Does posting too often on Instagram result in your posts seeing less reach?
It's a hot topic of debate - since Instagram introduced its feed algorithm two years back, many have questioned the impact of over-posting, and what 'over-posting' might, specifically, entail.
For their part, Instagram recently stated that their algorithm does not downrank users for posting too frequently - though it might swap in other content in between user posts if said user uploads too many, too quickly.
That still seems a little unclear, so we went to the data. By examining actual Instagram engagement, posting stats, and what it means for your strategy, here's what Photoslurp found on how your posting rate affects reach.
Truth in the Data
Using advanced analytics tools, we collected data from 476 fashion and apparel brands on Instagram, across a 28-day window, measuring the number of likes they received on all of their own published images, and their rate of posting. This was measured against an array of other variables which Instagram allowed us to collect prior to the deprecation of their API in early April 2018.
The average brand followership of our dataset was 592,400, with a range of 1,000 to 10.5 million followers - so there's a fairly wide spectrum of followerships covered.
To start, we looked at the relationship between a brand’s posting rate and the engagement rate that they saw on each post, as demonstrated in Plot 1.
The first thing to note that the model is not linear, so we can be sure that posting twice per day, for example, doesn't definitively halve your engagement rate.
Instead, this model is what we call a 'power curve'. In this instance, basic visual interpretation tells us that beyond posting once per day, the rate of engagement decline is, in fact, very slow. See how the line is basically horizontal from a rate of around 1.5 posts per day? Like I said, very, very slow.
In other words, brands don't appear to suffer great engagement rate losses from posting frequently in this way - and we’ve got further numbers to back it up.
- On average, moving from 0.5 to 1.5 posts per day equates to a 19% reduction in engagement per post
- When we move from 1.5 to 2.5 posts per day, the further loss is 9%
- And finally, up to 3.5 posts per day gives us a 6% further loss in engagement per post
This is not a lot, but still, no one wants to decrease their engagement rates. But there is another way to look at the data.
Daily engagement versus engagement per post
Plot 2 (below) shows the same principal idea as Plot 1, but this time the perspective is a little easier to understand. Here, we’re plotting the daily posting rate against the engagement rate per day - as opposed to per post.
This directly tests the overall level of audience engagement per day, relative to different posting rates per day (which again is just a different perspective to the data on Plot 1).
Remember in Plot 1 when we saw the rate at which engagement per post falls? Well, Plot 2 show that daily engagement is where a brand gains it back.
You can see in Plot 2 that as the number of posts increases, so does the daily engagement rate. So while you might be losing engagement for each individual post, you’re actually getting more engagement overall.
In this instance, doubling the posting rate per day provides a 1.61x increase in engagement per day. Or in other words, a brand who posts once per day and receives an average of 10,000 likes per day, would receive 16,146 likes if they post twice per day.
By extension of the same principal, a brand that posts 3x per day will provide, on average, 2.2x more engagement than a brand who only posts once - so 10,000 likes becomes 22,200.
From this perspective, if a brand really wants to strengthen a message via Instagram, posting frequently - perhaps for a limited period for a specific activation - is probably not a bad thing at all.
Fashion brand, DoubleAgent, has a high posting rate of 4.8 per day. They also happen to be the highest scoring brand in our study in terms of daily engagement, clocking in at 16.25%.
This brand obviously puts a lot of value into curating their Instagram account - engaged users don’t come from nowhere. They use multiple hashtags (#doubleagentusa #dacommunity), post customer content on their website and Instagram, and create a strong brand image on the platform. So posting five times per day becomes a strength for their brand.
Alternatively, Arizona Vintage, which also has a strong content game, posts at a rate of 1.7 times per day - a fair few less than DoubleAgent. That being said, they clock-in with a high daily engagement rate of 10.38%.
Both brands clearly have an Instagram marketing strategic focus, but they can manage to have drastically different posting rates and still score high in terms of daily engagement rate.
With high-quality content, there’s no need to waste hours of sleep worrying about posting frequency.
Taking the data one step further
To reinforce our empirical data, we took this study one step further in a survey, by asking the question: 'What causes users to STOP following brands on Instagram?'
Answer choices were (A) Not being interested in the products anymore, (B) Content not being relevant or interesting, (C) The user doesn’t see value in following brands in general, (D) The user doesn’t like the brand anymore, (E) The brand has too many followers, (F) The brand posts too much, and (G) Other.
25% of respondents cited 'Posting too much' as something that provokes them to unfollow a brand, however this comes well behind product relevance (44.5%) and brand interest (42%), implying that these factors take precedence over posting rate.
In other words, a brand is unlikely to lose customers that are interested in your product and content from posting too much.
Think about it: would you stop following a brand that was constantly posting things that you wanted to see? Probably not.
So posting rate doesn’t definitively have a negative effect on engagement rate, and users are far more impacted by content quality over frequent posting. Anyone who’s still sweating posting rate, can take a deep breath.
What does this mean for your brand?
In the end, we’ve learned that posting frequently doesn’t drastically harm a brand’s engagement rate like we’re often told - and notably, that relevant content is a higher priority.
If you have the capability to produce lots of high-quality images, or access to solid content to post, it's worth posting more often to see how it impacts your engagement rates - and remember to measure daily engagement versus per post stats to get a more accurate read of your performance.