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Instagram engagement: Everything you need to know [exclusive stats]

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

For many years, Facebook has been the main platform for social media marketing. Recently, though, Instagram has not only caught up, but continues to steadily advance past the competition.

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.

At this point, you're probably wondering what makes marketers so keen on advertising on Instagram.

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?

So what exactly makes Instagram so 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:

In contrast with regular Instagram posts that are consumed passively (they just appear in users' news feeds), Stories are consumed actively (users have to tap on brands' Story thumbnails to be able to view them).

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?

We know what makes Instagram a super engaging social media platform.

But are brands taking advantage of Instagram's potential to drive interactions?

Let's take a quick look at the data:

Celebrities are way ahead of the curve when it comes to Instagram engagement. Between May 2017 and April 2018, they received a median of 438M weekly interactions - over 2x more compared to 216M generated by media and 192M garnered by brands.

To give you a little bit more context, here's how engagement volume looks on Facebook:

The overall engagement on Facebook is much lower. The median interactions are roughly 45M for brands, 149M for celebrities, and 487M for media.

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:

Instagram engagement is clearly on the rise for brands - it increased by 29% between October 2017 and May 2018.

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.

To better understand the volume of interactions on Instagram, we measured it in relation to post impressions:

Our data shows that the median impressions number brands receive on Instagram is 45,000. This means that for every 27 times a brand's post gets seen, they earn one ❤️. Not bad at all!

The question is - who's getting the most love from their audience?

What are the most engaging industries on Instagram?

Creating engaging Instagram content can be tricky, but some industries get it just right.

The fashion, beauty, and e-commerce industries are thriving on Instagram with the largest volume of total user engagement:

We wanted to see what makes these industries so engaging, so we took a closer look at top-performing brands within each of them. Here's what we learned:

Fashion: Victoria's Secret

Victoria's Secret is the number one most engaging fashion brand on Instagram - for a good reason! The company uses a number of clever tactics to spark Instagram engagement, including:

  • 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

Kylie Cosmetics is leading the way in terms of Instagram engagement among beauty brands, and we know why. Here's what the brand is doing to keep their audience double-tapping:

  • 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

NBA TV, the most engaging ecommerce company on Instagram, has figured out an effective way of earning Instagram interactions that involves:

  • 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.

These were tactics used by some of the most engaging brands on Instagram. Feel free to take them for a spin and see how they work with your own Instagram marketing strategy.

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

If you're like most marketers, you're probably wondering how to get more likes on Instagram.

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:

  1. Interest. Based on previous interactions with similar content, Instagram predicts how much users will care about a post and ranks it accordingly high. 

  2. Recency. Fresh posts will appear higher than the old ones. 

  3. Relationship. Posts from people you frequently interacted or were tagged in pictures with in the past will appear higher in the feed. 

  4. Frequency. Depending on how often you open Instagram, the app will show you the top posts published since your last visit. 

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

All of these factors play major role in deciding where in the news feed your content will appear. Many of them, such as frequency or usage, are beyond brands' control and depend solely on the way their audiences use Instagram.

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

Now that you know the exact mechanics of the Instagram algorithm, let's move on to exploring tactics to improve your Instagram engagement.

13 proven tactics to skyrocket your Instagram engagement

  1. Create personalized content. Personalized messages are more meaningful, which is why they generate higher engagement. To be able to produce personalized content, invest time in getting to know your audience. This way, you'll find out exactly what strikes a chord with them and improve your Instagram engagement.

  2. Collaborate with social media influencers. Working with social media influencers can help your reach and engage new users beyond your regular audience.

  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.

  5. Use hashtags. Hashtags can work wonders for your Instagram engagement. If used right, they greatly increase the chance of users discovering and interacting with your content. Bonus info: adding at least one hashtag to your post can increase your engagement by 13%!

  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.

  7. Run Instagram takeovers. Let your employees or influencers take over your Instagram account and see how they engage your audience in countless fun ways.

  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!

  10. Mix up content formats. Instagram offers marketers multiple creative content formats, such as Live and Boomerang videos or Stories, that are perfect for engaging your following.

  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!

The takeaway

Instagram has a truly unique ability to keep users engaged, which savvy businesses can use to their advantage. But while maximizing Instagram interactions is surely beneficial to marketers, it shouldn't be a goal on its own.

Instead, brands advertising on Instagram should focus on leveraging Instagram engagement to drive their business objectives.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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