Do you feel like the organic reach of your business’s posts on Instagram is decreasing by the day? You’re not alone! Recent studies have shown that business pages and brand accounts alike are suffering from a steady decline in organic reach across all social media platforms—but particularly on Instagram. Rumors are saying that organic social media engagement on Instagram is now limited to a mere 7% of a profile’s following.
So, why the drop-off in organic reach on social? And more importantly, how can your business combat the slack in engagement? To save your social media marketing tactics, read on for everything you need to know.
Why Organic Reach is on the Decline?
The recent decline in the organic reach on Instagram posts mirrors the alarming drop-off in organic engagement that businesses noticed on Facebook in 2014. In both cases, the reason for the decrease is synonymous.
Like Facebook in 2014, Instagram has adjusted its algorithm so that the placement of content on a user’s social media timeline heavily favors posts from the user’s friends, family, and accounts that the user has shown prior interest in (curated by user data). Check out the dynamic Instagram algorithm change history.
This means that going forward, the doling out of the prime real estate atop a user’s Instagram timeline is influenced by:
- Which posts and accounts the user engages with most frequently
- The timeliness of the post
- How often the person uses Instagram
- How many accounts the user follows
What the Algorithm Change Means for Advertisers
The company line at both Facebook and Instagram is that the purpose of the algorithm shift is to make their respective app platform a haven for meaningful interactions with user-generated content, not a venue in which they’re bombarded with ads. And to be fair, that might be true. But there may also be an ulterior motive at play, as the shift has made it difficult for businesses to rise above the algorithm’s defense without having to shell out “top dollar” for a sponsored content ad.
This algorithm shift, combined with the fact that more and more businesses continue to flock to Instagram and, in turn, cram the bottleneck, has resulted in unprecedented lows in the organic reach of branded content.
Reaching your audience on Instagram has become a pay-to-play game. And that’s just how Instagram wants it.
How to Beat the Algorithm
Though Instagram’s algorithm has been redesigned to steer business to the ATM, you don’t have to pull out the cash just yet. Thankfully, there are several viable ways your business can avoid the trappings of the algorithm and keep the organic reach of your posts afloat, such as:
Emphasizing Engagement-Based Content
On Instagram, the greatest currency is the engagement—i.e. likes, comments, and shares—that a post attracts. Your top priority should be to make your posts a lightning rod for engagement.
Here are some tips for boosting your posts’ engagement:
- Focus on Quality – Remember, the Instagram algorithm favors timeliness and relevancy of your post, or in other words: giving people what they want when they want it. Thus, relevant social posts with compelling content are likeliest to not only get seen in the first place but also inspire engagement from users. Ensure each of your posts features timely, thought-provoking content that’s packed with useful information.
- Invite Your Followers to Engage – The posts that are likeliest to resonate with your target audience are the ones that let them know that you’re interested in learning how they feel and what they want to see from your brand in the future. Ask your audience for direct feedback by conducting an Instagram poll or posing questions about their experience—you want to inspire them to leave a comment or tag a friend.
You can even be the one who starts the conversation by liking and commenting on your audience’s posts.
- Make Your Post a Video – Recent metrics reveal that video consumption on Instagram has increased by 80% since last year. Simply put, if you post a video, almost everyone will take a few moments to see what it is before deciding if they want to keep watching or move along.
Thus, you should take advantage of video posts and Instagram’s other video-based offerings, such as stories (for best results, these should include hashtags and location stickers), IGTV for videos that exceeds 60 seconds, and live videos (which comes with the advantage of your followers receiving a real-time push notification that you’re going live).
Going live is a particularly effective way to boost interactions, as it gives you the unique capacity to do extended product demos, promote upcoming events in detail and, best of all, engage with your audience in live Q&A sessions.
If your posts attract significant engagement from a given user, it forces the algorithm to put a premium on similar content on the user’s timeline, positioning future posts for success in the organic reach department.
