INSTAGRAM ENGAGEMENT RATE BENCHMARKS is our first annual report focused on the world of Instagram likes and comments, providing you with the insights you need to fuel your strategy for the year ahead.
The 2019 results have landed! We analyzed data from over 174,568 Instagram posts, and over 400 industries to give you the most up to date Instagram benchmarks on the internet right now.
Check out what we learned this year below.
Don’t want to read the whole report? Skip to the RESULTS section to see what the average engagement rate on Instagram is in 2019.
Table of Contents
Brief History of Instagram Engagement Rates
Methodology; or, How I Got This Data
Other Useful Instagram Engagement Stats
The Big Mystery: Why is Instagram Engagement Dropping in 2019?
The Shadowban is Fake News
What to Do if Your Engagement Suddenly Drops in 2019
How to Get More Engagement in 2019
A Brief History of Instagram Engagement Rates
Remember March 2016?
I remember it because it was when I left my cushy job at Groupon to start Jumper Media. I had no idea what it would turn into, but that’s a story for a different day.
Today we’re going to talk about Instagram engagement, and what’s happened between March 2016, and March 2019.
Spoiler Alert: Average engagement on Instagram has tanked over the past three years.
Even if you do remember March 2016, I know you don’t remember what the average engagement rate on Instagram was in March 2016.
I remember because I was hustling on the streets of San Francisco trying to convince business owners in North Beach, The Marina, and The Mission to take a chance on me, and on Instagram—with my two intrepid cofounders.
We thought Instagram would be the next social frontier for business, because:
all my friends stopped posting on Facebook, and…
Facebook organic reach was tanking.
Instagram was the opposite:
All my friends were posting food pics daily, and more importantly for this article…
Average engagement on Instagram was 4.3% — 10 times Facebook!
I’d tell any business owner I’d meet:
“So 1 Instagram follower is worth 10x more than a Facebook Fan.”
And the businesses that signed up with us early, grew their Instagram accounts quickly and leveraged that to grow their businesses too.
Since then Jumper has gone from 3 co-founders in San Francisco to 50+ wonderful employees in San Diego. Our “pitch” has changed a lot since then, but recently I found myself wondering…
What is the average engagement rate on Instagram right now?
I know it’s gone down A LOT but by how much?
Is it still way better than Facebook? Twitter?
I wasn’t the only one asking either. In our office here in San Diego, we help over 3,000 businesses with their Instagram accounts. And I bet we fielded more than 30,000 questions about Instagram engagement, from our clients and our blog audience.
“Why the heck don’t I get as many likes as I did 6 months ago?!”
(Actually, everyone is way politer than that, but you get the picture.)
People really, really care about their Instagram likes. Like, really, really care. In fact, when asked to choose one, and only one Instagram metric to focus on, 44% of marketers report that it is engagement (likes & comments) that they prioritize. (source)
And when folks don’t get the likes they are used to, for some reason (in my experience) they blame themselves. Even though engagement is going down across the board, people think that there’s something wrong with their account, their hashtags strategy, or it’s the mysterious “shadowban.” (More on that later.)
The problem is, there is a lot of misleading information about average Instagram engagement rates out there.
In fact, there is almost no up-to-date info!
When you google “what’s a good engagement rate on Instagram” and other variations, you are taken to outdated articles from years ago that nobody bothered to update.
Even Google’s featured snippet box is completely, 100% outdated!
I knew this anecdotally because it’s kinda my job, but no one else does. They think it’s their fault, and that’s awful!
People on our team have asked me probably 10 times to write an article on Instagram engagement that is up to date, but I was always hesitant because there was no up to date information!
Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and commission my own study. In our first ever 2019 Instagram Engagement Benchmarks, we collected data from 174,568 Instagram posts to provide a detailed, up-to-date look at the current state of the platform.
Here’s exactly what we did:
Or, feel free to skip ahead to the RESULTS sections if you can’t stand the anticipation.
How I Got This Data / Methodology
Collecting data on 174,568 Instagram posts would take a long time. I thought about doing it myself but then I realized if it took me 30 seconds a post, I would be doing this for the next 50 days with no sleep.
