Instagram is about being social and authentic. Businesses and influencers must learn what their target market wants, and then develop authentic content that meets those needs. Instagram offers plenty of ways to engage with your ideal customer, making it ideal for small businesses and influencers alike.
Here are the top 21 pro tips on how to get more likes on Instagram for free.
1. Focus on Content
Thomas Abbott, Marketing Director, Mad Mind Studios
Growing an Instagram page following isn’t difficult, but growing an Instagram page following, along with a consistent percentage of engaged users, is the challenge. Bill Gates said it and my agency believes it: “Content is king.” Without good content, any business or influencer will struggle to scale up their following with a significant engagement rate that will impress. Once you have rich content, you need to use captions that will invite your followers to engage with it as well. While using hashtags can be great in the beginning stages of a page and marketing plan, I wouldn’t recommend using them once you’re in the 5,000 to 10,000 mark in followers. All in all, Instagram is a game that anyone can win at with daily postings, commenting and sharing.
2. Tag Relevant Accounts
Elizabeth Bradshaw, Owner, Canvas Art Boutique
My favorite way to get more likes for free is to tag four to six accounts in my post. You’d first want to research popular and up-and-coming accounts that you think will like your post. Then, publish your post after tagging the accounts. Much of the time, these accounts will repost your content, and you’ll get more exposure, impressions and likes.
3. Go with Organic Strategies
Ashley Graham, Founder & Creative Director, Brandesso
Organic is always the best engagement you can have. No one enjoys bots or spam. There have been a plethora of automation tools that have emerged on the Internet, claiming to “instantly boost your Instagram engagements.” In reality, it is hard to gain followers and likes overnight without putting in actual work. Utilizing these commercial programs allow bots to run your account, commenting and liking posts under your behalf. Although this can attract new visitors to your Instagram, it goes against Instagram’s policies and brings in “fake followers” that may or may not be interested in your business at all. As long as you post consistent, relevant content, the engagement will come.
4. Find an Employee Work & Play Balance
Cheryl Luzet, Managing Director, Wagada
We like to humanize our company Instagram profile as much as possible while keeping a work and play balance. When marketing ourselves and our services, we recognize it is important for potential clients to understand who we are as a company as well as our friendly, positive outlook on all things digital marketing. We do this through ensuring a feature of several members of the team on the Instagram page — whether it’s a boomerang or engaging image — to give an insight into daily office life. Instagram stories also help users to connect with our company on a deeper level.
5. Lean on Instagram Insights Analytics via a Free Business Account
Christian Lovrecich, Founder, Lovrecich Media
Check your Instagram account analytics and see what posts do best depending on the day of the week and at what times. Based on that data, schedule your posts on the days and at the times that most people interact with your page.
6. Build Mutual Engagement with Hashtag Research
Kim Eastin, Founder & Fortune 500 Social Media Manager, Upward Social Media
Researching hashtags is always a winning strategy. For example, if you want to grow your fitness coaching business, search for posts that include #fitness, #fitnessmotivation or #fitspiration. This will give a strong base of accounts with whom you share common interests. “Like” some of their posts that appeal to you and your niche, and they will most likely do the same for you. Make a goal to reach out to five new accounts each day, and soon you will see a lot more engagement on your own Instagram page. This is the more genuine version of the “like for like” or “follow for follow” strategy.
7. Encourage Push Notifications Among Followers
Ellie Shedden, Owner, THE-OOP.COM
One overlooked feature that helps grow your following is push notifications. When followers turn on notifications for your posts, they will be immediately alerted when you post something new, and early responses are the key to having your post in the Featured section of Instagram. But, how can you convince followers to click that notification button? The simplest way is to ask. A few times per week, add a note in your posts saying something along the lines of, “If you liked this post, sign up for notifications to get more.” You’ll be surprised at the response this simple instruction can provoke.
8. Use Calls-to-Action
Michael J. Porter, Owner, 1hrBRAND
Brand owners need to start including a call-to-action (CTA) on every single piece of content published to their page. This includes Instagram Stories, picture and video posts. The more engagement your content receives during the first hour of being published, the more likely Instagram’s algorithm will show your content to a larger number of users.
Instagram rewards users who publish highly engaging content. The richer the engagement, the wider the content is distributed organically. Use CTAs to get your followers to do more with your content. A two-way dialogue is paramount to increasing the likes across all your content and page.
9. Tell a Brand Story
Eric Johnson, Co-owner, The Wedding Collective
The best way to foster engagement on Instagram is to forget the idea that great photos get tons of likes. In reality, marketing on Instagram is all about telling a story. Every piece of content a business posts should feel cohesive, authentic to the brand and relatable to the customer in some way. After all, statistics have shown time and time again that Instagram is all about getting inspired.
10. Ask Followers What They Want
Christina Hager, President, Ovations Digital
Have you noticed that it seems like everyone has an opinion these days, especially on social media? Use that to your advantage. Ask questions, crowdsource answers from your customers and clients to see what they like and want to see in your products and services and run polls on Instagram stories. I guarantee you will see more engagement. Bonus: You will get more insights into your target demographic.
