Day 134 - Why Has My Instagram Engagement Dropped - what has changed and what can I do about it?
Has anybody else noticed a drop in their Instagram engagement recently? Have you noticed considerably fewer likes on your posts, fewer comments, fewer profile visits, fewer website visits? Are you worrying that nobody likes your work anymore or you have suddenly fallen out of favour with your audience? Well don't worry, there is a reason for this and if you take time to understand it you can work through it to drive engagement back up again. What I am about to tell you is based around Instagram but many of the points can be equally attributed to other social media channels too.
So the first thing to understand about Instagram is that despite having a list of followers there is no direct link to those followers as far as posting goes. A very clever algorithm exists and unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) it sits between you and your followers. It decides who gets to see your posts and who doesn't. Many people that don't understand it complain that it is unfair and stops people seeing things when in fact what it tries to do is show things to people that they want to see! It is intelligent and works out what they look at more, spend more time on, like and interact with, what is popular and it shows that as a priority to them before showing anything else as it knows everybody has a limited amount of time available. It wants to show you the best stuff first because that will keep you interested and on Instagram which is the platform's goal. If it showed you the other stuff first just because it was there the quality would go down, the viewer would be less satisfied with the platform and might even stop using it or spend more time on other platforms instead.
Now imagine one of your typical followers who follows 1000 people (not uncommon at all, probably even conservative!). How many posts a day do those 1000 people put out? Even if they did one every 2 days on average (that allows for some to post multiple times a day and some once per week perhaps) that would mean sitting and viewing 500 posts per day. Do you have time to do that in your schedule? I certainly don't so what Instagram tries to do is cherry pick the best ones to show you based on your previous engagements (which is why you need to always strive to get viewers to engage by liking, commenting, visiting your profile, having DM conversations and SHOWING UP CONSISTENTLY etc). Even then if you only spend perhaps 20-30 minutes a day or less actually viewing content its almost impossible to get through everything. Add to that Instagram will filter some posts to try to get you to pay to promote them. Until recently many people reported perhaps 10% of their audience actually seeing each post that they put out!
So what has happened in recent months to decrease that further? Well Instagram has been adding a number of new features to its platform and over time people have been spending less time on the standard 'post' area and more of their time on the new features. First came stories and these really grabbed peoples attention and people found another way to express themselves on the platform in a more fun and less formal way. Viewers habits became lazy as they just watched story after story that was served to them rather than having to scroll through a feed or hashtags for example. Then came Instagram live and Instagram TV and people started popping up live all over the place with demonstrations, workshops, tutorials and other attention grabbing content which often lasted much longer then most recently in August 2020 Instagram introduced a new feature called reels, a 15 second video clip along a similar vein to stories but permanent rather than with a 24 hour life like stories which was clearly aimed at stealing a big slice of the popular TikTok market.
So why does it matter that there are new features? Well its all about attention. There is only so much attention on Instagram. Initially it was all focused on posts so you got a shot at 100% of it. Then stories came along and people started spending some of their time on posts and some of their time on stories so if you were only posting then you might have seen 50% of that attention disappear suddenly. Then came Instagram live and Instagram TV - that are big attention grabbers because its longer video format steals a lot of the attention and then finally came reels which is still very much in its infancy but with its fun format likely to grab lots of attention over the next few months. So now instead of having a shot at 100% of the attention you maybe have a shot at 20% of it if all you do is posting and we assume that each feature has a similar amount of attention.
So what can I do about it? Well you won't overcome this just by posting more, that will be futile and probably quite disheartening. What I suggest is like your audience you spread your attention too. Maybe post every 2 or 3 days instead of every day so that you have more time to create stories as well. Create a story relating to each post so that you can capture that attention from 2 places not one for similar content. Instagram live is out of many people's comfort zone but really really powerful. Try to watch more, work out who is doing it badly and who is doing it well and then maybe have a go yourself pushing yourself out of that comfort zone. Instagram Live can also be recorded and used on IGTV but if the live format is just too far outside of your comfort zone why not just carefully craft something recorded and edited then upload it to IGTV. Take a look at Instagram reels. They are permanent rather than 24 hour and therefore worth putting a little more effort into. Think of them as a fun 15 second advertisement for your business but by making them fun and viral they circulate freely rather than paying for them. Have a look at what others are doing. What works well what doesn't and have a go at creating something yourself (also consider that Instagram wants to grow each new feature as it introduces it to gain mass appeal so at the moment it is really pushing reels so early adopters are grabbing a disproportionate amount of attention on there because the algorithm appears to be prioritorising it). You should also regular ask your audience to switch on notifications so that they are notified when you post. Read my Day 40 - How To Get In There First post to learn more about this.
Changes like this are guaranteed in a 'rented' platform like social media where you have no control over the algorithm, features or business plan which is why I constantly advocate that you need to have an 'owned' audience right at the core of your business in the form of your mailing list. Everything you do in your business in other platforms should be encouraging people from other audiences onto that core list because you own it, there is no filtering and if you engage with it well and regularly it will propel everything that you do. But it is also important to spread your audience between platforms so that you have more chances to be seen, remind your mailing list that you are posting on Instagram, link them to your posts, to your Instagram lives, to your reels. Bring traffic to Instagram and Instagram will reward you in promoting you more in the same way it will reward you for using more of its features and for having a highly engaged audience to validate that you have quality content.
How you noticed a drop in engagement? Are you exploring Instagram's newer features? I would love to hear what you have been experimenting with and with what levels of success?