'Marketers must use Instagram now before engagement rates fall'

Marketers have been urged by research house Forrester to “use Instagram now” before its high engagement rates drop off as owner Facebook sets about filtering the number of brand posts users see.

Instagram Forrester

Forrester finds user engagement with Instagram posts far outweighs that of Facebook or Twitter.

Forrester studied the official social profiles of Interbrand’s top 50 global brands across some of the biggest social networks: Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube, taking into account 3 million user interactions. The researchers found that on average brands’ Instagram photos generated 58 times higher user engagement per follower than Facebook posts and 120 times higher engagement rates than tweets.

The researchers said brands are finding such high engagement levels on Instagram because it has “less clutter than other social sites”, with just 200 million monthly active users compared with Facebook’s 1.28bn and Twitter’s 255 million.

The high engagement rates are also down to the type of audience on Instagram. The median age of an Instagram user is 27-years-old - far below Facebook’s 40-years-old - an audience more likely to engage with brands on social media, according to Forrester’s previously published Social Technographics Score report.

Another reason cited for Instagram’s high engagement rates was the fact that Instagram does not filter out brand posts, it simply lists all photos posted in chronological order, similar to Twitter. On the other hand, brands on Facebook have found the organic reach of their posts has recently dropped to just 1 to 2 per cent of their followers in some cases. 

Brands across all sectors have found early engagement success on Instagram. Red Bull, for example, generates 300 times more likes per fan on Instagram than on Facebook, Forrester found. Elsewhere, B2B brand General Electric has attracted more than 160,000 Instagram followers with its average post earning an engagement rate of more than 2.5 per cent.

But these levels of brand engagement are unlikely to last

However, Forrester warns marketers looking to follow in the footsteps of brands like Red Bull and General Electric on Instagram must act quickly.

Executives have admitted to Forrester that as brands post on Instagram more frequently, Facebook will look for ways to “surface the most relevant content” for users in a similar algorithmic fashion to the Facebook News Feed.

Instagram’s struggle to generate meaningful revenue from its advertising model is also indicative of the challenges marketers may soon face on the platform, Forrester says.

When Instagram first announced it was changing its terms of service to allow it to monetise users’ Instagram photos for use in sponsored content or promotions - similar to the way in which Facebook has used users’ friends photos to advertise pages on its site - the move was met with a backlash from users and Instagram swiftly reversed its decision. http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/news/instagram-policy-change-sparks-user-backlash/4005180.article

To date Instagram has only been testing ads with a handful of selected US advertisers. In Facebook’s most recent earnings call COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company was growing its Instagram offer “deliberately slowly”. http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/sectors/technology-and-telecoms/news/facebook-asserts-approach-to-improve-quality-of-ads-not-ramp-up-formats/4010252.article

Nate Elliott, Forrester’s vice president and principal analyst serving marketing professionals, says in the ‘Use Instagram Now’ report: “The bottom line? Instagram delivers best-in-class social engagement rates for brands today, but it won’t last. Marketers must use Instagram now, before it changes the rules - and they must be ready to move on to another social site when Instagram’s phenomenal engagement rates disappear.”

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