With over a billion users, Instagram is officially at the forefront of the social media marketing world.
It took the platform a mere eight years to get there. Founded in 2010, Instagram has gradually entered the competitive sphere - mostly due to its incredible potential to keep users engaged.
But while Instagram is a great place to earn interactions, some essential questions remain. What exactly defines engagement on the platform? How can you best utilize it for your brand? Read on to find out:
Instagram is becoming the #1 social media platform
Our data shows that businesses are leveraging Instagram for advertising more than ever before. The share of Instagram ads placements is clearly on the rise, reaching 43% in March 2018.
This means that out of all the ads marketers launched on Facebook and Instagram, almost half were run on the latter platform.
The answer is pretty simple - it's all about Instagram engagement.
Instagram might not have the biggest audience size or highest activity volume, but it's surely a major interactions driver for brands - more so than Facebook or Twitter.
What makes Instagram engaging?
We identified five main reasons:
Reason #1: Instagram’s algorithm favors relevant content
According to Instagram's spokesman, Instagram feed ranking is "constantly adapting and improving based on data" to give users the best possible experience.
That's why in June 2016 the company decided to ditch the reverse chronological feed in favor of an algorithmic one. While this change wasn't received too enthusiastically at first, it led to Instagram users seeing 90% of their friends' posts, as opposed to missing 50% of them prior to the update.
In a nutshell, this means that the Instagram news feed started prioritizing more relevant content, which helped shoot up engagement on the platform.
But it wasn't just users' posts that began receiving more engagement. Brands experienced a 105% uplift in interactions after the update, too:
Reason #2: Users spend a lot of time on Instagram
According to the company, users under the age of 25 spend over 32 minutes a day using the platform, while users 25 and over spend more than 24 minutes daily on the app.
To put that into perspective, same-aged user groups spend 30 and 20 minutes, accordingly, using Snapchat and an average of 35 minutes using Facebook.
In contrast to Facebook, time spent on Instagram is increasing. This means users stay on the app longer, which makes it more likely for them to discover interesting content and interact with it.
Reason #3: Instagram is a highly visual platform
Instagram is founded on appealing images and videos, which resonate with people more than text. In fact, as much as 40% of people respond better to visual than textual information. In addition, visual posts get more social media interactions, among them the most valuable ones - shares.
Reason #4: Instagram enables creativity
Instagram isn't a one-trick pony. Aside from its successful news feed that keeps users engaged, it catches even more eyeballs through the Stories format and, recently, the IGTV app.
Here's what data has to say about engagement on Instagram Stories:
Yet, brands get as much as 37% of their total Instagram impressions from Stories, meaning that users are actively interacting with the format. That's great news for marketers who can spice up their Instagram content with Stories and engage their audiences in the process.
Reason #5: Instagram is home to engaging content creators
Instagram's attractive content formats render it a perfect spot for creative minds. The platform is bursting with incredible posts from all sorts of social media influencers, offering interesting content for anyone's taste. Also, because it's so easy for users to discover appealing photos and videos on Instagram, they are more likely to interact with the content actively.
How much Instagram engagement are brands generating?
But are brands taking advantage of Instagram's potential to drive interactions?
Let's take a quick look at the data:
To give you a little bit more context, here's how engagement volume looks on Facebook:
This means that brands can generate over 4x more interactions on Instagram compared to Facebook - one more reason for your business to start 'gramming!
Let's zoom in on the interactions brands generate on Instagram:
If you're wondering whether your own Instagram engagement rate is good enough, here's a handy benchmark - the median weekly interactions on a single brand's posts is 1650.
And if you want even more context on where you stand on Instagram, compare your performance to your closest competitors - free of charge!
To better understand the volume of interactions on Instagram, we measured it in relation to post impressions:
The question is - who's getting the most love from their audience?
What are the most engaging industries on Instagram?
The fashion, beauty, and e-commerce industries are thriving on Instagram with the largest volume of total user engagement:
Fashion: Victoria's Secret
- Leveraging internal influencers. If you're into fashion, you surely know that the Victoria's Secret models are some of the biggest influencers in the industry. By tagging the models in their posts, Victoria's Secret is appealing not only to their own, but also the models' large fan base which increases engagement.
- Creating a consistent visual style. Victoria's Secret Instagram profile looks very coherent. They developed their own visual style centered around bright images with a lot of whitespace. As a result, their posts stand out in their audience's news feed.
