When it comes to strategy on Instagram, an ever-changing algorithm can make it hard to keep on top of what works and what doesn’t.
It’s no wonder that we flock to big data studies, with headlines that promise to give us the formula for IG success. But sometimes we miss important insights from these studies, just because they’re not headline-worthy.
For example, the social media scheduling tool Tailwind recently used the same machine-learning employed by Netflix and Amazon to analyze 1.8 million Instagram posts. From that data, they produced benchmarks for engagement in different account niches and for Instagram as a whole.
The report delivers on its headline: When to Post Your Content for Maximum Engagement.
But it also reveals some surprising facts about Instagram engagement that are especially relevant for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and micro-influencers.
- Small accounts have more engagement than mega-accounts.
- There is no “best” account type.
- We’re all probably doing better than we think.
These insights will help you maximize your account, saving you time and eliminating the need for a best guess strategy.
Small Accounts Have More Engagement
Instagram is a numbers game. We track how many likes, comments, and follows we get on a post. And people with business accounts also track reach, profile visits, and other metrics to get a sense of how many people are engaging with their product or service.
To increase these numbers, you need a lot of followers, right?
It’s easy to think that more followers will automatically increase engagement, but the Tailwind data showed the opposite!
The group with the highest engagement had less than 500 followers.
More importantly, engagement decreased with every gain in followers.
This is great news for smaller business accounts. You don’t have to feel like you’re left behind or not getting the most out of Instagram until you break that 10K barrier or get that shiny blue checkmark.
If you think about it, the larger the audience, the less likely it is that you can consistently engage them with every post.
➡️ Weighing the benefits of a large audience and contrasting those with the benefits of more engagement is a strategic decision for business owners.
For example, if you have a local business, working to increase engagement with customers will be more valuable than spending time on developing a national or international audience.
The metrics you’ll want to track and the numbers most important to you all depend on your unique business goals.
If you need a place to start, the Tailwind report offers a free worksheet.
There’s No “Best” Account Type
Instagram’s compelling visual-first platform attracts one billion people per month worldwide. It’s obviously an amazing opportunity for reaching and engaging with customers. No wonder 73 percent of marketers use it.
But one challenge of using Instagram to market your product or service is thinking like your target Instagram account holder.
Let’s remember why people are on Instagram.
We use Instagram to post photos and captions that communicate our lifestyle, interests, or values. People want to project their identity into the world and find others like themselves.
Instagram serves as an escape from the mundane of our everyday life, a form of entertainment. Many of us follow our favorite celebrities, content producers, and news outlets on IG.
Ultimately we’re using Instagram to connect and interact with others. It’s a tool for both our online and IRL relationships.
Do you have a product or service that meets the lifestyle needs and values of a segment of IG users? Do you create content that adds value to the mundane routine of life? Do you have something to offer Instagram users?
Of course you do!
And to make the most of those posts about that awesome thing you do, offer, think, or create, you want to publish when that the audience is most likely to engage.
It’s not about finding the best IG audience or having the best account “type.” It’s about finding the best time to reach out to your particular audience.
Not all accounts are equal in terms of when people are likely to engage.
The research shows that engagement in terms of likes and comments can vary widely by category. What this means is that if you are using IG to promote your restaurant, you should post at different times than if you’re a tech company, clothing store, personal brand, or media outlet, for example.
How do you know when the best time for your category to post is? That’s all in the report.
There’s no best category or account type. But using our data can help you get the best engagement possible from your posts.
You’re Probably Doing Better Than You Think
It makes perfect sense to compare our Instagram accounts against others in our industries. Looking at followers and engagement for our competitors and peer accounts helps gauge the success of our IG marketing strategies.
But admit it. If you’re anything like me, you feel a little boost when their numbers are lower than yours (no shame).
And if they’re higher than yours, well…you may have less-than-charitable feelings you’d rather not own in public.
It’s naturally ingrained in human psychology to compare and see where we fit in the hierarchy. And in marketing, numbers are the metric we work with.
What the data shows might surprise you.
A Little Lesson on Medians
First, a simple stats refresher (bear with us if you actually paid attention in math class): in a list of numbers, the median is the middle number. This means anything above the median is in the upper 50 percent of that group.
The Tailwind data shows the median number of followers, post comments, and post likes for different types of accounts across 1.8 million posts.
As it turns out, you don’t need to be very big to be in the top 50 percent.
You are probably doing better than you think.
A professional services account with 1,397 followers is in the top 50 percent. A recreation post with 48 or more likes – top 50 percent. A health and beauty post with one or more comments? You guessed it. Top 50 percent.
Across the board, if your account has a follower range of 1,033 to 5,579 (accounts with the highest number of followers are categorized in Media and Entertainment), you’re doing better than half a billion Instagram accounts.
I think we get so used to seeing such big numbers on some accounts we follow that we lose sight of the fact that those accounts are at the very top. And there’s nothing wrong with aiming high and increasing your followers and engagement.
But while you’re working your way there, you can feel good about your progress. And that matters, too.
Instagram is becoming an indispensable tool for online marketing. It’s the go-to place for people to hang out and connect, especially during these times. And building your account to stand out in a vibrant and noisy atmosphere of ads, selfies, and memes, especially as a solopreneur or small business, can definitely be challenging.
Let’s dial it back to Ye Olde Medieval Times. In the modern-day bazaar that is Instagram, you don’t want to be setting out your wares or doing your live performance when no one is walking by. You want people to see what you’re doing. You want their feedback. You want their engagement.
Otherwise, you’re just wasting your energy.
Definitely dive into big data studies, but don’t miss the surprising insights that offer helpful guidance for smaller, growing accounts.
Focus on the best posting times, capture your particular audience, and remember that you’re doing better than you think.
About the author:
Renee Tougas is a blogger and online content creator with an extensive background in education. Her work invites readers and podcast listeners to consider new perspectives and broaden their horizon with memoirist storytelling and photography. She also works part-time on the marketing team at Tailwind, a Pinterest and Instagram scheduling app. An avid outdoorsperson, Renee is happiest in the woods or on a mountain summit. Follow her adventures on Instagram @reneetougas.