What to Do if Your Instagram Engagement Is Down

by | Last updated Mar 20, 2024 | Digital Marketing

Read Time: 8 min read

Summary: TL;DR: Instagram engagement is down due to algorithm changes, new features like Instagram Reels, and user feedback options. To increase engagement, post high-quality content, stay active, utilize Stories and Reels, and create shareable content. Engage with followers through captions, stickers, and collaborations. Avoid engagement bait, buying followers, and excessive hashtags. Converting to a business profile can provide analytics and promotional tools to boost engagement. By understanding Instagram's algorithms and user preferences, brands and influencers can improve their social media engagement and reach a wider audience effectively.

Have you noticed your engagement on Instagram is down recently? If so, you’re not alone! Plenty of brands and influencers have experienced a decline in overall engagement and lower ranking on the Explore page and hashtag feeds, leaving them to wonder what’s wrong with Instagram. Here’s what you should know about Instagram updates and engagement in 2024.

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Why Is Instagram Engagement Down?

In recent years, Instagram has made significant changes to its design, features, and algorithms, all of which seem to be affecting Instagram engagement levels (i.e., post likes, shares, comments, video views, etc.) for influencers and brands across the social media platform. Let’s dive deeper into Instagram updates that may be causing your Instagram engagement to go down.

New Features

Instagram had two major updates in May 2020 and August 2020 that introduced Instagram Shopping and Instagram Reels, respectively. Since then, Instagram Shopping has taken a backseat—though users can still shop on Instagram, the Shop Tab was removed in 2023. Reels, however, have continued to grow in importance for marketers, having an impression rate two times higher than other Instagram post types. In July 2023, Instagram also introduced Threads, a new app that seamlessly integrates with a user’s Instagram account. However, it remains to be seen what, if any, impact Threads will have on Instagram engagement.

Algorithm Changes

Several years ago, Instagram began moving away from chronologically-ordered feeds to feeds constructed using algorithmic machine learning. This adjustment was made to present content that Instagram deemed “most relevant” for every individual user, hopefully to make their time on the platform more worthwhile. By analyzing signals like comments, likes, shares, and saves, the app tries to showcase content that users will find most interesting and engaging. The app uses individual algorithms for Stories, Reels, Feed, and Explore, making it possible for marketers to cater to these different algorithms for better engagement.

User Feedback

Instagram added more ways for users to provide feedback on posts and ads they see within their home feeds. In addition to the mute feature in 2018 and unfollow suggestions for accounts you’ve least interacted with in 2020, Instagram ads can now also be hidden by users for the following reasons: “It’s Irrelevant,” “I See It Too Often,” “It’s Inappropriate,” and “I Already Bought an Item in This Ad.” Another similar update in 2022 introduced the ability for users to mark posts in the Explore page as “Not Interested,” dissuading the algorithm from recommending similar content in the future. All of these feedback options may be causing users to more carefully curate their feeds, which could potentially be reducing the impressions and engagement brands are seeing.

Low-Quality Content

Instagram is also reducing the reach of what it deems low-quality publishing, which includes unoriginal content that has been repurposed from other sources without adding new value. In other words, if your Instagram account primarily shares the same content over and over or utilizes content taken from other users without providing proper credit and original captions, it’s likely you’ll see less engagement. On top of that, news content that doesn’t include transparent information about the source could potentially get pushed down in the Instagram algorithm or be removed for spreading misinformation.

Engagement Bait

While Instagram hasn’t cracked down on engagement bait in the same way that Facebook has, Instagram lists it as something that users dislike. Differing from legitimate calls to action, engagement bait refers to posts that provoke users into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions as a means to game the system. Posting such content could be off-putting to many users, ultimately hurting your brand’s visibility. This could have major implications for brands that have relied on “Like or Comment!” contests in the past, as Instagram may consider those to be baiting engagement.

