Instagram engagement has been declining for some time now, but it’s not all gloom and doom. Much of it can be attributed to Instagram’s continued commitment to getting rid of bots, spam, and comment pods.

Instagram took roughly four years to reach their first 300 million users. In June 2016, there were 500 million active monthly users. Between 2016 and 2107, they added the same number in almost a year. And as of September last year, the platform boasts 800 million active monthly users.

Accelerated growth like that leads to saturation. Saturation leads to more competition for the chance to feature in users’ feeds. Saturation or bot removals, either way, it’s crucial that we figure out a way to improve engagement.

First, let’s take a look at the causes of this downward spiral.

1. Poor Audience Quality

One of the biggest issues affecting engagement rates is the lack of quality followers. Having a large number of followers is usually a good thing. Unless your followers are inactive or fake users. Whether it was intentional or not, having fake followers will decrease your engagement rates.

This is how the Instagram algorithm evaluates engagement :

  • At first, your new post will be shown to a small percentage of your followers.
  • It measures the number of likes and comments and then compares them to the engagement on your older posts.
  • If the new post is getting higher engagement than old ones, it will be shown to your remaining audience as well.
  • On the other hand, less engagement indicates you may have fake followers. And you may lose the chance to have your post shown to rest of your audience.

Seeing as they are fake and inactive profiles, they almost never interact with your posts. And as a result, your engagement rate will take a nosedive.

Buzzweb can help you to check out your audience quality regularly and getting rid of fake followers.


2. Shadow Bans and Restricted Hashtags

With the recent change in Instagram’s algorithm, numerous users have taken to using comment pods to cheat it. Comment pods are an inauthentic way to improve engagement. And Instagram doles out shadow bans on users they feel are part of a comment pod.

Restricted hashtags are another reason why users are seeing decreased engagement. The platform classifies them as either NSFW or spammy (like #beautyblogger or #follow4follow) and reduces post visibility. Once your account has been flagged, they check for suspicious activity on it and possibly shadowban you.

3. Automation and Bots

Instagram has been cracking down on numerous automation websites like Instagress and MassPlanner. Apps like these create bots to help users gain followers and engagement. They’re like small robot clones of a user with the same style and interests.

They aren’t fake accounts mind you. They just automatically like and comment on posts made by other people to artificially drive up engagement for those accounts. Even if you’re someone who uses automation tools, if you’re followers had been using them, you will be affected. Seeing as they don’t have a means to like everyone’s posts in their feed, your engagement can see a dip.

4. Hashtag Suppression for Business Accounts

This one comes down to the new algorithm acting differently for different user accounts. To see posts related to a particular hashtag, unless it’s a top post, users must follow the particular page to see them.

This rule is particularly applicable to business and business-like accounts. Basically, any account that acts within the confines of specific algorithmic rules could face a harder time getting featured for some hashtags.

5. Saturation

Post interactions are down by 33% in the past year. Photos have seen a 27% drop in likes and comments, and videos have it worse, dropping by 39%. Instagram saturation is the primary culprit behind all of this.

The user base and posting frequency have increased. With users following more accounts than before, they are seeing more content in their feeds. And quite frankly, it’s just too much content to keep up with. This increased competition for engagement has ultimately resulted in an overall decline.

So, what’s the solution to all of this then?

1. Strategic Use of Hashtags

Hashtags are a great way to gain popularity among targeted audiences if used correctly. They help other users to find, follow and interact with your Instagram account. But using and abusing random popular hashtags on the platform won’t get you anywhere.

The way to get featured in feeds is to use popular hashtags that are relevant to your target audience. Check out the hashtags that your audience is using and leverage those. Also feel free to create unique and creative hashtags to use with your posts. Make them your own. The narrower their scope, the more engaging users find them.

Take Darryll Jones and his creative photography and hashtag use to present his take on the world using toys. Fairly certain this one was meant for Star Wars fans.


Image via Instagram

2. Calls-to-Action

Adding a captivating caption to your posts is the key getting seen by your followers. But the easiest way to encourage them to interact with your posts is to add a call-to-action in the caption. The way the Instagram algorithm works now, posts with higher engagement are more likely to feature in user feeds.

Give your audience something to think about. Ask them a question. Or what they think about a new product. And then ask them to use the comment section to leave a reply. This is a brilliant and organic way to increase your engagement.


Image via Instagram

Take a look at the Best Vacations post above. They often post tantalizing photos of vacations spots like this one. They keep their CTAs simple, asking people to tag their friends. A rather cheeky and ingenious way to increase their engagement and gain more followers.

3. Optimal Posting Times

Another easy way to improve your engagement rates is to post during peak hours. The idea is to post when the bulk of your target audience and followers are online. By doing so, you’ll maximize the audience for your posts.

Of course, depending on the kind of target audience and time zones, the peak times will vary. If you have a business account, you can use Instagram Insights to discover when your followers frequent the app. You can always experiment, as well, by posting at different times to figure out the best times to post.

4. Quality Content

Now, this is a recommendation that comes straight from the horse’s mouth (or, in this case, the page). Instagram for Business responded to users, last year, experiencing issues with their new hashtag search policy:


Image via Facebook

The gist of it is they want people to focus more on the quality of their content to increase engagement. They suggest having a proper growth strategy for their target audiences rather than focusing on hashtags. This goes to show their commitment to promoting and encouraging authentic engagement.

5. Instagram Stories

A little over 80% of people prefer live content from brands over their normal social media posts. And that’s exactly why you should be making the most of the Instagram Stories feature. By including relevant hashtags in your Stories, you can reach more people and grab their attention.

But more importantly, they are a great way to showcase yourself in an authentic fashion. Give your followers behind-the-scene looks and bloopers to get them interested. Sharing Stories from live events is another trick. Instagram Stories are a surefire way to rake in more likes and comments in real-time, thereby improving your engagement rate.


Instagram is continuously evolving and changing their algorithm to become a better, more engaging platform for users. It’s true that engagement has declined recently, but shortcuts like bots and comment pods won’t help you in the long-run. All they’ll do is give you a false sense of security.

Instead, concentrate on the tips discussed above because they are evergreen and will stand the test of time and algorithm changes.

If you have any questions or tips about increasing engagement on Instagram, let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts.