You’ve followed our beginner’s guide to Instagram and feel like you have it all figured out. Despite this, your follower count is heading down instead of up. It’s not unusual, as the average net follower growth for business accounts is a dismal 1.68%.
If you’re experiencing a huge daily loss or a slow trickle of followers leaving, it’s often for a reason. Once you’ve identified why it’s happening, you can work on a fix.
In this guide, we’ll explore the main reasons why you’re losing Instagram followers. Then we’ll share how to reverse those changes to encourage a more engaged audience.
A note on Instagram shadowbans
Shadowbanning happens when the Instagram algorithm penalizes your content and makes it less visible to followers. Organic reach tanks if Instagram deems your hashtags to be spammy, you’re reported often, or you violate community guidelines.
It remains a hot topic of conversation in the social media marketing world. The algorithm isn’t transparent, so it’s easy to see why a lack of engagement can lead people to think they’ve been hit with a stealth ban.
Despite the fact that Instagram stated “shadowbanning isn’t real” in 2018, a year later, a spokesperson admitted the platform does have measures to limit inappropriate content.
In 2021, the brand shared more detail about how the Instagram algorithm works and touched on shadowbanning. Instagram made a commitment to be more transparent about why posts get removed or not shown to others, so it remains to be seen how that promise will play out in the future.
Why you’re losing Instagram followers—and how to fix it
Are you seeing an increase in people hitting that unfollow button but you’re not sure why? It’s normal to feel concerned—especially if follower count is one of your key metrics. The good news is that there’s a way to counter almost every reason why users no longer find your account interesting enough to follow.
Here are some of the main reasons why you’re losing Instagram followers:
- Paid-for followers
- Follow-for-follow schemes
- Automated likes and comments
- Confusing brand image
- Low engagement
- Inconsistent posting schedule
- Too much promotional content
- Irrelevant or low quality content
- Lack of engaging captions
- Changes in your audience
- Deletion of fake accounts
Now let’s dive into how to fix these mistakes.
1. Paid-for followers
There are over 114.6 million Instagram users in the US alone. That’s a huge audience with massive potential, but attracting a genuine audience takes time and energy. It’s a significant commitment, which is why many people are so tempted to indulge in the quick fix of paying for fans and likes to grow their number of followers.
If you buy Instagram followers, the lack of engagement from these bot followers can impact your visibility in the Explore and Home feeds. This makes it harder to reach real people when the paid-for followers drop off your account.
The fix: Stop buying followers
Buying Instagram followers isn’t the way forward. If you are buying followers now, pause that campaign. Look through the list of accounts following you and prune it, leaving only genuine followers. Don’t fall back into the habit of buying followers—even if you have a target to hit.
2. Follow-for-follow schemes
Follow-for-follow tactics remain popular with brands that want to inflate their numbers. It involves following other accounts, then hitting “unfollow” when they follow back. Your numbers rise, but at what cost?
Follow/unfollow is a game that you’re likely to lose in the long run. These aren’t engaged followers, and they might not even be relevant. Plus, when people realize you’re in the follow/unfollow game, it can be a huge turn off. Disengaged followers will drop off, and you’ll be left with a bad reputation in your community.
The fix: Focus on natural Instagram growth tactics
Using a follow-for-follow scheme offers you a fast way to reach a follower target, but those followers won’t stick around. Embrace more authentic ways to grow your account following instead. Try optimizing your bio, creating a theme, and hosting giveaways.
3. Automated likes and comments
Most people can spot automated comments, likes, and direct messages (DMs) straight away. What may seem like a harmless way to ramp up engagement has a detrimental impact on trust. If an Instagram follower feels like they’re not getting a personal response from you, they might hit the unfollow button.
The fix: Make time for real engagement with your community
There’s no shortcut when it comes to providing genuine engagement, but it’s one of the best ways to grow your account following. Engage with the people who follow you—read their captions, like their photos, and leave meaningful comments.
When you do invest in tools that can make you more productive, always use an approved partner. ManyChat is recognized as an Instagram automation tool that helps brands connect with their followers. Features like the Story Mentions Trigger, for example, sends a DM to thank followers for their support—no human intervention required:
4. Confusing brand image
Some of us love variety, but on Instagram, consistency is the way to go. Your Instagram profile, bio, and feed should showcase exactly what your brand is all about. There should be no confusion over whether you’re a beauty brand or a pet meme account.
When someone’s discovering your business on Instagram, they want to know exactly who you are and why they should follow you. The same applies if they stumble across your Instagram profile while curating their feed. If your brand image and unique selling proposition (USP) aren’t clear, they won’t stick around.
The fix: Curate your Instagram brand
Think of your Instagram presence as a moving gallery. Plan, curate, and be the guardian of the way your brand looks on the platform. Strive for interest and engagement.
“With your Instagram account, you have seven seconds or fewer to generate a first visual impression,” according to Taylor Murchison, SEO Growth Director at On the Map Marketing. “You’re losing Instagram followers if you’re not properly engaging folks.”
Invest time in building a strategy that outlines your unique selling proposition alongside the type of content, colors, hashtags, language, and emojis you’ll use. With a curated feed, your audience will feel more at home and less likely to leave—like this example from L’Occitane:
5. Low engagement
A low engagement rate can make it harder for you to find new audiences and retain existing followers. It’s a sign that you’re not helping to grow the community around you or that your content is low quality.
The Instagram algorithm favors content with high engagement. If your content doesn’t do well, it’s less likely to show up in the Explore feed. Low engagement with other accounts can also have an impact. Other accounts are less likely to engage with you if you’re not supporting them.
The fix: Engage more and create your own community
If you’re losing Instagram followers because of low engagement, the answer is simple: Spend more time engaging. Reply to comments and DMs, and engage with content in hashtags and your Instagram feed. Most business accounts only see a 1% engagement rate on posts, so there’s plenty of room to grow.
