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In 2015, Instagram enjoyed the highest engagement rates (“engagement” defined as likes, comments, social shares, or other types of social interaction with content) of any social media platform, a distinction which earned Instagram the nickname “King of Social.” In 2016, however, Instagram’s reign as the leader of social media interaction may be coming to an end. According to Locowise, a social media analytics firms, today’s Instagram engagement rates stand at 1% (compared to a 2.8% engagement rate in April 2015), and this developing trend is now raising questions about how best to reach Instagram’s 500 million users on the platform.
With the abundance of new features, trends, and advertising strategies making their way to Instagram, there is no way to pinpoint a single reason for the app’s declining engagement rates. The first possibility has to do with Instagram’s recent efforts to accelerate advertising on the platform. New features such as Carousel Ads and Dynamic Ads have made it easier than ever to advertise on Instagram; as such, there are now more than 200,000 active advertisers on Instagram (Instagram).
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These developments may be the reason for Instagram’s depressed engagement—users are becoming weary of oversaturation and less inclined to interact with content on their news feeds.
Instagram’s new algorithm feed is the second reason for the platform’s declining engagement rates. The algorithm tracks users’ behavior and interactions to prioritize the content it thinks users will care about the most. As a result, Instagram users may be only engaging with posts from their closest peers, top accounts and influencers they follow, and/or posts with high engagement.
Related Post: How Instagram’s Algorithm Is Changing Users’ Feeds
Engagement rates are an important measure of how well a particular piece of content resonates with audiences. A high engagement rate means the user, Instagrammer, or brand is adept at connecting with audiences and consistently provides the photos or videos that audiences want to see.
Low engagement rates, on the other hand, indicate that the content or campaign is failing to illicit a response from the audience (the social media equivalent of muting the television during a commercial) or, in some cases, that the Instagrammer has purchased “fake” followers and misled marketers about the true depth of their social reach and influence.
Related Post: Why Fake Instagram Followers Are A Problem For Brands
Brands concerned about the trend of low Instagram engagement rates should consider working with influencers to create engaging brand sponsored photos and/or videos, especially as the platform continues to increase advertising options and content oversaturation becomes an impediment to visibility. Micro-influencers, especially, enjoy high engagement rates and are considered trusted sources of information and inspiration.
Additionally, brands should focus on developing dedicated content for Instagram—these posts tend to perform better than re-purposed content from other social media platforms and can be optimized for engagement by including hashtags, giveaways, and other call-to-action marketing methods.