 9 images and one video (you can share 10 in total).

As you can see, a mix of photos and video works well on Instagram Slideshows:

 

Bucket list experience today with @snowyowlsleddogtours. Swipe left to see more. We got upgraded to steer our own team and wow…. exhilarating. Our two little humans were in love with the huskies and a highlight was sledding across a frozen lake! So grateful for today. And to our lead dogs. Miss 8 loved that one of our lead dogs was called Elsa…. highly recommend this company for their pure love of their dogs, the open field ranch these dogs live on together and the owner leading the way in establishing regulations for humane and ethical treatment of sled dogs. #visitalberta #explorealberta #albertacanada #sleddogs #familytravel #bucketlist #footprintcollective #rockymountains #canadianrockies #albertabound #canmorealberta #canadianhusky #canada #supporthumanemushing #sleddogs

A post shared by Socially Sorted (@donnamoritz) on

Ready to create a slideshow to improve Instagram engagement? Here’s some ideas:

  • Add more information to your image or video – choose the best image or video to go first as a cover image, then add your supplementary images after that.
  • Create a sequence of items, tips, elements into a slideshow
  • Show an itinerary or tour
  • Encourage engagement like Trails of India did in the above example. Share more than one example around a topic.
  • Create an image series that flow from one image to another, like this cool creation from HP (swipe/click right to view):

 

Share all the twists and turns of your summer adventures with the HP Sprocket. 🗺

A post shared by HP (@hp) on

Will you get creative with Instagram Slideshows?

 

 

4.  Add Location Stickers to your Instagram Stories

Instagram stories are a great way to connect further with your audience and improve Instagram engagement.  They allow you to tell a story that goes deeper than the image or photo you post on the feed.

And you can add stickers, filters, text to make your stories more engaging.

One type of sticker that is super important (but often missed) is the location sticker.  It makes it easy to tag your location for your story to be found more easily on Instagram.

Check out this post to find out more about Instagram Location Stickers.

Here’s an example of an Instagram Location Sticker feed for San Diego Zoo. You can see that there are stories to be discovered at the top via the circle icon:

Instagram Location Stories - 7 Easy Ways To Improve Instagram Engagement with Visuals
Choose the “circle” story icon at the top of the feed to view stories

And if you click on the circular story icon, you will see a whole bunch of stories featured like this one:

Instagram Location Stories - 7 Easy Ways To Improve Instagram Engagement with Visuals
Discover stories around that location with Instagram Stories

Anyone who uses a Location sticker in their story for the San Diego Zoo may get featured in the location story.  And their story can also be found if someone searches under that location.

As I outlined in this post, Instagram Location Stories are a great way to get your content discovered.

All you have to do is add the location sticker to your story.

This is great for any business that has a physical location to post about their business. It also allows you to:

  1. Find people sharing stories around that location.
  2. Encourage and share User Generated Content by finding relevant content to share (and tag) on your stories.
  3. Join the conversation. You can direct message someone who has posted about a particular location or you can check out their profile, follow and engage with them.

And again, these stickers take just seconds to add to your content. Will you do it, now that you know how easy it is and how you can get discovered more easily with Instagram Location Stickers?

Oh, and the best part is this:  If your story is included in a story round up by Instagram around the location you tagged with a sticker, your story views will usually get a huge boost.  #Winning.

5.  Add Hashtags to get found on Instagram Stories

Hashtags work in a similar way and allow you to get found on Instagram. This happens through the Hashtag hub or the Instagram Story hashtag.

These can be regular hashtags you type into your story, or you can one of the Hashtag Stickers on Instagram

Anyone that searches under a particular hashtag on Instagram will see search results for that hashtag including images and videos.

But they may also see Instagram stories featured in the hashtag hub.  Hashtags are pulled in from captions, comments and stories.

I saw that my friend Rebekah Radice was speaking at an influencer conference called “Megaphone 2017” and I decided to search on the Hashtag #megaphone17 to see what the conference was like.

