How to build engagement and followers on Instagram

Engage to build leads

Most accounts have seen a drop in reach and growth of followers.    Building organic engagement is now an important way to grow your presence on Instagram.

Instagram rewards content that have good engagement.  When a photo has consistent organic engagements, it increases the chances of it being shown in the timeline of other accounts in the niche.

In fact, a photo with superior engagement is the main reason why it get into the Instagram Explore tab.  More details on ‘What makes a photo to Explore’ can be found here.

You can increase this engagement by actively reaching out and interact with relevant accounts. But you have to make the first move.    Here is a guide that shows you most effective way to do this.

With so many accounts on Instagram, how do you find relevant accounts to engage with, and how do you manage all the inbound leads?

Source of leads

Your best leads are accounts that are already engaging with you, or engaging with others similar pages in your market.  These can be

  1. Comments and Likes of your page
  2. Comments and Likes of your competitors, influencers or product brands in your market
  3. Publishers of photo with hashtags
  4. Your new followers
  5. People who had tagged you or messaged you

Obviously these ‘leads’ vary in strength of relationship or in the level of interest to you. For instance, accounts interacting with your page have the strong connection to you.   A comment is a stronger form of engagement, as it has shown real interest and required some effort by the author.  Comments are more likely to be organic, as it is not easily automated.  Conversely a Like on a photo is a lower priority lead, as the author had lesser time and emotional investment in this interaction.

You can prioritize your engagement effort based on the strength of relationship.  As an example, accounts who commented on your page and on your competitors’ page are the strongest candidates for your engagement effort.


Niche & account size

You should only interact with accounts from your niche.

Instagram is a self-leaning machine.  Your engagement pattern ‘teaches’ Instagram the niche you are in.  Instagram tracks and measures the engagement of your photo.   It ranks high engagement content as more valuable to people in your niche, thus increasing the chance of them seeing this.


The bio contains keywords that tell you a lot about their niche. Some of these keywords describe your ideal customers.  Examples of keywords are photographer, mommy, foodie, fitness, travel, wanderlust etc.   Similar words like collab, email, DM would describe a business, a blogger or a potential influencer.

You can use these keywords to filter and look for leads in your niche.

Account size

Accounts with similar or slightly bigger page size to you, are the best candidate for your engagement outreach.

Engaging with very big accounts may not be the most effective if you want to connect with them. Very large accounts may have hundreds of likes and comments. Your engagement effort could be lost amongst their inbound messages.  Conversely, accounts with less followers than you, are most likely to reciprocate your connection.  However they may not be the most effective way to build an audience if your focus is to maximize your reach.

Our study has found that accounts that are X2 or X5 size of your page would be the best candidate for you to reach out.



Instagram requires photos to be posted manually using their platform. Therefore the account owners are most likely to be online at the time when their photos are published.   They would also be online when they have just commented or liked a photo.

Reaching out to them, around this time, would get their attention.  It gives you the best chance of connecting and getting a response.

So in summary, your best leads are “accounts in your niche that are comparable to your size, and you should interact with them when they are online”.

Using the Engage platform

smudience Engage is a tool for your engagement on Instagram.   It will automate your search, filter and reminder process.    Here are the 7 simple steps to for your engagement process.

#1   define your niche

  • Open the admin page from the home page    
  • Select [source]
  • Enter one or more Instagram pages. These can be brand names, influencers or competitors in your niche.    The page image and follower count will be shown on the right.
  • Enter a hashtag. Confirm you have selected the right hashtag, by checking the density of the hashtag.
  • Click [update] to save changes

Tips :  You can change these setting at any time.

Tips :  You can use up to three (3) pages.  The minimum is 1.

#2    extract leads

The system will check for Comments, Likes from pages, and photos with hashtags you have specified.  It will also look for the new followers and following since the last time you have used the Engage platform.

A progress count will tell you the leads it is extracting.  The extraction process may take 15 to 30 sec.

When completed, this leads page will be refreshed.   There is a summary count of the new leads you have just loaded.

Tips :   You can refresh this list as often as you want to.  Each refresh will only retrieve new leads since your last extract.


#3    review accounts

The lead page contains accounts that are of interest to you.  It shows the

  1. bio of the account
  2. account stats such as number of followers, following and photos posted
  3. if they are your follower or you are following them
  4. source of lead (eg Comments, Likes, post with your Hashtag)
  5. the page it interacted with, or name of the hashtag
  6. the number of times you have already engaged with that account in the past
  7. the time of the engagement. This is the time of comment, hashtag post published

This list is initially sorted by followers count – the accounts with the highest followers count is shown at the top.

You can reorder this by the following count or the time of the engagement. For example, clicking [date] would show the most recent engagement first.



A quick visual check on the list could reveal a few insights :

  • Account in your niche are those with your key words in their bio
  • Your ideal target accounts have page size between X2 to X5 of your own size
  • A higher following count than the no of followers, could indicate the account is growing by using a following-unfollow method
  • The page it has engaged with, the types of interaction, and the time is shown on the right
  • If the account is currently following you, they are marked with the work ‘following’ on the Bio
  • An engagement history count shows the number of previous contacts you had with this lead
  • Commercial or business accounts may display contact details , such as email, whatsapp or phone no, or address
  • Some accounts may show their current city location
  • Private accounts are marked as private in the bio and usually with a low follower count.

You can use this information to narrow down your list of leads, filter and select the accounts you want to engage with.

Tips :     When you see a number in engagement history, it indicated that you have interacted with this account before.   To see more details, click on the Bio.  The contact history is at the end of the detail page.

Tips :  The color bar on the far left identifies the source of leads.  It is designed to help to prioritize  your work.

Blue       Likes

Red        Comments

Purple   Hashtags

Green    Following

Yellow   Follower

Tips  :    The sequence of leads reflects the order the interaction on Instagram. However, the time of engagement for photo Likes, your page Follows and Following are taken from the time of your extract.   This is a restriction from Instagram, as it does not provide actual timestamp of photo likes and page follows.



Filter, reminder and a work plan & more   [Part 2]