I’ve made a living from my Instagram accounts for more than 5 years now. I’ve managed some accounts that grow at a very rapid pace, some that have grown and then began losing followers, and some that grew, stopped growing, and then began growing again. I’ve also been writing about Instagram growth for many years now and often receive questions from my readers, but recently, I received one question far more than the rest: “Why am I no longer growing or Instagram?”, or even worse, “Why am I losing followers on Instagram and how can I fix it?” Although there’s little data about this (Instagram is the only one with access to these figures and they would likely never release them), it seems like more and more Instagram accounts are now starting to lose followers and it appears to be a widespread phenomenon. Back in 2018, Instagram influencer-focused platform Fohr announced that, as of the last quarter of 2018, over half of all “content creators” are now losing followers, not gaining them. Not only that but the amount of small and medium businesses that ask me this question has greatly increased over the past year and I’ve also experienced it directly. While most of my accounts like @potteryforall and @macramemakers continue to see growth, of over 1k followers per week, the account through which I began my businesses on the platform, @pinlord, has been consistently losing hundreds of followers per month since 2019.
What is happening? Why are so many accounts that once grew on Instagram now losing followers? Based on my experience and the hundreds of Instagram small businesses owners I’ve spoken to over the years, here are what I’ve found to be the 4 reasons why most accounts are losing followers and how to fix them:
1. Your account has been shadow-banned
When people ask me “Why am I losing followers?” the statement that most often follows is “I think I’ve been shadowbanned.” Although being shadowbanned is a real thing (check out my article on how my account was shadowbanned) being shadowbanned isn’t the most likely reason why most accounts are losing followers.
When you are shadowbanned, likely from getting your content or your account reported by other users, you go from gaining followers one day to sharply losing followers the next. When seen through your Insights data, your account growth would look something like this:
If you went from consistently gaining followers to sharply losing them from one day to the next, like the image above than you are likely shadowbanned.
How to fix a shadowban: Although many Instagram experts out there will tell you they know how to fix a shadowban, the truth is that only Instagram knows exactly how it enforces and removes shadowbanning so I’d advice against paying anyone to fix your shadowban because it’s likely a scam. The only way I’ve been able to remove a shadowban is by contacting Instagram’s customer support and challenging the report that was placed on my account, with proof. You can learn about how I went through that process in my article about how I was shadowbanned or through my article on how I was able to contact Instagram’s customer support.
Keep in mind, Instagram makes it very hard for people to contact their customer service so the UX on my account might be different than the UX on your account but know that it’s possible. Also know that if you don’t have any proof to challenge a wrong report, you might not realistically be able to get your shadowban removed and it might be a permanent shadowban. It’s sad but a reality and the best course of action, in that case, is either to be okay with continuing to lose followers or start a new account. Sorry.
2. You’ve inorganically gained Instagram followers in the past
If you aren’t shadowbanned, the next most likely reason why you’re losing followers is that you’ve, at some point, implemented inorganic tactics like using Instagram bots, engagement groups, entering paid giveaways to grow followers, or even paying for Instagram ads or sponsored posts to grow your audience.
If this is your case, you’re losing followers not because Instagram has somehow shadowbanned you for using these tactics but because the followers you gained from them are now slowly unfollowing you and/or they are “empty” accounts that are being deleted by Instagram.
How to fix inorganic followers: The more followers you gained from these tactics the more followers you’ll keep losing until you’re only left with the followers that are actually interested in your account. There’s no way around this so the only course of action is to try and speed up the process of losing these inorganically-gained followers.
Although time-consuming, the best way to do that is to go through your list of followers, identify the followers who are most likely inorganic (the ones that don’t have profile photos, or posts, or simply seem like “dead” accounts. Follow your intuition) and remove them from your followers list by tapping on the “…” on the upper right hand side and then selecting “Remove Follower”.
I know, it’s going to suck to do this by hand but it’s the only solution apart from pivoting your account to a new niche or creating new content that’ll gain you new followers that’ll outpace the number of inorganic ones you’re losing (which I talk about in 3 and 4).
