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Why Your Instagram Posts Don’t Reach Your Followers (According To The Head Of Instagram)

Instagram, Social Media

The head of Instagram Adam Mosseri recently posted on Instagram's sister app Threads about why a creator's Instagram posts may not reach many of their followers. And it, uh, didn't go great. 

Mosseri's initial comments weren't actually about the reach of a user's Instagram posts at all. Instead, he made a post about how users should pay more attention to views and likes than followers (something we've said before). "Follower counts matter less than view and like counts," Mosseri posted on Threads. "I understand why people focus so much on follower counts; they're prominent and they're easy to find. But if you actually want to get a sense for how relevant an account is, look at their how many likes they get per post and how many views per reel instead."

But that  post led to a flurry of comments that eventually spun into Mosseri diving further into things like reach and algorithms. Here's how it went down.

Why Your Instagram Posts Don't Reach Your Followers

When user Chris John Millington responded to Mosseri that "followers are supposed to be able to see content" and "views should be consistent, predictable, and based on the following you have worked to build," Mosseri offered two primary reasons people don't see your posts. 

The first is that many people just don't open the app on the day you post. A second is that they have a lot of content to get through and may not scroll far enough to see your post. Writes Mosseri, "Nobody reaches all of their followers when they post primarily for reasons: one, a lot of your followers won't open the app that day, and two, those who do log in have far more posts to see than they have time to spend, and don't scroll down far enough to get to every post."

Mosseri, who has been the head of Instagram since 2018 and also ushered in the new era of Reels-heavy content, cautioned against blaming the algorithm for Instagram post woes. "And before some of you say 'the algorithm' is the culprit, understand that ranking and recommendations *increase* the amount of posts people get to, and therefore the amount of reach to go around, more than any thing else we've ever done," Mosseri writes.

From there, pretty much all of the conversation came from mostly angry Threads users who brought plenty of valid questions and insights to the table. 

Why This Makes Sense On The Surface

Look, if the head of Instagram says focus on likes and views and not followers, you should probably listen. When he says your posts don't necessarily reach your followers because they might not be on the app that day and there's just a lot of content out there, well, sure that makes sense on the surface. 

And it's true that pretty much since the dawn of social media, not every person is going to see every post from every other person they follow. Even when all the apps functioned on chronological timelines, there was still an art to posting at the "right" time of day. Given the most popular apps have essentially reached an indistinguishably large audience, the current way content gets fed to people actually makes it harder to get things like when you post "wrong." 

So yes, on the surface, the fact that there's just SO much content out there feels like a reasonable enough explanation for why fewer of your followers see your posts. 

But when he says the algorithm searching for content that keeps people engaged leads to more reach overall, well, he's kind of conflating two major points. Again it does make sense that people who stick around on the app longer will be able to see more content. And yeah, that's technically a rising tide. 

But in this case, it's not floating all boats, and that's not what the conversation is about. The conversation is about Instagram looking for content that indicates strong engagement metrics at the expense of showing content specifically to people who asked to see it. And that's really what his initial post was saying without saying it.

The Less Diplomatic But Probably More True Reason Your Instagram Posts Don't Reach Your Followers

Many people responded to Mosseri's comments with screenshots of their analytics showing just how few of their followers actually see their content — even on massively viral posts. In fact, most of the thread was filled with thoughtful rebukes of Mosseri's explanation, or at the very least passioned pleas to make social media followers matter again.

But while Mosseri didn't respond to those comments, he already kind of laid out the plot through his initial posts. Your followers don't see what you post because Instagram doesn't really care if they do or not. They just want people to see content that the platform has determined is "engaging" through different factors. It's not just that "not everybody sees everything from everybody they follow," it's that "everybody sees what the algorithm indicates is more likely to keep them engaged." That's why Mosseri says focus on views and likes, not followers. 

It's a really tough pill to swallow, especially for creators who built healthy followings on these apps. And of course, the people who follow them because they do genuinely want to see what somebody posts. But it's the way the winds shifted for not just Instagram, but all these apps. 

Will it stay this way? Who knows — but as they say, the only constant in life is change. So whether or not we're all still clamoring for hooks that catch people in the first five seconds two years from now is less important than focusing on ways to reach your audience that don't rely on the algorithmic whims of major companies. 


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