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Is your Instagram engagement down? If so, you have two choices.

  1. Accept it as a sign of the times.
  2. Diagnose it and work to improve it.

If you picked number two, please keep reading!

Is your #Instagram engagement down? You have 2 choices: accept it or fix it. Click To Tweet

While it is true that Instagram engagement has been declining for some time, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Some of this is due to Instagram’s renewed commitment to squash bot activity and spam.

I wish I had a reliable estimate of what was spam and bot activity before their crack down and shut down of Instagress, but I truly don’t know. Based on my personal experiences, I would guess it was at least 25%, all the way up to 50%.

But, I digress (about Instagress.)

Instagram engagement down? Read now or pin for later.Maturation of Instagram

Instagram now has a staggering 700+ million active monthly users. Just last year (June 2016) there were *only* 500 million users. It took Instagram 3.5 years to get their first 200 million users, but they’ve added that same amount in the last 12 months.

With this kind of growth comes some saturation, with saturation comes competition for space in the feed. Competition for feed space creates a situation that is ripe for advertising.

We can cry about it, or we can embrace change (which is a requirement of an entrepreneur), see it for what it is, and adjust our Instagram marketing strategies accordingly.

This means either paying for some advertising to accelerate your message, or ride out what you can still get for “free,” which may not cost actual dollars, but you still pay for it with your time and efforts.

(If I sound harsh, just know I strongly desire to always share the truth and not fill you up with false notions. This is how it is.)

Now that we are looking at our Instagram engagement through the lens that says the engagement you are getting, though a bit lower, is probably more genuine, let’s talk about what we can do to improve what you do have.

Diagnosing Low Instagram Engagement

If your Instagram engagement is down, here is a series of things to consider, re-look at, or change to boost up your engagement, and ultimately, increase your reach.


As you are probably already aware, Instagram orders photos in the feed through the use of an algorithm. They stay pretty tight lipped about it, but here is what we do know (taken verbatim from their blog):

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.

There probably isn’t much you can control about your relationship to the person who is following you, that is what it is, but you can be interesting and timely.

Be sure you are sharing content that is high-value and you are posting at your optimal time on Instagram.


Speaking of generalities like “sharing content that is high-value,” let’s actually talk about that.

Audience Alignment

A major issue I see is audience alignment… or should I say, mis-alignment. If your engagement is suffering, and declining, this is a good indicator that your audience and your message are not in alignment. You can read through the article I linked above, about sharing content that is high-value, to get a better idea if you are meeting this requirement or not.


Another issue I could file under “content” actually has to do with frequency. If you are posting once per day, consider testing a post every other day, or every 36 hours to see how that affects your reach and impressions. You could also do the opposite and try posting twice per day.

I usually don’t advocate for posting MORE to try and combat reach issues, but it is worth a test. Everything is worth testing.


Consistency is also something to look at. If you are posting once, then going a week without posting, then posting three days in a row, it’s kind of hard to know what to do with you and who to show your posts to. Being consistent is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself.


Hashtags aren’t what they used to be, but they are still a significant part of your Instagram strategy.

Accurate Hashtags

Instagram’s algorithm reaches into hashtags now. Meaning, the “Top 9” results for any given hashtag are personalized by user. If you and three friends search #glutenfree on Instagram, you are most likely going to get four different Top 9 results. There will be some crossover, but they won’t be identical. (Seriously, interesting experiment. The next time you are out to dinner with friends, try it!)

In addition, just because you use 30 hashtags on an Instagram post doesn’t mean Instagram is going to put your image in all 30 of those hashtag feeds.

These should be considerations when you are selecting hashtags for your post. Be sure that they accurately describe your content. The more accurate you are, the more likely you are to show up for those hashtags. If you are being abstract, you could get left out of those hashtag feeds.

Overused Hashtags

Using the exact same hashtag group over and over for weeks at a time is a great way to get yourself shadowbanned on Instagram. Don’t stress, this is only at the post level and not at the account level… so if you find yourself in this situation, find yourself some new hashtags to use.

I have a workshop, Hashtag Camp, that covers this in depth if you need guidance regarding finding effective hashtags.

Effective Hashtag Groups

Part of the magic of hashtags is in the way they are grouped together. As you are researching and finding hashtags, take a look to see how “big” they are. Meaning, how many results there are for each hashtag. When creating groups of hashtags (up to 30 hashtags) to use on your posts, use a mix of small, medium and large.

This makes it so that you are getting some quick engagement from the larger hashtags, but you are still reaching targeted users with your medium and small hashtags.

Is your Instagram engagement down? What other solutions have you found to improve it?


Molly Marshall teaches small business owners and online entrepreneurs how to systematically and simply grow a profitable online presence through social media. Get your FREE 2018 Instagram Strategy Guide now!

Get your FREE 2018 Instagram Guide

Learn what's working now to build your brand, authority, and credibility on Instagram in 2018.

Get your FREE 2018 Instagram Guide

Learn what's working now to build your brand, authority, and credibility on Instagram in 2018.

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