How to engage your audience (aka Instagram is kicking my butt right now). - Part II

Last week I wrote about my struggles with Instagram - less likes, a lot less engagement, and a general feeling that something was off. (If you haven't read that first part in my mini-series on my Instagram experiment, you can read it here.)

I'm thrilled and amazed at all the responses I got from you guys in the comments and especially on my Instagram post - it seems I'm not the only one experiencing these things! Some of them made me laugh, others made me think and do a bit of research and some also told a hard truth - I was probably also slacking off at my Instagram. 

Today's blog post is a short update on what I've tried from the things I wanted to experiment with last week, and how that went - plus a few fresh ideas on what else to try!

Completely unrelated - I'd love to start a new interview series for the blog focusing on creatives who run their own business while working a day job. I'd love to hear your suggestions for people to interview in the comments below! (Also, if you'd like me to interview you, I'd love to hear from you! Simply send me an email to

First: Let's take a look at the numbers.


At the beginning of last week (May 17, to be exact), I was looking at 3,424 followers. As of this morning (May 22) I have 3,450 followers - a growth rate of exactly 1%.

This is completely in line with the weekly growth rate of my follower count for the four weeks before that:

Note: The screenshot was taken in the morning of May 22 which is why you see a plateau from May 21 to May 22.

Note: The screenshot was taken in the morning of May 22 which is why you see a plateau from May 21 to May 22.

Like History:

Like History for February 2017

Next, let's look at the like history.

For the weeks before starting the experiment, the average number of likes I got on one day for all of my posts was hovering around 350. The week of May 8 - exactly one week before the experiment started - it hit exactly 350.

For comparison: My average for February (the last full month before I went on vacation and then everything went south), the average number of likes for all my posts per day was 500. 

(Sidenote: This does not mean I got on average 500 likes per post. Iconosquare sums the number of likes you get for all posts in a day and averages those.)

Now, for the first week of the experiment my like history hit 400 again. You can see that that is driven by a really good day on May 16, but also the other daily averages are higher in the week before. (It's a bit tricky to see because the axes are different in the two graphs below - WHY Iconosquare???) 

Like History from May 8 to May 14

Like History from May 15 (start of the experiment) to May 21

I think after a week it's too early to draw any conclusions, but these numbers make me hopeful that I'm on the right track with this experiment!

Comment History:

Comment History for February 2017

Comment History for February 2017

Similarly to the Like History, let's take a look at the Comment History!

For the weeks before starting the experiment, the average number of comments I got on one day for all of my posts was slightly below 20. 

For comparison: In February, the average number of comments for all my posts per day was slightly above 20

(Sidenote: Comment History for February ends on Feb 26 as there was a super high outlier on Feb 27 which skewed the results.)

Again, the results are slightly better for the week after starting the experiment. The average number of comments per day went up from 19 to 21. 

Comment History from May 8 to May 14

Comment History from May 15 (start of the experiment) to May 21

I am a bit wary though because these results might also be driven by the fact that I replied more. I don't think they are - I always made an effort to reply to comments, even before the experiment - but they are definitely to be taken with a grain of salt. I'm curious to see how the results look like next week!

Love Rate, Talk Rate & Engagement Rate:

Now, you might have noticed that both Like History and Comment History do not take into account how many followers you have at a given point in time. This means that an increase in these numbers might also be purely driven by an increase in followers, and not by an increase in engagement.

Luckily, Iconosquare makes it super handy (I swear, this is not a commercial post for them!) to account for follower growth by calculating a so-called Love Rate, Talk Rate and Engagement Rate:

Love Rate, Talk Rate & Engagement Rate from May 15 (start of the experiment) to May 21

All three are per post - not per day!

The Love Rate is the total number of likes divided by the number of followers at the time of the post. 

The Talk Rate is the total number of comments divided by the number of followers at the time of the post.

The Engagement Rate is the total number of likes AND comments divided by the number of followers at the time of the post.