11. Leverage Algorithm Changes
Kino Alyse, Owner, Kino Alyse Photography
If you spend the time to upkeep your engagement — meaning be social, genuinely care about your and other people’s content and network with other similarly branded companies and influencers — the Instagram algorithm change can massively helpful. You can’t throw content and a thoughtless hashtag on content anymore, and I think that’s a great change. Perhaps you will end up spending more time and energy on the app, but the returns are much higher now.
12. Err on the Side of Over Communication
Warren Carlyle, Community Building Strategist, WarrenCarlyle.com
Over communicate and give more context in the caption sections. You have to differentiate your account from the billions of other people uploading photos and videos. It’s a myth that people won’t read long-form content on Instagram. Look no further than accounts such as @humansofNY, @syattfitness and @OctoNation for examples. Brands and influencers that provide more context build a deeper connection with their audience that results in hundreds of comments that aid in organic distribution in the Instagram algorithm, trending content in various hashtags and a chance to be featured in the explore pages.
13. Always Be Testing
Ana Milosavic, Marketing Coordinator, HEXONET Services Inc.
Always be testing. You may have those still product shots perfected, but how do you know that they are what your target audience is looking for? Experiment with different photo angles, videos, GIFs, quotes, infographics and other types of material. Be creative and create an interesting Instagram feed. Make sure to analyze what performs best and tweak your feed to add more of that type of content.
14. Be Super Relevant
Nicki Kamau, Director of Marketing, SmartBug Media
You need to be relevant to the platform. If what you’re sharing isn’t visually appealing, funny or helpful, then it probably doesn’t belong on Instagram. Next, you need to be relevant to your buyer persona and make sure they use Instagram in the first place. Do this by creating stories and using hashtags they follow to drive them to your posts and then follow through with providing value when they see your post.
15. Use New Features First
Philip Kushmaro, Founder, PKDMA
Instagram has added a nametag scanner. Interacting with people and getting them to scan your name tag will hit two birds with one stone. It will get someone to follow you. If you do have great content, they will like it more. You can also print the “name tag” easily and have it ready on you if you do things that involve interaction with people.
16. Ditch the Stock Imagery
Alicia Williams, Founder & CEO, Aliste Marketing
Avoid the stock imagery and build a library of quality, original content that represents your brand. Utilize the resources you have by creating simple graphics to show quotes and images that offer transparency in your team, products, services and lifestyle. Businesses want the red button [for growth] — that doesn’t exist. You can’t throw money at growing a following and expect quality individuals to engage with an unbranded image or stock library. Invest the time to do it right, invest the resources to have professional imagery and graphics made and invest in your brand story to ensure it is being told through a visual storyline.
Kelly Main, Marketing Staff Writer, Fit Small Business
Instagram is a give-then-take platform. If you don’t provide value, you can’t expect value in return. So, to build and maintain a presence that garners likes, it’s sometimes best to expand your team to an outsourced expert who can dedicate a few hours a week to building your Instagram profile. In an increasingly gig-world, this isn’t difficult to find.
A simple search on Fiverr for “Instagram marketing expert” grants you access to a long list of available five-star Instagram expert freelancers who will be happy to learn your company and its marketing goals, then develop and implement a plan to meet them. While not free, you can start at a low negotiable rate to ensure the freelancer you pick is the right resource for your company.
18. Increase Your Followers
Chris White, CEO, Shinesty
The correlation between likes and followers on Instagram is pretty close. Unless you have the best content on the platform or a large cult following, you can expect anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent average engagement on any given post you send out. With this being said, my tip would be employing growth hacking techniques such as running giveaways, contests and sweepstakes through partnered accounts to increase your follower base and, by proxy, increase your likes.
19. Keep the Engagement Flowing with Contests
Brandon Chopp, Digital Manager, iHeartRaves
We like to utilize contests and giveaways. To enter to win, social media users have to follow our page, like our posts and tag a certain number of friends. This creates great awareness and helps spread the word about our brand. Users continue to interact with our brand all the way up until the prize is awarded. Even after that point, we notice that the users we obtain continue to follow us because we are creating great content that captures their attention and is relevant to their interests. Part of the game is gaining new followers and likes, but the other part is keeping them engaged.
20. Become Part of Your Community
Jordan Stocker, Director of Digital Marketing, Ameba Marketing
As a small or medium-sized business (SMB), your local community is your customer base. Dive into what’s going on and have a voice in the online presence for those happenings, whether it’s a local newspaper, new businesses starting in the area, local sports teams, local artists or anything along those lines. Like, comment and follow this content to infuse yourself into the community.
21. Focus on the User Experience
Daniel Brophy, Social Media Specialist, Page 1 Solutions
Focus on the experience of the user — your existing and potential audience and customer base. You want to track important metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) and monitor and optimize to your heart’s content. But above all else, concentrate your strategy on creating the best content you can, and value the user experience above all else.
Create and share content that tells your brand’s story — content that shows why your business is a fun, inviting place. Get your employees involved. Have them share content from in and around the business. Get your audience involved. Engage with people, respond to messages and comments, host exciting contests and giveaways. Make it so people can’t resist tuning in and are delighted each every time they interact with you.
The Bottom Line
Instagram is about authenticity. To improve engagement and get more likes on Instagram, focus on becoming part of your community, humanizing your brand, developing real relationships with followers and using Instagram features to tell a brand story beyond selling. Don’t be afraid to play a little, but stay on brand for an irresistible brand presence that keeps followers anticipating and loving your content.