If you’re using Instagram for business, you know it’s more than just a platform for sharing your best product pics. With one billion people using Instagram every month, it’s a powerful tool to build your brand and cultivate an audience online.
But to reap the rewards, you don’t just need an audience: You need engagement. You need comments, shares, likes and other actions that prove your content resonates with the people who see it.
And engagement only works when it’s genuine — coming from real people who really care.
The reality is there’s no shortcut to quality engagement. You get out of social media what you put in. So take the time to craft that great post, encourage conversation, and genuinely connect with your followers.
Read on for proven ways to make an impact with your Instagram audience and build strong, lasting engagement organically. We’ve even included a free Instagram engagement calculator!
Bonus: Use our free engagement rate calculator to find out your engagement rate 4 ways fast. Calculate it on a post-by-post basis or for an entire campaign — for any social network.
What is Instagram engagement?
Instagram engagement measures the interactions that your audience has with your content. It’s more than counting views or followers — engagement is about action.
On Instagram, engagement is measured by a range of metrics, such as:
- Followers and growth
- Mentions (tagged or untagged)
- Branded hashtags
Actions like these evidence that people aren’t just seeing your content. They’re interested in what you have to say.
Why do we care about engagement?
First of all, it means that your content is making an impact on your audience. (They like you, they really like you!)
Secondly, strong engagement is a key factor in Instagram’s algorithm. The higher the engagement, the more likely the content will be boosted in the newsfeed, attracting more eyes and attention.
How to calculate Instagram engagement
Your Instagram engagement rate measures the amount of interaction your content earns relative to your followers or reach.
In other words, it shows the percentage of people who saw your post and engaged with it.
At its core, the engagement rate formula is pretty simple. Divide the total number of likes and comments on a post by your follower count (or post impressions, or reach) and then multiply by 100.
Engagement rate = (Interactions / Audience) x 100
Use Instagram’s Insights tool, Hootsuite analytics, or another Instagram analytics tool to grab the raw data. Once you’ve got your stats, use our free Instagram engagement rate calculator to crunch those numbers.
Bonus: Use our free engagement rate calculator to find out your engagement rate 4 ways fast. Calculate it on a post-by-post basis or for an entire campaign — for any social network.
All you need to use this calculator is Google Sheets. Click the “File” tab and select “Make a copy” to start filling in the fields.
To measure engagement on a single post, input “1” in “No. of Posts.” To calculate the engagement rate of several posts, input the total number of posts in “No. of Posts.”
If you want an even easier way to calculate Instagram engagement, we recommend heading straight to your Hootsuite dashboard.
Not only can you view all of your key metrics (including engagement rate) for Instagram and other social networks at a glance, but you can also:
- Improve engagement rate. Hootsuite has integrated tools like Canva, a hashtag generator, and templates that help you beat writer’s block.
- Save a ton of time by scheduling feed posts, carousels, Reels, and Stories ahead of time, even if you’re off the clock. Plus, bulk schedule up to 350 posts at once to avoid content gaps.
- Reach more people by posting at the right time. Hootsuite will tell you the best time to post based on when your followers are the most active, so you always get the most engagement.
- See which posts work best and measure your success with detailed analytics tools.
- Simplify your planning with a calendar showing you all scheduled content for Instagram and other networks.
What is a good Instagram engagement rate?
Instagram itself is coy about what a “good” engagement rate is. But most social media marketing experts agree that strong engagement is anywhere from around 1% to 5%. Hootsuite’s own social media team reported an average Instagram engagement rate of 4.59% in 2020.
Here are the global average Instagram engagement rates for business accounts as of October 2022:
- All Instagram post types: 0.54%
- Instagram photo posts: 0.46%
- Video posts: 0.61%
- Carousel posts: 0.62%
On average, carousels are the most engaging type of Instagram post — but just barely.
Follower count can also affect your Instagram engagement rate. Here are the average engagement rates per number of followers of Instagram business accounts as of October 2022:
- Fewer than 10,000 followers: 0.76%
- 10,000 – 100,000 followers: 0.63%
- More than 100,000%: 0.49%
Typically, the more followers you have, the less engagement you get. That’s why “smaller” Instagram influencers with a high engagement rate are often a better bet for influencer marketing partnerships.
Curious about engagement rates on other social networks? Check out Hootsuite’s Digital 2022 report (October update) for more performance benchmarking data.
How to increase Instagram engagement: 23 useful tips
Tip 1: Get to know your audience
It’s hard to make great content if you don’t know who you’re making it for.
The demographics of your target audience will help define the type of content you post, your brand voice, and even what days and times to publish.
For example, offbeat indie clothing label Fashion Brand Company targets people with a bold sense of humor. Both product offerings and the tone of its posts reflect that.
For more info on identifying your audience, check out our guide to conducting audience research.
Tip 2: Get authentic
Being honest and relatable is better than being perfectly polished on social media. Share content that goes beyond slick marketing campaigns. It’s time to introduce the real people and experiences behind your brand.
That might mean sharing behind-the-scenes footage or writing a cheeky caption. It might also look like taking ownership of any mistakes.
This meme shared by A Practical Wedding garnered thousands of shares and comments. Looks like their audience found the less-than-perfect joke about wedding culture ultra-relatable.
