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5 Instagram Hacks to Increase Engagement for Your Small Business

by Justine Pantaleo
Read Time: 11 minutes
Instagram: Winning Strategies to Grow Your Small Business


Instagram isn’t just for teenage kids who post pictures and compete about who gets the most likes. Let the businesses join in on the competition too! 

Instagram is useful in so many more ways than just posting scenery pics from your vacation. The platform is excellent for small businesses trying to reach their target audience intriguingly and find potential customers. Instagram, as silly as it sounds, provides many ways to build your brand and grow your business all by creating visual content.

Free download: Ultimate Guide for Small Business Marketing

5 Hacks to Increase Engagement for Your Small Business, Instagram Style

Instagram is a great way to reach your audience, but first, you must know your audience before you can embark on creating your Instagram strategy. Do a bit of research and ask yourself:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • How are your competitors using Instagram, and what has been successful for them?
  • What do your customers love most about your brand?

The answers to these questions are in the foundation of your social strategy.

Before we dive into the hacks for your small business. We have snuck in some dos and don'ts of Instagram into each section. Be sure to keep an eye out for them in this article. Start implementing the dos into your Instagram strategy and make sure you aren't a culprit of the don'ts!

Now let’s dive in and get you those 5 hacks!

1.  Content

Instagram is built on visual content, and with over 100m photos uploaded every day, you must make yours stand out. So, what will make your audience want to view your content?


No one wants to follow a company that is only trying to sell to them. Think of your followers as a relationship – it’s a give and take process. You need to mix up your content. Try inspirational quotes or advice related to your industry. Then, add in a few culture pictures of your team. Keep it real, and we promise your audience will thank you!

Include Videos

We know as soon as you think about video, you immediately go, "I will not be featured, talking, seen in this video." Don't worry! You don't have to be in it; it can be anything as long as it is related to what you want to post.

An Instagram account that has appealing videos made for their audience and coffee lovers is Coffeetized. Coffeetized is a company that sells all sorts of coffee accessories. Their Instagram account isn’t noticeably all about selling coffee accessories, but within their posts, they add a promotional comment or link connecting to their products. For instance, in the post below, they are displaying how the Twin Spout Milk Pitcher is not just used, but also fun and helps you create Latte art. 


Do use video.
On average, videos on Instagram receive 38% more engagement and over 2x more comments than image posts.

Don't be promotional.
People don't want to be pitched too when they are scrolling through Instagram. You can promote your business, but do it in a clever, appealing way.



Speaking of video, we can’t leave out stories. We aren’t telling actual stories; Instagram stories are for sharing live video or content. We aren't storytelling; we are sharing a live video or content. This content does not need to be on your profile but may direct your audience to visit your page, website, YouTube channel, etc. 

68% of millennials said Instagram is their preferred platform for stories rather than Snapchat or Facebook, but companies aren’t leveraging them enough. Only 50% of businesses create at least 1 story a month. Since it’s not oversaturated, stories are a fantastic opportunity for small businesses to get in front of more people and communicate to their audience. Try using stories for announcements, behind the scenes footage, play by plays at an event, polls, or even to run contests. If it makes sense, be sure to add a trending hashtag or tag a location to generate more engagement. 


2. Captions

Caption length

We know Instagram is a visually-driven channel; however, captions do matter. Instagram allows 2,200 characters and up to 30 hashtags per post; you'll want to make sure you are making those characters count! If you can provide 2,200 characters worth of value, no one's stopping you; however, the recommended character count is between 138-150. PuraVida’s Instagram account continuously engages their audience while telling them to buy their products. Keeping your caption length to the recommended amount allows you to maximize your engagement. A good rule of thumb to go by is quality over quantity.

Front-load your caption

When users scroll through their Instagram feed, they only see the first two lines of text, 125 characters to be exact. Your caption should lead with the hook to entice your audience to click "read more" and engage with your post.  

Forgetting a hook in your social posts is more common than you think. Let’s not do it!

Do: add a compelling CTA.
Tell your audience to go to your website, click a link, post a picture, make a comment, etc. Your captions are what is going to drive your audience to engage with your business.

Don't crowd.
I recommend that you don't write a whole story in your caption. It can be long but keep it clean.


Save characters

So, how do you fit in all your hashtags and the right content, while still keeping your count under 150? #AskingForAFriend

A helpful tip is to save characters by putting your hashtags in the comments section of your post. Not only does this focus on your caption, but it protects you from hitting your max character count. Also, it gives your post a much cleaner look while still gaining attention from hashtags. 

Speaking of hashtags…


3. Hashtags

Isn’t it just the pound sign or the number sign? Oh no! It is so much more!