Mindy Marzec of Fairy Tale Social recommends nurturing a community: “Instead of thinking ‘How can my followers help me?’, switch it to ‘How can I help my community today? How can I make their day better? How can I teach them something or improve their lives?’
“Content that educates or entertains is more likely to be shared, which should be your number one goal. We want our fans to show our content to their friends, which in turn will create new fans.”
While it takes time and effort, building a community will result in long-term benefits.
6. Inconsistent posting schedule
An inconsistent posting schedule is a major contributor to losing Instagram followers. If people can’t find your content, they can’t engage with it, making it difficult for you to build loyalty and trust over time.
Your followers might love your Instagram posts, but if you rarely post, then the algorithm won’t show them your content. You also can run into problems if you’re too active—especially if it’s a departure from your usual posting strategy.
The fix: Find a schedule that works and stick to it
Your audience wants consistency. Make that easier by finding a schedule that suits your resources and your audience and committing to it. Businesses on Instagram post 1.56 times per day on average and 67% of users visit daily. Posting content with this in mind gives you more chances to build relationships.
Speaking of timescales, post content to Instagram when your audience is active. Research shows that midday throughout the week is the best time to post on Instagram, though this varies dramatically based on your audience, industry, or time zone. Lean on Instagram Insights to find peak times for your business’s account, and don’t be afraid to experiment to find the times that work best for you.
7. Too much promotional content
Sharing promotions, offers, and brand collaborations is great from time to time. Yet oversharing and being too “salesy” can result in losing Instagram followers.
Most people don’t want their curated Instagram feed interrupted with a “20% off” graphic, especially if it’s bright, garish, and a change from your usual stunning photography. Your followers are there for a reason, and they’re not afraid to leave if your content no longer interests them.
The fix: Strike a balance between organic and promotional content
Cultivate an Instagram presence that balances engaging content with promotions. Focus on your organic content, but find ways to share relevant offers. Work with influencers to create more natural collaborations, and revamp your sales graphics, like Origins’ did with its partnership with Rubina Dyan.
Another way to introduce sales-focused content in a fun way is through user-generated content. James Green, Owner at Build A Head, has seen success with posting customer-created content to their feed. “It’s great marketing for our products, and it’s easy for us, because all we do is post the content our customers send us. It gives our page that personal connection that consumers are demanding today.”
8. Irrelevant or low-quality content
Having a schedule is a must-have, but don’t post content that feels out of place in order to hit your targets. Low-quality, rushed, and off-target content can affect engagement rates.
Sure, 35% of people head to social media for funny content, but if that doesn’t match your brand, it can feel awkward. If your content strays too far from what your followers expect, they’ll be fast to hit the “unfollow” button.
The fix: Focus on quality, not quantity
Your followers want only the best content in their feed. They’re more than willing to limit who they follow to protect that. While consistency is important, be sure to stick to an Instagram strategy that prioritizes quality over quantity.
9. Uninspiring Instagram captions
Instagram Stories are ideal for sharing behind-the-scenes moments, but Instagram feed posts still reach double the number of people of any other format. Your feed imagery and captions matter, so if you’re not making them engaging, you’re missing out.
You want people to feel compelled to interact with everything you put out there, and uninspiring captions don’t elicit likes and comments.. Without that engagement, it’s harder to reach new accounts and keep your existing audience.
The fix: Treat your captions like a part of your community
Adapt your content strategy to think more like a content creator. Use your captions as a meeting place for your digital community—like Caudaleius, a brand that encourages followers to tag an inspiring woman in the comments section of its Instagram post:
Ask questions, use the language your audience uses, and embrace emojis and humor to tell a story (if it suits your brand). Become known for having an amazing little community in your captions. People will want to stick around to be part of it.
10. Changes in your audience
Sometimes you can lose Instagram followers through no fault of your own. Consumer habits change—maybe they’ve discovered a preference for video content and you post still images. Sometimes your content is no longer relevant. For example, if someone’s moved past the baby stage, switched careers, or downsized their home, they may be less inclined to find value in your content.
Instagram is the world’s fifth most popular social media platform, but Gen Z is now spending more time on TikTok. This demographic shift could lead to lower engagement and lost Instagram followers if Gen Z is your key audience. It’s one example of a change in habits or lifestyle that can impact your engagement and follower count.
The fix: Change and grow with your audience, or attract a new one
You’ll always lose some followers due to lifestyle and habit changes. One fix is to adapt your content to continue the journey with them. You could do this by expanding your offering to a new age range, or adding more video content to appeal to them. Sometimes the best option is to attract your now-audience, but a stage behind, so there’s room for them to grow with you.
11. Deletion of fake accounts
Instagram’s account removal policy makes it clear that fake accounts aren’t welcome on the platform. These bot accounts and fake followers are often removed in large batches. If your follower count drops significantly in a single day, this could be the cause.
A lot of people aren’t even aware that they have fake followers, and you can be targeted by them even if your Instagram strategy is completely authentic. If this is the standout reason you’re losing followers, take comfort that the rest of your approach means you’re doing something right.
The fix: Continue to focus on your Instagram strategy
There’s not a lot you can do about losing fake followers. In fact, it’s a net positive for your engagement rate in the long run—these lost followers weren’t bringing you value. Keep your focus on your Instagram strategy, learn new Instagram tips, and create better experiences for your audience.
Take control to keep and grow your Instagram following
Losing Instagram followers is an unfortunate part of the equation, but there are tactics you can employ to reduce the impact.
Revamp your Instagram strategy, listen to your audience, and create a sense of community to drive engagement. It’ll position you to better serve the audience you already have.