The only way to grow your social media following is to get your audience to engage with the content you post. Whether you’re posting a link to your latest blog post on Facebook or a new picture on Instagram, if people aren’t hitting the like button, then your efforts are almost worthless.

So the question is why do some posts seem to attract waves of likes, while others get ignored? It’s not just a coincidence. There are certain steps you can take to get more likes on your social media posts. Here are some strategies you should start putting in place before making your next Facebook or Instagram post:

Ask for the Like

This tip is so simple, yet so many marketers overlook it. When you make a Facebook or Instagram post, ask people to like it. If you start asking users to engage, you’ll see the number of likes increase for your content.

Post at the Right Time

Social media posts don’t stay fresh forever. As your content starts to drop down in users’ news feeds, your chances of getting people to see and like your posts will decrease considerably. That’s why it’s crucial to post at optimal times. Sometimes it’s not a matter of whether your content is good enough, but more of an issue of people actually seeing it.

There have been several studies conducted around what’s the best time to post on each social network. We’ve touched on this subject in a previous post, but here’s a general guideline to follow for Facebook and Instagram.

  • Facebook: 1–3 p.m.
  • Instagram: 3–4 p.m.

Keep in mind that these times aren’t set in stone. The time your audience is most likely to see your social media posts will be different than other people. A good way to help increase the chances of your social media posts being seen is to take advantage of Sprout Social’s ViralPost. This built-in feature determines optimal post times for your content to maximize engagement.

Use Hashtags

It has been shown time and time again that social media posts with hashtags get more engagement. Hashtags make your content easier to find and also let you take advantage of trending topics. When it comes to Instagram in particular, more hashtags means higher engagement. Anywhere between five and 11 seems to yield the best results.

The challenge is finding the right balance between adding relevant hashtags and overdoing it with completely random phrases that don’t serve a purpose. Read our guide on how to use hashtags and our hashtag tracking post to learn how to maximize your results from hashtags.

Include People in Your Photos

Time to whip out that selfie stick. For your Instagram posts, don’t just rely on images of scenery or product photos. The posts that get the most likes are ones that feature people’s faces. In fact, Instagram pictures with faces get 38% more likes, which gives plenty of motivation to start adding more photos of your team and customers. Don’t forget to tag people who appear in your photos so that their followers can like your posts too.

Here are some quick tips to start getting more pictures of people on your Instagram page:

  • Highlight customers with a fan of the week or month contest.
  • Take photos of your team at work behind the scenes.
  • Post a funny picture of your employee of the month.
  • Take pictures and selfies at events that your company hosts and attends.

Here’s another tip to keep in mind: Dan Zarrella, an award-winning social media scientist, analyzed over 160,000 Instagram photos with the hashtag #selfie. Among many things, he found selfies that included the hashtag #nofilter received 10% more likes. As fun as Instagram Filters can be, your posts might get more likes if you skip them.

Focus on Your Audience

One of the biggest mistakes companies make on social media is gearing all of the content about the business, and not the audience. In order to drive engagement and get more likes, you need to change the way you post.

For instance, take a look at this Instagram post from GoPro.

This post is a part of GoPro’s Photo of the Day series where the company highlights photos taken by GoPro users. That puts the focus on the customer, and also promotes a product without seeming like a blatant advertisement.

Ask Questions

Adding a question at the end of your Facebook or Instagram posts not only gets you more likes, but it increases overall engagement. Questions naturally earn comments because people want to reply with their answers.

Here are two different ways you can use questions to get more likes.

First, simply post a general question or ask for opinions that will entice people to answer.

This approach gets conversations going and earns likes.

Another technique you can use is to ask a rhetorical question. A great example of this in action is Burger King’s Facebook page. The company has been creating Facebook posts with photos of the new Fiery Chicken Fries and a caption. Let’s take a look at a few of the posts, and see why one has a lot more likes than the others.

Photo #1: 9,500+ likes

Photo #2: 36,000+ likes

Photo #3: 58,000+ likes

The third photo has thousands more likes than the other two, and a majority of the other Fiery Chicken Facebook posts as well. The photos are fairly similar, but the main difference is the caption. The third post uses a rhetorical question, which inspires people to react. If you’re tempted to try the Chicken Fries, your natural reaction to the question is yes, and you hit the like button as a vote of approval.

The key to using this technique correctly is to ask a question that ties into an emotion or be a topic that is likely favorable among a larger audience. For instance, if you own a restaurant and you’re hosting an upcoming event, you might post something along the lines of “Are you ready for a night you won’t forget?” People who plan on attending the event are going to be much more likely to hit the like button because of the excitement and anticipation.

Tag Popular Accounts

When you tag someone on Instagram or Facebook, they’ll receive a notification. They may like it or share it with their followers, which gives your content even more exposure. Not only that, but people doing searches for the person or company that you tag will be able to see your content, which could earn you even more likes.

Tagging photos you take with influencers in your industry or even companies that are relevant to your post can go far toward earning more likes for your content.

Cross Channel Promotion

When you post a new Instagram photo, you should share the update to Facebook and Twitter too. Remember, even though some people might follow you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, they might not check all three on a daily basis. So you could have people who actively engage with you on Twitter, but if they don’t check their Instagram regularly then that audience will not be aware of your new photos. Tweeting out a link to your Instagram posts will give your followers the heads up to check it out and potentially like your photo.

This technique is particularly useful if you have a large following on Facebook, and want to push some of that traffic to the new Instagram page you’re trying to build up or vice versa.

Here’s a pro tip: If your goal is to use your following from one network to grow your following on another one.

Once you’ve made a new Instagram post, schedule Tweets or Facebook posts with a link to your Instagram photo like in the New York Knicks picture above.

Post Amazing Content

Above all else, you need to post great content. If the images you’re sharing on Facebook and Instagram are bland and boring, it doesn’t matter what time of the day you post them or which hashtags you use, you won’t get as many likes as you could have.

The challenge is defining “good” content. There are some general best practices you can follow, but it’s more about finding out what type of content your audience engages with the most. A good way to start getting an idea of what type of content your audience likes is to take a look at some of your top performing posts. Even if you don’t have any recent posts that went viral or received thousands of likes, you’ll at least have a clearer picture of which posts get some level of engagement.

Analyze some of the main features of your top posts and look for similarities like:

  • What colors are used?
  • Do the photos have peoples’ faces in them?
  • What kind of background do most of them have? Nature or indoors?
  • What kind of caption do they have?
  • Are certain people tagged in the posts?

Once you get a feel for what your audience responds to the most, it’ll be easier to replicate your success. At the same time, don’t box yourself into creating only one type of content or photo. Just be aware of the elements that work best and try to incorporate them into some of your posts in the future.

Start Getting More Likes

Put these tips and tricks into action today to get more likes on your Instagram and Facebook posts. You no longer have to post random pictures and just sit with your fingers crossed hoping someone will tap the Like button. You can be proactive and increase engagement by posting the right type of content at the best time.

Do you have any techniques you like to use to get more likes on your social media posts? Leave a comment below and let us know what you’re doing to boost engagement.