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With more and more users relying on fake likes and engagement groups to increase activity on their posts, have the times of authentic, honest and real engagement on social media come to an end?

We focused on engagement over the course of our last blog posts. Therefore, we discussed the importance of engagement and tried to dig deeper into strategies influencers use to boost their engagement rates. Because of the fact that the amount of content shared on social media every day is rapidly growing, the methods people use to drive traffic to their channel are increasing too – but that’s yesterday’s news!

For an authentic, honest and high-quality followership, your account should have an organic growth without comments or likes that are either bought or based on a superficial giving for getting from engagement groups. We understand the trouble: With the existing content overload on social media, how will you be able to stick out and not get lost in the shuffle? And more importantly: How can you boost engagement rates without the extra help of fake likes and engagement pods?

Our answer is: Stick to the basics! This blog post will discuss the basic functions of social media platforms, with a focus on Instagram. The basics can help actuate your engagement rates if used correctly. No need for like tools and comment pods!

1. Use HASHTAGS to be discovered!

The small icon was first used by Twitter but is now even more popular on Instagram. It is used to find content of a specific topic and, more importantly, it is used to be found by others. What you should know about hashtags: The numbers of hashtags you can use is limited to 30 tags per posting.

A study has shown that the use of hashtags correlates positively with engagement rates. So using more hashtags increases the chances of gaining more likes and comments for your posting. But consider your hashtags wisely! Basically, it is advisable to differentiate between two types of hashtags.

What are Brand hashtags?

Branded Hashtags are directly related to your company and emphasize your singularity. Those hashtags should be rather simple and easy to remember so that users can find your content on Instagram without having to dig through random hashtags that are not specifically targeting your brand. Furthermore, creating hashtags for a specific event of yours or a new product is a great promotion.



Mercedes-Benz, for example, uses the hashtags #MB, #Mercedesbenz, or #Mercedes to reassure that Instagram users stumble upon their account no matter which abbreviation they use. For their influencer campaign with German Roamers, a group of German photographers, they used the more specific hashtag #MBdolomates to promote the G-class. Last but not least, vary your hashtags to address different groups of followers. Ikea, for example, uses #myikea as well as #ikeafamily.

What are community hashtags?

Community hashtags, in contrast, are often used by a great number of people to share content regarding a specific subject. Frequently used hashtags of that kind are #outfitoftheday, #ootd, #welltraveled, and #instafood.



It is a great way to be discovered by users who are in general interested in the content users share in the sector your brand is also part of. You might want to look at the community hashtags your current followers already use to get an idea of the tags that might work best for you. Moreover, doing research on the tags your competitors or industry leaders use can be helpful as well.

Be aware though that those hashtags are used by thousands of people every day. So if you found fitting hashtags, it might also be helpful to use a mixture of general and specific hashtags depending on the niche. #instafood is a hashtag often used by food bloggers and Instagram counts more than 83 million photos tagged with the hashtag.

Instafood hashtagExample of general community hashtags like #outfitoftheday

The hashtag #veganfood, in contrast, is more specific and counts around 6 million postings. Using general community hashtags increases the chances to be discovered by a larger number of people. Sounds great at first but remember that those hashtags are used by an even larger amount of people. Your post will probably get lost in the shuffle and be buried by Instagram’s algorithm. These hashtags are sometimes just too vague.

During our Operation Instafamous, we noticed that finding the right hashtags is harder than one would expect. For example, we searched for the vague hashtag #amsterdam. You would probably expect the outcome to be pictures of the city and sights in Amsterdam. Well, one of the top three posts was the little girl displayed below. The photo was shared by the account One would think that the person who shared the post is at least located in Amsterdam and therefore uses this hashtag. But on second sight, we noticed that she also appears in the top three posts when searching for either #paris, #london, #madrid, #nyc, and several other cities.

Hashtag useExample of hashtag use

The channel uses these hashtags to increase the chances of being discovered by a larger amount of people, ignoring the fact that the content does not match the hashtags used.

Instead of following this method, try to find specific hashtags that match your brand and content to a) be professional and b) be discovered by your target group. When following these steps, you will not have to fear Instagram’s recent hashtag error or shadow banning.