Most people appreciate honesty over perfection… after all, don’t you?
Tip 3: Share great images
Instagram, in case you didn’t notice, is a visual medium. And while you don’t need to be an Annie Leibovitz to thrive on the platform, creating images that stand out from the news feed is important.
Even if you’re not a great photographer or graphic designer, there are a million tools to help you give your pic a little oomph.
You can edit photos directly in Hootsuite and add text and filters. (Or use one of these many other apps to take your Instagram posts to the next level.)
This image promoting Fast Company’s Creative Conversation podcast takes a standard headshot of model Ashley Graham and gives it a creative graphic treatment that helps it pop.
Tip 4: Post carousels
Once you’ve gotten the hang of creating eye-catching images, try posting a few with carousels. Carousels — Instagram posts with multiple images — are a great way to build engagement. (As luck would have it, we have some beautiful Instagram Carousel templates right here!)
Hootsuite’s own social team finds that their carousel posts get 3.1x more engagement, on average, than their regular posts. Globally, carousels have the highest average engagement rate of all types of Instagram posts (0.62%).
The algorithm re-serves these posts to followers who didn’t engage the first time around. That means carousels give you a second (or third!) chance to make an impression.
Hack: Create your carousels in advance and schedule them for publication at the optimal time with Hootsuite. For step-by-step instructions, check out our guide to posting to Instagram from a PC or Mac.
Tip 5: Post video content
Video is both eye-catching and engaging. So engaging, in fact, that posts with video receive about 32% more engagement than images.
Here’s a video from Carly Rae Jepsen, sharing some images from a new photoshoot set to music. How can you look away?!
Don’t overthink it, though. Video content doesn’t have to be overly polished or perfectly edited. (Remember that “authenticity” tip from earlier?) Shoot now, give it a quick edit, and get it out into the world.
There are a million tools to help you combine scenes or add music or text. We recommend downloading a free or paid video editing app, like InShot or Magisto. We’ve got plenty of other suggestions on our list of the best Instagram apps for business.
Tip 6: Write strong captions
A picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words are… also worth a thousand words.
Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long and include up to 30 hashtags. Use ’em! Good captions add context and showcase your brand’s personality.
Nike tells a compelling story with its caption here and asks its followers to share their own stories in the comments.
Tip 7: Create saveable content
Creating reference material your audience will want to save in their Collections can also earn you a little engagement boost.
Instagram account So You Want to Talk About creates accessible reference material on complex topics. These posts are perfect for saving in a Collection or Story Highlight.
Add a “Save this post” call-to-action to a carousel post with tips, a how-to guide or a recipe video to encourage users to revisit this content later.
Tip 8: Go live
Using Instagram Live to stream live video is a great way to connect directly to users, share news and build engagement.
29.5% of all internet users between 16 and 64 watch a livestream each week. Your audience is there — give ’em what they want!
With Live video, you can answer questions live, welcome viewers by name and generally welcome your audience into your world in an intimate, engaging way. You can also build an ecommerce audience with Instagram’s Live Shopping feature.
Here’s our Instagram Live how-to guide for getting your broadcast going.
Tip 9: Craft compelling content
Posting product pics every day will get a little old after a while. Mix it up with a varied content schedule.
Contests, polls, questions and quizzes break the routine and encourage your audience to get involved and active.
Hi Alyssa Comics, for instance, did a custom card giveaway to celebrate a follower milestone, prompting users to share and interact with the post.
Tip 10: Share audience content
Sure, treating your Instagram account like a one-way street is tempting. But social media is a conversation, not a broadcast. Make sure you’re listening and engaging with fans when they reach out.
One great way to do that is to repost or share audience content. If someone tags your tequila brand in a post about a wild Margarita Monday, share that post in your story.
The Las Culturistas podcast shared listener compliments of its 12 Days of Culture holiday countdown in its own Instagram Stories. A shout-out within a shout-out, like a little Stories Inception.
They’ll feel thrilled you were listening, and other followers may be compelled to tag you in their content.
Make sure you don’t miss a mention with the help of Hootsuite or other social listening tools for business.
Tip 11: Create custom stickers and filters
Sprinkle a little of your brand dust onto other users’ posts by making custom stickers and filters available in Stories.
Sephora launched a special “Holiday Beauty Q&A” AR filter for fans to use on their own Stories over Christmas. Features like this help spread the Sephora brand and build community.
Tip 12: Respond to questions and comments
When the comments start flying in, it’s only polite to respond.
When you join the conversation, your followers feel seen, heard, and excited to chat with you again.
Sunscreen brand Supergoop prompts followers to share their favorite products in this post. But they also chime in to share recommendations and offer support for everyone’s choices.
To track any indirect mentions happening outside your page, just set up search streams on your Hootsuite dashboard. That way, you don’t miss a chance to keep the conversation going.
Tip 13: Get experimental
You’ll never find out what works best for your brand until you test, measure and tweak.
The beauty of social media is that it’s made for experimentation. If something works, you know pretty quickly; if it’s a flop, lesson learned with little risk.
So get creative… just keep a close eye on metrics to see the impact of your grand ideas. Dig into our guide to social media A/B testing here.
Tip 14: Post consistently and at strategic times
The more you post, the more opportunities your followers have to engage. Commit to a consistent schedule to keep your feed fresh and your followers intrigued.
