Social media marketers often talk about the importance of not giving too much weight to vanity metrics, such as the number of likes and followers.
Most of us agree that it’s much better for brands to monitor engagement instead.
Despite this, there’s no worse feeling than opening your analytics to see your follower growth in the negative.
The reality is that marketers and brands are under considerable pressure to continually gain and retain followers, and sometimes for good reason.
And while most brands will experience this at one time or another, particularly when it comes to Instagram, it shouldn’t be easily dismissed.
Losing followers can be an important indicator that you need to revise your content or posting strategy.
The key though is to understand why your Instagram followers are leaving, and when to be concerned about it.
Here are the top reasons you may be losing your Instagram followers, as well as what to do when it happens.
The use of bots and automated engagement
Instagram accounts can be notorious for fluctuations in the number of followers and sometimes this may be due to the use of bots and programs used to automate interactions including likes, comments and follows.
If you’re on the receiving end of these programs, it’s not uncommon to see new followers unfollow you overnight, even if you had followed them back, for no explicable reason.
The use of such software creates unengaged and volatile followings but can also have more serious consequences.
If for example, you’re using software to automate interactions, follows and unfollows, Instagram may delete your account or place a “shadow ban” on you that hides your posts from your followers.
It’s important to note that while programs that automate interaction violate Instagram’s Platform Policy and can adversely affect your following, this doesn’t apply to scheduling platforms that are part of Instagram’s Official Partner Programme such as MavSocial.
Similarly to the above, the practice of buying followers or participating in exchange programs for followers, likes or comments, can impact your following.
When you purchase followers you are often buying bot accounts, which once discovered by Instagram will be purged. That is, your purchased followers could disappear overnight.
The use of follower exchange programs can also make you lose followers. This is where a program may allow a user to use points to mass follow accounts, with the intent of gaining follow-backs. The big impact happens when the participating user, once they receive their follow-back, immediately unfollows the account so they can have their points refunded.
Like bots, the use of exchange programs is not supported by Instagram and can adversely affect accounts that use them.
While there isn’t much you can do about other people using bots to follow/unfollow you, you can at least ensure you don’t use them.
Now if you have taken the above into account when looking at your unfollows, and you are still seeing a general downward trend in followers, then it’s time to look at other possible causes.
Instagram is not the best place for posts that look like sales advertisements.
This doesn’t mean you can’t feature your products or services in posts but you should do it in a way that is right for the platform.
Instagram is all about beautiful and interesting images, so any selling on this platform has to be more subtle with the focus on the creative.
Check out our article here on creating eye-catching images designed to keep Instagram users engaged.
Your caption as well should aim to provide context behind the image or tell a story, rather than focus on a call-to-action such as ‘click the link in our bio’.
You may see a decrease in your followers if you’re consistently posting inappropriate content.
Accounts repeatedly reported for posting inappropriate content or allowing offensive comments can be penalized by Instagram and may see a natural decrease in the number of followers.
Inappropriate content includes offensive language, nudity, and discriminatory comments, but it can also be specific to what is appropriate for your audience.
The key to this is understanding your brand and what followers expect from your brand.
Consider what values are important to you and your audience and whether your content reflects this.
Use a style and tone in your captions, bio, and content that will best connect and engage with your audience.
Another reason you may see an exodus of Instagram followers is if you are posting too often, or too infrequently.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for the exact right number of posts per day, you can test and measure to determine the right frequency for your account.
What we do know though is that consistency is perhaps the most important factor for maintaining your engagement.
Social media expert Neil Patel in this Forbes article explains that you will start to lose followers if you change your posting frequency, such as dropping your posts back to a few times a week, when before you were posting daily.
Using a scheduling platform such as MavSocial can help you ensure you have a steady and consistent stream of Instagram posts ready to go.
Is your content on brand?
Like any social media, every one of your posts should speak to your brand and visual identity.
On Instagram, this is particularly important, with your followers expecting consistency in color palettes, composition, and quality of images.
This consistency must also extend to your bio, captions, and comments, so there is no brand mismatch that may turn followers away.
Your hashtags aren’t up to scratch
While the inclusion of hashtags won’t necessarily cost you followers, not using them properly can affect your ability to gain new followers.
A good Instagram hashtag strategy will consistently put your content in front of new users and potentially increase your followers.
You should invest some time into researching the most commonly used words and phrases when talking about the products and services that your brand offers.
And refresh your hashtags regularly to keep up with new keywords, so you can reach previously untapped audiences.
If you focus on consistently posting great content and optimising it with relevant hashtags, you will be able to continually grow your following and compensate for any unfollows.
If you’re not growing, you’re dying
Just like any business, you have to continually grow to keep up with the ever-changing landscape. Social media is no different.
A great way to understand and grow your following is to keep track of your most avid followers and engage with them on a regular basis. Don’t know who your most active followers are? MavSocial’s reporting tool takes care of that.
MavSocial can also help you curate, monitor and schedule your posts, making sure that your followers are here to stay.
Now that you know what NOT to do, here are 10 tips to improve your Instagram game instantly!