If you depend on social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter as your marketing platform of choice, then you know how critical dropping Instagram engagement numbers can be for your brand. It can be frustrating and confusing because you’ve resisted the temptation of shortcuts and spam but still end up on the losing end.
I’ve been through it and I know how frustrating it can be. You find yourself combing through engagement analytics, analyzing your previous Instagram posts, and reviewing your Instagram hashtag strategy with little understanding of what went wrong.
In the end, you end up scratching your head in frustration wondering: “why am I suddenly getting less engagement on Instagram? Am I shadowbanned?” basically “What’s wrong with my Instagram?” or “Why am I suddenly getting less likes on Instagram?”.
Quick Tip: If you are still trying to grow your Instagram audience and increase engagement, be sure to check out this post with tips on activities that can help you build an Instagram following and those likes, shares, and saves.
If you have been there and seen the daily drop in the numbers, then you, too, know the feeling. It’s like anger, mixed with panic, sprinkled with frustration. Many of us head for Google for answers and start typing things like:
- Why is my Instagram not working anymore?
- Why is my Instagram engagement suddenly gone?
- How do I get my Instagram engagement back?
- What can I do to keep my Instagram followers engaged?
- Why am I suddenly getting less likes on Instagram?
- Has some new Instagram feature or algorithm change caused me to be shadowbanned?
Another surefire way to know that something is wrong is if you suddenly see that you are rapidly losing Instagram followers or your Instagram hashtag impressions are low.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of articles, but not a lot of answers. Instagram is a notoriously fickle social network and they make algorithm changes and even ban accounts without any real rhyme or reason. And it’s not like you can just pick up the phone and get answers from Instagram support.
Unfortunately, if you are seeing drops in engagement, it is possible that you have been shadowbanned on Instagram and it’s going to take hard work, time, and patience to get things going again.
So…roll up your sleeves and let’s get cracking!
If you want to get your Instagram engagement back to healthy levels, the tips below will help you get to the root of the problem and then work on what you need to do in order to improve your Instagram engagement numbers, as well as preventing the same debacle from happening again.
Something to note is the fact that according to a recently published study, everyone who’s on Instagram has been having problems with low engagement numbers since May 2019. Engagement numbers have been down by as much as 44% during June. The study only measured the values for posts appearing on feeds but not Instagram Stories.
So if your brand has been experiencing unusually low numbers during this period…well, it’s not just you. Maybe you just need to get your crew together and have an engagement party to get those likes, shares, and comments going again.
Let’s look at a few aspects you need to pay attention to when your Instagram engagement numbers are declining.
Quick Tip: If you are buying Instagram followers and have noticed your Instagram engagement has dropped, then the very first thing to do is to stop buying fake followers. Not only does the Instagram algorithm watch for, and penalize, accounts that buy fake followers, but they will shadowban you if they even suspect you are doing so.
Build your social media following organically, don’t buy fake followers.
First, Let’s Understand What Engagement Means On Instagram
For the most part, engagement means exactly what you think it does. Likes of your Instagram photos and comments on your posts.
But growing your audience on Instagram also plays a role in your overall account engagement, as well. Adding new followers, maintaining a proper following-to-follower ratio, and ensuring that you aren’t following a bunch of spam accounts are all important things to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining healthy engagement levels on Instagram.
Basically, there are three good rules to follow when it comes to posting content that is engaging:
- Post content that is yours and features you.
- Add descriptions that accurately describe what is happening in the photo.
- Follow accounts that are aligned with your content
If you follow those three guiding principles, the followers and likes will come.
Next, Determine Whether Your Instagram Account Has Been Shadowbanned
If you’re wondering what it means to be shadowbanned on Instagram, it basically means that, while Instagram hasn’t formally banned or blocked your account, they are reducing the number of times your posts are being displayed to your followers and though search results.
Basically, your visibility is being limited…like there is a shadow over it. Hence, the term “shadowban”.
When a shadowban starts and how long an Instagram shadowban lasts are two elements that are a bit difficult to determine. Usually, folks start to get a feeling like a shadowban is in place because their likes and follows start to drop in a noticeable way.
One day, they might post a photo that gets 500 likes and brings in 10 new followers. A week later, they might post very similar content and see 25 likes and 0 new followers. That drop in engagement can sometimes signal a shadowban and leave you wondering what is wrong with your Instagram account.
Be cautious, however, in jumping to the conclusion that you have been shadowbanned on Instagram. It might just be that the content was posted at the wrong time, used the wrong hashtags, or just wasn’t appealing to your audience.
Just because your Instagram likes are decreasing doesn’t mean you are under a shadowban. If your following isn’t dropping, but your engagement is, that’s a sign that a shadow ban might be in place.
If your follower count is dropping and you’re scratching your head wondering “why do I keep losing followers on Instagram” then the problem might be more with your content, because you are turning off your followers with your posts and they are unfollowing you. That’s not an engagement or shadow ban problem, that’s a content problem.
