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More than a few of us have noticed that reach for our posts on the Instagram feed has been dropping over the last few months. So what is happening? What can we do about it? And what does Instagram have to say about it? 

With so many people, businesses and ads on Instagram now, there’s more competition than ever for space on the feed. And as we all getting better and more clever at posting content that people love, we are noticing that individual reach for each of our posts is getting harder and harder to maintain.

So what can we do to claw back some of that reach? 

  1. Understand what Instagram looks at when it sends content to people’s feeds
  2. Aim for conversation and interaction rather than just reach
  3. Understand that your old strategy is getting a bit stale 

What exactly is Instagram looking for? 

The first thing that Instagram is looking for is information about the post that is in the post itself. Some of this is the basic data such as: 

  1. Who posted it
  2. When they posted it
  3. What information can be picked up from the creative
  4. What information can be picked up from the caption 

This means that who you are is important. This because who you are as the poster or business is tied to information such as how popular you are, how on-trend you seem to be at the moment and what level of interaction your profile seems to be attracting. When you posted is important because it coincides with when your followers are online and looking at their Instagram feed. While it’s not vital for you to be posting at a specific time, you will clearly reach more people if you happen to post something new as more of your followers are on the app. Even though Instagram does concede that not all your followers will see what you post, they also explain this by saying that your followers also follow potentially hundreds or thousands of others, so when they are on the app, they’re not seeing their entire feed. They’re just seeing a part of it which is what Instagram has estimated is the most likely content that you’re going to like. 

Naturally, your creative and caption contain clear information to base their estimations on. If your creative is full of logos and text then it will provide tonnes of information about what your content is about, however, it will also judge this as being rather low-quality content as Instagram was never made for text – it’s made for photos and videos. If you must include text and logos in your graphics, keep it to the must-have stuff. No one is looking for logos and text-laden ads in Insta, so respect your audience before posting yet another spammy piece of content that few people are going to see. 

Want reach? Aim for conversation, not reach. 

It may sound illogical, but if you want reach, then reach shouldn’t be your goal. Instead, aim for conversation and interaction with your followers. When someone comments, that is a signal to Instagram of something interesting to someone. If you respond, then that’s another signal. If others join into the comments thread, this keeps throwing it back into their feeds, and the more interaction that happens, the more signals that keep going back along with the thousands of other signals that come from those followers who are interacting with you. And that includes enough data to conclude that there are other like-minded followers who may also enjoy your content, and so they get sent it. The cycle continues as more people who see the content decide to interact with it and you.

By aiming for some conversation with one follower at a time, you’re causing reach to increase.  So, seeking to have authentic conversations through both comments and direct messages means that you are a more engaging profile, which signals Instagram to send more of your stuff out so that others may be engaged with you. If your reach is crashing on you, it’s likely because there’s not much engagement going on and your followers are more interested in less boring profiles. Ouch, I know. This brings me to the last point. 

Your strategy is probably a bit stale. 

If reach, engagement and perhaps, even conversions are slowing down for you on Instagram, it could be because your approach just isn’t working anymore. And that is probably not because of Instagram. It’s probably because your followers are a bit bored of you and have moved to profiles that are more entertaining. Ouch again.

This isn’t the end of the world though. It’s just the end of your current strategy. If your Motivational Mondays and Throwback Thursdays just aren’t working anymore, it’s probably time to drop those and try something new. But don’t just throw a few new tactics in the mix. Have a long hard think about why your followers have moved on. Look at your most successful competitors and look at what they are doing. Look at their comments and interactions, not their likes. If they’re getting tonnes of comments and threads of conversation going under their posts, then they have focused on what has been working for them lately. If your target audience is similar to theirs, then you have your new strategy in what their patterns seem to be. 

It’s all too easy, and therefore lazy, to blame algorithms and platforms for your lack of reach. Think about it. If plenty of others are getting amazing reach right now, then it’s probably not Instagram, it’s you.

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Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Facebook Blueprint Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Facebook Australia, a digital advisor with Treeti Business Consulting, an accredited ASBAS Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.