It’s no secret that social media is still evolving. Over 200 million brands use Instagram and as new channels, features, and trends emerge it can be easy for social marketers to get caught up in short-term tactics and lose sight of long-term goals. To stay focused and carve out a clear path for the future, it’s crucial to recognize the most important metrics across every channel—and Instagram is a great place to start.
Dash Hudson’s annual industry benchmark reports are the perfect foundation for brands to understand where they stack up on Instagram against the competition in their unique markets—but, what about where they stand overall? This year, we took it a step further and calculated KPI averages for the top brands on Instagram to discover what true success really looks like for both established and emerging accounts.
Engagement has long been considered a tricky metric to benchmark. It’s generally understood that the more followers a business profile has, the lower the engagement rate tends to be. In Dash Hudson’s review, we found 1/5th of the accounts in this category had more than 1M followers, and two of those brands were in the top 10 with average engagement rates over 4%. This means it’s absolutely possible for marketers at every level to craft a content strategy that moves audiences to take action.
So, what do brands like Santa Monica Proper Hotel, I Dew Care, and Koenigsegg have in common on Instagram? Consistency. In this case there isn’t one particular type of imagery or caption that resonates across brands, but the consistent delivery of the subjects and aesthetics their respective audiences crave. It suggests that brands don’t need to turn outward for inspiration, but look inward to their communities and leverage data to drive home results.
The way marketers assess the meaning of growth rate changes from business to business. For some, growth on Instagram can be a sign of burgeoning external recognition and brand hype. Most often, growth is an indicator that specific initiatives are working effectively—namely partnerships, campaigns, and promotions. We found that follower size does not impact growth rate at all—the average was 457,449 followers for top brands on Instagram in this category, but the range varied from low thousands to high millions. The common thread for growing brands was frequent cross-promotion—leveraging healthy amounts of UGC, influencer content, and inter-brand relationships are key to attracting and retaining more followers.
Owned reach is the KPI to tap into for a better understanding of posting times, cadence, hashtags, tags, or anything that impacts how your content reaches your following (and beyond). In this case, follower size dramatically impacts owned reach. The average following for the top-reaching brands on Instagram is over 12M, with the majority of the very top in media and publishing industries. These brands are posting frequent, timely content that is highly shareable and quickly trending. If you don’t fall within this category, instead of aiming to hit a specific number for owned reach, strive to reach more users than your follower base as a general benchmark (the top 10 brands in this category reach an average of 1950% more Instagram users than are following them). While that can feel overwhelming, a good place to start is hashtags. 70% of hashtags on Instagram are branded, which means brands should be pairing unique brand-specific hashtags with popular, more general hashtags in order to gain effective reach.
The top brands on Instagram in the effectiveness rate category are the ones with a strong creative strategy and command of the algorithm. Because this KPI takes into account all the users who saw a post and engaged with it, it gives brands a better measure of how their content is performing across the channel (vs. on their profile or among their followers alone). Video views are included in the formula along with likes, comments, and saves, which makes it a key component to any successful strategy. Thus, brands focused on boosting effectiveness should make sure to incorporate content in motion among their main pillars.
Mastering the metrics and meeting social marketing goals is no easy feat, and it’s even more difficult to maintain that success long-term. A vital takeaway from the top brands on Instagram is that staying true to your brand DNA should always be top of mind—and regular data measurement is a good way to gain Instagram insights into in your organic strategy that resonates most with your audience.
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