Instagram pulled in the following hashtag search results:

 

Hashtag Search on Instagram - 7 Easy Ways To Improve Instagram Engagement with Visuals
Hashtag search on Instagram will show Instagram Stories too

Just like Location Stickers,  Instagram Stories will show in the search if someone is using that hashtag in an Instagram story.

Here’s a story that came up about Rebekah speaking on stage:

Instagram Hashtag Stories - 7 Easy Ways To Improve Instagram Engagement with Visuals

If I tap on the hashtag it will also take me back to the hashtag hub!

Hashtags on Instagram Stories - 7 Easy Ways To Improve Instagram Engagement with Visuals
Click to view the hashtag hub

This means that you should consider using hashtags in the caption or comments on your image or video …. and also in your Instagram Stories.

Use hashtags related to your industry, relevant topics or themes. Feature any topic that you are likely to be found “via” with a hashtag… including locations, events and communities.

Again, it just takes a few seconds to add a hashtag, so remember to consider this when creating your next Instagram Story.. and help your content get seen by more people!

Here’s how a Hashtag Sticker looks on Instagram Stories. If you click it, you will be able to view the hashtag hub for that particular hashtag.  If you want to make your hashtag stand out, use a sticker!

Instagram Story Hashtags - 7 Easy Ways To Improve Instagram Engagement with Visuals
Add an Instagram Hashtag Sticker to get found!

 

6.  Get Creative with Instagram Story Tools

Instagram stories has some engaging tools that you can use to improve Instagram engagement.

These include the ability to add text, coloured text backgrounds, filters and stickers of all types.

You can also use the following two tools to create engaging content:

  1.  Boomerang – Boomerang is a fun tool that allows you to create GIF-like short repeating-loop videos that can be fun, especially on Instagram stories. You can also use them in your regular Instagram posts as well. Be careful you don’t over-do it with Boomerangs, but most Instagram users love them.
  2.  Rewind – allows you to record video into your story and have it instantly reversed… you can create some cool effects with this!

You can find both Boomerang and Rewind at the bottom of your Stories home screen – just click the one you want and start recording by holding down the button. Super easy!

Boomerang and Rewind on Instagram Stories - 7 Easy Ways To Improve Instagram Engagement with Visuals
Choose Boomerang or Rewind and start recording!

 

Below is an example of a “Boomerang”. My new friend Arun Singh (presenter at Shop CJ India) “Boomeranged” this recently (and yes, it is used like a verb) when I was speaking in Mumbai at the Indian Digital Media Awards.

A post shared by Shop CJ India (@shopcjindia) on

I like to create my Boomerangs first with the Boomerang app. Then I can use them later in videos and on Instagram stories by importing them when I am ready.

Sometimes, however, it’s just better to create a boomerang on the fly, straight from the Instagram Stories dashboard.

Note:  Another tool that is great to use is Instagram’s Hyperlapse which allows you to take longer videos and then speed it up.  I have seen many brands use it effectively in Instagram Stories.  Just import the video when you need it.

You can find both Boomerang and Hyperlapse in the iOS and Android apps stores.

 

7.  Share User Generated Content

One of the best ways to grow a community on Instagram is to share User Generated Content.

It’s important that you:

(a) get permission and

(b) give credit by linking to the Instagrammer when you do this.

It’s becoming more and more common for big brands and tourism organisations to not just rely on giving credit but to get permission. Acquiring Usage Rights is super important if you are going to use it for your business.

You can get credit by simply asking or sending a DM, but one of the best ways to do it is to use a tool like Tack where you can get permission or usage rights around a clear set of T&Cs.

You can also keep a record of the permission in a media centre. I like that Tack allows you to download and reshare videos with permission too.

Find out more about Tack in this post.

A great brand who almost 100% posts with User Generated Content is AirBnB.

