February Instagram Report

Last month, we reported on some of the top retail brands of Instagram, and all that they did right. This month, we want to expand our focus in order to give you a clearer picture of how your brand can capitalize on the world’s best outlet for visual advertising.

February Instagram Report

Click here for the January report.

Top 5 Industries

Unlike the individual brands, which did not change much within the last month, the Top 5 industries did. While in January, Alcohol, Home Goods, Finance, Home and Living, and the Auto industries led the way, respectively, February marked the reign of FMCG, Home and Living, Auto, Airlines, and Retail Food as the Top 5 Most Engaging Industries.

January-February Instagram Industry Reports

Since industry post engagement rates account for both big brands with many active followers and less active accounts, three things stand out the most here:the overall drop in the top engagement rates across all industries,meaning there was an improvement by last month’s poorer performing brands (this month’s average post engagement rate was 5.38%, actually a slight improvement over last month); the Alcohol industry’s precipitous drop from an 8.25% engagement rate to being off the map (at 5.80%); and FMCG’s concurrent rise. Since this is a conglomerated statistic, it doesn’t say much definitively about individual brands – but it does show how various groups took advantage of – or failed to take advantage of – visual advertising last month.

Top 5’s

The top brands per follower size, average post engagement rate, and interactions remained almost unchanged from last week. Xbox saw a drop in post engagement rate, and Aéropostale and Hollister Co.’s interactions rose, but otherwise, the mighty remained the mighty.

UPDATE: The list is now available below.

Brand follower size
Brand ER

Media Outlets

The largest non-celebrity brand on Instagram in the month of February, and one of the most successful Instagram accounts since the network’s establishment, is not a retailer at all. Your favorite producer of yellow-bordered nature magazines, National Geographic, led the pack with 4.207,340 followers as of February 28th. How’d they do it? After our last article, reader Robert Michael Murray, Vice President of Social Media at National Geographic, and Adjunct Professor in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Georgetown University, noted that the magazine employs over 50 photographers, who also post from @thephotosociety, in order to attain the extraordinarily high-quality imagery that characterizes their brand.

We looked in particular at their top post from February. As you can see below, it is adorable.

Penguin Post @NatGeo

It also has many of the combined elements of successful old and new media that we have previously discussed. It features a compelling subject, high-quality content, and while it does not join a specific hashtag campaign, it does begin a conversation with four organizing hashtags related to the photograph’s subjects.

Instagram Influencers + Brands = #Instalove

But not all brands thrive on Instagram – after all, a network known to the uninitiated for food pics and selfies might not seem like an essential medium for marketers to conquer. Brands with fewer resources might come to the – seemingly – logical conclusion that Instagram is not their priority.

But though Instagram has its limitations – primarily, as also pointed out by Murray after the last article, that it does not allow for easy linking to outside sites – it still provides a free outlet to display limitless quantities of high-quality advertising for any brand. It seriously levels the playing field. Even if you don’t have 1/1000th of National Geographic’s marketing budget, you can make waves in your industry.

Brands would do well to learn from personal users who rack up massive followings with nothing but their own talent, energy, and ingenuity.

Some of these influencers have been brought along by brands to help have a direct hand in crafting a campaign. Last September, GE took six Instagram influencers and six of their biggest fans on the network, and repurposed a hashtag started by Instagram’s own account to create the #GEinstawalk. It is a fantastic example of how to blend every element of Instagram’s potential for marketers in one campaign.


Those who Can, But Don’t

Even brands who don’t have the means to bring high-visibility users into the fold like GE did can still learn what makes these users’ posts so engaging. The most concrete way to do so is to watch trending hashtags emerge. Retailers often make good use of #ThingsOrganizedNeatly, but as you can see from the link, any brand with some imagination can break down its product or message into component parts, and join in the trend.

But despite all the ways to succeed with Instagram, there are many brands with underwhelming profiles. Some brand pages are inexcusably inactive. Others post low-quality, repetitive content, or don’t stay on message. Some major brands open accounts, only to cease all activity once the brand’s information has been filled out, or create multiple weak accounts – for instance, @mastercard_visa has no followers, and may not have anything to do with Visa or Mastercard in practice, but the active accounts for both credit cards have 1%-3% of the followers that their respective Twitter profiles have, even while posting identical content.

Having multiple accounts weakens your overall profile, and can make it harder for new fans to find your best content. It all comes down to consistency, be that in message or in posting habits. It is hard to attract followers, no matter what your content looks like, when you don’t give them something to expect.


So this month, it becomes a little bit clearer just what a brand has to do to strike it big on Instagram: take advantage of the fact that talented people who want to make compelling visual content are out there, and are often excited to be able to help spread the word about a brand with a big following for the increased reach it will give their own page. Even if they don’t work with such creative types directly, brands can certainly learn from them. Some examples of these prime lessons? Post consistently, both in message and in frequency. On that same note, make sure that your account can be found easily, and that users only have to find one account to know it is the brand’s official one.

If these insights sparked your interest, or you think you could benefit from independent analytics also, be sure to sign up for Engage London 2014. Engage is the only conference for social marketers, by social marketers.

Otherwise, check out a free trial of Socialbakers Analytics to see what you can learn for yourself, and come back for our next monthly report!

Social Media Analyst

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