Rules for Engagement: How to get and keep a loyal following on Instagram

by Jen
Nov 11, 2018

We live in a crazy technological world filled with various avenues for social engagement and interaction. Sometimes it can be tricky figuring out how to get a handle on the best way to engage in our modern era.

When looking at Instagram, we view this platform mostly as a visual, one-way form of communication, as most of the content we upload is, of course, photos. But have you ever thought about how you can widen this scope of communication?

I am going to break down the different ways in which we can engage with our audience on Instagram, and how to use this to your advantage to ensure your followers stay loyal and keep coming back for more.

Before we get into it, I want to ask you a question… why do you post your content? Is it because you look amazing in your photo? Are showing off an awesome location? The reason I ask is because you should be thinking about these questions before posting any photos. There should be a reason behind your post, and this reason should get people talking.  If you don’t understand what I mean don’t worry, I am going to give you examples using my own content. 

I shared this photo after returning from my travels to Thailand. I hadn’t had a chance to look through all my photos while away, but really wanted to post the photo as I thought it was a really nice shot.

My biggest challenge was making this photo relevant. It might be a bit weird of me to just post a random photo of myself eating without some sort of context or reason. 

One solution is to make the caption relate to something about yourself – for me it was my love for food. Another way is to ask your audience a question in order to encourage a response. This photo ended up getting 58 comments and 504 likes. Not a bad result for an old photo!

Okay, so now we know that photos need a context or reason to be posted, let’s talk about the 3 main methods for communication on Instagram:

Photo Caption:

From my example, you can see how I used my photo caption to ask my audience a question to solicit a response. I personally think that people overlook the power of a caption and how it can encourage your followers to engage more actively with your content. My advice is— get people talking! Try your best to get as many responses to your questions as possible! But what do you do once someone comments on your photo…?


Again, I think simple comments are very underrated in their power to hook in a loyal follower. I make an effort to respond to ALL comments on my photos. Why? Because everyone likes to be noticed!

It sounds very basic, but it’s very effective! I’m sure that like me, you have commented on someone’s photos you admire. If they respond, you feel elated! The person you are admiring has noticed you and replied to your comment! What a great feeling! But if they don’t, you don’t get that great feeling, and you might even start to feel ignored and unimportant.

Don’t fall into this trap! If someone has gone out of their way to comment on your photo, I feel it’s only fair to thank and acknowledge them. I also feel the more personal and bespoke the reply the better! Try not to give a generic response either – people will start to notice it and you may see your total number of followers decline. Here are some examples of my own responses.

Direct messages: 

Sending and receiving messages on Instagram is another huge way in which we can communicate. Once you start to gain a following, you might find you get absolutely inundated with messages from followers. So what is the correct etiquette?

Well, I feel that this is a very personal preference – however, I attempt to reply to all of my inbox messages on Instagram. A lot of the time my messages consist of people just wanting to say hello from all different corners of the world. Sometimes I get questions on what different editing apps I use or what camera I shoot with.

Direct messages fall under the same principle as commenting for me; people wouldn’t reach out to you if they thought they were going to be ignored. So try an engage with your followers as much as you can. The more engagements you make with people, the more loyal followers you will have! After all, people want to get to know the person behind the photo.

My biggest tip when it comes to any type of engagement on Instagram – or any social media platform for that matter – is to be professional! If you are aspiring to be an influencer, remember that what you say, do and post online could be seen by companies and brands you might want to collaborate with in the future. So, even when replying to someone’s comment, remember to always conduct yourself in a professional, friendly manner.

Now go and get those people talking!