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Why Did I Stop Getting New Followers on Instagram?

Posted by on July 25th, 2016

Instagram is a fickle platform. There’s not a lot of permanence, though it’s still ahead of Snapchat in that regard. People find and follow profiles, but once they follow enough, their photo feed is much like Twitter. You get a sort of aggregate overview of the content around you, and not a lot of direct engagement with individuals.

Stand-out brands and personages have managed to build media empires for themselves, either through an insane lifestyle, through a unique sense of humor, through content curation (or theft), or simply through being a famous person. Many others don’t have the luxury of such reputation, and have to build up from nothing, so it’s a much more distressing occasion when your followers stop coming in.

So what reason might there be for the lack of new blood? There are two different main situations, I’ve found. One is stagnation; you’re not getting any new followers, but at least you’re not losing any. The other is churn; you’re getting new followers, but it’s counteracted or outweighed by your existing followers dropping away. Every one of the causes below will lead to one of those situations.

You’re Posting Too Often

The popular Buffer social media frequency guide indicates that there’s not a real loss in engagement if you’re posting more than 2 or 3 times a day, but the reality is that it’s still possible to post too often. Not everyone has a lot of accounts they follow, or follows a lot of very active accounts. The worst thing for you to do is show up five times in a row on someone’s feed.

Instagram Annoying Followers

There are a few problems with posting too frequently.

  • You have to maintain that frequency indefinitely.
  • You’re probably posting content that is sub-par to meet that frequency.
  • You’re flooding a lot of your users and driving away those who would like to stay but see less of you.

The first point is really the key; if you’re posting a lot on Monday but only once or twice every other day of the week, you’re just turning Monday into spam day. When you have to meet such a high frequency, expectations are high, and your quality is bound to slip.

You Changed Subjects Abruptly

People follow other people on Instagram for two reasons; either they like the account’s owner for some reason, or they like the content that account posts. For example, I might follow Oreo on the site because I like Oreo and want to support their brand. I might follow a model because I like the pictures she posts of herself and other models. I might follow a landscape photographer for a similar reason; looking at the scenery.

When you change subjects abruptly, and that change is a defined shift and not from one related topic to another, you end up losing followers you had who only stuck around because they liked the content. If they like you as a person they’ll stay, but if they were only in it for the photos, they now have no reason to stay.

Ideally, before making a shift like that, you’ll do a little research and a few tests. You want to make sure the new topic can bring in enough users to cover the users you’ll lose. You’ll probably stall or lose out for a while, before the growth kicks in, but that’s fine.

You’re Posting Too Many Selfies

Selfies are a bit of a controversial type of content on Instagram. On one hand, the site was basically tailor made for them early on, and it’s one of the few sites where they can thrive. On the other hand, you have to be a very specific type of account in order to use them properly. Celebrities, models, and that one guy who has done nothing but post 1,378 selfies in a row and counting are the kinds of people who can get away with it.

Posting New Instagram Selfies

For just about everyone else, selfies are the most ignored kind of photography. They’re rarely interesting, they need some kind of gimmick to be successful, and they fall flat even with a gimmick if that gimmick is bad.

You’re Posting Boring Food Photos

Food photography is a very polarizing type of content. It can work, and work well, but only if you’re a brand that revolves around food. If your site is all about recipes and the stories you tell about creating them, good food photography goes a long way towards building your brand. If you’re a casual user taking pictures of your Old Country Buffet plate, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. I really recommend keeping your camera away from your food unless you’re in a professional kitchen, posting something well and truly unique, or have built your entire brand around food.

You’re Posting Spammy Reposts

Every social network has its selection of spammers and scammers, and every network is full of people who fall for them. I have a couple of friends on Facebook who consistently share posts about cheap Oakley sunglasses, even though they’re pretty obviously fake. As if any big brand would be caught dead using graphic design like that for an ad.

On Instagram, the fake giveaways and sale promotions tend to range anywhere from hoverboards to flower arrangements, depending on the circles you socialize with. They can look tempting, but chances are they’re reposts of reposts of fake posts that could have been circulating for years. Any time you share one of them, it’s hurting your audience.

Reposting Instagram Content

Any time you think about posting or reposting that kind of deal, go look at the brand page in question. If they don’t have one, or if the post doesn’t show up in their recent photos, don’t post it. It’s almost guaranteed to be fake, and if it’s not fake, it’s probably old and out of date.

You’re Posting A Billion Baby Photos

I get it. Having a baby takes over your life. They’re tiny creatures you created and they tug at your hormones to become the center of attention until they’re old enough to survive on their own. By then, of course, your Instagram feed has been abandoned years ago.