Signals that I like to monitor that might indicate a shadowban is in place include:
- Losing Instagram followers on an ongoing basis, while still posting quality content
- Seeing an ongoing reduction (usually drastic) in the number of likes on your posts, despite using strong descriptions and a solid hashtag strategy
- Reduced visibility in the search results, meaning that when you search for one of the hashtags you used in a post, your Instagram images aren’t displayed.
If you have the sense that Instagram is limiting your content definitely take a look at your engagement analytics. You can access the Instagram Insights tool by heading over to your profile within the app and then clicking the menu in the upper-right corner and choosing “Insights”.
The Instagram insights tool will show you information about your audience growth over time, as well as whether your posts are receiving any engagement. From there, you can take steps to adjust your activities and (hopefully) lift the ban.
Steps To Take To Remove An Instagram Shadowban
The first step in getting your Instagram engagement back on track is to determine whether the Instagram algorithm is penalizing you for some reason, causing your content to be excluded from searches and Instagram feeds. To do this, you need the help of a couple of friends or family.
The steps to test whether you are shadowbanned on Instagram are:
Step 1 – Post A New Photo Using A Moderately Popular Hashtag
Start by posting a new photo to the account that you are concerned about. You need to be sure to post it with an accurate description of the photo and a couple of moderately popular hashtags. If you post a photo of you at the beach, don’t use extremely popular hashtags like #beach or #beachlife.These hashtags have hundreds of photos posted using them each minute, so it’ll be nearly impossible for your friends to see whether your post makes it into the hashtag feed.
Instead, use a hashtag that is less popular. That way, your friends can see whether the post is showing up in hashtag searches.
In the photo above, we used a hashtag #flatlandersincalifornia. FlatlandersIn is my family travel blog and we always use hashtags like this to help us easily see the photos from our trips. In this case, we can also use it to see whether Instagram is including our photos in the hashtag searches.
Step 2 – Search The Hashtag To See Whether Your Photos Are Appearing
The next step to identify whether your account is being blocked from being seen across Instagram is just to search the hashtag feeds.
In the case of the photo above, just we just search for the #flatlandersincalifornia hashtag and see whether our photos are being shown.
As you can see in the image, the photo is showing up in the hashtag search feed, so it’s unlikely that the FlatlandersIn account is being shadowbanned. When I did this search, I ran it in an Incognito Chrome tab, so I could see whether the general public is able to see the photo.
Step 3 – Have Friends Or Family See If They Can Search For The Photo
The last step is to have your friends or family run the hashtag search. That way, you’ll know whether logged in users are able to see the post.
If your photos aren’t showing up in the hashtag searches, then it’s likely that you are suffering from an Instagram shadowban.
The next thing to do is resolve it.
Steps To Follow When Your Instagram Engagement Is Down
It’s not the end of the world if you find that your engagement numbers are slipping. Also, it does not necessarily mean that you’ve done anything wrong.
However, having said that, there might be room to improve a few aspects of your Instagram campaign. Below are several things you can do to alleviate the engagement drought.
Step 1 – Post relevant and quality content
Quality of content is critical to any social media platform and more so with Instagram. As more and more users adopt Instagram as their photo-sharing channel of choice, you have to up your game and ensure that your photos are worthy of attention.
Now is a good time to audit the posts on your feed and make sure that they align with your brand and have high-quality imagery. It’s a good idea to make sure that future posts are thoroughly analyzed before being updated on your feed.
Don’t just post anything. Have a strategy, understand your audience, and give them photos that resonate with them. For instance, my wife and I recently started a new travel blog and we created an Instagram that goes with it.
On that account, we share our trip photos, recommendations of places to stay, and ideas for things to do while visiting a destination. We work hard to stay on topic, because that is what our audience expects.
If your account is a travel account, it’s likely that photos of your pets at home aren’t going to perform as well. If you usually post about food and recipes, then posts about your kids might not strike a chord with your followers.
It’s not that you can’t post off-topic photos, just be prepared that they might not get high engagement numbers.
Step 2 – Don’t forget to add an actionable bio
Perhaps the only place you can add a link on Instagram right from the start is your bio, so don’t let it go to waste.
If you haven’t done it already, make sure that you add a link to your brand home page, your most helpful blog post, or any other resource that your audience might find of value.
The Flatlanders In Instagram account makes it clear that the profile is about travel and has a website link.
Of course, there are options to add URLs to stories once your Instagram business account has more than 10k followers. But, the bio is something that is accessible to everyone, and it makes sense to optimize your URL and add CTAs to draw in further engagement.
If your account does have the ability to add URLs to stories, then most certainly take full advantage of it.
Step 3 – Avoid weak captions
Captions are an important cog in the Instagram content machinery. Many brands think that just vivid imagery will get the job done, but captions are equally essential to get maximum engagement.
This is also where you can be creative and add more personality to your brand image. Think through your caption.
Does it compliment the photo? Does it add a humorous note that your audience might enjoy? Does it align with the overall communication tone and voice that you use on other channels?