Of course, posting consistently at the right times is key, too. Because if you’ve got a post going up when your audience is asleep, you might struggle.
Here’s our guide to finding the best time to post on Instagram for your audience.
Tip 15: Drive traffic from other sources
Get your Instagram handle out there in the world everywhere you can. You can share it in your Twitter bio, include it in your email signature, and throw it in your company newsletter.
This London account (alas, not the city) uses its Twitter bio to drive attention to its Instagram handle and content.
The more people you point towards the platform, the more chances for engagement.
Tip 16: Start the conversation
You wouldn’t just wait to be spoken to at a dinner party (a fun one, anyways), right? Some of the time, you’d be prompting the conversation.
The same goes for Instagram. Responding to questions and comments is great; getting out there and starting convos on other posts and pages is even better.
Think of it as a balance of reactive (responding) and proactive (conversation-starting) action.
Tip 17: Create topical content
If there’s already a buzz around a current event or holiday, squeeze yourself into that conversation.
Taylor Swift’s pandemic albums got everyone talking about cottagecore, and clothing brand Farewell Frances took advantage of the opportunity. Tagging coats with #cottagecoreaesthetic allowed them to align themselves with the conversation.
If there’s a trending hashtag involved, you’ve got an instant hook.
Tip 18: Get active on Instagram Stories
Satirical news site Reductress shares its cheeky headlines in posts and Stories. That means two different opportunities to capture readers’ attention.
Not only will people be watching, but with Stories, you can engage with stickers.
Questions, Polls and Countdowns are all opportunities to connect directly with your fans.
Here are some creative Instagram Story ideas to get you started. Plus, we’ve got all the hacks and features every master Instagrammer should know.
Tip 19: Add strong calls to action
Want more engagement on your posts? Sometimes, it just comes down to asking nicely.
Welks General Store didn’t just tell the world it had puzzles with this post. It gave specific information about how to purchase them.
When done with care, a compelling call to action can prompt activity, likes, responses or shares. Check out our guide to writing the CTA of your dreams here.
Tip 20: Harness the power of hashtags
Instagram hashtags are a double-edged sword. Used correctly, you can drive some serious traffic and build buzz. Overdo it, and you come off looking spammy.
Be thoughtful and strategic about the hashtags you use. You can use them to reach a specific community, join a trending conversation, push a campaign or identify your service offerings.
Illustrator Cecile Dormeau, for example, tags her sweet drawings with both art-related hashtags and mental-health ones.
The consensus is that 11 or fewer hashtags are the right number to look professional but not desperate. More info on making the most of Instagram hashtags over here.
Tip 21: Boost your posts
Getting your post in front of more eyeballs is a good way to increase the odds you connect with the right audience. You might even increase your follower count while you’re at it.
With a potential audience of more than 928 million users on Instagram, your next superfan could be out there, just waiting to discover what you have to offer.
Using Instagram ads or boosted posts can be a strategic way to get your name in front of the right people. Check out our Instagram ads guide here for more details on maximizing your reach.
Tip 22: Slide into their DMs
Sometimes, the strongest engagement can happen in private.
Direct messages and story interactions are great opportunities to engage audiences and make direct connections. When someone reaches out in your DMs, make sure to reply and treat ’em right.
Tip 23: Embrace Instagram Reels
Instagram Reels joined the Insta fam in the summer of 2020 as an alternative to TikTok. With Reels, users can create and edit short multi-clip videos with audio and effects.
Drag artist Eureka O’Hara is using Reels here (well, a repurposed TikTok video within Reels, anyways) to promote an upcoming season of their show We’re Here.
Meta’s betting big on Reels, which means video posts are getting more love from the algorithm these days. More eyeballs mean thousands more people get to enjoy these sick dance moves.
Any new feature to social media tools typically gets a boost in the algorithm, so it’s in your best interest to try out the latest and greatest offerings. Reels are all over the Explore page, so embrace this new content form. You might just find yourself in front of some fresh faces.
Increase your Instagram engagement rate using Hootsuite. Schedule and publish posts and Stories, respond to comments, measure your performance over time, and run all your other social media profiles — all from one simple dashboard. Try it free today.
With files from Shannon Tien.
How to Create Effective Social Media Guidelines for Your Business
No matter what industry you’re in, every modern business needs to have social media guidelines.
Social media guidelines lay out the best social practices for your employees. In some cases, these rules are required by law or for legal protection. But ultimately, the goal of these guidelines is to empower employees with the information they need to make the right choices on social media, both for themselves, and for the company.
This is true even if your company doesn’t have a social media presence yet. Whether you have an official Twitter account or Instagram profile or not, you’d better believe your employees are out there on the internet, chatting up a storm.
This article will review:
- The difference between a social media policy and social media guidelines
- Real-life examples from other brands
- How to use our free social media guidelines template to create your own set of guidelines
Bonus: Get a free, customizable social media guidelines template to quickly and easily create recommendations for your company and employees.
Social media guidelines are suggestions for how employees of a company should represent themselves and the company on their personal social media accounts.
Think of social media guidelines as an employee manual for social media best practices.
They should outline how to behave on social media in a way that’s positive and healthy for the company, employees, and customers alike. Social guidelines may include etiquette tips, helpful tools, and links to important resources.
