Is The Instagram Free Ride Over?

Chris CrumSocial Media

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Instagram has been something of a social media darling over the past few years, but according to a new report from Locowise, which has been tracking it since April, both follower growth and engagement have been on a downward trend.

Have you encountered issues growing your Instagram following and engagement? Let us know in the comments.

According to the report, growth was down 88.21% in 2015 while engagement was down 61.43%.

"In the nine months of studies the follower growth on Instagram has declined 88.21%. From the high of 1.95% in April to the low of 0.23% in December," writes Locowise's Marko Saric. "Engagement rate has decreased as well. From the 2.8% engagement high in April to the 1.08% engagement low in December. This is a 61.43% decrease."

"Instagram has gone from one of the most 'viral' social networks to a pay-to-play platform during the year," he adds. "If you want to achieve a great growth on Instagram you do need to consider alternative tactics. Organic growth will not get you far."

Well, that certainly sounds familiar.

It's worth noting, however, that Instagram still beats both Facebook and Twitter when it comes to follower growth and engagement rate of total audience as of December. For that second metric, Instagram put in a showing of 1.08% according to Locowise, compared to Twitter at 0.1% of all followers and Facebook at 0.37%.

Images (as opposed to videos) accounted for 91.87% of all Instagram posts, according to the report, which says images also get higher engagement.

While Instagram is becoming more of a "pay to play" situation, you might be interested to know that Instagram ads deliver clickthrough rates comparable to Facebook ads according to a recent study from Nanigans.

Instagram itself has recently given businesses some advice on creative and driving brand awareness.

"Instagram is a diverse, global community of people who have a wide range of interests from lifestyle content and pop culture, to humor and sports," the company said in a recent post on its business blog. "Now that advertisers have access to the same buying, targeting and measurement tools that they do on Facebook, creative content on Instagram is just as diverse and relevant as those interests. As a result, we’re seeing a range of creative approaches from businesses on the platform—from repurposing creative from other channels to creating unique content specific to Instagram."

They gave examples of how several small businesses are successfully using creative on Instagram in different ways. One photo print company ran similar imagery and messaging on Instagram as they did on Facebook to create a "more holistic" campaign, and did so to great effect. According to Instagram, they saved time and saw a 30% increase in performance of the campaign by adding Instagram ads to the mix.

An apparel and accessories provider created a holiday-themed video ad from scratch, paring a stop motion video made in-house with "clever" copy to spread awareness. Another business ran a series of illustration-based app install ads to tell a story, leading to a 30% increase in app conversion and an improved ranking on the app store.

Check out the post for more details on each example.

In a separate post, Instagram discussed driving brand awareness, citing examples from Sony and Blackberry. The company said that across 700 campaigns that have run on Instagram, 98% have generated significant lift in ad recall with an average ad recall of 18 points (2.8 times higher than Nielsen norms for online advertising).

Have you dipped your toes into the Instagram ad waters yet? What are your impressions so far? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image via Instagram (Facebook)

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.