New Study Looks at Latest Instagram Best Practices, Including Hashtag Use and Caption Length
Instagram is on the rise, and will no doubt play a bigger part in the social media strategies of many businesses as we head into 2019. With Facebook reach on the ever-steady decline, and Instagram's active audience now rising above a billion per month, the hype around the platform makes sense - but in order to get the most out of it, you need to know what the latest trends and usage behaviors are, and how to factor them into your process.
That's where this new report from Quintly can help - in order to get a better understanding of what's working on Instagram now, Quintly analyzed 44,432 Instagram profiles, and over 8.9 million cumulative posts, between January 1 and September 30, 2018, to see what's generating the most engagement, how profiles are growing, and to provide some indication of what you can expect.
Here's what they found.
1. Videos generate up to 21.15% more interactions than static posts
This likely comes as no surprise, but video content performs significantly better than regular image posts on Instagram.
According to Quintly's data:
- Videos generate 21.15% more interactions (likes and comments) than images on average
- Videos generate 18.57% more interactions than image carousels
- Carousels see 2.18% more interactions than single image posts
Despite this, still images are by far the most common Instagram post type - Quintly also found that 72.58% of all published posts are still images, with video posts making up just 16.74%.
2. Bigger profiles are more likely to utilize video
This is a bit of a correlation/causation finding - Quintly's researchers also found that larger Instagram profiles are increasingly likely to post video
That makes sense, in that larger profiles tend to be run by brands or celebrities with more resources, but it may also suggest that those who do post videos are more likely to build their following. Again, that's not definitive, but there is some indication that posting video boosts not only engagement, but overall profile popularity as well, based on these stats.
3. Longer captions are more common, but shorter descriptions see more engagement
You have more than 2,000 characters to use up in your Instagram captions, and the majority of people, Quintly found, use more than 300 of those, on average, in their updates.
So, profiles like posting with longer descriptions - but do users like reading them?
Evidently not - the numbers suggest that, across all account groupings (as measured by audience size), 1-50 character captions were those that saw the most engagement, with the only exception being those users with more than a million followers plus, who saw the most engagement when they posted no caption at all.
The 'no caption' approach is regularly employed by big name celebrities, who really don't need any description to provoke a response from their fans.
As such, that's probably not the way most regular users want to go, but the data indicates that keeping your captions short is the best option. Leave the longer descriptions for your blog posts.
4. Fewer hashtags is better
Similar to caption length, Instagram users also responded better to fewer hashtags within a post.
According to Quintly's data, the majority of users do keep their hashtagging low, but it's a fairly even spread.
That correlates with the best engagement - kind of.
As per the research: "most profiles used 1-3 hashtags, but they tended to get more interactions when they didn’t use them all."
No hashtags at all? That's a surprising stat, considering most previous Instagram research has suggested that you need hashtags to maximize reach.
In some ways, you would expect that it would be defined by your audience size - a profile with a lot of followers is more likely to have their posts seen even without using hashtags, while a smaller one might need the extra discovery boost. But Quintly's insights suggest that's only true for profiles with fewer than a thousand followers, which saw the best engagement levels when they included 1-3 hashtags per post. For all others - those with audiences larger than 1k - no hashtags at all resulted in the best engagement levels.
One final exception - the profile group with over 10 million followers saw more engagement when they included more than 10 hashtags per post. This suggests that Instagram's algorithm, and hashtag discovery tools, heavily favor profile popularity when showcasing content in the Explore section.
5. Emojis can spark response
Quintly also found that while the majority of Instagrammers (54.89%) don't use emojis within their posts, most saw engagement benefits when they added in at least one.
"Middle-sized profile groups (less than 10k to 1m followers) tended to receive more interactions when they used more than 10 emojis per post, while smaller profiles seemed to be better off when they used 1-3 emojis."
How comfortable you are with emojis is an individual preference, but the stats do suggest that including at least one, or a couple of emojis in your posts can have a positive impact on engagement.
6. Weekends see high engagement
In the final element of the report, Quintly found that the vast majority of updates (76.13%) are posted on weekdays.
But the weekend sees better engagement levels.
"We saw much higher interactions on Saturday and Sunday. Posts made on the weekend saw up to 22.29% higher interactions."
There's obviously less competition on weekends, and people have more free time - it makes sense to consider weekend posting to maximize performance.
There are a heap of interesting elements to consider here, a heap of jump off points to begin your own experimentation and testing. Not all of these trends will be reflected in your own findings, but they do give you some good pointers as to where you should be looking to optimize your on-platform efforts.
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