Importantly, we really don’t recommend prohibiting employees from using social, or restricting them from talking about your company at all. It’s not a good look to police or censor your team members’ social presence: talk about a morale killer, and say goodbye to any organic ambassador opportunities.
Social media guidelines, it should be noted, are different from your company’s social media policy. They’re also distinct from your social media style guide.
A social media policy is a comprehensive document that describes in detail how the company and its employees use social media. These policies are intended to protect a brand from legal risk, and maintain its reputation on social media. Where a social media policy lays out the rules and repercussions for breaking them, social media guidelines are more instructive.
A social media style guide, meanwhile, defines the brand voice, brand visuals, and other important marketing elements. It is often used by the content creators in an organization to ensure that their posts are “on brand”.
One more distinction: social media guidelines are also different from community guidelines, which set the rules for public engagement with your account or group.
Want to learn more? Take Hootsuite Academy’s free course Implementing Social Media Governance Within your Organization.
Every single employee (yes, including Maurice in accounting) is a potential online brand ambassador. Sharing social media guidelines is your chance to provide the whole team with tools to help them hype you up positively, inclusively, and respectfully.
Use social media guidelines to:
- Empower your employees to engage positively on their personal social accounts
- Educate on social media best practices
- Encourage employees to follow your official accounts or use official hashtags
- Distribute your company’s social media strategy
- Introduce employees to helpful third-party tools and resources, such as Hootsuite’s social media dashboard or Hootsuite Academy training
- Protect your employees from social harassment
- Safeguard your company from cybersecurity risks
- Clarify what information is OK to share, and what is a violation of confidentiality
- Boost your brand’s reputation on social media
While social media guidelines are usually crafted to share with employees, anyone else you’re working with can benefit from these best practices too — think corporate partners, marketing agencies, or influencers.
If you don’t create best practices around how your company is represented or discussed on social media, things can spiral out of control fast. And on the flipside, a lack of social media guidelines also can prevent you from benefiting from employee content. An enthusiastic team member, armed with social guidelines and feeling confident about what they’re allowed to say, can become a powerful ambassador for your brand.
Here’s a rundown of core sections you should include in your social media guidelines. But of course, while these details are common, go ahead and tailor any part of this to fit your brand: after all every industry is different.
In fact, every company is different… so before you lock in any hard and fast rules, you might want to check in with your team. Your employees might have specific questions or concerns that could be helpful to address in your master doc.
1. Official accounts
Identify your company’s official social media channels, and encourage employees to follow. This isn’t just a chance to gain a few more followers: it’s an excellent opportunity to demo to employees how your brand presents itself on social media.
You might also want to identify specific hashtags, too, if those are a core part of your social strategy.
In some cases, companies either allow or require certain employees to run brand-affiliated social accounts. If that’s something your business does, this is a good place in your social guidelines to explain how a team member can (or can’t) be authorized for their own branded account.
2. Disclosure and transparency
If your team members are proudly identifying on their social accounts that they work for your company, it’s a good idea to ask them to clarify that they’re creating social media posts on behalf of themselves, not your brand. Adding a disclosure to their social profile or bio that “All opinions expressed are my own” (or similar) helps make it clear that these are not official viewpoints.
That being said, if they’re going to discuss company-related matters on social, it’s actually required by law that they identify themselves as an employee. This one’s a rule, not a friendly suggestion. In fact, in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission requires the identification to occur in the relevant post. Just noting it in a bio is not enough.
An example of a Google employee’s Twitter bio
It never hurts to remind your team that confidential company information is confidential off the clock, too. Whether private info about coworkers, financial disclosures, upcoming products, private communications, research and development intel, or other sensitive information, clarify that privacy and confidentiality should be respected across all social media platforms.
4. Cyber safety
Cyber hacks and threats are no joke. Even if your employees are vigilant about phishing scams and the like, it never hurts to review cyber-safety basics, especially if you collect information about customers or clients.
Cyber safety first!
A quick refresh of cyber security 101:
- Choose strong passwords
- Use a different password for every social account
- Don’t use the same passwords for your corporate accounts
- Use two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication to login to social networks
- Limit the personal and professional information you share
- Use personal credentials for personal accounts
- Make sure your Internet connection is secure
- Do not download or click on suspicious content
- Only activate geolocation services on apps when necessary
- Practice safe browsing
Guidelines commonly remind staff to be kind on social media. But beyond promoting positivity, businesses should also make clear that they do not tolerate any form of social media harassment.
On the flip side of that is an opportunity to provide your employees with support should they experience harassment. Define your policy for dealing with trolls or bullies, whether it’s to report them, ignore them, or block or ban them.
Tell people how to report issues they may have seen or experienced. If support is needed, tell employees how and where they can get it.
Providing protocol and tools is going to help your team nip problems in the bud before it grows into a full-blown social media crisis.
It’s important for every employer and brand to promote inclusivity on and off social media. Encouraging your employees to do the same is a way to show that you care about them, too.
Inclusivity guidelines may include:
- Use inclusive pronouns (they/them/theirs/folks)
- Provide descriptive captions for images
- Be thoughtful about representation
- Don’t make assumptions about gender, race, experience, or ability
- Avoid gender or race-specific emojis
- Feel free to share your preferred pronouns
- Use title case for hashtags (this makes them more legible for screen readers_
- Use diverse imagery and icons. This includes stock imagery, emojis, and branded visuals.