Hashtags are a string of words attached to the # sign, which pack a significant punch when it comes to your Instagram strategy. However, many people don’t know where to start when choosing hashtags for your post. That’s why we’re here ðŸ˜‰. 

Be strategic

Hashtags are one of the most effective ways to get your brand in front of more people, allowing your posts to be seen, and to grow your following. While you can use up to 30 hashtags, we highly recommend that you use a variety of different hashtags per post to gain more visibility. You will want to select hashtags that align with your industry and business. 

While there are some popular hashtags for specific industries, definitely be sure to throw in some more specific hashtags that don't have a large following. You will have a better chance of being noticed when there aren’t thousands of posts connected with that hashtag being posted every minute. Doing this will enable you to increase engagement and gain loyal followers. 

For example, let's say you are in the restaurant industry in Philadelphia – tons of hashtags are popular with foodies such as #Instafoodgram, #Delish, and #Foodstagram. These are just a few of the many hashtags that are known to be popular with “foodies." While those hashtags have high usage, you will also want to throw in the more specific hashtags such as #philly or #phillyfoodies. So, the main takeaway is only using hashtags if they are relevant to your audience and brand! You should also throw a branded hashtag in there too. 

A branded hashtag is unique to your business and can be something as simple as the name of your company, your tagline, or even a campaign you are running. Keep these short and easy to remember, so your audience won't have a problem finding or using it!

Do use a variety of hashtags.
Use hashtags that vary in their following size. For instance, there are hashtags that have 5k followers, 100 followers, or 100k followers.

Don't misuse hashtags.
You can do this by stringing together a long strip of words or use hashtags that are unrelated to your image/industry.


4. Tone

Our fourth hack is all about tone. 

The tone is fundamental because it is how you are communicating your message to followers, viewers, and even when commenting on posts.

Don’t be a robot

Write your captions and comments like you’re talking to your friends. Instagram is meant to be conversational, so try to be as natural as possible. Have fun with it! If you are not already using emojis in your profile and captions, you should be! Cluse Watches adds emojis into their captions, showing the joyful, summer tone they currently are sharing. 

Include a call to action or question

What is the purpose of this post? What do you want your followers next step to be?

Ask these simple questions before each post. If I get clicks on my bio link,  re-shares, or likes, what engagement do I want to create with my audience? Make sure your call to action is clear, so your followers don't have to think to engage.

Do post culture content.
Instagram is the best platform to tell your brand's story and to share that content. People love to see the human side of your company.

Don't steal someone else's content/image.
Be unique and make up your own content. Make it specific to your brand, voice, and tone.


Be consistent

It is okay to whip up a post on the fly, but make sure it is consistent with the rest of your profile. It's obvious when your tone and message isn't aligned on your page. Many companies have more than one person posting on their account, so make sure you create and share established guidelines for the tone to help keep your message consistent.


Steer your marketing strategy in the right direction.
Our Ultimate Guide for Small Business Marketing will lead the way.


5. Engagement

When it comes to Instagram, engagement leads to engagement! The more you engage, the faster you expand your reach, gain more followers, and build your community. 

Interact with similar accounts

Search for accounts and hashtags in related industries and engage with their content. Engaging will give you more traffic and notice towards your account. For example, if you run an Instagram account for a hotel, you may want to engage with travel agencies' accounts and even some popular travel bloggers/influencers. This takes work but is definitely worth the effort. Put yourself out there to get you in front of the right audience!

Engage with your audience

Always engage with your audience! If someone comments on your photo, be sure to comment back! Keep the conversation going with your community so that it will push your content to the top of their feed.

Do engage with people.
Comment back, reach out to other pages, like photos, and message people.

Don't set your account to private.
If you are growing your Instagram and want people to see your work, then have your account public.


Best times to post

Generally, the best time to post on Instagram is Tuesday through Friday between 10 am & 3 pm, as they tend to have the highest engagement rate. However, we suggest finding out what works best for your business by checking out your Instagram Insights. If you have a business profile, you can easily find your Analytics tab on your app in the top right hamburger bar, where all your insights are stored. 

Posting amounts per day

On average, most major brands post 1.5 times per day. If you need an idea of posting frequency for your brand, it’s always helpful to see what your competitors are doing. Don’t just post to post. Post with a purpose!


Interested in learning more about how you can use Instagram for your small business, watch this video!

Now it is up to you! We hope we have inspired you with these 5 Instagram hacks and you’re ready to put them to the test. Experience the increase of engagement, customers, and so much more with just a few Instagram tricks.


Updated on June 4, 2020