Instagram Dilemma: Why are we losing followers?

July 19, 2017

So today's topic is one of the most discussed these days for bloggers and bookstagrammers alike - the Instagram Algorithm and Shadowbanning. What about it? Is everyone affected? Is there a way around it? Will it ever go back to the way Instagram was before?

There's a whole other bunch of questions that I can only answer based on my own understanding (and fruits of research) of the matter. Sadly no matter who you are on the internet, you "might" get affected by these issues.

Before the Algorithm

I've got probably around 40 to 50 thousand followers 1 or 2 years ago and my average "likes" on every picture I posted ranges from about 5000 to 10,000 and about a hundred to two for comments. Yes - there was a time on this platform where this amount of engagement did happen. Everyday I gain at least 50 to 100 new followers, and who would've thought it will ever stop?

 After the algorithm

My account is over 90 thousand right now and I struggle to get even 3000 likes and I only get an average of 20 to 50 comments (sometimes I even get a single digit!) for every photo I post. And most frustrating of all, just like some of you - I'm losing followers.

Fortunately for others, there really are accounts that is not at all affected by the recent changes on Instagram - they still get favorable reach and are gaining followers faster than even before the algorithm. The reason why it happens is not very certain, but there are assumptions like 1.) You are a new account; and 2.) your photos show up in explore/recommended pages often (which is totally random and a stroke of luck) - which also, has a downside (read until the end to find out why). Let's first discuss anyway what you can do (and should not do) if you are part of the majority who is affected.

What were the changes?

First of all we have to know what changed to have a better understanding of what is currently happening. There are two major reasons:

  • Instagram is NOT chronological anymore - it will show first on your feed accounts that you have always been dealing with (like a close friend, a celebrity you always stalk, an online store you always comment to, etc.)
  • There's this thing called Shadowbanning - meaning your posts are not showing up on the hashtags that you're using making it only visible to the ones who are already following you, which in a way make your account seem like it's private.
TIP! Find out if your account is shadowbanned by using another account that is NOT following you to check if a photo that you posted shows up on the hashtags that you used. If it isn't there, you are most likely a victim of shadowbanning.

Are there things YOU can do to overcome these issues?

There is but it will always be a trial and error on your part to know what works best for you. Sadly, there isn't (yet) a proven systematic way that could surely guarantee you beating the crap out of the algorithm. Chances are, you are losing followers and your engagement because you are doing the things that you shouldn't  be doing or not doing the things that you should  do.

Here's my TOP 9 tips you can try to work your way around these Instagram dilemmas:

# 1 Maintain thoughtful connections

Sure algorithm changes the way your posts are showing up on everyone else's feed, but you may go around it by maintaining connections with everyone that you follow. Leaving sincere comments and replies will make Instagram think that you love seeing each other's post first which in turn make your posts pop up again in somebody else's feed.

#2 Try to make your content not to look repetitive

People who follows you for a long time will most probably get tired of seeing your photos if it looks basically the same. Try to mix things up a bit and experiment what is received well by your followers and what is not - everything is a risk. But be sure not to completely derail from your established 'theme'.

# 3 Don't post too many pictures in a day

An average of around 1 to 3 posts a day won't hurt anyone, but 5 pictures a day and without any gaps in between will surely make your followers feel annoyed. They do follow you for your pictures but only seeing your account each time they scroll is not such a good thing for anyone - no matter how good your pictures are. It is also important to COMMIT to your number of posts a day. If you are keen on keeping two posts everyday then try your best to stick with it.

# 4 Make time for your captions

A good quality photo is essential on Instagram of course - but your captions is actually just as important now to level up your reach. Unless you are a celebrity, caption is a must! Think of a genuine conversation starter, ask a question or offer something to your followers. The more comments your posts receive, the better chance it is to be seen by other people. (familiar with Facebook's top posts? yeah, me too)

# 5 Do not use bots to follow and gain followers

Aside from nothing good comes out of having "fake"followers and engagement, I've further researched that this is one of the most common reason why an account gets shadowbanned. Instagram has a way of knowing, so no - don't even try.

# 6 Do not use the same sets of hashtags everyday

I am personally guilty of this and I've recently found out that this is also a probable reason why you get shadowbanned. Instagram may think you're turning a little spammy so they'll ban your posts on certain hashtags, if not all.

# 7 Check if you are using "Abused" Hashtags

This is actually a good initiative since Instagram has been keeping an eye out now for explicit contents. You might not realize it but the hashtags you've been using might've probably been overrun by explicit and R18 posts. See if these hashtags do not have a 'top posts' or it simply says that it is limited due to abuse. If it is then discontinue using these hashtags.

