Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How to deal with Instagram followers who just won’t engage

By Francesca Chong, Head of Content, Mention

One of the most surprising findings from Mention & Hubspot’s latest Instagram Engagement Report was that Instagram engagement decreased in 2020: dropping by 2.26% compared to the previous year. This was an unexpected turn of events since social media usage has been consistently on the rise over the last few years, with 2020 being no exception. 200 million extra users signed up for social accounts in 2020 — a 5% increase from the previous year. Many analysts cited the pandemic as a key driver of this increased social media usage, as the world retreated indoors and to their safe havens online.

With over 1 billion users now on Instagram, it’s hard to ignore its importance. But marketers looking to succeed on Instagram are now fighting for the attention of an increasingly disengaged audience. With the game getting harder, businesses need to be ultra-competitive if they don’t want to get left behind. 

If you’re relatively new to the Instagram marketing world, it may feel like your efforts aren’t translating into tangible results straight away in terms of leads or sales. Be consistent and patient: the impact your Instagram marketing has on your brand awareness will reap its benefits with time. Here are a few words of advice on how to overcome this challenge, based on my experience in the social media business.

  1. Find out what makes your audience tick

Understanding what kind of content your audience enjoys and wants to interact with is vital to your social success. But how can you do this? Trial and error is an option of course, coupled with a sensible judgement. A great first step is to simply reach out and ask them. Our Instagram Engagement Report also lists the most popular hashtags, which can provide an idea of the top subjects that the Instagram community likes to post about. Bear in mind, though, that your audience is unique and you shouldn’t generalise them. 

If you’re truly struggling to uncover the ‘sweet spot’ with your audiences’ interests, that’s okay: there are tools to help with this. Don’t forget that social media is essentially free market research, you have access to millions of social posts to benchmark against your own. Using an easy to use social listening platform can greatly improve your understanding of your audience’s interests around certain topics related to your brand. It’s important to remember that finding what makes your audience tick isn’t a one off, it’s ongoing, their interests evolve — as does your business.

  1. Let your brand’s values empower your posts

KPIs and ROI aside, remember that your goal can simply be to have a conversation with your audience if you’re just getting started. If you want to continue nurturing that relationship with them, make sure you’re sharing authentic content. Ask yourself, what do I want my audience to know about my business? What am I not communicating right now? I’d bet there are tons of interesting bits about your brand’s values and personality that aren’t quite shining as bright on your profile. Well, I say, let it shine. 

Start taking bolder strides and write captions and share posts that tell your brand’s story. The Instagram Engagement Report found that people actually engaged more with posts that had slightly longer captions, meaning that going for more of a story-telling approach could do the trick. It doesn’t have to be revolutionary, it just needs to be real. 

  1. Make use of all of Instagram’s posting features

If you want to capture the attention of your audience, you need to cover all bases and have a balance of different content types. There are so many more options than just posting a single photo. Our Instagram Engagement Report found that carousel posts actually get the most engagement with 62 likes and 5 comments on average. Video posts came in second place, with single image posts in third. Don’t forget about Instagram stories and highlights: these give you lots of room to creatively boost engagement with polls, Q&A and links to external sites.

If anything, I want to highlight that one of the key takeaways from the pandemonium of 2020 was this: social media means business, and your business needs to be on social media. You don’t need to be getting shoutouts from big celebrities (in fact, most brands pay for that). You just need to be present, listen to your audience, and publish content that matters. 

Don’t be discouraged, patience is key. Remember, around 30% of your market does not yet have a need for your service or product, and another 30% does not yet have a need strong enough to act. But that doesn’t mean that this will be the case forever. By continuing to focus on engaging your social audience over time, you are working on your relationship with them. Then, you’ll be the first in their mind when the time is right for them to convert: even if that’s in a few weeks, months or even during the next global pandemic.