If you’re on Instagram, likes matter as much as ever. Instagram announced in May 2021 that it would now give people the option to hide public like counts — either hiding counts on all posts or just on your own feed so others can’t see.

But whether we can see Instagram likes or not, the Instagram algorithm continues to work like it always has, according to the platform. So whether they’re visible to the world or not, here are the best ways to get people to tap that heart button.


Use the right hashtags

Hashtags are a big key to expanding your Instagram audience. Use a hashtag, and your post (or Story!) will appear on the page for that hashtag.



People can also choose to follow hashtags, which means you could be showing up in a total stranger’s news feed. Whether you’re using product or service hashtags, seasonal hashtags, acronym hashtags or location hashtags, the consensus is that keeping it under 11 hashtags is best practice.


Tag relevant users

Whether you’re tagging a collaborator, a new acquaintance or your childhood hero, the goal is to highlight how much you value them, and share that value with your audience.

And if it just so happens that their audience is likely to see your value in the process? Well, so be it.


Write compelling captions

Whether you’re better off writing a novel that maxes out Instagram’s 2,200 character limit, or keeping things mysterious and punchy with a one-liner depends on your brand voice and message. But long or short, captions are a vital ingredient in a post’s success.

Great Instagram captions add context and personality, and compel your followers to take action. Don’t rush this part.


Tag your location

More than just a humblebrag about your excellent taste in breweries or coworking spaces, geotagging your location is a way for more people to find and like your photos.

It’s even more helpful if you’re a brand with a brick and mortar location, as you build up a sense of community with your regulars and… potential regulars. (Just remember to make sure your physical coordinates are correct so that you appear on the map.)


Get on the Explore page

Behind that little magnifying glass icon, the Explore page is a cornucopia of beautiful, entertaining content personalized for you by Instagram. Brands that show up there get a lot of eyeballs.



But how do brands get featured on the Instagram Explore tab in the first place? In short, you need a great engagement rate and an active community — and it doesn’t hurt to embrace whatever new feature Instagram is currently boosting in the algorithm.


Post at the right time

Instagram doesn’t show posts chronologically, but its algorithm does favour “recency”. This means that if you want to get in front of eyeballs, it’s important for you to know when your audience is actually looking at the app.

Every brand has its own sweet spot, based on its unique audience, so your own analytics will give you some guidance.


Run a like-to-win contest

Contests can take a little planning… or a lot. But a like-to-win contest is one of the simplest ways to rack up engagement in a given time period.

The key is to make sure your prize is desirable to your audience, but also specific enough that you’re attracting real fans, not opportunists


Post good photos

Lest we forget that photography was an art before it was a marketing tool, we all have to own up to the fact that sometimes our taste exceeds our skill. On Instagram, there’s no room for “good enough” shots. Time to level up.

Whether that means taking a photography course to develop your eye, or devoting some budget to upgrading your equipment, figure out what the pros do differently than the hobbyists.


Engage outside your feed

In its ongoing attempt to give the people what they want, the algorithm prioritizes Instagram posts from accounts that it thinks are “close.” How does it measure closeness? By monitoring how much accounts interact with each other.

So, if you want to expand your reach, and therefore your chances of getting likes, don’t be a wallflower: go forth and interact. Get generous with the likes and comments.


Post user-generated content

Sharing content from your followers is a sure-fire way to generate engagement. It’s a thrill for the user to be featured by a brand they like, for starters, but it also acts as social proof, confirming for your other followers that it’s more than okay to be a super fan.

It also showcases your authenticity and connection to the community.


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