What to Do If You Have Low Engagement


We’ve all experienced it. You edit the pretty photo, craft the perfect caption, hit ‘post’ and hope for the best. Although lately, you may feel like hoping for the best ain’t hoping for much.

If your engagement has felt uncharacteristically low, so low, that you find yourself wondering...

“Do people not like my stuff anymore?”

“Why does Instagram hate me?”

“What is WRONG with people?”

“Wait...is it me?” 

...Don’t give up! It’s easy to think that the Instagram algorithm is somehow plotting against us, like there is a bunch of guys sitting at HQ dialing the levels of engagement in their control room. Hiding our posts from our followers. Controlling the number of likes that each photo receives. Somehow, convincing people not to comment. 

While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, here it is:

It’s not Instagram, it is you.

Now before you get defensive with me, try to lose that victim mentality. None of us are victims here. Instagram is not plotting against us. We have the potential to create, share, and receive recognition for amazing content.

We just have to start playing the game; thinking less like creatives, and more like marketers.

First, let’s assess the reason your content isn’t doing well. 

It’s actually very simple: it’s because people don’t like it. 

I know that feels harsh, but stay with me, because I’m going to explain why and what you can do about it.

We have to remember that people are inundated with new content everywhere they turn. The cost per like is much higher than it was even one-two years ago. This does not mean you are a bad content creator, it just means you have to work harder to acquire engagement.

When someone doesn’t ‘like’ something on Instagram, do not take it personally. This is not a matter of whether people like you or not, it’s simply that your content is not inspiring action in your viewers.

In order to see the results we are looking for, we have to place emotions aside. Instead of throwing our hands up when your post receives low engagement, we need to assess exactly why. Every day on Instagram is an opportunity to collect data, record your results, and design a new strategy for future posts. Remember, thinking as a marketer, not as a creative: each post should give you new insight and teach you better ways to capture your audience’s attention. 

Here is what I recommend you should do when you are in a period of low engagement:

New Algorithm, New Strategy:

If you’re continuing to see a low number of likes, stop posting the same content. Maybe the filter you’re using needs to change, or perhaps the style of photo is not captivating enough. If something isn’t working, you have to find a new solution. Do not keep posting the same content in hopes that the algorithm will “loosen up” and start showing it to more people. If your content isn’t performing well, it means that something isn’t resonating and it needs to change.

Focus on One Big Winner

Put consistency to the side for a second and focus on producing one big winner. What does ‘one big winner’ look like? Go through your feed and find the photo that has the most engagement. Then, replicate it by doing something similar. Sorry to say, but selfies always do the best. So, post the selfie and get on with it.

Keep the caption to a paragraph at maximum, and make the focus of the photo yourself. Now, focus on producing this “big winner” 1-3x back-to-back in order to retrain the algorithm. This strategy will help you break out of whatever is holding you back.

Stop Using the Same Hashtags

Switch up your hashtags for every single photo. Keep 1-5 core hashtags that never change, but replace the rest of them. If you need to find new hashtags, go straight to the source. Search for a tag through Instagram and 10 other similar tags will populate underneath. Use those to get creative. You should use a combination of widely searched tags, and more niche, unique tags that relate directly to your personal brand.

Do not delete your post and repost it.

Doing this absolutely kills engagement, so don’t do it. (Not sure why, but just don’t.)

Respond to all Comments

If you’re not already doing this, you need to start! Algorithm aside, it’s the kind thing to do. If your goal is to build community and foster new relationships, then respond to all comments and DMs (Direct Messages). For example, when someone leaves in-depth comments about your post, try to respond with a question. By doing so, you may learn more about them and have a genuinely great conversation. If someone DMs you, show kindness. 

Join an Engagement Group

Engagement groups consist of Instagram users that commit to consistently engaging with each other’s content to increase reach and engagement. Once you’ve joined a group, you will be expected to engage with your fellow pod-members on a regular basis with the expectation that they will do the same. If you’re interested in joining one of these groups, let me know and I will plug you in.


As content creators, we take so much pride in our work. And more often than not, our self-worth is inevitably tied up into everything we share with the world. So when we have low engagement, it’s easy to feel discouraged and upset. Instead of letting it get you down, use Instagram’s algorithm as a tool to make your content that much better.

Anna Vatuone