Frustrated with Facebook’s crackdown on unpaid page posts, brands have found a new significant other on social media: Instagram.
Research firm L2, partnering with Olapic, recently published the Instagram 2015 Intelligence Report, a study evaluating 250 brands’ performance on the mobile social media platform.
The study found that by the end of 2014, brands posted on Instagram an average of 9.3 times each week. Their average number of weekly posts on Facebook was only 8.8. By comparison, brands posted an average of 11.1 times each week on Facebook in 2013, and an average of only 7.5 times weekly on Instagram.
According to Marketing Land, the 23 percent increase of brand posts on Instagram wasn’t the only upward trend on Instagram over the last year. The study also found 65 percent of the top 200 highest-performing posts featured a product, with 29 percent featuring a brand ambassador or influencer.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise for brand managers who work with social media ambassadors. In June 2014, SayDaily highlighted that although Instagram offered in-feed ads to U.S. advertisers, many brands chose to work with individuals who have a high fan base instead.
“With carefully chosen, highly relevant influencers, a small-business owner can target the most relevant consumers for a fraction of the cost of traditional media,” Eric Dahan, CEO and co-founder of Instabrand, wrote in a recent Entrepreneur article.
The fan bases for these people with large followings aren’t anything to scoff at, either: One web designer and photographer listed by SayDaily has more than 875,000 Instagram followers.
The social platform’s growth is expected to continue, as well: Not only did Instagram replace Twitter as the second-largest social media platform in December 2014, TechInsider reported that one-third of all Americans might be using Instagram by the end of 2018, according to an eMarketer study.
Another TechInsider source estimates that 62 percent of the 12-to-17 age group will be on Instagram by the end of 2019, and L2’s study predicts Instagram will capture nearly 34 percent of Internet users by 2019, eclipsing Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr by more than 10 percent.
What looks good for brands now looks even better for Facebook’s future: The company bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, but Citigroup valued the visual mobile app at $35 billion on Dec. 19.
Instagram also helps with Facebook’s problem of declining numbers among teenagers and young adults.
L2’s study showed the 18-to-24 age group to encompass slightly more than 23 percent of Facebook’s 2014 user base, down from the nearly 31 percent of its user base that demographic covered in 2011. A January Pew Research Center study reported 53 percent of online adults ages 18–29 were on Instagram in 2014, compared with 37 percent the year before.
Though the rising popularity of Instagram may seem great for both brands and Facebook, companies should be cautious about what the future has in store. A WebProNews article referred to Instagram’s allure as a “sirens’ song” for brands. In it, they share an L2 spokesman’s agreement:
Brands should expect that organic reach will be supplanted by pay-to-play (see: Facebook) on Instagram, and ensure the assets and skills being erected will stand when muscle (money) replaces sweat.
We might be already seeing this shift toward pay-to-play in the wake of Instagram’s new carousel ad feature, which also enables brand partners to link to a website outside the app.