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5 Lessons Learned Analyzing My Most Popular Instagram Updates Success on social media is at least as much art as science. Studying what worked before and trusting your intuition is a good strategy.

By Timothy Sykes Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Recently, I was honored to be featured by my fellow Entrepreneur contributor, Thomas Smale, on his list of "8 Inspiring Instagram Accounts You Should Follow." Being recognized on this list meant a lot to me, because everything I do on Instagram (and in the rest of my life) is dedicated to one thing: inspiring my students to succeed.

But being called out as having an "extremely popular Instagram account" got me thinking. What is it that's made my account so successful so far? To get some answers, I decided to run a free Instagram activity report from Simply Measured to determine which of my posts have received the most engagement so far and why.

Without further ado, here's the list.

1. Run a giveaway.

According to Simply Measured, this post racked up 9,515 Instagram likes, 4,505 Instagram comments and 22 Twitter engagements, for a total of 14,042 engagements. Frankly, I think it's easy to see why, since responding to the post entered followers into my $20,000 cash giveaway!

I'd read about how engaging social media giveaway contests can be before, but this post in particular really gave me proof. Even if you aren't working with $20,000 cash, giving away something on your Instagram account could be the secret that helps you drive massive engagement.

Related: Billionaire Sara Blakely Pledges to Give Away Half of Her Fortune

2. Inspire with visual content.

Most of my Instagram updates involve posting pictures of the amazing places I've traveled to inspire my students to achieve the same kind of lifestyle. This works, because Instagram is a visually-oriented network, more so than any other social platform.

But I have to say, although I post a lot of pictures, this one is one of my favorites. It's absolutely stunning, and it's no surprise to me that it's earned a total of 12,609 engagements across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. If your own engagement is lacking, you can't go wrong posting beautiful pictures (just be sure to give credit where credit is due!).

3. Use hashtags wisely.

The update below (which captured 11,978 total engagements), succeeds, in part, because it takes advantage of the "beautiful picture" principle I described above:

But there's more to it here. I also attribute some of the success of this update to the hashtags I used. Tags like #FinancialFreedom, #DailyMotivation, #DreamLife and #DailyInspiration help expand the reach of my posts, while simultaneously inspiring my followers to prioritize these principles in their lives.

If you aren't currently taking advantage of Instagram's hashtags, start today. Tag using both popular hashtags and conversational or inspiring phrases for maximum impact.

Related: 3 Ways to Leverage Hashtags to Enhance Your Brand

4. Ask for engagement.

If you're building a presence on any social networking site, engagement is at least part of your goal. But unfortunately, people don't just engage automatically. Often, you have to ask them to engage in the ways you want.

That's part of what made my fourth most successful post, which wound up with 10,069 engagements, so popular. Right there, in the text, I ask "Who wants to come?" Combine that with the giveaway mentioned, the use of an inspiring image and a collection of great hashtags, and you've the perfect recipe for engagement.

Best of all, this tip is easy to implement. Want more engagement on your Instagram posts? Simply ask followers to do whatever it is you want them to do.

5. Use leading questions.

This is kind of a continuation from the tip above, but one of the most effective ways to encourage your audience to engage with your profile is to ask them leading questions.

In this case, the question I asked was "Can you guess which island?" Essentially, I turned my post into a game for my followers and I wound up getting a great response in return. To date, the update has received 9,489 Instagram likes, along with 224 comments, four Twitter engagements and six Facebook engagements.

That's the power of leading questions!

Just like the tip above, you can apply this to your account easily, no matter how many followers you have. In addition to asking for specific types of engagement, ask your followers a question and encourage them to leave a comment. If you can make it fun, they'll respond - and, after all, that's what social media is all about.

I've grown my stock market education business through social media and these are just my best guesses about what's made these posts more successful than some of my others. But if you have any other tips or insights you'd like to add to this list, I'm all ears. Leave me a comment below describing the Instagram techniques that have made the biggest difference in your engagement levels.

Related: The Rules of Engagement: 5 Ways to Connect on Social Media

Timothy Sykes

Entrepreneur and Penny Stock Expert

Timothy Sykes is an entrepreneur and a penny stock expert, trader and advocate. He has been featured on CNN, Fox News, CNBC and more. Watch his media appearances and speeches on Youtube here.

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