- Report and remove any comments deemed sexist, racist, ableist, ageist, homophobic, or hateful to any group or person
- Make text accessible, using plain language and accessible to people learning English as a second language or those with learning disabilities
7. Legal Considerations
Your social guidelines can include a reminder to employees to respect intellectual property, copyright, trademarks, and other relevant laws. When in doubt, the rule of thumb is relatively simple: if it’s not yours, and you don’t have permission, don’t post it. Easy!
8. Do’s and don’ts
Of course, while you may want to get into detail with the previous sections, making a quick-to-reference list of do’s and don’ts is a chance to spell things out super clearly.
- DO list the company as your employer in your social media bio (if you wish to)
- DON’T engage with competitors in an inappropriate way
- DO share company social media posts, events, and stories
- DON’T share company secrets or confidential information of your colleagues
- DO express your own opinion — just make sure it’s clear you’re not speaking on behalf of the company
- DON’T comment on legal matters pertaining to the company
- DO report harassment you’ve experienced or noticed
- DON’T engage with trolls, negative coverage or comments
9. Helpful resources
You may wish to include links to helpful resources throughout your guideline document, or you might want to list in a separate section. Wherever you put them, it’s a good idea to link to your social media policy, social media style guide, and community guidelines, so everyone has this info at their fingertips.
Other links you might want to include could be:
- company documents
- corporate code of conduct
- employee agreements
- privacy policies
- Marketing, advertising and sales regulations from the Government of Canada and the FTC
If your company offers social media resources, what better place than your social media guidelines to make everyone aware of them? Whether its tools or training from Hootsuite, or stipends for social media classes, empower the people that work for you to put their best foot (feet?) forward on social.
For instance, may we recommend Hootsuite Amplify? It’s a great way to find vetted content to share and enhance your personal brand.
10. Contact Information and Date
Be sure to also add information where questions can be sent. That may be a specific person, a forum or Slack channel, or an email address.
You should also indicate when your guidelines were most recently updated.
Looking for real world examples of social media guidelines? We’ve assembled a few sources of inspiration.
The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District outlines tips for best practices clearly and concisely. “Freedom of speech must be exercised responsibly,” the page reminds readers. “These recommendations provide a roadmap for constructive, respectful, and productive use of social networking sites.”
Intel makes every effort to assure employees that they’re not here to censor or police their online behavior. “We trust you,” the guidelines say, both explicitly and implicitly. Right off the top, Intel is clear about its wishes: Be Upfront, Focus on the Good, and Use Your Best Judgement.
Stanford University (yep, the same institution Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of) has social media guidelines that are quite dense, but provide lots of resources and context for users. If your social media guidelines are this thorough, it may be a good idea to review the key takeaways with your team in a workshop or seminar to make sure the details aren’t skimmed over.
Bloomberg School of Nursing at the University of Toronto has a very concise, bullet-point list of guidelines that are easy to digest at a glance. It’s a good reminder that how you design your guidelines can help with comprehension, whether it’s a web page, a PDF or a brochure.
Remember that your guidelines can be as long or as a brief as you wish. Sharp News, for example, only has four guidelines for social media use.
The Olympic Committee kept its social media guidelines to one page for the Beijing Olympics — albeit a pretty dense one. Leaning on the “do’s” and “don’ts” makes it clear at a glance what is acceptable and what is frowned upon.
Because Nordstrom is a company that deals with customer service and privacy is important, its social media guidelines are heavily focused on protecting customers. Your own industry will have its own special sensitivities, so adjust your guidelines to fit your specific problem areas (or opportunities!).
We’ve distilled all these hot tips into one free downloadable template. It’s just a simple Google doc and quite easy to use.
Simply make a copy and start plugging in your recommendations to guide your team to social media greatness.
Save time managing your social media presence with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can publish and schedule posts, find relevant conversions, engage the audience, measure results, and more. Try it free today.
Hootsuite Amplify makes it easy for your employees to safely share your content with their followers—boosting your reach on social media. Book a personalized, no-pressure demo to see it in action.
TikTok SEO in 5 Steps: How To Make Sure Your Videos Show Up in Search
What if I told you that TikTok SEO can help your content reach more people and even make your videos go viral?
If you’ve been sleeping on your social media SEO strategy, this blog is for you. We’ll walk you through all the juicy details about TikTok SEO specifically, how it works, and how you can optimize your video content to get the most out of it.
Stick with us, and you’ll be on the For You page in no time.
Bonus: Get a free TikTok Growth Checklist from famous TikTok creator Tiffy Chen that shows you how to gain 1.6 million followers with only 3 studio lights and iMovie.
What is TikTok SEO?
TikTok SEO is the practice of optimizing your videos on TikTok to rank higher in search. Just as you would use keywords and analytics to optimize the content on your website, you can also use these tactics to help your TikTok videos show up in more search results–this includes results on TikTok, as well as Google.
But wait. TikTok isn’t a search engine, right? Maybe not technically, but it still has its own search bar, making SEO an important part of the platform. In fact, Google’s own data found that 40% of young people primarily use TikTok and Instagram for search.
