Instagram Is The King Of Social Engagement

[2015 UPDATE: Yes, Instagram is still the king of socail engagement. But top brands' Instagram engagement rates fell dramatically in 2015. Read more here.] 

Recently, Forrester studied more than 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven social networks and confirmed what marketers have long suspected: People don’t engage with branded social content very often.

On six of the seven social networks, the brands we studied achieved an engagement rate of less than 0.1%. For every 1 million Facebook fans those brands had collected, each of their posts received only about 700 likes, comments, and shares. On Twitter, the ratio was about 300 interactions per 1 million followers.

But one social network absolutely blew the others away when it came to delivering engagement: Instagram. Our study found that top brands’ Instagram posts generated a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%. That means Instagram delivered these brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.

Instagram offers brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook

What does this higher engagement rate look like in practice? Last month, Red Bull posted a video of a unique snowboarding half-pipe on both Facebook and Instagram. A few days later, we noted that the brand’s 43 million Facebook fans had liked the video just 2,600 times (a 0.006% likes-per-fan rate), while its 1.2 million Instagram followers had liked the video more than 36,000 times (a 3% likes-per-follower rate).

Red Bull's Facebook post           Red Bull's Instagram post

And Instagram doesn’t only work for youth-focused brands like Red Bull; we’ve also seen great engagement for more pedestrian brands like Ford Fiesta and General Electric. 

If your brand is looking for social engagement — and if you’re not finding it on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networks — you should start using Instagram today.

For more detail on why Instagram delivers such strong engagement rates and how you can most effectively use the site, check out our new report, Use Instagram Now.


Engagement on Instagram

I've always wondered if the number of instagram "likes" is legitimate. It seems to me (eyeballin' it) that lots of mediocre photos on instagram get far more "likes"... many from strangers.

From the start I noticed that the grams get a lot more attention than the other networks. Seems unusual to me. Maybe its just the smart phone myopia.

Instagram has the policy of

Instagram has the policy of no repost, hence it is a bit of an effort to say something, you have to shoot your own photo in order to say something. As a result there is a lot of more 'comments' or 'likes' belonging to people to participate easily.
There are much less post, and much more interaction.

That is why I think 'likes' are legitimate.

Three questions:

Any data on how the engagement rate breaks down for paid vs. purely organic content? Instagram ads or so new (and cheap) that top brands may be more willing to experiment.

Any data on how the engagement rate breaks down photos vs. videos?

Given the relationship of engagement rate to post activity, is it possible that brands just need to be more selective in what they share?

We weren't able to break out

We weren't able to break out promoted posts vs purely organic posts - but at the time we collected this data (Q1 2014), Instagram ads were still only in test mode and to my knowledge none of the brands we studied were testing Instagram ads. So if anything, it's likely the Facebook and Twitter data does include some positive benefits of promotion, but the Instagram data likely does not.

The challenge with posting more selectively on Facebook and Twitter is that your posts are already more likely to get washed away by clutter. On Twitter in particular, users are presented with a massive amount of content in purely chronological order - so posting often increases the chances of followers seeing your content. Of course, if everyone follows that same logic - and our data says most brands do - it just leads to more clutter, making the problem worse and worse.

This Is What Real Analyst Insight Looks Like

Outstanding analysis. Forrester seems to be the only folks consistently looking at the reality of brand social engagement beyond the hype---and providing actionable insight.

My only minor observation on the blog post is stylistic, not substantive.

As a guy who does strategic communications for tech companies for a living, it's a little bit of a messaging No/No to refer to popular mainstream brands like Ford and GE as 'more pedestrian'.

But that characterization did make me laugh---in a good way--- knowing that what was really being said was 'more established brands' that traditionally rely on other communications channels.

Keep up the great work Nate Elliot---without a doubt the most unabashedly get real dude in social media brand performance measurement.

Thanks, Joe. I wasn't trying

Thanks, Joe. I wasn't trying to insult Ford or GE in any way - I just wanted to point out that Ford Fiesta isn't a brand known for outstanding engagement and 'cool' factor in the way Red Bull is.

The Decimation of Facebook Organic Reach

40+ Million Red Bull Facebook fans like a video 2,600 times; that's a pretty strong data point. Try watching it ... is it substantially less likable than others?

In 2014 Red Bull video likes fluctuate dramatically. Check out the likes in 2013 -- much more consistent and rarely under 10K -- which is a similar pattern to Starbucks and Disney.

Bottom line: Not enough FB fans are shown each brand post (

Good to see the data out there Nate. Kudos.

and Pinterest?

Was looking to see Pinterest mentioned given its similar content nature.

We're working on analyzing

We're working on analyzing our data from other social sites (including LinkedIn and Pinterest) now. But both are covered by our statement in the first paragraph that all the networks we studied besides Instagram offer per-follower engagement rates of less than 0.1%.

Social Analytics

Excellent read on the platform performance. This really helps one focus their social efforts. Where can a start up find the best free competitor social analytics?

Great article!!

Great article!!

Comparing Facebook Likes "per

Comparing Facebook Likes "per fan" to Instagram Likes "per follower" is not apples to apples. Instagram serves posts (reportedly) to all brand followers. We all know this is not the case for FB. More accurate to compares FB Likes "per exposed-fan" to Instagram Likes "per follower" (of course, it's all "potential reach" at the end of the day).

Assuming Red Bull has a higher Edge Rank than your typical FB brand page you could guess on the high side it's 15% (VERY high side). Using this more accurate math the Like-rate you are quoting here will be based on Fans that ACTUALLY had the post placed into their FB feed. The rate would then be closer to - .04% rather than .006%.

Doesn't change the overall point of this post, but it might for your next one.

Does it matter?

I understand your point - if Facebook bothered to show more branded posts to consumers, the interaction rate per fan would be higher. But does it matter whether Facebook *can't* drive engagement or simply *won't* drive engagement? Either way, people on Facebook don't see and interact with brands' posts - and that's why many brands are questioning the value of Facebook as a marketing channel.

Insights for B2B brands on Instagram?

Curious to see if you have any research showing how B2B brands fare on Instagram. Are results similar? Or is it a fool's errand for a B2B company to try to develop its presence on the platform?

It certainly seems easier for

It certainly seems easier for consumer brands to do well on Instagram - but some B2B-focused brands have found success. Check out GE's Instagram account. Who knew photos of industrial shipping containers would be so popular?

How to use Instagram

500 bucks to learn how to use Instagram !?
Would be interesting to know how much of that engagement is due to accidental clics. I would probably pay those 500 for that information...

Hi great info Nate thanks for

Hi great info Nate thanks for sharing. As an avid Instagram user I also wonder if this is because most of the time you are " liking" and that only really goes back to who posted as a Compliment. It doesn't feel the same as on Facebook where when you like something you effectively spam your friends with a commercial message.


How are you calculating engagement rate. Is this average per post?