2. QUESTIONS are a great way to address your audience!

Use questions for your postings! People often share their postings with either a description, a recommendation or a statement but what about questions? Questions automatically include a call to action, don’t they? Aren’t questions a great way to interact with followers? Isn’t a question driving attention to the audience’s opinion? The answer is as simple as obvious: YES!

Questions are great to address the audience and call for answers in the comments. Furthermore, using questions emphasizes that the audience opinion matters to you. Keep in mind that the questions should match the content and your brand.



Oreo gained more than 1,000 comments for this specific posting and people answered the question where they wanted the mysterious wonder vault to be next. Thus, the posting performed a lot better than most other posts on Oreo’s channel. The wonder vault was part of a 2016 campaign and it describes a door in the shape of an oversized Oreo cookie in NYC that people on the streets were encouraged to open up to receive a package of new flavored Oreos.

Furthermore, using questions is a great way to get a better understanding of who your followers are and what they like. It is like a small survey that helps to credit your followers’ opinions. Additionally, you can use this information beyond the scope of Instagram for your website and other social media platforms.

3. Ask for engagement and include a CALL TO ACTION!

Call to actions usually assure any kind of engagement with your followers and can be quite promising for gaining more followers. In our last blog post, we took a look at the recent Call to Action by Sunny Co Clothing.

The swimsuit seller asked for reposts and tags in exchange for a free swimsuit. This example clearly shows that call to actions can be extremely successful – but can also easily backfire if your company is not prepared well enough for the outcome. They can be a great way to gain attention and raise awareness of a brand and some posts that included call to actions even went viral in the past. Just be aware of planning the promotion precisely and communicating the terms and conditions clearly!

Other call to actions include asking your audience to tag a friend or encouraging your followers to comment on the picture. Odernichtoderdoch offers stationary and interior decor and the brand often asks its audience to comment on the postings. The brand’s call for actions perform well and are a great example for a successful audience involvement. Below you can see how the brand encouraged its audience to comment on a post and share ideas regarding new products.


Odernichtoderdoch uses this call to action every time the brand celebrates a significantly higher number of followers. Those posts which include a call to action are the best performing posts of the channel: They received up to 1,000 comments while on average they receive around 60 comments per posting. Oftentimes, these call for actions are combined with a contest where followers can win a product.

Ikea, on the other hand, encourages followers and customers to post their Ikea products using the hashtag #myikea. That is also a great way to encourage the creation of user-generated content, which can be reposted by a company.

4. Share your LOCATION with your audience!

Whatever social media platform you are active on, it is clever to add locations to your pictures.



An Instagram study of 2014 shows that brands which use location tags in their postings have a higher overall engagement. Generally, the engagement is 79% higher when the location is added to a posting. It is a great way of making users feel more connected to a company and local companies, in particular, can benefit from location tags.

5. Being ACTIVE is key!

Some other basic strategies you should consider to secure a good and organic engagement rate are the quality and consistency of your content and a good time management. You want your feed to look inspirational and in chime. So if you are using filters, try to use similar or at least matching ones for your postings. Social media scientist and author Dan Zarrella examined the use of filters in his study and surprisingly found that using no filter at all secured the best post performance.

Performance of filters© Postplanner

Another factor you should take into consideration is time management. To make sure that most of your followers will see and interact with your posting, it is reasonable to share your content when most of your followers are online. Always consider if your followers are international and might live in a different time zone.

Furthermore, college students are more likely to check their social media before noon while others check theirs during lunchtime, in the early morning hours or in the evening. Knowing your followers helps you to understand what makes them tick.

Moreover, a continuity in sharing content is advisable. Do not overload your feed with several photos all at once. Neither should you just post something once in a while, which brings us to the most important aspect: Be active!

If you want people to engage with your content, you should interact with other accounts and especially with those who are already following you! This includes great effort and the workload is often underestimated. Interacting with other channels by commenting or liking content might not be the fastest way to grow a social media channel, but it is the best to assure an organic and authentic engagement.

The Takeaway

In the end, being honest and authentic counts most. Trying to boost engagement with like tools and fake comments is definitely not the right way in the long run. Instead of focusing excessively on using the right amount of hashtags and randomly commenting on posts of others in countless engagement groups, creating high-quality and valuable content should be your priority. Constantly try to get to know your audience, analyze, what your target group is interested in and adjust your content accordingly. If you put in the work to make your followers feel connected to your brand and your content, organic engagement will come along.


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