Photos don’t have to be long and windy (although it does appear that Instagram likes long captions). Try differing caption lengths and styles and find the ones that work for your audience.
Be deliberate in your captions and they will help your photos get noticed in search, while potentially sparking engagement with your current audience.
Step 4 – Resist The Temptation To Artificially Inflate Your Numbers
Sites like Fiverr are tempting when your engagement numbers are down, because they advertise the ability to quickly buy likes, comments, and follows. DON’T do that.
All you are going to do is pollute your hard work of building an organic audience and fill your follower list with a bunch of bot accounts. Trust me, Instagram knows when your engagement or following suddenly spikes and they can be brutal in their locking of Instagram accounts.
Just be patient and take the time to organically increase your followers and comment/like their posts.
The more followers you have engaging with your posts by liking them, the more you’ll attract users who’ll do the same. However, it’s crucial to do this in moderation as the aim is to get other people to also engage with your posts because they find it credible enough.
Step 5 – Use Calls-to-Action In Your Posts
Calls to action can be used to direct people to something specific you want them to do, like clicking a link or tagging a friend. When done right, CTAs can effectively redirect a lot of traffic to where you want.
The downside with CTAs is that if you are not going to be creative with it, you might just appear pushy and not a lot of people are going to appreciate that. The key is to offer them value for interacting with your content.
Spend time writing good captions that really inspire your audience to engage with your post through a like or a comment.
Step 6 – Stick to optimal Posting Times
Posting times are critical on Instagram to draw optimal engagement numbers, and they vary across niches and geotags. This means that there is no “right time” to post that works for all brands.
You can find optimal times to post for your niche online with a little research. Sprout Social has come up with a comprehensive guide on Instagram posting schedules that can help you.
Step 7 – Don’t repost old content
Unless it’s part of an occasional #throwback or other themes, reposting old content does not do your brand (or your engagement rate) any favors. The best method to keep followers happy would be to come up with fresh, high-quality content that aligns with your brand that you know people are going to enjoy.
Throwback Thursday posts are fine occasionally, but don’t just keep re-hashing the same old content over and over. It’s a path that will lead people to unfollow your account.
Step 8 – Post stories and videos
If there is one type of content that can increase engagement and significantly help marketing efforts, it has to be video. Owing to the availability of faster internet, video has become the prime choice for engagement as far as marketers are concerned.
Video generates more comments and views than images for a brand. Stories, which are videos that have a short lifespan, have also been a revelation as far as engagement numbers are concerned at bringing in high numbers on the platform.
Take the time to create fun Instagram stories that catch your audience’s attention. Ask them questions and post polls. Add interactive elements to your Instagram stories and your audience will engage.
Step 9 – Avoid Too Many Sponsored and Product Posts
While putting up an occasional sponsored post is good for engagement, too many would erode credibility and result in your audience losing interest with your feed. The same goes for product posts as well.
People are looking at brands on Instagram to provide a more personal experience regarding their own business rather than just pushing their products.
Step 10 – Interact with your Followers
One reason why people follow brands on social media is because they get to communicate with them as well as address issues they have quickly and promptly. It is vital that you find the time to respond to a few of your followers on your feed if not all of them.
This shows your followers and the people reading that you care about what people think of your brand which can improve your brand’s reputation.
Understanding The Strategic Use of Hashtags
Hashtags are of paramount importance when it comes to expanding your Instagram reach. Improper use of hashtags can also be a reason why your account seems to have declining numbers when it comes to engagement. There are a few instances when hashtags can go wrong.
Banned or restricted hashtags
Some hashtags are overused to the extent that posts using them can actually be shadow-banned. Needless to say, you shouldn’t use them on your post even if they seem relevant.
A few of them are #adulting, #dogsofinstagram, #parties, and #valentinesday.
Avoid repeated hashtags
Another aspect you need to look out for is repeating hashtags on every post. Most marketers simply copy-paste their tags on every post they upload. This can definitely lead to shadow-bans as of the last few updates.
Repeating the same hashtags, even if they are legitimate, on several posts can be bad for your Instagram account.
If you’ve already tried those to no avail, here are a few more tips that you can look into to solve the glut with engagement plaguing your Instagram account.
Keep calm for a few days. Take a break and relax.
One way to reset shadow-bans on your account that can work is stepping away from your account for a few days or sometimes weeks. This is not very easy to do, especially when you have a brand account, but sometimes when all else fails, this can work.
Post to your personal account
If you have a personal account that you can use instead of your business account, then you should use that instead for a bit. Let your brand or business account rest for a few days and just post some personal photos, instead.
Instagram engagement can sometimes be a fickle mistress – it’s not easy to get it right all the time. There are several reasons that your brand may not be doing well on Instagram, and sometimes, it might not even be something that you did or didn’t do.
These tips can help you out when it comes to getting better engagement, but you should remember that there are no quick fixes. It will take a few days for results to show. The key is not to be disheartened and keep at it even if the results don’t show up immediately.
Do let us know in the comments if they worked for you, and share strategies that you use to get your Instagram engagement back on track.