Instagram Reach And Engagement Explained In 2021

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If you’re struggling with Instagram and aren’t sure how to use it in a business context this is the post for you. The app is notoriously unreliable when it comes to reach so knowing a few things will really help you boost your account. Most people post amazing content but they don’t know how to utilise Instagram and manipulate it in a way that will benefit your account. Luckily Instagram reach and engagement are not as complicated as they sound and are actually quite easy to explain. So let’s get started with a few basics to help you get your content out there and grow your account.


Reach and engagement are two different things on Instagram. While these concepts might seem straightforward it’s important to keep in mind what they actually mean and how they interact.


Instagram reach is how many people actually see your posts, videos, stories etc. You might have 5000 followers but not every one of these followers will actually see your content. This is mostly due to an algorithm change from a few years ago where Instagram decided to scrap their chronological feed. Now the algorithm determines for you which posts you’re most likely going to enjoy while it puts others at the bottom of your feed. To increase your reach you need to get to the top of your follower’s feeds which happens if people tend to like and comment on a lot of your posts. If a follower doesn’t interact with your posts your content will move to the bottom of their feed where they’re less likely to see it.

Of course, your post will not only be seen by people who follow you but also random accounts who find your content through hashtags, locations or simply by browsing Instagram. All these eyes on your post make up your Instagram reach. Your goal is to get as many people as possible to see your content so your chances of engagement increase.


Engagement is how many people interact with your content. Your posts might be seen by 10000 people but only 800 of them will actually like, save or comment on your photo. A high reach will definitely help increase your Instagram engagement but the quality of your content will also play a large role.

The key to high engagement is an audience that cares about your content. You need to provide value of some sort that will encourage your followers to interact with your content. This could be done by taking incredible photos or captions with helpful tips. Just make sure your content is tailored to your audience. Be consistent with what you post and don’t throw in random things that your audience might not care about.

No idea why your engagement is low? Maybe you’re making one of these 33 beginner Instagram mistakes.

Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash


Engagement and reach are closely related and as one goes up the other usually does as well. The main difference is that you do not have a large influence on the reach of your posts but it’s far easier to manipulate the engagement. Encourage your followers to like, save and comment on your posts and provide content that makes them stay on your posts for longer. This will show Instagram that your content is useful and high quality which will increase your reach. If your reach is high but no one is interacting with your posts your reach will most likely drop again.


It’s very hard to determine what a good Instagram reach or engagement rate is. Studies have shown that larger accounts only get around 5% of engagement in relation to their follower count. This might seem low but the more followers you have the less likely is it that all of them are going to be seeing your posts.

This is actually a reason why some brands are moving towards micro-influencers and using smaller accounts to promote their products. The fewer followers you have the higher your engagement rate will usually be. This is not the case for all accounts but if you have an active audience your posts will usually be shown to almost all of them. This means that an account with less than 1000 followers might see engagement rates of 40% or more whereas an account with 100,000 followers might only get 4%. Of course, the larger account will still get more likes and comments but that is not always what is necessarily important.


So-called dead Instagram accounts are accounts that might have thousands of followers but only get a few hundred likes on every post. This looks incredibly bad for brands, potential partners and also new followers. Dead accounts are very difficult to resuscitate and are usually eventually abandoned by the owners. Their engagement rate is essentially nonexistent which means their reach is very low putting them into a spiral of failure.


So how does this happen to an account and how can you avoid it? Most Instagram accounts die because of ghost followers. These are inactive accounts, bots or just spam accounts that will never interact with any content. If an account participates in a lot of bad engagement practices such as following and unfollowing or spam liking then it will slowly start attracting ghost followers. These usually follow thousands of accounts just to increase their own following but will never engage with any content. Suddenly the account has 10k followers but only 1k of these are actual real people. Since Instagram sees that most of the accounts’ followers are not engaging with the posts it will show the content to fewer people effectively dropping the reach. The result is a dead account that is very hard to resucitate


If the engagement rates of an account are extremely low and bad practices were used in the past then it’s going to be very time-consuming the revive the account. Firstly, you’ll have to manually sort through your followers and remove all inactive or ghost accounts. This will be manageable if you only have a few thousand followers but for larger accounts, it will be an overwhelming task. You’ll most likely have to drop your follower count considerably which might hurt but is the only way to save the account. If the problem is severe it might be better to just start over and abandon the account all-together.


Essentially there are two important components of increasing Instagram reach and engagement. You need to give Instagram what it wants and you need to give your followers what they want.

That means pleasing Instagram by using all of its features, being active on the app, using good hashtags and avoiding insincere methods like buying followers or third-party apps.

But it also means pleasing your audience by posting good content, starting a conversation, networking and providing helpful information.

Your reach and engagement will be at their highest if both of these “target audiences” are happy. More people will engage with your content which means Instagram will show it to more people as a reward.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash


Instagram’s algorithm changes all the time which is why it can be so difficult to understand. To get an idea of how you can please Instagram you need to know how the app works and how it rewards its users.

Instagram basically wants you to spend as much time as possible on the app. That means it not only wants you as a creator to be very active every single day but it also monitors how your content is influencing your followers. Are your posts and stories making people stop and spend a few seconds or minutes there or are they scrolling past? Are people tapping through your stories or stopping to read them? Some studies even claim that Instagram checks whether your content is making users exit the app and do something else. Instagram definitely does not like that!

This means that as soon as you stop posting for a few days or weeks Instagram notices and might decrease the reach of your stories and posts. The app, therefore, rewards its active users and punishes those who don’t post as regularly.


Of course, the above explanation is a very simplified way of portraying the algorithm. In reality, the process is far more complex and cannot be narrowed down to just one factor. Instagram tends to change its algorithm very frequently and it usually takes a while to understand it. That’s why you should only use current Instagram strategies and never any from a few years ago.

Even so, it can be hard to please Instagram. Sometimes even the best strategies just don’t work and your reach will just be low for no reason. The key here is consistency. You can’t expect to use good strategies for a few weeks and immediately see results. It takes years of hard work to build an audience and truly make your account successful.

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Hi, I'm Victoria

I’m 24 years old and grew up in Germany. Right now I’m studying at a university in Scotland and am about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Full-time travel is my dream and I’ve spent the last few years slowly building my online business. Guide your Travel is technically a travel blog, but I also write about photography, social media and how you can start blogging. Don’t forget to check out my destination guides and travel tips.


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