Here’s an example of a post where they showcase a host and some of the reasons to stay in this gorgeous cottage in Japan:

 

都会の喧騒から離れた木立の中のコテージにいると、まるで時が止まったかのよう。少なくとも、何にも急かされず、ゆったりとした時間を過ごせるでしょう。もし、外に出たくなってうずうずしたら、このコテージを友人と建てたホストのDaigoさんに、近くの温泉に連れて行ってもらうもよし、森の奥の神社へと続く、 数百段もの小さな階段に行ってみるもよし。 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This off-the-grid cottage in the woods can make you feel like time has stopped, or at least slowed down enough to let you catch up. If you get the urge to go out, your host, Daigo, who built this place with his friends, can take you to a nearby onsen (hot springs), or help you discover the hundreds of tiny steps in the forest that lead to a shinto shrine. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Photo: @sakiiiko_travels

A post shared by Airbnb (@airbnb) on


It’s a nice touch that the caption is in Japanese as well as English.

User Generated Content is one of the most powerful forms of storytelling and will definitely help you to improve Instagram engagement.

Customers and your community are always the best storytellers, so take advantage of it!

 

Extra Tips to Improve Instagram Engagement

I just wanted to share a couple of extra tips for you when it comes to visuals on Instagram:

  • Less Posts More Quality – the Instagram Algorithm has changed things up a bit and you may notice a drop in your likes and engagement.  One thing that is working for most users is to post less often and with better quality. Choose your best images and video to post to your feed and then use Instagram Stories and Slideshows to add supplementary content.  Less is More.
  • Post uninterrupted beautiful images – Stop the Regram clutter!  I know many instagrammers and photographers who hate having their photos regrammed with an ugly “regram from.. sticker” covering thier image.  They would prefer you to post the whole image, and add your own extra information or perspective in the caption, as long as you acknowledge them and give credit to them for the photograph or image.   Just be sure you take the extra step and get permission to use the photo (either in writing or using a tool like Tack) and you are good to go. This way, you also get to build a great relationship with the instagrammer.

Over to You

Are you using these tools and strategies on Instagram to improve Instagram Engagement?  What will you try? 

Leave a comment below and let me know what you will try next!  

7 Easy Ways to Improve Instagram Engagement with Visual
Camera by Shutterstock
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Donna Moritz

Visual Social Media Strategist at Socially Sorted
Donna is the founder of Socially Sorted, winner of Best Business Blog in Australia 2014 and a Top 10 Social Media Blog for Social Media Examiner, 2015-2017. She helps brands leverage the power of visual storytelling and content strategy in their business. Her content has been featured in publications such as Forbes and Entrepreneur Online and she is a contributor to Social Media Examiner. Donna speaks about digital and visual content for the marketing and tourism industries internationally.
  • Love these thoughtful tips! I’m brand new to Instagram stories so this is incredibly helpful. I’m trying to see how to best use IG stories with the Surface Pro. Any suggestions? I really like the use of the location stickers! I’m already using the slideshow feature for clients which is wonderful for product posts, especially when showing different set-ups or behind the scenes looks. Once again, thanks for all the excellent advice!

    • Hey Lillian – glad you liked the tips. I love that you can watch and create instagram stories with the surface pro but I use it more for watching to be honest. Any creation I just do on my phone – it’s just more native to me .. and more mobile haha. I agree though, slideshow is GREAT and under-utilized and location stickers ROCK! I think you can really get clever with how you use them.

  • Hi Donna!
    Thanks for these very valuable tips!
    I feel like too many people are neglecting the power of captions. While it is true that visual content is more important than captions, captions still have a lot of power, and they should be very well thought of.
    Thank you once again!

    • So true! I think Captions are a true part of great storytelling on Instagram for sure and most accounts that do well are using captions well and storytelling in the captions.

  • Loved the examples you showed for each of your tips, Donna. This is a helpful and interesting article and I learned several new things about Instagram that I need to try.

    • Oh great – I always love it when someone says they learn “several” new things! Have fun with it Laura!

  • Maura Pianaro

    Thanks for sharing this article Donna! I only recently learned about adding the location stickers and how powerful it can be. Definitely going to try that out at our never SEO conference. For the remaining tools, it looks like we’re on the right path with Instagram! Thank you. Maura.

    • Glad you liked it Maura. Location stickers are awesome!

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