We are always afraid that this day will come. Well, it is here.

The decline in organic reach and engagement we experienced with Facebook, now hits Instagram.

Especially since the beginning of June 2019, Instagram posts have significantly lower organic reach and the hashtags seem to have lower importance.

If this continues parallel to the Facebook case, we are in trouble. It will significantly affect the Instagram users and the brands.

So, What Happened?

There were always some complaints, but the situation changed dramatically in June 2019. Instagram users began to notice significant decreases in organic reach of their posts, as well as engagement.

An article published on The Drum on June 7th voiced that “Agencies voice concerns that Instagram is killing organic reach“.

The article stated that:

“Scores of Instagram users and agencies recently took to the social network to voice concerns over a sudden dip in engagement on their posts. Speculation around an algorithm change was dispelled by an Instagram spokesperson, but it’s left a question mark over what caused performance drops.

One influencer marketing agency told The Drum that over the last few weeks initial data across a couple of clients had shown a reduction in impressions and engagement when you’d expect it to be similar.”

Based on 3,637 brands on Instagram, an analysis by trustinsights revealed that there occured a clear decrease in engagement rate, sharply so beginning in early May.

In only 6 months, average Instagram Engagement Rate decreased from around 1.2% to around 0.8%. That is 33% decline in engagement rate!

It was not just brands. In an examination of 150 influencers in one part of the fashion industry, they noted a similar decline in their engagement.

Why Did It Happen?

Many digital marketers see Instagram ads as the main reason for this decrease.

In The Drum article, Alex Micu, a marketer at Hue and Cry agency, and one of the individuals behind the viral Instagram Egg said: “My feeling is they are completely culling organic reach and pushing their ads.”

As the brands can promote their Instagram posts (just like Facebook posts) to the selected target audiences, a decrease in organic reach makes a lot sense.

Comms consultant Ste Davies speculated: “It seems that the Instagram algorithm is going the same way the Facebook page algorithm did in 2014. 

What Was The Case With Facebook?

It was more or less the same story with Facebook.

A study by Social@Ogilvy revelaed that average organic reach of content published on Brand Facebook Pages decreased from 12.05% to 6.15% in only 5 months (Oct. 2013 – Feb. 2014)!

Unfortunately, the organic reach continued its decline.

An article by Neil Patel stated that the organic reach of a Facebook Page had fallen to a mere 2% as of June 2016.

As of 2019, it is not surprising to see figures around 1%.

It is clear that the Facebook has pretty much become a paid platform and the organic reach on Instagram may follow this path.

How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work?

Initially, Instagram was using a chronological feed system and the most recent posts were appearing at the top. In 2016, Instagram began to use an algorithm similar to Facebook.

In this algorithm, although the recency of the post is still a factor, other factors also play a role. Instagram tries to show each user the posts which they will be most interested in.

An article on Vox states that, with the algorithmic feed, Instagram claims that the people see 90% of posts from their “friends and family,” compared to around 50% with the reverse chronological feed (previous algorithm).

“Friends and family” is a subjective term. Instagram thinks it can detect who these people are based on certain signals, such as how often you comment on their posts, direct messages between the accounts, tagging each other in the posts, etc.

What Is Instagram Engagement Rate in 2020?

In the first section of this article, I mentioned that the average Instagram Engagement Rate decreased from around 1.2% to around 0.8%, based on a trustinsights analysis.

RivalIQ has a different data set, but the trend is clear. Based on their analysis, median engagement rate was 1.60% in 2019.

The new RivalIQ analysis revealed that the median Instagram Engagement Rate in 2020 decreased from 1.60% to 1.22%.

It is clear that the declining trend in Instagram engagement rate still continues.

What Is Instagram’s Share in Facebook Ad Revenue?

Declining engagement rate (naturally) forces brands to advertise on Instagram.

In an article in October 2018, Recode predicted that Facebook will soon rely on Instagram for the majority of its ad revenue growth. Based on their article, Instagram’s share in Facebook total ad revenue would reach 25% at the end of 2019.

Recently, Bloomberg reported that Instagram has become increasingly central to Facebook’s future. The numbers in the article were consistent with the estimation above.

Instagram brought in about $20 billion in advertising revenue in 2019, which is more than a quarter of Facebook sales.

What Can You Do In An Era Where Instagram Organic Reach Is Declining?

We don’t know for sure, but the most likely scenario is that Instagram will be following Facebook’s path.

This means that the organic reach of the Instagram posts will continue to decrease, to support Instagram advertising.

So, what can you do in such a situation?

Increase Quality

You may focus on increasing quality and producing high quality content. This will most probably increase the engagement on the post, resulting in an increase in organic reach.

Try To Build Close Relationships

Instagram claims that the people see 90% of posts from their friends and family, and it detects who these people are based on certain signals, such as how often you comment on their posts, direct messages between the accounts, tagging each other in the posts, etc.

Therefore, you should build close relationships with other people (accounts) to increase the possibility that these people see your posts.

Focus on Stories

Instagram users like the Stories format. The number of the people using Instagram stories reached 500 million in almost 2 years.

You may be get the attention of your fans using Instagram Stories in addition to your posts.

Benefit from IGTV

Like Instagram Stories, you may try to benefit from Instagram TV (IGTV).

You can use 15-second videos in stories, 60-second videos in your feed, and Instagram TV allows longer videos. Regular users can upload videos up to 10 minutes long and verified users can upload videos up to an hour long.

Use Relevant Hashtags

Hashtags seem to have lost their previous power. However, you can still benefit from hashtags to reach to a wider audience.

It may be a good idea to stay away from general hashtags such as #love, #photooftheday, #instalike or #picoftheday. In addition to the difficulty of being found, it is almost impossible to reach to the right audience with this broad targeting.

Therefore, even though you may use some popular tags related to your sector, it is important to focus on niche keywords related to your products and services. The people using these hashtags will find what they are looking for and this will increase your engagement.

Use Other Channels to Support Instagram

You may direct people from your website or other social media pages to your Instagram page.

Try Instagram Advertising

If you think that Instagram is a valuable platform and you want to reach to your target audience on Instagram, you may try Instagram advertising.

If the competitor brands do not use ads, you may communicate with the target audience easily and effectively.

Feel free to share your comments.


Koray Odabasi is the author of Digital Marketing Strategies Book.

Selected as one of the “Best Digital Marketing Books of All Time” by Book Authority, you may read the first chapter here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1793365865

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