3. Your Instagram niche is in its decline phase
If you aren’t shadowbanned and you haven’t used inorganic tactics to gain followers at any point then the most likely reason that you’re losing followers is that your Instagram niche is in its decline phase.
When a niche is in a decline phase (you can read more about that in my article about Instagram niches), the majority of people that were once passionately interested in the topic of that niche no longer are and a slow and gradual mass exodus of content consumers happens. Because of this, most of the content creators in that niche, even the popular ones, begin to lose followers. Most fledgling content creators stop posting, since the efforts are not worth the return, and move on to other niches. Basically, the audience of the niche and the accounts in it shrink.
The most effective way to verify if your niche is in a decline phase is to check if the most prominent and popular accounts in your niche are losing followers or no longer growing. If they are, then your niche is likely in decline and you’ll continue to lose followers until your niche stops shrinking (which might take a looong time). If they aren’t then there’s another likely reason why you’re losing followers.
How to fix being in a decline-phase niche: Well, the reality is that there’s nothing you can do to change the phase of your niche so the only course of action is to pivot your account into a niche that you’re more likely to find new audience growth in. You can read the specifics on how to do that in my article about how to find the most valuable Instagram niche, but in summary, it’s through identifying potential niches you’re sincerely interested in, checking that they aren’t saturated, and making sure that you have the ability to create highly differentiated content about the topic in order to stand out in the niche enough to garner an audience.
4. Your audience’s tastes have changed but your account hasn’t
If you aren’t shadowbanned, haven’t used inorganic growth tactics and your niche isn’t in its decline phase, the most likely reason why you’re losing followers is that your audience’s tastes have changed but your account hasn’t.
Think about it, most of us begin following an account on Instagram because we’re excited about their content but, over the years, we either get bored by their content, find other accounts that offer better similar content or our interests change and we unfollow them. If this is happening to a lot of people in your audience and you’re not able to garner enough new followers to make up for that loss then you’ll be losing followers. It’s the nature of Instagram and it has nothing to do with the value of your work, so don’t take it personally.
It happened to me on my @pinlord account and it’s because I have made the same type of content for the same audience for many years. It hasn’t changed in any significant way and I’ve been gradually losing followers over the past few months:
It’s also happening to a lot of accounts due to the new content formats like TikToks and Reels that are highly engaging but much harder to execute for the average person. I write about this dynamic more in my article about why Instagram is dead but, in summary, it’s simply going to be harder for most people to grow on Instagram because it’ll be much harder to create the most highly engaging content that’s surfaced more prominently on the platform.
How to fix this one: Once you’ve accepted the reality that part of your audience might no longer find your content interesting enough to follow you, it’s time to get to work. The only way to turn this ship around is to change your focus and begin testing new types of content (that feels aligned with you) with the aim of re-engaging the audience you already have as well as creating the possibility of attracting a new audience that you wouldn’t have been interested in your account if you hadn’t changed.
One way to do this is to pivot into a new niche through the system stated in my article about how to find the best Instagram niche: Brainstorming ideas of topics that you’re sincerely passionate about and identifying if the niches of those topics offer a high likelihood of success.
Another way to implement a system that continually increases your engagement over time. You do this by testing out new content every week (right now Reels is the most prominently surfaced), measuring what content garnered the highest reach (through your Instagram insights), and then doing more/better content that gets high reach and less of the content that doesn’t. Over time, this will help your account’s content evolve and find new audiences.
And that's it’s! Being shadowbanned, having gained followers inorganically, being in a decline-phase niche, or simply that your audience’s tastes have changed but your content hasn’t are the 4 most likely reasons why you're losing Instagram as well as the tactics you can do to fix each.
Hope you find this valuable, and remember, how big your audience is or how successful you are on Instagram has nothing to do with the true value of your work!
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PS — If you have to use Instagram for your business or work or personal reason, treat it as a tool and spend time researching what Instagram really is, how the Instagram algorithm works, and focus on learning about activities that you need to do to have a well-executed and “successful” Instagram (specifically, being able to create engaging Instagram content, a differentiated Instagram grid, posting consistently, or using an Instagram bot to automate the time-consuming but effective tactic of maximizing your daily interactions). If you can, use it as little as possible and spend your time on other activities that bring you well-being.