# 8 Take a break at least for a day to moderate surges in your activity

Some suggestions will tell you to go on a liking and following spree so your account will get noticed but this isn't exactly the point  in Instagram nowadays. The more there is a surge in YOUR own activity (liking and following), the more Instagram will think that you are spamming which results to then again, shadowbanning your account. Most importantly, if the thought is consuming you, this break is a must!

# 9 Help each other out SINCERELY

There is nobody else who will be there for each of us other than those people who belong within the same Instagram community. This is not the SFS (shout out for shout out) though. I have nothing against this but at least stay true to the word and return the shout outs once it has been given to you and not just 'pick' random accounts to shout out.  I don't know about you, but I think that it isn't exactly a shout out FOR shout out if the other party did not receive one in return, right? That is why, I stand by my opinion that you only give a shout out to someone you genuinely like and not expect anything in return. I personally do a "Feature time"  on my Instagram stories from time to time where I introduce accounts that I think are deserving to be seen more in the community. And believe me, something good comes out of it. From my own experience, sometimes, some of these new accounts may not know of my account and may decide to follow which makes my audience a little bit bigger plus one that is with a stronger foundation.

What things are beyond your control?

If there are things you can do, there are also things that are beyond your control. There is only so much we can do to maintain our desired level of Instagram engagement and the rest we'll just need to go with the flow. Know these things and you might probably feel a little better why you receive less engagement AND/OR losing followers:

Instagram is doing a "purge"

Yes, they do this to delete spam and fake accounts and/or inactive ones so traffic won't be as heavy. Chances are if you AND a lot of various accounts are constantly losing followers, IG is doing their purge.

People are on a "follow/unfollowing" spree

You will surely encounter these people where they follow you today in hopes that you will follow them back. If you don't then they're gone the next day. Which is OKAY. You don't need these people in your life anyway.

You ran a giveaway

Sure giveaways are fun and exciting to do, but there is always a downside to hosting one. Again just like above, there are people who will only follow you in hopes of gaining something - and this time, it's the giveaway prize. Expect a loss whenever your giveaway has ended because dude, it happens.

Instagram may have developed an algorithm for the hashtags as well

This isn't confirmed but with the way things are going now with everyone's engagement despite doing everything they can to beat the problem, then not only your feed has developed an algorithm but also our hashtags.

My Personal Take and Experience

Now it can't be the same for all of us but I want to share what has happened to my account as it will probably serve as a "guide" for you guys out there. Here are the things that may have happened as to why my account declined in numbers.

One of my photo showed up in the explore page for days!

Now wait, that can't be harmful right?! Well, I was wrong. Note that this is during the time where the new algorithm is finally kicking in but surprisingly, I gained A LOT of followers overnight!. It was insane for the algorithm's standards.

See receipts:

See the whopping 13k likes on this photo and a hundred plus comments (IT DOES NOT happen to me during the new algorithm)

Naturally, on my next post, I asked where new people came from and most of the answers says that I was on "Recommended" or "Explore" page. The surge for likes on that particular picture and the follows kept coming for about 3 to 4 days and then it came back to "normal" (before-algorithm-normal).

I've been gaining followers fast - 800+ in just a few hours

Of course this sudden rose to fame felt good but it has it's downside after all. After a few weeks of what felt like a never-ending 'bypass' of the algorithm, I then experience losing followers here and there.

LEARNING: What's sad about being insta-famous for a few days, is that some of these "followers" don't really belong in the community you are in. They saw your photo in the explore page, liked it, visited your account and followed. But after a few days, they'll realize that your content isn't exactly the right fit for them.

Even if, I am still thankful that some of these people who discovered my account on the explore page stayed - not everyone left. You win some and then you lose some.

I changed my IG handle in the middle of all these

I don't entirely blame Instagram and other people for my decline in number because partly, I believed that me changing my name from @ALICE.IN.WONDERBOOKLAND to @NIKKIINWANDERLAND may have constituted to others hitting the unfollow button. I have been a book account for the last 2 and a half years i'm in on Instagram and it is totally understandable that some of my followers might've declined my interest to offer more than just books.

Although I did receive warm welcome from people and friends, sadly, there really are those that immediately unfollowed.

Despite so, I definitely do not regret the change in my name. I have accepted that in losing the numbers, I gain my true and loyal audience and friends. I'd rather have people who genuinely like my content and what I have to offer than have a lot but resent and bash me every time I post.

