IT WAS EASY to build massive followings in the early days of Instagram if you had an eye for good graphics and a fun story to tell. But since Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012, it’s become far more difficult to gain followers, and constantly changing algorithms and platform dynamics make it challenging to stay in front of those followers.
If you are experiencing low Instagram engagement for your traditional posts, you’re not alone. Most heavy users of Instagram for business are reporting reduced likes, comments, shares, saves, views, link clicks and DMs. Analysis by several advertising industry monitoring firms show that these declines are related to three factors: the introduction of Instagram Reels, suggested content in the main home feed, and less overall scrolling by users.
Of these three, the primary culprit-du-jour is Instagram’s introduction of Reels. Instagram is counting on Reels — for now — to keep it relevant to younger social media users. As a result, it is prioritizing Reels over every other type of content in its feeds.
If you are dependent on Instagram for producing traffic to your store and visitors to your website, you should consider introducing short-form video to your marketing mix. I say “IF you’re dependent” because producing short-form video is nowhere near as simple as pointing, clicking and posting. If you think short-form video is the avenue for you, hire an expert who is already successfully producing and getting results on TikTok, Reels or YouTube.
Strategize with them to come up with a storyline that you can exploit for six months to a year, as well as a few more storylines that you can use when the first storyline begins to lose steam. Your job is to make sure that the professional’s advice about what works is closely matched to your knowledge about who your customer is. If your content attracts and speaks to your customer base, it will be successful.
The only guarantee about Instagram’s algorithm is that it will change, but for now, the clear path to landing in the suggested content feed is keywords. Instagram looks for keywords based on “posts from accounts like the ones you follow and posts similar to the ones you like or save.” Everything you’ve learned about SEO for your website should now be applied to your Instagram account. From your post content to hashtags to alt text for photos, you must include keywords that Instagram can recognize as relevant to your target audience.
Audit Your Followers
Instagram monitors engagement rates and awards less traffic to low engagement accounts. If you have a ton of inactive followers (or if, heaven forbid, you purchased an Instagram follower list at some point), you are getting penalized. As far as Instagram’s algorithm is concerned, it’s not the number of followers that count … it’s the percentage of engaged followers.
Start cleaning up your follower list to get rid of inactive accounts (go to your profile, tap “followers,” and manually remove them). Then spend time engaging with your community, responding to their comments, and putting the social back in social media.