And, although social media posts on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and the like were not indexed by Google in the past, they now show up in the SERPs. Fancy that!
Your TikTok SEO strategy should include both SEO for Google and SEO for TikTok search. That way, you’re giving your content a fighting chance in all of the biggest online search arenas.
TikTok SEO ranking factors
User interactions can include anything from videos you’ve liked, videos you’ve hidden, videos you’ve added to your favorites, and videos you watch all the way to the end. TikTok takes note of all of this data and uses it to determine which videos to show you.
All of the information contained in a video can affect its ranking on TikTok. This includes captions, hashtags, sound effects, and music. TikTok looks for videos that contain relevant keywords in their titles and descriptions, as well as videos that cover trending topics.
Devices and account settings
These are settings TikTok uses to optimize performance. They include language preference, country setting (you may be more likely to see content from people in your own country), type of mobile device, and categories of interest you selected as a new user.
Note that while account settings do factor into your TikTok SEO ranking, they receive a lower weight than video info and user interactions.
What’s not included?
You’ll be happy to hear that TikTok does not factor follower count into its SEO ranking algorithm (though, if you do want to get more followers, we have you covered). This means that if you create great content that speaks directly to your target audience, you have as much chance of landing on their For You page as the biggest TikTok stars.
This is what sets TikTok apart from other platforms like Instagram. And honestly? We’re here for it.
Google SEO ranking factors
Anyone who knows anything about SEO knows that Google’s ranking factors aren’t exactly the most transparent topic. That aside, there are a couple of things we know for sure. And, *spoiler alert*, these ranking factors are also going to be a big part of your TikTok SEO tips.
Here’s what Google looks for when ranking search results.
These are the words and phrases that users type into a search engine when looking for answers. For example, someone looking for advice on keeping their hair healthy might search for “hair care.”
Google doesn’t just give anyone the top search spot. To earn it, you have to be an authority on the topic.
How do they know you’re an authority? This part is a bit tricky. But, in essence, Google looks at how many other pages link to your page (this acts as a reference and shows what you’re saying is true) and how popular those pages are. This basically means a link from Apple is going to be worth way more than a link from your brother’s local pizza parlor. Sorry, Antonio.
The good news for TikTok’ers is that social media platforms (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook) are some of the most “authoritative” sites in this world. So having a presence on these platforms, and having your content show up in Google search, can really help boost your discoverability.
A piece of content must be related to what users are searching for in order to get a good rank. No one wants to see a page on WWII history when they’re looking for makeup brush cleaning tips.
Google generally prefers new content to old, though there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, Google says, “The freshness of the content plays a bigger role in answering queries about current news topics than it does about dictionary definitions.”
How to do TikTok SEO in 5 steps
Now that we know what TikTok and Google’s search engines look for, here are our top TikTok SEO tips.
1. Start with your audience
One of the most important aspects of TikTok SEO is understanding your audience. Knowing who they are and what they’re looking for can help you create content that resonates with them.
If you’re already active on TikTok, you may have a good idea of what your audience likes. If not, consider taking some time to get to know them better. Look at the videos they’re engaging with and the hashtags they’re using. As well, look at the comments and messages they’re sending you. This can help you get an idea of their interests so that you can create content tailored to them.
Why does this matter for SEO? Well, understanding your audience can help you craft better titles and descriptions for videos, making them easier to find in TikTok searches. Similarly, you want to create content that your audience wants to see. Or the content they are already searching for. This can give you a leg up when it comes to being discovered by new audiences, too.
2. Do keyword research
Keyword research is an essential part of traditional SEO, so it makes sense to use it on TikTok, too. Find out what words or phrases your target audience is using when searching for content like yours.
Keep in mind these tools are scraping data from Google itself–not TikTok. Because SEO in TikTok is so new, there aren’t currently any TikTok SEO tools that can tell you what people are searching for on TikTok.
But don’t get discouraged. The best way to figure out what people are searching for on TikTok is to use the TikTik platform directly. Simply go to TikTok, open the search bar, and enter any keywords you’ve pulled from your TikTok keyword research.
TikTok will automatically auto-populate the search bar with the most popular keywords related to your query. Look through what it shows you, and select any keywords that match up with your content.
If you want to see even more keyword ideas, try typing in your keyword followed by a single letter. TikTok will then show you all the related keywords that begin with your query and the letter you entered.
Hair care “A.”
Hair care “B.”
Hair care “C.”
You can keep repeating this process until you have a list of relevant hashtags and keywords to use in your TikTok SEO strategy.
3. Add keywords to your content
Once you have your TikTok keyword research completed, start adding them to your content in the titles, descriptions, and captions of your videos. This includes any on-screen text, such as lyrics or explanations.
Also, be sure to say the keywords out loud! That’s right, TikTok’s algorithms prioritize videos where the keywords are actually spoken.
You’ll also want to include your keywords in any hashtags you use, as this will help people find your posts more easily. Use both your main keyword and any variations of your keyword that make sense. But don’t overdo it. Make sure you know the optimal number of hashtags to use on each platform.
Finally, add your most relevant target keywords to your TikTok profile. This will ensure that your profile is more visible when people search for these keywords. It also gives potential followers an idea of what kind of content you post and whether they should follow you.
