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Instagram’s engagement rates dropped precipitously this week as a result of an API change.

Using our in-house analytics software, we examined the likes, comments, and account sizes of the top 500 most-followed accounts on Instagram over the last 3 months to see how the December 11 API change is impacting the most popular accounts.

For those who don’t follow the Instagram and Facebook developer blogs, on December 11, Instagram updated its API to remove the ability for bots to:

  • Auto-like content
  • Auto-comment on content
  • Auto-follow hashtags
  • Auto-follow pretty much anything

What does the data look like since that change?

Instagram Influencer Marketing Engagement Rates

The chart shows the 3-month timeframe. We see the sudden, sharp decline in engagement rates (likes + comments, divided by following) immediately after the API change.

The elimination of bots’ ability to easily hijack hashtags and harvest content is a net positive, but it will be interesting to watch which influencers have real communities and which were astroturfing (using automation to artificially boost their presence). These sharp declines – a 50% reduction in engagement in a week – indicates that there were probably more bots than we all thought.

More to come as time passes and we see whether this is temporary or a lasting downward trend.

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