Quintly, a social media analytics firm recently published findings from their study of Instagram engagement rates. While it seems as though many social media users are Insta-obsessed, according to the study engagements on the platform have actually decreased YOY. Quintly reports that from March 2015 – March 2016, there was a 27% YOY decrease in likes and comments on photos and a 39% YOY decrease in likes and comments on videos.
What do these declining rates mean? Does diminishing engagement mean that Instagram is failing to live up to its promise as a platform? Does diminishing engagement mean that Instagram is no longer as relevant in consumers’ lives as we thought it was one year ago?
Before you start panicking and trying to redirect your efforts on to a different platform, it’s important to understand exactly what those diminishing engagement rates mean.
Sure, marketers don’t like seeing engagement rates slip away on networks because they have put so much time and budget into creating content that sparks engagement. But likes and comments only represent a portion of the value that Instagram plays in consumers’ lives. Quintly believes the decline in interactions is a natural byproduct of Instagram’s growing user base; with reportedly 400m monthly active users and counting, this growing user base is creating more posts and, ultimately, more competition.
With the expansion of the Instagram network, individual users have a plethora of content to explore on the platform. However, just because the content has increased, doesn’t mean that users feel compelled to engage more. At best, the Instagram community’s approach to engagement has remained static over the past year while the amount of content has risen, thus diminishing the overall engagement rate of the network.
Quintly also addresses the fact that in the past year, more brands have thrown their hats into the Instagram ring — also contributing to the influx of content. With an influx of branded content, the majority of which users don’t find particularly interesting, Instagram users might be growing more accustomed to automatically scrolling past branded posts without ever thinking to stop and engage.
Another interesting aspect of this data is the steep fall of video engagement. So much has been made of the value of social videos in the past few months, and to see that videos are not provoking action on one of the most used social platforms may force marketers to stop and rethink their approaches to video. According to the study, video engagement rates have decreased by 39% YOY, however, the number of videos appearing in users’ News Feeds have increased from 5%-15% YOY. Perhaps the reason for the decrease in engagement, is that over the past year, videos have become less of a rarity on the platform. Users are no longer engaging with videos out of sheer novelty, because now users have grown accustomed to regularly seeing quality Instagram videos appearing within their feeds. In 2015, Brands stopped and took notice of video’s powerful ability to effectively tell branded stories on the platform and, as such, more brands began to double-down on video creation efforts of their own, hoping videos would propel engagement, growth and ultimately, conversions. However, as platform videos have become more prolific, video engagements have tapered off.
So now that we’ve covered how, and how much, engagement is falling on Instagram, you might be asking yourself if there is anything you can do to reverse these trends? While you can’t stop the network from growing or cork the ever-increasing content production, you can control what kind of content you put your time and resources into creating. With less engagement occurring across the board, the question of quality is more important than ever before. You simply cannot afford to waste time producing and publishing low quality content that fails to differentiate your brand and your story. Intead of trying to beat the engagement trends by publishing more quantity, try publishing more quality. On a platform where users are inundated with photos and videos, the only surefire way to distinguish yourself is through originality and authenticity. Three conceptually creative and visually appealing pieces of content posted per week will do far more for the stock of your brand than seven mediocre daily posts. The best way to win over Instagram audiences for the long run, and (hopefully) sustain some engagement, is to commit to serving your audience a multidimensional storytelling experience. From here on out, creativity and quality might just outweigh brand affinity.
Chart source: Quintly