4. Add your TikTok to a microblog
This is the exciting part, where we get to mash everything we know about traditional SEO with everything we’re learning about TikTok SEO!
Blogging is a big part of ranking in Google search. Remember when we talked about Google prioritizing content that is relevant and fresh? Well, that’s pretty much why blogs exist. What better way to keep your content fresh than to publish consistently?
To leverage this technique for your TikTok SEO, create a microblog post that discusses a particular topic related to your TikTok video. Be sure to include your main keyword in the title and your secondary or long-tail keywords in the subheadings and content of the post. Also, don’t forget to embed your TikTok video in the blog, too!
5. Track your progress
Every savvy SEO marketing strategy requires continuous monitoring and tweaking. Sure, you put all the best practices in place, but how will you know if your efforts are successful?
Tracking your TikTok analytics is the best way to see if your SEO strategy is paying off. This will give you insights into which videos are performing well, what kind of engagement they’re getting, and more. It can also help you identify areas where you can improve, such as topics or keywords that don’t seem to be resonating with your audience.
Hootsuite Analytics can show you exactly how many views are coming from search, as opposed to the For You page or from existing followers.
Be sure to track this progress over time, as well as the progress of your competitors. This will give you a better understanding of what works best in terms of TikTok SEO and can help you refine your strategy accordingly.
Frequently asked questions about TikTok SEO
What is SEO on TikTok?
SEO on TikTok is the process of optimizing your TikTok content to make it more discoverable on the platform, increasing views, likes and followers. This is done by researching hashtags, targeting certain keywords, and leveraging popular trends on the platform.
TikTok videos also have the ability to rank in Google search, so optimizing your content for SEO can help you gain even more reach and visibility.
How do you increase SEO on TikTok?
Increasing SEO on TikTok starts with keyword research. This involves researching and identifying popular keywords related to your content, so you can include those keywords in your captions and in the audio of your video.
You should also be aware of popular trends on the platform and use relevant hashtags related to your content. This will make your video more visible in TikTok’s search results and maximize its chances of getting seen.
How do keywords work on TikTok?
Keywords on TikTok are the same as those for any other platform–-words and phrases commonly used to search for content. Popular keywords in your niche can help TikTok’s algorithm boost your video and make it visible to more potential viewers.
How is TikTok a search engine?
TikTok is not technically a search engine, but it does have its own algorithm that can be used to find content. The algorithm takes into account the number of views, likes, and comments a video gets, as well as what other users are searching for. This helps TikTok serve up relevant content to each user based on their interests and past interactions with the app.
Grow your TikTok presence alongside your other social channels using Hootsuite. Schedule and publish posts for the best times, engage your audience, and measure performance — all from one easy-to-use dashboard. Try it free today.
How To Create a Strong Social Media Advocacy Program
There’s nothing more convincing than a friend’s endorsement — especially on social media. That’s why a social media advocacy program is the best way to show the benefits of your products instead of telling your customers why they should care.
Brand advocates help you connect with potential customers and cut through the noise online. They can boost your visibility by:
- Showing off your products on social media
- Leaving positive reviews on your website
- Driving more traffic to your products
In short, an engaged community leads to better sales outcomes. Keep reading for our guide to building a strong social media advocacy program.
Bonus: Download a free employee advocacy toolkit that shows you how to plan, launch, and grow a successful employee advocacy program for your organization.
Social media advocacy is a way to leverage the social networks of the people who like you and/or are invested in your continued success: your customers, employees, business partners, influencers, and more.
According to Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising study, a whopping 89% of respondents trust recommendations from people they know. These recommendations are almost twice as likely to generate action, too.
A social media advocacy strategy turns your biggest fans into brand advocates. A brand advocate is someone who loves your brand so much that they choose to voluntarily promote your products or services on their own social media channels.
While influencers are paid to create sponsored content for your brand, brand advocates are motivated by their enthusiasm for your product or service. They opt into your advocacy program voluntarily. Savvy customers are great at spotting paid influencer content, but organic endorsements still carry serious weight.
By leveraging your company’s biggest cheerleaders, you gain access to their social networks. The trust-based customer relationships you’ll build are worth their weight in gold.
What can brand advocates do for you?
Social media is now a top channel for online brand research, second only to search engines. Customers rely on social at every stage of the purchasing journey. A brand advocate’s positive post can really help you stand out from the crowd.
Here are a few ways in which brand advocates can help you build your business:
They leave positive reviews
Reviews from real users provide useful information for potential customers. In fact, reviews are the third-most important factor when shoppers are contemplating an online purchase:
Source: Hootsuite Digital 2022 report
Encourage your brand advocates to leave positive reviews on your website — and make it easy for them to do so. You can even generate a link to leave a review on Google and include it in your post-purchase emails to all customers.
Customers find a mix of positive and negative reviews more trustworthy. Responding to reviews shows that your brand is open to feedback. Make sure to engage with or respond to all reviews, good or bad.
They create user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is original, brand-specific content created by customers and published on social media or other channels. UGC acts as a trust signal, taking your brand authenticity to the next level. It’s incredibly influential in the final stages of the buyer’s journey.
