Study: Instagram Engagement Down Steeply Since May

A recent study appears to have confirmed what many in industry have grumbled about of late, that Instagram engagement is falling.

Alex Micu, one of the individuals behind the viral Instagram Egg, is one of many voicing frustrations with Instagram organic reach. Trust Insights, a marketing data and consulting firm, analysed over 1.4 million Instagram posts from January – June 2019. The study claims that overall engagement across Instagram is down and has been sharply declining since early May 2019.

The study defines engagement rate as the total number of interactions on a post divided by the size of the account’s following at the time of posting. Instagram Stories were not included in the analysis (a shame but understandable).

The study is based upon a list of 3,637 brands on Instagram.

Accounts vary by size from a mean follower count of 12,451, at the low end, to a mean follower count of 8.53 million.

Instagram’s Easy Ride Is OVER

Marketers, brands and influencers have enjoyed unrivalled organic marketing opportunities on Instagram for some time.

As Facebook has tightened up in recent years, many have used Instagram as a haven for easy unpaid exposure.

Facebook has over 90 million plus active businesses on the platform, 7 million plus advertisers and 2.3 billion human/bots pumping out content daily.

Instagram is a shadow of the size/scale.

On top of this, the Instagram feed, and even Stories, is far narrower in scope. Just offering pics or vids from people you follow.

Which is why, according to Instagram, users see about 90% of their friends’ posts on Instagram. Unlike Facebook, which is bloated with irrelevance from a user’s social graph.

Instagram has not only offered good free results for marketers but its also a pretty simple channel to market on. Especially when compared to other channels, or activities, like Facebook, search engine optimisation, email automation, etc.

Many who enjoy good results on Instagram are essentially dining out on easy wins. Rather than getting stellar results due to unparalleled marketing nous.

Just as was the case on Facebook, 2008 – 2013, Instagram has been handing out respectable results for merely showing up regularly for several years.

Although, it now appears that the organic gravy train may be starting to slow, and only the skilful will survive…

It’s Not Just Brands Feeling The Pinch

As per the study, the maximum average engagement rate was 1.54% on April 15, 2019. The minimum engagement rate was 0.8% on June 23, 2019.

Where we see the change really start to take place is in early May.

Since the beginning of May, average engagements have declined over time sharply and now hover around 0.9%, a decrease from earlier this year of 1.1%.

Representing an 18% decline in average engagements (mostly likes) since the beginning of the year.

However, it is not just brands that are suffering recently. In an examination of 150 influencers in one part of the fashion industry, Trust Insights noted a similar decline in their engagement.

These fashion influencers go from a maximum of 4.3% engagement on February 17, to a minimum of 2.4% on June 20, representing a 44% decline in engagement for the same period.

While these influencers had more initial engagement than brands, they’ve felt a stronger impact from the recent decline.

What’s A Marketer To Do?

Rather than spelling disaster, the study should really serve as a reminder:

Organic opportunities in any online channel are fleeting
When you find a good one, MAX IT OUT
Organic opportunities don’t die entirely; they usually shift to another part of the platform
Social networks are NOT owned media channels and performance is always at the whim of a (hopefully) benevolent dictator
Social networks meet at the confluence of earned and paid media; ergo intelligent usage often sees them used to support and amplify owned media activity
Ask anyone who built up five million followers on Facebook, but now can’t reach them without running ads
Instagram still offers good free marketing opportunities, better than most. However, so did Facebook, once upon a time…