Did your reach drop all of a sudden? Are you not getting as much engagement on your content anymore? Did your follower growth slow?
These are the things that usually end up with me getting an email or DM from people wondering if the Instagram algorithm changed. They’re nervous, confused, frustrated, and there must be a good reason why this is happening.
So, here’s the thing…
The Instagram algorithm is always changing. They make tweaks to it consistently in the background. There are thousands of criteria at play and none of us will ever know what those criteria are completely. Additionally, it’s a smart algorithm, meaning the more you do certain things (like certain content, ignore certain content, etc.), the more the algorithm sorts content accordingly for you. As it does for all of your followers.
But, in general, the Instagram algorithm does not make any significant changes regularly. And 9.9 times out of 10, the answer to the question, is NO, the algorithm did not change. It’s doing the same thing it did yesterday, and last week, and last month.
But, Jenn!! My reach is way down all of a sudden!
Or, but you don’t understand! My engagement sucks right now!!
This is inevitably what everyone tells me when I tell them the algorithm didn’t change.
And so I sometimes offer to look at their account. And you know what? They’re engagement didn’t drop overnight. On average, it’s been steady for months. One post may have “tanked” or even a few may have. But another post did exceedingly well. And when you average it all out, there is no significant delta in the engagement levels on their posts.
So, before you freak out, go look at your post engagement. Every post for the last month or three months or longer. Add up the number of likes and divide by the number of posts. If you posted 6 times this month, add up the likes for all six posts and divide by 6. That’s your average post engagement. Do the same thing for the month before and the month before that. Is the engagement rate actually that different?
And let’s say for the sake of argument, that your engagement is down. Why? If not the algorithm, what could cause it? Here are some common reasons:
- Content saturation. You’re producing more content than what is viable to show your audience. If you’re posting every day, this could be an issue. Consider posting less frequently and see if your reach and engagement increases.
- Boring content. If your content isn’t appealing to your audience, they’ll scroll right past it – which is a negative rank in the algorithm. The more they ignore your content, the lower your content ranks in their feed, the less they see your content. Go look at your Instagram insights, go to “See All” content and sort for engagement or reach in the last 6 months or 1 year. See what your top performing content looks like and do more of that.
- Follower growth. As you grow, your engagement drops. It’s simple math but something people don’t necessarily correlate. When you have 100 followers, they LOVE you and your content is everything to them. When you get to 500 followers, you have some more casual followers who don’t love you but they like you. When you get to 1000 followers, this dilutes even more. As you grow, you get more casual followers and more dormant followers (that don’t log on frequently) so your engagement rate decreases as your follower count increases. Actual engagement numbers go up, but rates (likes divided by followers) goes down.
- Flagged for spam. If someone flagged you for spam, you’re in jail and it’ll take a while to come back. And no, you won’t know if someone flagged you. But if you tagged a bunch of people in a post or were blasting comments or being combative on your post or others, you may get reported for spam behavior.
I’m going to be blunt here…
The algorithm likely did not change. You cannot put the blame for your content performance on anyone but yourself.
Everyone so easily wants to blame Instagram for hiding their content but if you create high quality content that appeals to your audience, they will see it. And they will interact with it.
If your content is overly salesy, overly promotional, focused on you as a brand and not on them as the consumer, or any other slew of selfish marketing mistakes, then yes, your content will continue to perform poorly on Instagram.
And if your content was performing “great” up until a month ago or last week or whatever, then it’s time to look at your metrics and find out what you can do differently. Try asking your audience what they want. Try something different with your content. Mix up your posting frequency. Or, hire someone (like me) to help you figure this out for your brand.