Brands like Starbucks leverage UGC to break up the flow of traditional marketing posts in their social media streams:
Only four of these 12 recent posts on the Starbucks Instagram feed are brand marketing posts. The other eight posts are user-generated content. In these examples, UGC creates a sense of FOMO that drives customers to stop in for the latest seasonal treat.
They bring in new users or customers
Seeing someone else’s success can help new customers visualize their own. That’s why success stories are invaluable when recruiting potential customers or users.
Airbnb, a giant in the short-term homestay space, builds brand advocacy with the Superhost Ambassador program.
Superhosts are experienced users who have completed at least 10 stays in the past year, maintain a 4.8+ rating, and have a 90% response rate within 24 hours. They enjoy perks and special recognition for earning Superhost status.
Superhost Ambassadors share positive experiences to help new users see the benefits of hosting. They provide mentorship and tools to help new hosts succeed, all while earning rewards for bringing new hosts to Airbnb.
With the “Ask a Superhost” function, Ambassadors become de facto customer service representatives. They answer questions from newbies and help them create successful Airbnb listings. In exchange for their support, Ambassadors earn cash rewards and enjoy exclusive features and tools.
The key to building a strong social media advocacy program lies in leveraging your existing communities. But before you reach out to potential advocates, make sure you’ve got a plan in place.
Here’s how to start building your own social media advocacy program.
1. Start with your goals
Consider what you’re trying to achieve with your social media advocacy program. What kinds of brand advocates are you looking to build your community with? What kind of ROI are you aiming for?
Use the S.M.A.R.T goal-setting program to develop a set of effective goals. That means setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals.
Here’s an example of a S.M.A.R.T goal:
Create a brand advocacy program to grow my Instagram following by 15 percent over the next 90 days.
Now that you’ve got an actionable goal in mind, you can figure out the tactics you’ll need to follow to achieve it.
2. Identify potential brand advocates
After setting your goals, you need to find your brand advocates, recruit them to your cause, and grow excitement among them about your company, campaign, or initiative.
Be sure to develop your program around valuable opportunities and rewards for the participants. Show them how taking part in the program will benefit them. Three core things to focus on to drive the program, including your search for the perfect participants, are:
- Effective communication
- Clear program architecture
- Professional integration
To find the best brand advocates for your social media advocacy program, you need to understand who you want to target, and ask yourself some key questions:
- What are their pain points?
- What incentives would be valuable to them?
- What are their interests?
- Who do they engage with on social media?
Deciding to develop a brand advocacy program doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch. If your brand is active on social media, then there’s a good chance your customers and fans are as well. This community is likely already talking about (and to) your brand.
Look at your social media followers and newsletter subscriber lists. Who’s liking your posts and clicking your newsletter links? These engaged fans are prime candidates for your advocacy program.
3. Don’t forget about employee advocates
Employees can also be fantastic advocates for your brand and business. An employee advocacy program amplifies company messaging and broadens your social media reach.
When recruiting employee brand advocates, make it clear that the program is optional. Internal advocates usually see the value in incentives, but they don’t want to be bribed or coerced into participating!
Here are a few tips to incentivize your employee brand advocates:
- Follow employees from your company accounts to boost their network
- Use the company accounts to share creative messaging created by employees
- Create a contest where everyone who shares a piece of marketing content is entered to win a prize
- Keep track of employees who share content consistently and share this information with their managers
- Acknowledge frequent sharers in company meetings or newsletters
Hootsuite Amplify helps you take the guesswork out of employee social media advocacy. Amplify allows your employees to access pre-approved content to share on their social feeds — all queued up and ready to go.
When done right, employee advocacy is one of the most effective ways to boost your public image and employee engagement.
4. Reward your advocates
Once you’ve got brand advocates, hang onto them! Make sure your social media advocacy program includes valuable opportunities and rewards for the participants. Show them how taking part in the program will benefit them.
Try the following tips to get the ball rolling:
- Follow users that follow you and engage with the content they share
- Highlight community members who contribute positively to your online discussions
- Reward the people who stand out in your community
- Send them swag or discount codes
Keep brand advocates engaged
For your advocacy program to be effective, you need to build a strong connection with your advocates. Best case scenario: you’ll have hundreds, or even thousands, of engaged brand advocates championing your brand. These advocates need to feel valued!
Your social media advocacy strategy needs to be scalable. Put someone in charge of answering advocate questions and keeping them on track. Consider appointing a program lead to take on the engagement task as the program grows.
Add value to the experience
You can keep members engaged by adding value to their experience:
- Create programming or education for your brand advocates
- Offer discounts on educational opportunities
- Add value with exclusive experiences, such as in-person meetups
- Incentivize or even gamify your program by running contests or fun challenges
A relationship with a good brand advocate is mutually beneficial, so keep up with your end of the bargain.
Review your advocacy program on a regular basis
Review your brand advocacy program every few months to see how your progress is tracking against the goals you established at the start. If something isn’t working, make adjustments to get things back on track. Social media is constantly evolving, and so should your advocacy program.
Tap into the power of employee advocacy with Hootsuite Amplify. Increase reach, keep employees engaged, and measure results—safely and securely. Learn how Amplify can help grow your organization today.
Hootsuite Amplify makes it easy for your employees to safely share your content with their followers—boosting your reach on social media. Book a personalized, no-pressure demo to see it in action.
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