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Optimize your engagement with the instagram algorithm

By Gareth Manger

Instagram engagement is nothing like TikTok engagement.

On Instagram, it can feel like you’re shouting into the internet abyss—even if you have thousands of followers. With the average engagement rate at 4.3%, it’s totally normal only to have a handful of your followers liking, commenting, and saving your posts.

But, that doesn’t stop the sting of seeing 90%+ of your followers not engaging with your content. Especially after you worked so hard to get them to hit that follow button in the first place.

As a fitness trainer marketing your online program on Instagram, getting engagement is a crucial part of your business model. Engagement is the difference between someone who likes your posts but isn’t totally sure they want to work with you and the follower who is raising their hand and letting you know they stand behind what you’re saying.

  • They want to eat like you
  • They want to train like you
  • They want to live a similar healthy lifestyle to you

These are the followers who turn into paying members of your online program and can take your online training business from three, to four, five, and even six-figures per month. The key is realising that the number of followers you have doesn’t matter nearly as much as your engagement does.

We’ve seen online trainers with less than 10,000 followers make four-figures and five-figures per month from their online training program. These trainers have one thing in common: they get great engagement on their posts.

Here’s how you can increase your engagement rate on Instagram so that you can turn your followers into members of your online program and community.

#1: Social Media is a Two-Way Street

You will never have enough followers that you can’t respond to the people who engage with your content. Why? Because you have to always prioritise your community as your business grows.

At 1,000 followers, you should be reaching out to everyone who likes your posts and watches your stories. You need to be replying to every comment you get and answering every DM that shows up in your inbox. At 100,000 followers—you need to be doing the same. You might not be able to reply to people as quickly as you were able to at 1,000 followers, and that’s okay. But, you always need to prioritise your community and connect with them.

Social media is a two-way street—people will engage with you, and it’s your job to engage with them back. Better yet, it’s your job to initiate that interaction. The social algorithms see more than likes and comments. They also see who is DMing you and commenting on your posts and use that to determine if your content is worthy of showing others. Use social media to be social, and your engagement will naturally increase.

#2: Use Stickers, Polls, Quizzes, and Other Engagement Features

Just like you want engagement on your social posts, people want a reason to do something fun on their phone. Social platforms realised this long ago and created stickers, polls, and other engagement features to give their users a way to interact with video and photo content.

On Instagram, you can add questions stickers asking your audience to give you their feedback. You can ask your audience questions like:

  • How often do you work out?
  • Are you vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, etc.?
  • Where do you work out most often?
  • How often do you want to work out?
  • What results do you want from your online program

You can also add polls and have quizzes that make your content fun to engage with. Once someone engages with you, you go back to our first point, reach out to them in your DMs, and start to talk with them. Not only does this start to build a relationship between you and them, but it notifies the algorithms that this person likes your content and wants to see the next story or post you publish. Now, your content will be prioritised in their feed...leading to more engagement down the line.

#3: Giveaway Small or Big Prizes

If you’re finding your posts are underperforming in likes and comments, use this strategy. Once or twice a week, when you post a new photo or video to your feed, create a story that tells your audience they’ll win something if they comment on that post. Your story will link directly to your post, and your caption won’t tell them they can win something—just your story will.

For example, you can give away an exclusive free training, a recipe book, a free consultation with you, a free month of your online program, etc. The prize can be as small or big as you want it to be—as long as it fits perfectly into your program. Choose as many winners as you feel comfortable giving the prize away to (for smaller prizes you can give more away, and bigger prizes give less away).

By running these prize giveaways in return for engagement, you ask your audience for a favour (to comment on your post) and give them something really valuable in return. This increases your engagement rate, prioritising your content in their feed and serving your content to a similar audience’s discover page.

#4: Ask Your Audience To Tag You In Their Stories

Every time one of your followers tags you in their Instagram stories, your online program just got seen by a brand new set of people for free. You didn’t have to pay Facebook to show them your ads—you got free advertising just by having your audience tag you in their stories.

The trick to getting your audience to tag you in their stories is to give them a good reason to do it. If you have an established community, your audience will be happy to tag you because they’re proud of being part of your community. By showing that they’re working out or eating right, they get to make themselves look good in front of their friends and family. Ask your audience to show off their next workout or healthy meal and tag you so you can see it.

If you have a smaller audience or an unengaged audience who isn’t regularly tagging you in their stories, go back to your prize strategy. Giving away digital prizes is a great way to scale your ability to give your audience gifts without burning through your budget or spending lots of time on it. Ask your audience to tag you in their stories when they do one of your workouts and let them know that you’ll choose one winner per week to win your secret recipe book or to get access to your online program at a discounted price.

Instagram engagement can be tough to come by—but it’s not impossible. As long as you over-deliver value and you make the effort to reply to your audience, you’ll be able to increase your engagement.

Always remember that social media is a two-way street, though. When your engagement increases, more people raise their hands and let you know they’re interested in what you’re doing. Make sure to reach out to those people and let them know about your program and how you can help their specific needs—and your online program will start to grow as well.

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