Posting Baby PhotosBaby pictures are baby pictures. Babies don’t really look all that different from one another, and there are a ton of very glamorous baby photos out there. This causes two problems for you. The first is that no one but you really cares about your baby. Unless you’re a mommy blogger or a celebrity, but celebrities are the exceptions to pretty much every item on this list. The second issue is that having sub-par baby photography just makes yours stand out as bad, even if it’s perfectly serviceable. If you’re not the best, don’t do it.

You’ve Gotten Too Salesy

Instagram is a tough site to promote content on, because you really need to be casual about it. Posting up an image of a product and making a listing in the description is a sure-fire way to get yourself ignored or even reported. Overt promotion through anything other than an ad is probably going to lose you some followers.

If you really want to promote yourself on Instagram, you’re going to have to adjust your thinking. The site is really a lot more about brand awareness and building a voice, perspective, and outlook than it is selling anything. It’s a supplementary site, a site where people engage with your brand and get to know you. They browse to links to your Facebook or your Twitter, where you can be more direct with sales, and to links to your website, where they’re exposed to the full force of your marketing. Keep the sales in the right place.

You’re Not Responding to Engagement

It seems as though I say this in almost every article. Social media is a social place. You need to be able to interact with and engage with the people who come to you. When someone likes a photo, consider browsing their page and liking something of theirs.

Responding to Instagram Comments

When someone comments on a photo, respond to that comment, even if it’s as simple as a smile emoji. Deeper comments deserve better responses, of course, but most responses should get at least something. Just don’t look like a bot while doing it. If someone follows you, check out their page and see if they’re worth following back.

You’re Not Engaging at All

In addition to reactionary engagement, like in the above tip, you should also be proactive with your engagement. Pick relevant hashtags and the accounts of curators and explore them on a regular basis. Find content you like and trace it back to the creator of that content. Like it if it’s a singular post they made that appeals but isn’t part of their main content flow. Consider, if their entire account is valuable, following them as a whole. These two actions, liking and following, will attract attention and will get people to follow you. If you’re not doing any of that, you’re missing out on growth and may be stagnating.

You’ve Forgotten Hashtags

Twitter may have more or less debuted hashtags, but Instagram has taken them and run with them. Twitter’s character limit means you need to pick one or two and stick with them, whereas Instagram lets you pile them on. PostPlanner even wrote a lengthy post about the best hashtags to be using if you want to grow your audience. You’ll notice that most of them are generic tags, so you’ll want to mix things up a bit with some branded tags to get your own popularity out and growing as well.

Your Old Fake Followers are Dwindling

This is an interesting phenomenon that comes up from time to time. Many brands with older accounts wanted to get a jumpstart on their popularity, so they purchased followers, in the hundreds or thousands depending on the case. These followers may have lingered through purges over the years, but have slowly dropped away.

Fake Follower Example on Instagram

However, as time goes on and Instagram gets better at identifying the fakes, the old accounts will drop away. Even if you’re getting new followers, you may be stuck at 0 growth as long as you have fakes that need to be removed. The more you have, the longer it will take.

Your Image Quality has Dropped

If you’re not getting immediate returns from Instagram, it’s easy to lose faith in it. It’s also easy for a lifestyle change, a business change, a budget change or an employee change to alter the way you’re creating content for the site. There are, in short, a ton of different reasons why you might see the image quality in your posts drop. It could be gradual or it could be abrupt, but either way the result is the same. A lot of people who would follow you if you had high quality content will not because you don’t. Try to avoid letting your image standards slip, because the effect is cumulative and impression lingers.

Your Reputation Took a Hit

Sometimes the reason for your slipping growth on Instagram is not actually related to Instagram. If some piece of news or some rumor has started to circulate that trashes your brand, you will start to develop a negative brand image. When this happens, you end up missing out on a lot of growth until you can stem the tide, refute the rumors, resolve the situation and return to normalcy. On the plus side, for a questionable value of plus, a negative reputation will have an effect on all of your marketing, so you’ll notice this happening on more than just Instagram. It’s easier to diagnose, at least.

You Made Your Account Private

This is pretty rare, but every now and then I see a brand go through a rebranding or take a hiatus, or even just throw a tantrum and turn their account private. In these cases, growth will stall out, because new people are skeptical about following someone whose account they don’t know about. Investing in content sight unseen, even if that investment is as minor as a follow, is a big gamble for many people. Check to see if your account has been made private, and if so, make it public again to restore your growth.

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