Instagram Tips

How To Boost Your Instagram Engagement With Top Posts

Instagram Top Posts is basically how to get your content trending on Instagram and is a good strategy to boost your engagement organically grow your account. No paid bots or advertisements necessary. When it comes to Instagram lately, it’s very hard to get ahead of the game, especially with that darn algorithm that seems to have threatened everyone’s chances for Insta-success. I’m here to ensure you that you don’t have to work harder or spend boat loads of money, you need to work smarter. So are you ready to learn?! This post will explain what Top Posts are, why you should incorporate them into your Instagram strategy, and how to get featured on them.

How To Get More Instagram Engagement With Top Posts

Although Top Posts has been around for over a year now, it’s still an overlooked area when it comes to Instagram marketing strategy. I was surprised to hear in my How to Use Hashtags post that many of you have never really thought about using the feature, which got me thinking, I need to write a post on this!

For me, hashtags and having “trending” photos really helps my account to get more likes, comments, and followers. It’s one of, if not THE, best strategy to get more exposure and to organically grow your account. I can vouch that they work because I’ve been featured on hashtags with over a million posts before, which dramatically helped to grow my Instagram to over 5,000. UNFORTUNATELY, I don’t have screen shots to prove it to you (I actually did have one to show a friend, but since deleted it before I realized I could share it in posts like this. Lesson learned.) But just trust me on this.

What the Heck is “Top Posts”?

When you go into the Explore tab in the Instagram App and type a hashtag in the search bar, the Top Posts area is the grid of nine posts at the top, with the most recent posts below it. You can think of these photos as “trending,” or the most popular and relevant posts that were tagged with that hashtag. Top Posts are different than recent posts because they don’t show up in chronological order but rather were selected by Instagram to be featured by using some kind of special algorithm, which I will get into in just a second.

These posts are considered by Instagram to have some kind of value and relevance to the users that are exploring that hashtag. This is beneficial to content creators (aka us) though because if you post a photo promoting your new blog post, “10 Sure-Fire Ways to Grow Your Instagram,” and it trends on the #instagrammarketing hashtag, you will be reaching users that will find value in your post. See? Instagram is trying to help us, in one way or another.


Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the specific formula that Instagram uses for their selection process, but I do know what factors go into how a post becomes featured.

How Posts Get Featured

Top Posts are selected based on a ratio of high engagement x speed, meaning that if your post gets a lot of likes and comments in the shortest amount of time, it’s more likely to trend. Top Posts usually take their position within the first 24 hours, and how long they stay there depends on how popular and high-targeted the hashtag is. For instance, photos that show up on tags with over a million posts like #thatsdarling (see above) and #socialmedia won’t remain there for long and are quickly replaced as other photos gain better traction.

Posts that appear on less popular, but still highly-targeted hashtags, like #instagrammarketing (see above) with less than 500,000 posts are more likely to remain to trend for 24 hours and sometimes even longer! This is what you want to aim for.

Why Should I Care About Top Posts?

Making it on the Top Posts is a great way to get your post noticed by new users who are more likely to engage with your account and maybe even give you a follow. If you’re trying to grow your account, you definitely want to try and get your post to trend. In regards to Instagram marketing, it’s a huge win, kind of like getting featured on the Explore page, except you can be featured MULTIPLE times on different hashtags and every user will see your post, while the Explore page is a collection of posts Instagram thinks you might like based on your behavior, and only you see those selected images.

Let’s take a look at my account for example…

Let’s examine this photo that I recently posted on my Instagram.

By looking at my stats, I think it got a pretty good engagement rating, based on my follower account and when it was posted. I noticed that it gained high engagement pretty quickly and reached over 200 likes within the first hour. These first moments are very crucial in how well your post will perform. It’s better to get 100 likes in a couple of hours than to get 1,000 likes over the course of a couple of days.

 As you can tell from these images, this post ended up trending on four different hashtags (that I was able to capture at least.) One thing that Instagram does seem to do is if one post is trending for a popular hashtag, it will most likely trend for a related hashtag as well. You’ll see this a lot with lifestyle tags like #thatsdarling, #flashesofdelight, and #thehappynow.