Meaning - if all three go up, it means that your engagement has increased and the increase in likes and comments is not just driven by an increase in followers.

And luckily, we do see an increase in all three numbers! An increase of more than 10% which makes me super happy because it shows that the experiment is moving the needle in the right direction. 

What did I change?

In last week's post I included a list of the things I wanted to experiment with. Here's an overview of what I did this week:


  • I didn't change anything to my posting frequency and timing yet. I still posted three times a day - in the morning, afternoon and evening. Judging from the numbers above, posting three times does not do engagement any harm if you look at the overall picture. I'd still be curious to try posting less so I'll give that a try this week!

  • Sabine mentioned in her comment that you can also schedule your Instagram posts if you want to avoid getting up in the middle of the night. The tool I work with does not allow for automatic posting to Instagram though and as far as I know no scheduling app can do that because of Instagram's API restrictions. If you know of one that does though let me know! I'd be curious to try it.


  • No more stock photos! I've been making a very conscious efforts to take better and more photos and I LOVE it. It's given me back a little bit of the joy of Instagramming that I had lost previously - and I realized that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to photography, but that I'd love to expand that skill.


  • I mostly did structured captions with the rare exception when I only had one or two sentences to write. I LOVE the creative freedom this allows me and how I feel freer in writing better and more explanatory captions without ending up with a gigantic mess of text. 

  • I haven't consciously done more story-telling yet in the way of connecting one post with each other. I'd like to explore this a little bit further in the upcoming weeks.

  • Writing more like me - I think this goes hand in hand with the structured captions and the freedom this allows me. I feel like I don't have to put everything into two, three sentences which makes it easier to write authentically.


  • I haven't done any hashtag research, but I have switched up the hashtags I use for similar topics by simply deleting and adding hashtags to my text replacement hashtag group. I find this easier than to always type out the hashtags!

I woke up this morning to a comment from Christine who alerted me to the Hashtag Shadowban - I did a bit of research and found this article that details it very well! Basically, Instagram secretly blocks you from certain hashtags that they think you're using too much or inadequately.

I think this explains a lot - both my own experience (and similar experiences of other Instagrammers) who have been using the same group of hashtags, and of Maria from Tuskenknits who stopped using hashtags a while ago and found no change whatsoever to her engagement. 

That being said - it's kind of stupid that Instagram punishes the use of relevant hashtags just because you've been using them for all your pictures. I get that they want to target bots with that, but they also advertised the usage of hashtags as a legitimate marketing instrument for everyone for the longest time. Now changing this strategy and implementing a shadowban without being open about it seems a bit... questionable (if that is what they did). 

Nevertheless - I am going to try and post a few posts without hashtags this week because I am really curious to see if that has an impact!


  • I've been making a conscious effort to engage more with the people who follow me (as per Erika from INK Bags suggestion) by liking and commenting on their pictures and I really do think it makes a difference. I don't have numbers to show you, but my gut says that this is the main reason why people engage more with me on Instagram - in addition with... 

    • ... answering comments in a timely manner. This really hasn't been as stressful as I thought - I simply check Instagram more consciously than before (aka no more mindless scrolling), but really not more often.

Another comment from the first post also hinted at that using Instagram Stories and Live Video might have an impact on your main feed as well (thank you for the input, Sabine!). I think there might be truth in that - Instagram might reward the usage of newer features that keep people in the app by showing your posts more often. 

I'm not really in a position to experiment with this as I regularly post Stories, but I'd be very curious to hear your experience if you haven't used them before and now started using them! Has it made any difference with regards to engagement on your main feed?

A few last thoughts

I know it's only been one week of experimenting, so any results or conclusions are super preliminary. Still, two important things happened: I found the joy in Instagram again (and especially in taking photos), and the numbers went into the right direction! I'm very curious to see what happens this week when I post a little bit less and use less hashtags. 

Have you been experimenting with your Instagram as well? I'd love to hear your thoughts - last week's comments were AMAZING! Keep them coming!