Bot Removal

As an ongoing development since 2020, many Instagram users have seen their following and engagement metrics drop due to bot account and spam removal efforts. If your account was followed by and/or receiving frequent engagement from spam accounts, this can have a noticeable impact. In addition to identifying and removing bot accounts, Instagram has asked users it believes to be spam to verify their identities—and those who don’t could see reduced visibility in the home feed or even have their accounts disabled.

Buying Followers & Engagement

If you’re purchasing followers and likes to grow your Instagram account, your engagement will definitely take a hit. Instagram not only purges fake accounts that are used to boost follower and engagement numbers, but it also penalizes accounts that buy followers and likes. As buying followers goes against Instagram’s terms of service, Instagram could even delete your account if you do it.

How to Increase Engagement on Instagram

While Instagram engagement may be decreasing for some—due to new Instagram algorithm changes, new features, and other updates—brands and influencers can still find ways to improve their social media engagement.

According to Allie Gritt, Hurrdat’s Social Media Director,

“There are many things to consider in order to have a good engagement rate, including the content, the followers, and the industry you’re in. Depending on the platform, a good engagement rate should be between 1-5%. The content you’re sharing needs to be relevant, engaging, and unique.”

Like with any marketing effort, if you produce high-quality content specifically for your target audience, there’s a higher chance that it will be seen. Instagram wants to keep its users happy, and the more Instagram believes a particular user will enjoy a post, the higher it will appear in their feed.

There are several factors that influence Instagram’s algorithms. For instance, the Feed, Explore, and Reels algorithms are primarily based on the following factors (although how the factors are weighted varies):

  • User activity: Which posts/Reels the user has previously liked, shared, saved, or commented on
  • Info about the post/Reel: How popular a post/Reel is on the platform, what audio or visuals are used, when it was shared, location details, etc.
  • Info about the person who posted: How much interaction the person who posted has been getting, their number of followers, etc.
  • Interaction history: If and how the user has previously interacted with the person who posted

With this knowledge, here are some tips for increasing Instagram engagement.

Infographic with six ways to increase your instagram engagement, including content quality, consistency, engagement strategy, hashtags, collaborations, and Stories and Reels

Stay Active on the Platform

The more often you post high-quality content that your followers engage with, the higher Instagram will display your content in their feeds. Continually post images, videos, and Stories that appeal to your target audience.

“Keep the conversation flowing and listen to your followers. You can do this by adding questions to your captions to increase comments,” said Brooklyn Duren.

Be sure to reply to comments and DMs as well, as doing so will not only make your brand feel more human and personable, but it may also help your posts rank higher. Do be careful, though. Your posts and replies need to provide value for your followers, so be intentional before hitting send. Try to use social listening to discover what content matters to your audience and shape your Instagram content strategy around that.

Post During Peak Hours

Timeliness plays a big role in how Instagram promotes your posts. If you’re posting at times your users aren’t looking at Instagram, they may be unlikely to see your content. Examine your Instagram analytics, and do a few test posts to determine the best times for posting. While there are general guidelines for when to post on Instagram, following the habits of your specific audience is more effective for gaining useful insights.

Consistently Produce Stories

Instagram Stories are among the best ways to engage with users on Instagram right now. They’re at the top of users’ feeds and the first thing they see when opening the app, making this feature more likely to get your content in front of your followers and keep your brand top of mind. The Instagram Stories algorithm analyzes the accounts a user follows to help determine which Stories to show first, considering factors like viewing history, engagement history, and closeness. Instagram wants to predict which Stories a user will be interested in opening, replying to, or liking.

Create Sharable Content

Try to create posts that users will want to share to their Instagram Stories, as this can increase the reach and overall engagement of your posts. Though watching Stories is not as popular as scrolling through the feed, nearly 87% of Instagram users post Stories, providing plenty of opportunities for content to be shared in this way. Think of topics or issues that are highly related to what your target audience likes and would want to share with their own followers. Then, deliver that content in a quick, shareable way, such as an infographic, call-out quote, list, checklist, or meme.

