How do you know what is working on Instagram in 2021?

Well, it’s easy because the lovely people from Hubspot and Mention have been analysing bucket loads of Instagram data and have come up with some surprising findings that will help you rock Instagram.

Of particular interest to you and me, is that the results are very encouraging for small businesses out there and make us realise that we are in the majority and not the minority. So stop beating yourself up by thinking EVERYONE else has 10k followers because they don’t!  

Here are some of the report highlights:

  • The sweet spot for caption lengths to get the most engagement is in the 500–1,000 and 1,000–2,000 characters range. 
  • Carousel posts overtook both single image and video posts as the most engaging type of post this year, with 62 likes and five comments as the norm. 
  • 53.6% of Instagram accounts have less than 1,000 followers 


So let’s look at the main points:

Caption Length

“A great Instagram caption will stop a scroller in their tracks — and the longer someone spends reading your caption and engaging with your post, the better your post will rank with the Instagram algorithm!”

I’m afraid you can’t just add a one-liner and run away. The best performing posts, in terms of engagement, had captions that were 500 – 2000 characters long. So think about the content you are posting and the style of caption you write, tell a story, educate and inspire but don’t drag it out for the sake of hitting 1000+ characters, your captions need to be interesting and relevant. 

(If you have trouble thinking about what to write in captions why not join my content club

Woman sitting on chair with phone in hand with yellow backgroundEngagement

This is really interesting. 50% of Instagram users have an engagement rate of less than 1%. Not great I hear you cry but, when you compare yourself to them you may find that you are actually doing better than you thought. 

It’s disappointing that the average engagement rate has dropped since 2020. But then maybe we need to think about being more particular about who follows us and ensure that we have a more engaged audience – ie the right audience – so they will want to engage more with our posts. It could be as simple as removing those followers who never engage with you or are not your target audience. It might feel like madness but honestly, it will help. 


“Hashtags are powerful. They can help your posts reach a target audience, attract followers in your niche, increase engagement, and develop a more positive and recognizable brand image.”

Oh, the ongoing debate! The results from this report are fascinating and go against the general advice out there. This is what they said:

“At the end of the day, just because you can include up to 30 hashtags in an Instagram caption, doesn’t mean you should. We recommend building a hashtag strategy around 20 hashtags that are super relevant to each of your posts and your industry, as well as your brand.”

So I’m going to start trialling 20 and see what difference that makes. Remember to use relevant hashtags, ones that relate to the topics in your post, to your ideal audience and your industry and not choose the big ones as you will get lost in the ether. 

To tag or not to tag

This is the marmite feature of Instagram. Some people love a tag and others loathe them. The report’s findings say that they need to be relevant to the caption and individuals tagged but overall those posts with tags get more engagement than those that do not. So get tagging but not too many! 

Location pins
Stating your location really helps

“Posts with a tagged location result in 79% higher engagement than posts without a tagged location.”

Well, there you have it. Start putting a location on your posts if you don’t already. This is super important if you are a business that relies on customers to be geographically based. 


It’s all about the carousel post this year which has overtaken the single image and video posts. The average carousel post generates 62 likes and 5 comments so maybe it’s time to start thinking about bringing them into your posting strategy.


Interesting hey? 

Here are some of the key takeaways

  • “ Ensure that your Instagram profile is complete. This means filling out the bio thoroughly with relevant keywords to your business, as well as creating IG Stories highlights and curating your posts into easy-to-scroll Guides. 
  • Post high-quality content consistently. Don’t post content just for the sake of posting; be intentional and thoughtful in the content you create. Always be sure to include a thorough caption — the more detailed, the better — and use relevant hashtags. We’ll dive into how to curate your captions to get the most engagement later on. 
  • Be responsive and interact with your community. Make sure you’re replying to your followers’ comments, direct messages, and follows. Give your followers regular engagement opportunities outside of the feed, like asking questions in your Stories. If you’re being tagged in posts, respond to them in the comments. 
  • Collaborate with influencers and partner brands. Working with the right influencers and partners that align to your brand, goals, and values will boost your engagement much more effectively than trying to do it on your own. 
  • Post a good balance of different types of content. This will include image posts, video posts, Stories, IGTV, and even Reels. The more diverse content you create, the more avenues you give your brand to reach your ideal audience.

To read the report in full head over here


So, I hope that helps. These are proven results for what really is working on Instagram right now so it makes sense to include them in your posting strategy.

Good luck and if you need some help why not get in touch here.