LEARNING: You gotta take the risk. No timing is a bad timing for something that you sincerely want to achieve. I can't be sure of this but I may have been losing followers because I changed my name but I am happy with it and that is what's more important. You gotta love what you do and as long as you're not offending anyone because of it - anything else is secondary.    

My pieces of advice

Stop focusing on the numbers

Do not stress yourself over the numbers. The follower count isn't your life. The sooner you stop stressing yourself over your follower count, the better you will feel. It will be hard not to get affected by sudden or even gradual decline but focus on the things that made you start your account in the first place - like just sharing what you love and making virtual friends, at the very least. Don't let yourself be discouraged to do what you love just because a bunch of people decided you are not what they're looking for. Divert your focus instead on coming up with ways to keep your loyal followers, well - loyal to you. I'm also still working on this but it's a lot easier now.

Do not take it all on yourself or on others

As a human nature, we most of the time find someone to blame whether it's ourselves or others as to why these negative things are happening to us, when in fact there really is no one to blame and all we can do is to learn to live with and by it. I may have vent out frustrations over declining engagements and follower loss to a few of my friends (and it's normal!) but I do not make it a habit to fret over it every single time. What I can do is first of all accept that these things are somewhat inevitable and then find a way to make things work with the current state of things on this platform.

Okay, that has been a loooong post but I hope you read until the very end and learned a few things to keep up with your Instagram account. I can only hope that this social media will go back to the way it was before and if not - then I hope I have been able to completely cope up with the changes by then. I sincerely hope you do too. I am still finding my way with all these issues and i'm glad I still got you to figure this all out with me. We're in this together! 🙂

Know anything else that can help us enjoy Instagram now more than ever? Comment them down below!

  1. Fantastic post! I definitely learned a lot about how the algorithm works and you gave some great advice. I really appreciate it! XD

  2. This is an amazing blog post Nikki and it is not something a lot of people freely discuss! I agree with you that the algorithm might have had negative effects, but it is also a wonderful learning curve for everyone. I’ve been really contemplating on restarting my IG account so that I’ll be able to have true engagements rather than just a number of followers. I’ve always loved the community aspect of Bookstagram and I feel like lately it’s getting lost.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

    1. Thank you Kevin. I really think that it is important to get this out there. and you’re right – people are trying to restart an account just so to achieve their desired engagement and some of them really are successful. Just don’t forget to let me know once you decided to finally do so! 🙂

  3. From my experience, business accounts are the primary targets for the shadowban. Instagram even issued a public statement that said business accounts shouldn’t rely on hasgtags to reach potential customers (i.e. pay for advertising instead). Though I’ve been hit with the ban a couple times, it was resolved quickly (with a problem report) and I didn’t need to take a day off to wait. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any quick cures to this issue with the new algorithm, but with some trial and error with hashtags and posting times, each person can find a little headway through the mystery.

    1. Thank you for your insight Sarah. I’m actually experimenting on it and switched back to personal to see if there will be any more changes and I’ll update this post. 🙂 It really will be a trial and error. It’s so hard to find a single account that will have exactly the same issues as you do. I believe these are loopholes in the Instagram’s algorithm that they’ll be able to soothe in time.

  4. What I’ve been doing – and seems to work well – is liking my followers posts. I’ve been systematically going through my followers list and like 3 to 5 of their most recent posts. This will make them notice you and check out your account again. This can help to get you back in their feed. I also browse relevant hashtags and like a couple dozen photos. This helps to attract new followers.

  5. I wish I had something helpful to share but as a new account on IG I’m still trying to figure out the best times for me to post my photos. I agree that we have no control over the algorithm but I think the best we can do is support each other.

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  8. Hi Nikki,

    Thank you for sharing =) I am only a month in Bookstagram and today I feel so sad because it is so hard for me to make real friends whom I can connect with and learn from. I spend a lot of time supporting and commenting, and as a minimum will like the posts of people I follow as a way to support (I like the ones I don’t follow too for same reason), but most of the time it feels like a one way communication.

    It is probably because my reading list, my pictures and who I am. I am someone neither here nor there. It is hard to fit in.

    Sorry for the sappy stories =) The amount of time I put in to be supportive, to look for new friends, makes me very sad. I am considering to close my bookstagram.

  9. Hi! I chanced upon this because I noticed I’m losing followers. My followers aren’t that many to begin with. Haha! But I admit it affected me at first. Now, I just want to go back to the reason why I started it in the first place. I have a lot of struggles, mostly in the theme I want to have, cause I’ve seen a lot of bookstagrams and theirs are gorgeous!I don’t have a lot of props at my disposal so I mainly use a few only. Anyways, thank you for this post ☺️ Hopefully, my account will have more followers in time

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