Let’s be honest. How has your Instagram engagement been lately? If you’ve noticed a drop-off, you’re not alone. In 2021, algorithm updates and shadowbans have crossed many marketers' plans to take their brand to the next level. Does that mean the popular social media platform is past its best years? And what would that imply for your online marketing efforts? The job of social media manager isn’t easy these days. Establishing brand awareness and increasing engagement using purely organic posts, seems to be an uphill battle against an invisible adversary. Instagram has obviously changed a lot over the past years, from minor brand facelifts to the switch from chronological to algorithmic feeds and the hiding of likes. Overall, this resulted in a massive decline in reach. It appears undeniable that Instagram is far from as popular as it used to be. But does that mean Instagram dying? Related: An easy to follow guide on setting up your Facebook and Instagram Ads account.
Is Instagram really dying?
Since its rise to fame about a decade ago, Instagram has racked up a billion monthly users. When Instagram Stories were added to the photo-sharing platform in 2016, the company once and for all made its mark on 21st-century pop culture. Today, Instagram Stories alone have 500 million daily active users.
While these stats are still pretty impressive, we can’t ignore the fact that Instagram’s reach has been on a decline since 2019. Facebook has seen a similar development. Organic reach on Facebook went from 16 per cent to 2.27 per cent over three years, and rates are only dropping further. The same appears to now be happening to Instagram.As far back as 2019, The Drum flagged concern that “Instagram is killing organic reach”. Here’s what their team had to say:“Scores of Instagram users and agencies recently took to the social network to voice concerns over a sudden dip in engagement on their posts. An Instagram spokesperson dispelled speculation around an algorithm change, but it’s left a question mark over what caused performance drops.”For years, Instagram has been the go-to platform for younger generations; particularly Millennials found it to be the perfect replacement for MySpace and Tumblr. Now, 71 percent of Instagram’s users are under 35. Yet, it faces fierce competition for younger audiences - particularly from TikTok, which is favoured amongst teens.
Clearly, not all that glitters is gold
Instagram was long celebrated for having the highest engagement rates across all platforms. That, in turn, attracted millions of advertisers who sought ways to directly interact with a captive audience. Now, Instagram has become one of the most competitive marketing platforms in the world, but at what cost? Influencers, a profession brought to life by Instagram, see significant drops in their engagement rates and post impressions. Whilst some blame algorithm changes, others say it’s businesses that promote their posts for greater reach. Feeds are now saturated with branded content, making it difficult for many users to differentiate between ads or sponsored content and organic posts. This has caused a lot of discontent amongst Instagram users. Six out of ten daily Instagram users are unhappy with the number of ads they’re shown. Instagram isn’t disregarding the negative sentiment. Over the years, the platform has been quite adaptable to combat the decline and introduced new product features to keep up to date with general trends and users demands. In an attempt to keep teens on the platform, Reels were one of the more recent additions. At the same time, new ad formats were introduced to please advertisers. But will it be enough to keep the doors open?
Source: IG @ Planoly
How does the Instagram algorithm work?
With the addition of compulsory ads and the switch from chronological order to algorithm-dictated relevance, what people see on their feeds has obviously drastically changed. Where it once used to be enough to figure out the right date and time to post and then stick to that plan, things have gotten a lot more complicated.
Introducing: The Instagram Algorithm
Instagram feeds are algorithm based, meaning that a strict set of rules controls your content’s organic reach. What a user’s feed looks like, is decided by the algorithm based on different factors, also known as ranking signals. These include:
- The user’s relationship to other accounts
- The user’s general interests
- The timeliness of posts
- The amount of accounts the user follows
- And how long the user spends on Instagram at any given day
To put it in a nutshell: Instagram feeds are now carefully curated to cater to the interests of the user as opposed to a chronological display of posts. And Instagram continues to update and refine their algorithm. If you don't keep up with these updates, you’re likely to see a big decrease in your engagement rate. Engagement rate is an important benchmark that indicates how users interact with the content on your profile.
For you to know how recent changes have impacted you, you need to be able to calculate your engagement rate. The engagement is based on how much users interact with posts, think likes, comments, saves, divided by the post impressions. In 2021, an engagement rate between 1% to 3% is generally acceptable. An engagement rate of 6% to 10% is considered exceptional.But in 2021, the average post engagement rate on Instagram for business accounts is about 0.96%, or less than 1 out of 100 followers.
Where do these insights leave you as a marketer?
Of course, if your Instagram engagement rate has plummeted, it may not be the algorithm alone. You may be the victim of shadowbanned hashtags or account suspensions. Maybe you’ve drifted away from your original content and aren’t catering to the interests of your existing followers. If you’re struggling to keep up your reach and engagement rates, you should take a close look at your content strategy. After all, it’s not just about catering to your audience, but giving the Instagram algorithm what it wants. The following tips will help you keep Instagram engagement rates up.
How to cater to the Instagram algorithm
- Regularly post photos and videos
Whilst there now are a range of content types, success on Instagram still largely comes from consistently posting great visual content. Top-notch videos and images paired with inspiring captions play a vital role in promoting your business and keeping your audience engaged.
- Post more Stories
Stories are a fool-proof way to increase your Instagram engagement rate. Post multiple stories a day to keep your followers up to date and involved. These posts might disappear after 24 hours, but the effects on your reach and engagement will last much longer.
- Embrace Reels
Still hesitant to jump on this trend? You might be missing out on a huge opportunity! Right now, the Instagram algorithm is favouring Reels so that more people use this new feature. Therefore, posting a Reel is likely to expose your account to more users and modestly boost your engagement. Why not give it a try?
- Reply to your DMs and Comments
We’ve talked about the importance of replying to social media comments many times over. Your engagement rate is just another reason to respond to comments appropriately, whether they’re positive or negative. By keeping the conversation with your users alive and the atmosphere casual, you’re winning credibility and trust on a platform that’s long been labelled as superficial.
Is Instagram still worth your time?
The short answer is yes. Instagram is far from dead. Compared to other platforms, it still has a great reach, particularly with audiences under 35. We expect that just over 50 million new users will be joining Instagram by the end of 2021. This might not be in line with the growth we’ve seen just a couple of years ago, but it certainly indicates that Instagram will continue to stay relevant for years to come. Your Instagram journey isn’t over. It just got a little bit more challenging to make a difference. And whilst this might sound daunting, with the right tools and a rock-solid marketing strategy to back you up, you can still maximise your engagement rates and be successful on Instagram. Get started with the support of Anchor Digital, and our team of social media experts will help you max out your social media efforts and stand out from the crowd. Contact us today; we’d love to hear from you.