Why is organic Meta reach down and what does this mean for your brand?

Quite simply, reach is how many people see your post. Less eyes means less engagement. So what’s the solution?

The battle for audience engagement is on.

But before we dive deep into this, let’s set the stage.

Social media user growth is growing exponentially, at a double-digit rate of 10.1 percent over the past 12 months. Which means the battle to find followers and increase Instagram engagement gets tougher every day. That’s because the Instagram algorithm has to prioritise significantly more content to prioritise on its explore page than ever before. In a nutshell, you’ve got to fight harder and smarter for those Instagram users.

For context, the latest data indicates that 424 million users started their social media journey over the past year, equating to an average of more than 1 million new users per day, or roughly 13½ new users every single second.

If you couldn’t get your head around that, try this. Facebook studied the average user to find 1,500 posts appear in their feed each day. But if someone has lots of friends and Likes lots of pages, that number could balloon to 15,000. Because Facebook’s goal is to show people the most engaging posts, all posts are not created equal. It built a News Feed sorting algorithm, known as EdgeRank, analysing 100,000 different indicators. Essentially, everyone has to earn their space in News Feed.

The Downward Decline of the Instagram Engagement Rate.

According to a study by Hootsuite (seen in the graph below), organic reach on Instagram has decreased by more than 50% since 2015. This means that if your brand was able to reach 10,000 people organically in 2015, you would now only be reaching around 5,000 people.

Reach Rate for Brands.

Instagram engagement dropping has been attributed to several factors, including the increasing popularity of the platform and the introduction of Instagram algorithms that prioritise content from accounts that users engage with regularly. This means that if your brand is not consistently producing high-quality content and engaging with your audience, it’s unlikely that your posts will be seen by many people.

A study from Social Insider shows the reach rate on Instagram decreasing by 29% compared to last years values. 13.51% on Instagram in 2023 for Posts, 2% for Stories.

Towards the end of 2022 we noticed a sudden drop of engagement on instagram reels for some of our clients Instagram accounts. The drop-off was sudden and severe, although there was no official announcement from Meta, it was clear it was due to a change in the Instagram algorithm for reels. This was against how the Instagram algorithm works for video content.

So, what does the decline of organic reach on Instagram mean for your brand? Essentially, it means that it’s becoming more difficult to reach your audience organically and grow your following without investing in paid advertising.

PAY TO PLAY Follow the money.

Convince and Convert put together a chart showing Facebook’s declining organic reach charted against Facebook’s rising stock price during the same period. As organic reach dropped from approximately 12% to 6%, Facebook’s stock price moved from nearly $50 to nearly $70. Advertising is Facebook’s primary source of revenue.

NB This overlay pulls from an old Ogilvy study, we will create our own version of this graphic soon using the resources we pulled for this blog. We’re confident it will provide a more startling contrast.

Meta tailoring towards paid.

Meta won’t publicly admit they have tweaked the Instagram algorithm but it is important to recognise that we exist in a pay to play environment – we cant control this move from Meta but we can work to the Instagram algorithm.

Even for larger brands with more resources, seeing Instagram engagement down can still have a significant impact. As organic reach decreases, brands may need to invest more money in paid advertising to reach the same number of people. This can eat into their marketing budgets and make it more difficult to drive growth and engagement on the platform.

The larger the fanbase the lower the reach.

According to a Social@Ogilvy analysis of more than 100 brand pages, they also concluded Facebook organic reach hovered at 6%. For large brand pages with more than 500,000 Likes, organic reach hit 2%. Facebook sources were unofficially advising community managers to expect it to approach zero in the future.

“Increasingly Facebook is saying that you should assume a day will come when the organic reach is zero.”

What is pulling your organic engagement down?

  • Brands not playing by the new rule book for Instagram users.
  • Brands not leveraging Influencers in the correct way – Collaborations, proper integration into brand comms through longer term partnerships.
  • Brands not generating viral moments to increase the shareability of their content – events, integration of KOLs, strong creative direction rather than brand product shots
  • Brands not able to access commercial music.
  • Brand content that does not work within their target audience – EXAMPLE – Global content on Regional Channels.
  • Low levels of community engagement on Instagram plus slow response times.
  • Not focused on building a community – Social as a tool to build out a strong and healthy CRM database to email regularly.
  • The Instagram algorithm now favours content that is unique and original to Instagram rather than reposts or shared content from other social media platforms. This is an important play for how you leverage user generated content to boost instagram engagement rate. User-Generated Content has been a mainstay of almost every social media strategy, but this change in the Instagram algorithm is undoubtedly a play to drive Instagram users over to collaborative posting.
  • Not leveraging features such as Collaborative Posting. This is a great new feature to boost the algorithm and grow Instagram followers that align with your target audience.
  • Not building your Instagram content strategy to favour the Explore Page algorithm.
  • Failure to fully understand how the Instagram Reels algorithm works (see below).

How to conquer the Instagram algorithm.

According to Instagram, there are three main factors that influence the Instagram algorithm for feed posts:

Interest: How much Instagram predicts the user will care about a post.
Timeliness: How recently a post was published.
Relationship: How often users interact with your account.

Can’t beat ’em? Then maybe it’s time to combine your organic and paid strategies.

When you have maxed out your efforts to nail the Instagram Algorithm then maybe it’s time to turn to paid.

In a case study for Castrol Motorcycle Oil, the first phase involved an organic social media marketing campaign for six months. It delivered 5,000 fans, a good level of organic growth and 26,000 social interactions showing great engagement potential. But Castrol was focusing on North America. Facebook is a global network and organic reach can’t be controlled by region.

When Paid Social Media was added, this hiked up the number of new fans. Plus, it could be controlled with a significantly high number coming from the region the company was really going after – the United States. The study showed that combining paid with organic increased reach and engagement.

This is a basic example. At Canoe we have been pulling great numbers by deploying a much more cohesive relationship between organic and paid. Hopefully we can share these case studies soon, then we will replace this example!

How we are changing this to boost reach and engagement on Instagram?

Build your content delivery strategy to get on the Instagram Explore page. It’s not easy and you won’t hit it every time. But there are tricks to give yourself the best shot.

Niche specific hashtags. Hashtags come in and out of favour, but there’s reason to believe they may have increasing relevance. Again, it’s how you use them to your advantage.

A new approach to Influencer work. Your influencer strategy should be fully integrated into your community strategy. But how you use talent should be more holistic to the brand values and tone of voice. It’s less about spray and pray and more about creating richer, collaborative and ongoing partnerships.

Create richer content experiences for your community. Driving to long-form blog post not only adds traffic to your site but adds depth to your social content strategy.

Experiment with new platform features. Social media platforms want users to adopt new features. Therefore, the algorithm will always favour new feature releases. Staying on top of these features benefits everyone.

In summary.

  • Brand Engagement on Instagram is falling year on year, this looks like a zero-sum game. Brands need to reevaluate their social media strategy.
  • Community is everything, building an engaged audience has to be your primary objective. From there, everything else falls into place.
  • Play the game, deploy the tactics to spark up the Instagram algorithm and start showing up in the explore page. This is an entirely new post that we haven’t written for you yet.
  • Instagram decides the rules, don’t fight the Instagram algorithm – you will loose.