Share Content on Reels

Since 2.35 billion people interact with Instagram Reels each month, sharing your content in this video format is a great way to help boost your Instagram engagement.

“Today, you need to create captivating, engaging content and grab the attention of the viewers within seven seconds. You can do this with intriguing Reel covers, trending sounds, and short, condensed content that pulls the viewer in,” said Brooklyn Duren.

To help make your Reels pop, you can use editing tools, music, creative transitions, and visual effects. Creating Reels to answer commonly asked questions from your followers can also keep users coming back for more content.

Write Engaging Captions

The average Instagram caption length has doubled since 2016, and longer captions frequently lead to higher engagement. Captions allow you to tag people and brands, as well as share motivating stories or start conversations. You can also ask questions to drive comments and use hashtags so that your posts appear to more Instagram users with relevant interests.

Utilize Stickers on Stories

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Instagram Stories are already a great way to engage with followers, but Instagram increased engagement opportunities even further with the introduction of stickers. Within Instagram Stories, stickers allow you to ask questions, conduct quizzes and polls, encourage donations to important causes, create countdowns, and more. These not only give you a way to establish brand loyalty, but they can even give you an engagement boost when used correctly. Another benefit of Instagram stickers is that you can more easily get audience feedback on what they’d like to see more of, which enables you to post content that they’re more likely to engage with.

Don’t Go Crazy with Hashtags

While using hashtags can be helpful in improving your content’s reach, they can also be harmful when not used strategically. If you overload your post or comments with hashtags, you may look like a bot and be viewed as spam. It’s generally recommended to use around three to five highly relevant hashtags with a new post. Do your own research to identify popular hashtags that are closely aligned with your content. Finding the right hashtags can expose new users to your content and increase followers, likes, comments, and overall engagement.

Post Instagram Collaborations

With the Instagram Collab feature, you can upload a Reel or feed post that appears on your profile and the profile of whoever you’re collaborating with. Partnering with influencers via Instagram Collaborations can help you tap into each other’s audiences and boost your social media engagement. This Instagram feature allows you to transparently share paid partnership posts, influencer collaboration posts, and giveaways with your audience.

Convert to a Business Profile

When you convert your Instagram account to a business profile, you’ll add credibility to your account. That’s not the only benefit, though—you’ll also receive access to analytics. These metrics can help you better plan your posts and evaluate their performance. Additionally, Instagram business profiles can promote posts and create ads, giving you tools to help grow your reach and engagement.

Need help with your Instagram marketing strategy? Hurrdat Marketing has social media marketing services to help you build an Instagram strategy that keeps your followers engaged. Contact us today to get started!

Megan Schneider


Megan is a Content Strategist at Hurrdat, where she helps write content for local and national clients. Projects Megan has worked on include paid landing pages, website copy, optimized pillar pages, and blog work. Through her work, Megan conducts competitive analyses, title tag and meta data optimization, and search-engine-optimized keyword research. Megan began her writing career as an Online Reporter at the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s student newspaper, The Gateway.

Megan lives in Omaha, NE, graduated from the University of Nebraska-Omaha with a major in Journalism, and enjoys creating content for her fashion blog, spending time with family, and watching reality TV shows.

Allie Gritt

Allie Gritt

Expert Contributor

Allie is the Social Media Director at Hurrdat, where she excels in crafting innovative social media strategies that drive engagement and results for clients. With a keen eye for trends and a passion for storytelling, Allie is a trusted guide in the ever-evolving world of social media marketing.

With a diverse background in content creation, community management, and influencer collaborations, Allie has partnered with a wide range of brands, from global industry leaders to local startups. Her projects have included viral social media campaigns, audience-focused content calendars, influencer partnerships, and much more.

Allie proudly calls Puyallup, WA, her home base and holds a master’s in marketing from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not busy masterminding the next big social media sensation, you’ll find her exploring the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty, sipping on craft beer, and planning her next adventure.

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