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Hard Rock Increases Instagram Engagement in These 3 Ways

Instagram is evolving its algorithmic view according to engagement, relevance, relationships, timeliness, profile searches, direct shares, and the duration of time spent viewing a post.

The magazine-like social network is also perpetually rolling out new tools to help brands connect with followers, like Instagram Stories, Instagram Live, and ever-evolving ad solutions.

The fight between brands for ownership over relevant content has never been fiercer.

At Hard Rock International, we’ve prioritized our battle gear, and as a result, have seen our Instagram following and engagement explode.

With a 450% growth in engagement and 230% increase in community following in the past two years, we’ll just leave these tips here.

Below are three tactics you can implement on Instagram to effectively increase your engagement.

1. Yes, You Should Still Be Using User-Generated Content

At this point, it’s no secret that User-Generated Content (UGC) is a powerhouse tactic for content strategy.

UGC not only performs 50% better than branded or stock photography, it’s free content created by followers to make brand experience more relatable, touchable, and authentic.

When Hard Rock hit 100K followers last year, we launched an initiative to only post UGC for the next 100 posts.

The initiative was so successful that we’ve continued the spirit of sharing. UGC now makes up about 80% of our content on Instagram.

Fans want to interact with your brand in a relatable way. We have some of the most beautifully designed spaces around the world and the professional photos to prove it, but over and over again we are seeing that fans would rather see photos that look like they could be taken by the average traveling human.

These photos of our locations, framed and captured from the perspective of fans and guests, have been our most engaging posts ever.

Now that's a big guitar. 🎸@hardrockphilly #thisishardrock

A post shared by Hard Rock Cafe (@hardrockcafe) on

Fan content also plays into the current micro-influencer trend sweeping the industry.

UGC has been a huge community-building and engagement tool for us – we tag fans, fans tag their friends, and our reach grows exponentially. We leverage and value influencer marketing for all of our business units, but there’s been a shift lately away from those over-saturated feeds (especially with the FTC’s crackdown on Instagram sponsored posts).

UGC content has a smaller individual reach per post than traditional influencer posts, but our overall program has a more engaged, ready-to-buy audience.

2. Use the Insights Available to Constantly Evolve Your Content

Curating UGC goes beyond populating our feed with content—it also helps us shape our own branded content.

Fan preferences, expectations, and perceptions of our brand really shine through in the content they share. Every day, travelers, foodies, and music lovers are telling us exactly what they want to see from us. All we have to do is listen.

Simply Measured Listening

This has helped us brainstorm creative and social campaigns. We have a more educated idea about what will resonate with our target audience.

It has also empowered us to become true gatekeepers of the content. We’ve seen a stark comparison of overly branded content, such as graphics with text, to our user-generated content, making it easier to challenge our team to develop more engaging assets.

Part of this process is evolving our metrics. Even with the current platform restrictions, data has been invaluable for us in shaping our content to encourage those engagements.

Capturing data around the Bookmarking function, for example, is the newest measurement we’ve implemented to track the success and engagement of a single content piece or overall campaign effectiveness.

3. Supplement Curated Content with Instagram Stories

When Instagram realized that users were over-curating their feeds and posting less frequently, they rolled out Instagram Stories and the social team at Hard Rock rejoiced.


Instagram Stories allows us to capitalize on the less polished, casual content space with more nimbleness than a feed post.

And because it’s more casual, we are able to strategically roll Stories out to our international regional teams to capture content around the world at a moment’s notice. From new location openings to behind-the-scenes peeks of major campaign photo shoots, Instagram Stories has become one of our best ways to spike engagement and build buzz.

For this to work, it was vital for our team to empower content ambassadors around the world to capture as needed and post.

As a best practice, we supply the team with a shot list and recommendations for covering large events or campaigns. We’ve enabled teams who know our brand inside out to post with simple pre-approval. This has made all of the difference in creating timely, engaging Story content.

Bottom Line

Engagement on Instagram will only get more difficult if you aren’t evolving your strategy to keep up with platform developments.

Although Instagram is releasing new tools rapidly, there are still some surefire ways to stand out in the crowd—and in the feed. Sourcing UGC, emulating photos of fans to shape future content creation, and using analytics to your advantage will get you to Instagram gold, engaging all the way.

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Tanya (Gabrish) Cramp

Tanya Cramp is a Manager of Social Content for Too Faced Cosmetics. As a content strategist, she helps leads the team responsible for producing original, on-brand social content for Too Faced’s social media platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Prior to her life at Too Faced, Tanya served as primary content developer and social media content conceptor for Hard Rock International and helped brands like JW Marriott and SpringHill Suites with social engagement and content. When Tanya isn’t making the social world a more beautiful place, she’s hanging out in Southern California with her husband and rescue dog and pretending to be a ballerina at her favorite barre class.

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