Instagram Influencer Marketing: Engagement Rates Drop

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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2 thoughts on “Instagram Influencer Marketing: Engagement Rates Drop

  1. FYI, the functionality you said was removed was actually removed in April 2018. The changes on December 11 didn’t have anything to do with bots or automation.

    Also, the way you’re analyzing your data seems like it might be flawed. Of course posts that are created on the current day will have lower engagement than posts created in prior days, because they haven’t had a chance to work their way through people’s feeds yet or generate a large chunk of the engagement they will end up with in the end. Would bet that if you look back at this data now, that it will look like like a pretty consistent trend line (with exceptions around the holidays, etc.)

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