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2017-07-12
Marketing insights

Here’s why your engagement just dropped on Instagram & tips to fix it

Hard to not realize the recent drastic reduction in engagement on Instagram content. For marketers and influencers, Instagram is making the game harder and harder...

Let's give it a bit of context

During Spring of 2017, without warning of any sorts, accounts of all sizes started noticing a drastic diminution in their engagement. Even the most active of users on the platform noticed a considerable downgrade when it came to the love that their post would receive.

This reality is considered harsh for the many brands or personal accounts who have devoted blood, sweat & tears or rather numerous double taps, picture cropping and photoshoots to the building of their Instagram account and community.

To this day, it is hard to clearly identify the mystery of this change, because these alterations are done behind the closed doors of the Instagram headquarters. While some are pointing the finger to the algorithm, others are claiming that this plot twist is a whole master manipulation plan that would have for goal to push brands to invest yet more in advertising. It’s a very perplex situation and these are some pretty drastic claims, so we decided to get our hands dirty and further explore on the subject.

Here are the findings that we put our hands on until now and 12 tips to fix it.

Instagram is not befriending spammy behaviour

This recent downfall in engagement is not a bug nor a coincidence. Instagram announced during the month of March 2016 the inauguration of a new algorithm that would decide what every user sees- virtually speaking of course. It seems that they are now trying to pinpoint what they consider to be ‘spammy behaviour’ in the objective to offer only but the best quality content to all of their users- which has now hit a pinnacle of 700M users.

Blog post by Instagram team

Instagram

There was then a scandalous piece of information that blogger Kaitlyn from Piercesocial.com was able to reveal when in conversation with what they call the "Advanced Instagram Team". They indirectly admitted that what the Instagram community calls the “shadowban”- when a post does not appear in the search filter when using hashtags - is far from being a coincidence:

« Just to clarify, when a post uses a hashtag, it doesn’t guarantee it will show up under that hashtag. This is referred to as intended functionality. To see posts connected to a hashtag, unless it is a top post or high-volume post, the user must Follow that Page to see the Posts. - Chad, Instagram Advanced Team

Swipe right for more pictures!
An example of « shadowban »
An example of « shadowban »

As Instagram confirms that the functionalities of the algorithm are spreading to the use of hashtags, this discovery leads us to believe that other type of SPAMMY behaviours are and will be blocked off by the platform.
* The abusive use of hashtags.
* Aggressively following/unfollowing users.
* Using third parties to do our dirty work for us: Like commenting.

Message from the Instagram team

Instagram

Though these findings are shocking, they are quite directly aligned with the initial announcement that Instagram had made: Putting forth quality over the rest, always with the goal to enhance the user experience and therefore the content that he/she will see.

The algorithm is nonetheless an obstacle to overcome. Especially for the users out there who are concerned by the engagement rate that they receive on their sharings and who want to continue to grow their brand.

12 tips to generate a better engagement rate despite the algorithm

Considering this new set of rules impemented by Instagram, here are 12 tips that should put all odds on your side.

1. The creation of relevant content

Before all, make sure that the content that you are diffusing is at the height of your community’s interest. Be intelligent in the redaction of your captions, interact with your audience and most importantly, REMAIN AUTHENTIC!

2. Conform to their rules

Are you familiar with Instagram’s terms of use? I know conforming to rules can be drab, but in this case, reading them can only advantage you. These limitations, like the allowed number of posts with ‘sexual characters’, to the authors right on a picture, are all aspects that can influence your ranking on the social platform. (Hint: There are 37 rules to get familiar with)

3. Avoid bombarding your post with hashtags

Using to many hashtags might profile you as being a user with a spammy behaviour. Try limiting yourself to 3 at most.

4.Consider changing up your hashtag game

Instagram mentions that the frequent use of the same hashtags won’t give your content more visibility on the discovery engine. A solution might be to use any brand related experssion you wish to keep using without the # beforehand!

5. Avoid the ‘superstar’ hashtags

Some hashtags are banned because they became associated to irrelevant contexts. The use of these specific hashtags that rose to fame, but who quickly became used out of context, could penalize your account and essentially heighten your chances of being ‘shadowbanned’. Tip: Use the right hashtag, in the appropriate context. Your chances of rising to fame won’t augment by using more or the ‘wrong ones’.

6. Quality content before quantity

More than a post a day won’t keep the doctor away… Producing quality content takes time! It is therefore normal to not publish constantly. Better to publish less often and only put out what sticks out, and that's a rule to apply at all times.

7. Connect yourself more often

It’s better to connect yourself at multiple times during the day and to spread your interactions with your community, instead of simply connecting yourself one time -for a long period of time. Instagram can detect the amount of times that an account connects itself, and this more natural example of a spread out interaction, will be gratified.

8. Interact naturally and with moderation

Avoid double tapping more than 150 times per hour and avoid surpassing 60 comments per hour. Like mentioned in our 7th tip, better to spread your interactions around the clock.

9. Avoid massive follow-unfollow sessions

In Instagram talk, follow-unfollow is potentially a practice that is very harmful for your Instagram engagement. Short-term, the numbers of followers may seem interesting, but your engagement rates might drastically suffer from this move. Tip: Don’t follow or unfollow more than 50 users per hour.

10. Selling is not the answer

Instagram does not like auto-promotional content. Try to show your Instagram community why they should follow you by other means. Pertinence is key! Instagram’s goal if for its users to interact authentically with one-another.

11. Third party applications aren’t the solution to your problem

Instagram can see right through your actions: They know when you are buying followers or likes and will penalize you without pity. We recommend to avoid using ‘helper’ apps that lend you a hand in all manners of likes, comments and posts. The majority of these applications do not respect Instagram’s terms of use - see below.

Instagram’s Developer’s Policy as of April 2017

Instagram

12. Share stories!

In this epidemic of change that Instagram has suddenly shadowed upon us, it would be hard to not include Instagram stories. On the 700 million people that use Instagram, 200 million of them post stories on a DAILY BASIS! We can’t deny that this element has an impact on engagement rates.

We understand that the regular user is now finding himself dividing his time between the feed and stories. As a consequence, less time is spent consuming content on the feed. The fall of your engagement can then be partially explained by the arrival of Instagram stories, especially if you’re not posting any off of your account.

Our finding: Act as naturally as possible, like a real human being would

We saw it earlier, Instagram wants to privilege users that put forth quality content.

On top of the creation of quality content, a ‘good user’ is interested in ‘his friends’ and engages with them: Take the necessary time to thank your community for their interest in your posts by replying to their comments, explore new potential ‘relationships’ and really build a genuine connection with them.

Pertinent and creative content will always be granted a certain immunity. Just as brands want to associate themselves with social personalities that hold and have built an interesting social persona, Instagram seems to be no exception to that rule. Put in the work and find creative ways as to making your human side come through the screen.

One thing is certain, there is no magic recipe: At the end of the day, Instagram will do what pleases them as a brand.

Our findings push us to believe that people who act most naturally on their account and with their community of friends will be rewarded for their human-like traits.

Try it for yourself and leave us your comments!

« The recipe is simple in its complexity, whether you’re a brand or an influencer, investing your time and effort in a substantial way, will help you to obtain substantial results!

About

Energetic, motivated, but above all anonymous, Manny is considered one of the most inescapable photographers in Montreal.