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Why Has My Instagram Engagement Dropped?

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Layne is an active freelance writer. She enjoys staying up to date on trends, media, and emerging topics.

Learn how to better manage your Instagram engagement and boost metrics.

Learn how to better manage your Instagram engagement and boost metrics.

Why Has My Instagram Reach Dropped?

Instagram sees 1 billion users monthly. It's obvious why influencers, brands, and niche content creators use this platform. It's also clear to see why Instagram, which was formerly owned by Facebook and now Meta, is one of the most popular social media platforms for creators.

If you are a regular user of the platform, you might be wondering why your Instagram engagement rate suddenly dropped. Maybe you noticed a major drop in the number of follows, likes, comments, views, messages, shares, and sales on your account. If this is true, find out why and what you can do to bring those numbers back up.

How to Increase Instagram Engagement

Within the first 30 minutes of a post or piece of content being made public, the number of likes, shares, DMs, and comments received on it is a key indicator of its value to the platform. These metrics translate to a calculation of value and velocity. Additionally, your network of connections to people with similar accounts and how your post or content performs (reaches) against or alongside these determines your overall value.

Whereas some creators will use the follow/unfollow method or simply choose to pay for an Instagram management service that will increase their users by actively engaging in likes, comments, and follows, there are more organic ways to go about increasing your reach. Often times, your IG activity and strategy are simply off track. Using a few of the methods mentioned below will help you get your engagement back.

How to Calculate Your Engagement Rate

You can calculate your engagement rate easily either by using free engagement rate calculators or by doing it yourself. According to Aigrow.me, you can use the following formulas:

  • Average User: (# Likes + # Comments) ÷ # Follows x 100
  • Business Account: (# Likes + # Comments) ÷ # Impressions x 100

A value of 1-3% is considered average, with greater than 3% indicating a high engagement rate, and 1% or below indicating a low engagement rate.

Key Social Engagement Tips

  • Grow your reach by increasing the quantity of stories you publish; stories are the first thing users see and are top of the page.
  • Write engaging captions. Longer captions get higher engagement.
  • Optimize your user account bio. Tell us who you are and why you're interesting.
  • Contests are great incentives, so create a contest by asking followers to tag a friend on your post, reshare your content, etc.
  • User sticker stories to encourage interactions (quizzes, ask questions, encourage philanthropy via donations and campaigns, create countdowns, run poles and surveys, etc.)
  • Create galleries or longer reels and stories to increase engagement and more reach.
  • Regularly interact with your followers, comment on their content, and direct message them.
  • Consider partnering with other influencers to create user-generated content but publish it under your name.
  • Don't be afraid to re-share user-generated content
  • Add variety to your content and encourage the sharing of content in the form of stories, checklists, memes, infographics, etc.
  • Add call-to-actions (CTAs) on your posts. For example, ask your audience to share their astrological sign, their favorite product, their entrepreneurial story, etc. below in the comments.
  • Don't be afraid to like your own posts to get the ball rolling
Develop a strategy for posting content at the right time.

Develop a strategy for posting content at the right time.

1. Timing

Discovering when the best time to post depends on when your audience is most active. Your content should be specific when it comes to timing on a micro and macro level. You will want to be clued in to which days and time of day your audience is on the platform and the seasonality of your audience. In the summer months, depending on your geographic location, platform activity might drop because people tend to spend more time outside and being active. In winter months, people tend to stay inside and be on their phones more.

There is a lot of data out there that shows you which days and times you should post. You will want to share content during peak hours. You can look at your Instagram analytics to determine when your posts perform best, or you can use general insights that have been collected over time. An audience of working professionals, for example, will likely have different activity times on the platform than stay-at-home parents. If your audience is geographically based (e.g. you are operating in a different time zone), plan accordingly.

Best Times and Days to Post on Instagram

The following data is recommended by Sproutsocial.com:

Best days to post on Instagram:

  • Tuesday and Wednesday

Best times to post on Instagram:

  • Mondays 11am
  • Thursday and Friday 10am to 11am
  • Tuesday through Thursday 9am/10am to 1pm

Worst days to post on Instagram:

  • Sunday

2. Branding

If you haven't considered this already, you will want to create a brand image. What does it mean to create a brand? Define the following parameters for your account and content below:

  • Determine your content type and niche
  • Determine your audience and who you are appealing to
  • Establish a consistent voice and tone and stick with it
  • Establish a consistent style and theme (i.e. your grid and chosen colors)
  • Determine your product (what are you offering?)
Regularly engage with your target audience to enhance your reach.

Regularly engage with your target audience to enhance your reach.

3. Engagement

Follow the 1:1 rule and return the favor. For smaller content creatives, if you receive a like, give a like back. If you receive a comment, give a comment back. For larger content creatives, if you are having a hard time keeping up with your audience load, hire an intern or employee to help you run engagement.

You need to connect with your audience regularly by responding to comments and by interacting with others' comments. The algorithm assesses how active you are on the platform and how frequently you interact with others. If you are not reciprocating your communities' interest, your content might get buried.

Engagement is essentially peoples' reactions to your content and is a powerful ranking factor. Put simply, if your content is engaging, more people will see it. You can increase engagement by simply:

  • Using the app more frequently (how often you open it)
  • Increasing your usage (how long you use the app)
  • Increasing your following

In other words, to be engaging, you need to stay active on the platform.

4. Quality

High-quality pictures and video will always perform better. Remember, Instagram started out as a photo-sharing platform, so your photos and video content should be high-resolution. In addition, you will want to abide by several things:

  • Follow Meta's community guidelines
  • Make sure your content is accessible (always use alt-text to describe your content; add written captions on your reels)
  • Make sure your content is clean and simple and easy to digest
  • Maintain a consistent design and brand image
Content should be original and branded.