Aim for Real Connections with Your Followers
Developing and nurturing relationships with customers isn’t just about encouraging engagement. It’s a dialogue.
The street runs two ways.
When a user engages with your post, return the favor by responding to it with a like or comment. This demonstrates to the audience that you’re actively listening to their feedback and taking it into consideration. As a result, they’ll be more likely to continue engaging with your content, and perhaps even become a loyal customer.
Post Frequently and on a Consistent Schedule
In the ancient brown and beige logo days of Instagram, posting more than once a day puts you at risk of overwhelming your audience with your content, and thus coming across as spammy. But because the new algorithm now breaks up content and disperses it throughout the timeline, there’s virtually no such thing as posting too frequently anymore.
However, just because you can post around the clock on a constant basis doesn’t mean that you should. Posting all day, every day can be disadvantageous for two reasons:
- Your Followers Aren’t on Instagram 24/7 – Although Instagram never sleeps, your followers do. Inevitably, there will be certain times during a given week when your target audience is really active on Instagram, and times when they’re not. There’s no point in posting during these quiet stretches. After all, if a tree falls in the forest but no one is around to see it, can it earn a like?
- Quantity Can Hurt Quality – Remember, the most important thing you can do to combat the decline in organic reach is to neglect quality. Don’t sacrifice the quality of content for the sake of quantity. If achieving a certain standard of quality means taking your time and limiting how often you post, so be it. You’ll create a better return.
So, what’s the perfect compromise, then? Study metrics to find out which times and days of the week your followers are most active, then don’t let any of those time slots go by without posting.
Always Stay True to Your Brand Voice
The importance of being consistent on Instagram applies to not only your posting schedule but also your brand voice.
Remember, your overarching goal is to familiarize people with your brand, what it stands for, and what they can expect from it. Make sure everything you post matches the brand voice you’re trying to establish—if it’s not ubiquitous across your every channel, you might inspire confusion, which leads to a bounce.
Enlist the Help of Other Users
Combatting the decrease in organic reach on Instagram is a tall task, but it’s not one that you must shoulder alone. You can leverage help from other individuals in the form of:
- Influencer Content – Influencers bring with them a following that’s as massive as it is loyal. When an influencer uses a product, their followers are likely to want to try using it as well. Working with influencers is a surefire way to attract a sizable fanbases’ attention to your account page. If you need help kickstarting your influencer marketing strategy, read this basic guide to influencer marketing.
Yes, you’ll have to compensate the influencer in some way, whether it be with money, free merchandise, or covering their travel expenses. But the traffic of users on Instagram they’ll bring to your page will typically pay for itself.
- User-Generated Content – Don’t want to spend money to get an influencer to promote your brand? You may be able to achieve similar results for free by depending on user-generated content, any content that was created by a user without their expectation of your company compensating them.
Whether it be a video of someone saying how much they enjoy your product, a photo someone submitted as part of a contest, or a slice of life video that just so happens to capture your brand voice perfectly, user-generated content gives you free word-of-mouth advertising. And because your followers know that the creator of the user-generated content didn’t “do it for the money,” they’ll know they can trust it.
Though Instagram’s change to their algorithm has stacked the deck against businesses in their increasingly elusive quest for organic reach on Instagram, the unique visual nature of the app still makes it a captivating, and ultimately effective, playground for digital marketing. Studies show that roughly 80% of users on Instagram follow at least one brand. There’s no reason that your brand can’t be one of them.
Before you give in and pay for a sponsored ad, try the above steps to social media marketing. They may help you avoid the organic reach roadblocks that afflict countless businesses en route to movin’ on up the timeline.
1) “New Report Finds Instagram Engagement Rates are in Decline” by Andrew Hutchinson
2) “10 Ways to Fight the Decline in Organic Reach on Social Media” by Dhariana Lozano
3) “Growing Pains: Facebook Pushes Instagram to Earn its Keep” by Alex Heath