I always make sure to use hashtags on my photos that I know I have a chance of trending for. I suggest to start keeping track of what hashtags you use and if and how often you appear on the Top Posts. If you’re not sure what hashtags you should be using, grab your free copy of my Hashtag Library that has over 350 hashtags for all niches from fashion to lifestyle to small biz!

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Here are some good questions to ask yourself when you’re selecting which hashtags to include:

  • What is the common theme of this hashtag? What types of post usually appear on it?
  • How many posts does this hashtag have?
  • Are the posts that typically trend for this hashtag related to my niche?
  • Am I targeting my ideal audience with this hashtag?

Bottom line: getting featured on a trending hashtag will get your post more exposure. You should approach your Instagram with a strategy and always try to make it on the Top Posts of hashtags.

How Do You Get Featured On Top Posts?

There’s no science behind getting on the Top Posts, but there are some ways to increase your chances. Remember that it’s a game of trial and error, and analyzing how your content performs.

1. Pictures that are High Quality,  Relevant, and Compelling

Let’s face it, Instagram is all about visuals, so you need to make sure you’re posting top-notch photographs and videos that are appealing and will attract users to click on them. It also helps to include an engaging caption that will persuade people to leave a comment. Using call-to-actions in your caption is a good strategy for this. Try sharing a story about your day, asking a question, or directing users to a link in your profile. It also doesn’t hurt to reply to comments right away, which will boost your comment count.

2. Right Combination of Hashtags

Use a mix of popular and less popular hashtags to increase your chances of being featured. The “right” mix is going to be different for everyone. A major factor that determines your sweet spot is a number of followers you have. For accounts with less than 10,000 followers, you want to focus your attention on hashtags with around 100,000 or fewer posts that are less-targeted and easier to trend for.

You also want to try and including 3-5 “big” hashtags that are less-targeted, but still in your niche. If your post does really well in those crucial moments right after being published, it might make it on the more popular hashtags, which will get you lots of impressions, likes, comments, and even more followers.

For the photo in our case study, here are the hashtags I used. You can see that I used a pretty good mix of popular hashtags with over a million posts (#bloggerstyle, #ootdmagazine, and #minimalism), but most of them are less popular posts that I know I have a shot of trending for.

It’s also important to remember that relevance is more important than how popular the hashtag is. Random and generic hashtags like #happy, #clouds, and #computer aren’t really going to get you anywhere because you’re not targeting your ideal audience. Focus on using hashtags that are in your niche so you can connect with other users who are posting similar content and are also looking for other creatives and experts like YOU to follow.

3. Post at Your Optimal Time

Remember: Instagram favors post with high and quick engagement.Since you can’t always bank on getting a bunch of likes from people who don’t follow you, your best bet is to post when your followers are online the most.
Not sure when to post? Pay attention to your Instagram Analytics for when your followers are most active and post during your peak times. If you’re just starting your account, try different times and analyze how quickly you get likes and comments. You want to make sure you have a business account to access these features, which can easily be done by going into your settings.

My optimal times to post are usually between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tip: post about a half hour before your optimal time to give it a little extra assurance of being seen once your followers hop on Instagram. Remember that this is just an average and some days might be a little different.

4. Instagram Pods

Instagram pods are a new “secret weapon” that’s been gaining popularity to break the algorithm–or at least get ahead of it. They are private groups of 10-15 (and sometimes even more) of accounts with similar niches and audiences, that correspond via Direct Message. They alert each other that they’ve published a new post and in the group will drop a like and comment. Pods could potentially help get your photo the quick boost it needs to trend, although just like about everything else in this post, there is no science behind it. You just have to try it and see.

5. You Don’t Have a Big Account to Be Featured

Probably the biggest misconception when it comes to Top Posts. The key is to use hashtags that are relevant to your photo and niche and that have a smaller amount of posts but are still hashtags that get a high amount of traffic.

In the end: it all comes down to having high quality and engaging photos, using the right mix of relevant hashtags, and posting at your optimal times.

Have you heard of Instagram’s Top Posts? Have you ever made it on one? I’d love to hear your success stories or what kinds of strategies you use. Drop a comment below and let’s discuss!

Oh, and give me a follow on Instagram 🙂

How to Increase Instagram Engagement With Top Posts

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