- Using branded hashtags. Victoria's Secret is skillfully adding branded hashtags, such as #VSSemiAnnualSale or #SpottedatSAS, to their content, making it easier to be discovered.
Beauty: Kylie Cosmetics
- Posting close-up pictures of faces. Featuring people's faces in your visuals makes your content more relatable, which stimulates engagement - a proven fact that Kylie Cosmetics is clearly well-aware of.
- Joining the larger conversation. Kylie Cosmetics often joins trending conversations using timely hashtags, for example #NationalBestFriendsDay, which helps their posts to surface on multiple occasions.
- Collaborating with external influencers. Working with a number of social media influencers enables Kylie Cosmetics to reach and engage new user segments on Instagram.
E-commerce: NBA TV
- Leveraging videos. NBA TV is often threading videos into their Instagram content mix - a smart move considering the format's surging engagement.
- Using humor, fun facts, and quotes. Sparking conversations with their fans through the use of humor, fun facts, and interesting quotes is something NBA TV has definitely mastered.
- Posting multiple times a day. On social media, it's key that you think like a publisher. NBA TV has embraced that mindset and publish multiple times a day to give their audience more content to interact with.
But before you do that, let's take a look at one of the most critical factors impacting your engagement volume - the Instagram news feed algorithm.
How Instagram's algorithm really works
The first step to achieving this is understanding the Instagram algorithm, whose mechanics the company has kept under wraps for many years.
During a recent meeting with journalists, however, Instagram shed some light on the way posts appear in users' news feeds. That's great news for businesses advertising on Instagram who can now better understand what might affect their Instagram engagement.
Instagram unveiled six main factors impacting the content of users' Instagram feeds:
- Interest. Based on previous interactions with similar content, Instagram predicts how much users will care about a post and ranks it accordingly high.
- Recency. Fresh posts will appear higher than the old ones.
- Relationship. Posts from people you frequently interacted or were tagged in pictures with in the past will appear higher in the feed.
- Frequency. Depending on how often you open Instagram, the app will show you the top posts published since your last visit.
- Following. If you're following multiple people, Instagram will select content from a wider selection of people as opposed to focusing on a single person
- Usage. If you use Instagram for multiple short sessions, it will show you only the top content since your last visit. If you spend more time during a single session on the app, it will add other posts to the mix.
Other factors are in your control, though. For example, you can score higher in the interest and relationship category if you get users to frequently interact with your posts.
Aside from discussing factors that can really put you on top of the news feed, Instagram debunked some widespread ranking myths. Here's what the Instagram algorithm is not doing:
- Hiding posts in the news feed
- Favoring videos over photos
- Upranking posts from users using Instagram-specific content formats, such as Stories
- Downranking users for publishing too often
- Giving more exposure to personal or business accounts specifically
- Shadow banning
13 proven tactics to skyrocket your Instagram engagement
3. Publish your content at the optimal time. Posting to Instagram when your audience is most active largely increases your chance of earning interactions.
4. Put clear call-to-actions in description copy. Including strong CTAs in your Instagram posts is a great way to get a particular response from your audience.
6. Leverage user-generated content. Publishing user-generated content (UGC) will allow you to spice up your content mix and encourage users to interact with your brand by submitting their own posts.
8. Show the authentic side of your business. Instead of making your Instagram profile all about selling, try to show a human face of your brand. Publishing behind-the-scenes posts will make users more interested in your company, and encourage them to interact.
9. Add text overlays to your images. This little-known trick allowed media brands to earn 41% more interactions on Instagram posts with text overlays compared to posts with no text overlays. Try it yourself and see how it works for your brand!
11. Join trending conversations. Becoming a part of a larger popular conversation, for example through relevant hashtags, can help you strike up an active discussion with your audience.
12. Interact with other users' content. Make it your habit to regularly like or comment on other people's posts - they'll likely return the favor.
13. Make your Instagram posts bright and...blue. Here's a data-based fun fact: Instagram images with blue as a dominant color perform 24% better than images with lots of red and orange. Plus, bright images get 24% more likes compared to dark images. Now you know exactly what your next Instagram post is supposed to look like!
Instead, brands advertising on Instagram should focus on leveraging Instagram engagement to drive their business objectives. If you'd like to learn how to do it, check out our data-based study on best practices of Instagram advertising.
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