Content should be original and branded.

5. Hashtags

Hashtags are useful because they help to automatically categorize content. You should regularly mix them up and use niche-specific hashtags as well. For example, you can use more general and large reaching hashtags, but you will also want to place your content in categories with smaller reach (this actually gains you more visibility because the competition is smaller). Mix them up regularly, too. Follow these tips for using hashtags below:

  • Use a minimum of 10 highly relevant hashtags per post
  • Use up to 30 hashtags for a post, 24 to 28 being the sweet spot
  • Use the 75/25 rule; use 75 larger-reach hashtags and 25 smaller-reach hashtags (niche)

6. Originality

Of course, making sure your content is original is obvious. Original content is favored on most platforms, be it video, writing, or product.

Your reach is determined by the following three components: timeliness, relationship, and interest. That is, how interested will users be in your post, when was your post published, and how often do you and the user interact. Consider what type of content you are delivering and how users respond to it. Always make sure your content is easily shareable and easy to optimize. The following types of content tend to do very well:

  • Funny posts
  • Educational posts
  • Motivational posts

These topics are most likely to be shared among users.

7. Consistency

You need to be on the platform regularly and engaging with your followers regularly for your content to surface. Here are some tips to signal that your account is consistently active and relevant to users:

  • Start by setting the goal of posting twice a day
  • Open your account regularly and engage on the platform for longer durations
  • Use free social media schedulers like those offered by Canva (infographic creation platform) or IG's scheduler or paid services like Loomly
  • Create a traditional calendar to stay consistent with your posting
  • Create and schedule content in advance
  • Hire an intern or employee to help you manage your content goals
Keep up with the latest trends and techniques for driving good audience engagement.

Keep up with the latest trends and techniques for driving good audience engagement.

What to Know About Instagram's 2022 Algorithm Update

In 2022, Meta's leaders admitted that there was a brief period of time during which a bug or error in the code of the recent IG algorithm update subsequently caused posts to not show up in users' feeds. The issue has since been resolved.

It is not uncommon for platforms like Instagram or search engines like Google to release algorithm changes. Often, the goal behind these types of updates is to surface the best content to the user as efficiently and as effectively as possible. Algorithm updates can cause a lot of initial turbulence until the reshuffling of content settles and/or the changes take effect. An algorithm essentially analyzes content and its reception and decides which type of content should be prioritized in a users feed and when.

Instagram's algorithm decides which posts show in your newsfeed, which stories/reels (including live videos) appear on your screen, and which "Explore" posts show up in your tabs. Instagram's 2022 Update takes into account the following:

  • Feed and Stories: Instagram analyzes how likely it is that a user will interact with a content piece based on number of likes, when it was shared, and metadata (like location, alt text), and content type and length. In addition, IG logs how you and others interact and how that relationship informs them about your account/interests and what niche you fall into. Lastly, IG looks at your activity on the platform (whose content you comment on, who you like, how many profile views you get, and how many messages you get). This determines how interesting your profile is.
  • Reels: Which reels surface are determined by accounts you follow and don't follow and what you've engaged with historically. Reels will often show you content you have not seen before and/or content you've grazed over before but whose creators you haven't followed. Reels are assessed by total quality and type of content (including audio).
  • Explore Tab: Interestingly, the explore tab consists of content from accounts that are similar to those you've followed or liked in the past but you don't follow. Most of the content that surfaces here is ranked on general popularity (likes, comments, shares, saves) and the rate at which these activities occur. These are mostly new accounts that have been weighted against your view history.

How to Know If You're Shadowbanned

What does shadowbanning mean? To be shadowbanned means that your account doesn't show up in particular hashtag feeds of people who you do not already follow. You can generally determined you've been shadowbanned if your account insights show a steep drop in followers.

Shadowbans occur when a user violates community guidelines or the content shared is considered inappropriate. Essentially, your content will not surface in peoples' feeds, Explore tabs, or under hashtags for users you have yet to establish a following with. This can also happen if you used too many hashtags or irrelevant hashtags or used the same across all of your posts repeatedly.

Sometimes, a decline in bots can cause a drop in your metrics. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Bot accounts get removed all the time and you are essentially cleaning up your authentic following.

How long do shadowbans last?

Shadowbans typically last 2 weeks, but they can run anywhere from 14 to 30 days.

How to Fix a Shadowban

  1. Reach out to IG support if you are not sure of your violation
  2. Avoid activities that will get you reported
  3. Pause on account activity until the "dust settles"
  4. Avoid problematic hashtags
  5. Keep your activity natural (don't imitate bot behavior)
  6. Pay attention to Meta's Terms of Service
  7. Remove third-party app permissions as necessary
  8. Keep your language and audience appropriate
  9. Comply with updates and disclosures
  10. Clean up your hashtags and only tag relevant topics

Unfortunately, sometimes shadowbanning occurs on sensitive subjects. For example, political topics often lead to increased reports and shadowbanning if not appropriately reviewed or moderated in a timely manner. This is a real risk you take depending on how controversial your content is no matter the niche or correctness of it.

So, if you are wondering why your posts are not reaching followers, know that there are many reasons and variables, sometimes within your control and sometimes not. Also, it is possible that your content might later get picked up by an algorithm and go viral. There are a lot of unknowns, and sometimes success on social media is a gamble. Just remember to throw the positivity out there and it will come back your way.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Laynie H