So I went on Upwork and wrote this job posting:
It turns out some people are a lot better than I am at collecting massive amounts of Instagram data.
Pretty soon I got a spreadsheet that looked a lot like this one:
Finally, I had the means at my disposal to figure out an average engagement rate on Instagram!
HALLE BERRY. HALLELUJAH!
Before we dive into the results, you should know a few things about me and this report.
First, I’m not a statistician, and this isn’t a scientific journal. Please don’t take my findings as the Gospel truth. Only Instagram really knows the exact numbers and figures of their platform.
All of these facts will make my findings different than the next poor sap who tries this:
- My Upwork friend collected data from 10,000 business accounts
- All accounts are from the United States and Canada.
- From each account, he took an average of their last 20 posts.
- We didn’t include accounts with less than 100 followers, because I didn’t think those should count. (Lots of outliers and abandoned accounts)
- The data was collected at the end of January 2019.
Excel crashed my computer a few times, but here’s what I found out.
Results/Findings from Our Study on 2019 Instagram Engagement Rates
What’s the average engagement rate on Instagram in 2019?
The Average Engagement Rate on Instagram is 1.2%
It has dropped by more than 50% in the past year. (source)
The good news is that Instagram is pretty much done filling up the feed with ads (in industry-speak, ad load is at full capacity). So we shouldn’t expect engagement to drop too much below 1%.
Other good news? 1% engagement is still miles ahead of Facebook. (source)
And light years better than Twitter.
Athletes, Comedians, and Real Estate are some of the Best Industries on Instagram when it comes to engagement.
To be honest I probably didn’t have a large enough data set to definitively say if one industry is really #1, but nevertheless, you can still pick out a few insights from this pseudo-scientific list.
First off what I noticed is that the best-performing industries are by and large the ones dominated by personal accounts. Athletes, Comedians, and Real Estate agents are all real human beings, which is whom others like to engage with on Instagram.
If you’re a brand, that doesn’t mean you should give up, it just means you should think about how to humanize your pictures and captions to sound more like….well…you!
The Number of Followers was not Correlated with Average Engagement Whatsoever.
Ok, this one was a little strange, too. Common sense (and common internet knowledge) suggests that the more followers you have, the less engagement you get. We could not prove or disprove that in our results.
People think that because 1) it makes logical sense. My mom likes all my Instagram posts, my like 10-20 closest friends like most of them, and then from there it’s pretty random. The more followers you have, the more random it is.
This contradicts other studies like this one from September 2017.
This was surprising, so I asked my smart friend Colton why he thought this might be. He told me:
- You only collected data from Business Instagram Accounts. (unlike other studies)
- You didn’t include accounts with less than 100 followers. (unlike other studies)
- The Instagram Explore page is more popular than ever. So when posts go viral, they go viral in a big big way. (see the Instagram Egg)
I think that all of these reasons are actually probably true and that the difference in engagement in different size accounts has probably decreased.
However, I’m going to go with my gut on this one and say that my numbers don’t accurately represent the truth of what one should expect as an Instagram marketer/influencer.
The more followers you have, the less engaged they will be.
It just makes sense. More followers = more random people who won’t engage with you because they don’t know you.
Unless you’re @world_record_egg.
Other Useful Instagram Engagement Stats for 2019
If you’ve been reading from the beginning, you already know that I think most of the info out there on “Instagram Stats” is outdated and misleading.
These little findings from other recent studies are a few exceptions:
Story Reach Rate is Between 4% and 12% (Source)
Reach is Still Better on Posts than On Stories (Source)
This surprised me at first. If it surprises you too, I think I know why…
If you regularly look at your Stories stats you are looking at viewers, not likers. You have to dig deep into the Instagram Insights (stats for business pages) to check out your post reach.
Videos are More Engaging than Carousels, and Carousels are More Engaging than Images
FOR THE JUMPER VIDEO TEAM
We make killer videos for awesome brands
that cost way less than you’d think.
Here is our reel.
Weekends are Better for Engagement
More Tags Equals More Likes
The Big Mystery: Why Is Engagement Dropping on Instagram in 2019?
Engagement is dropping on Instagram because organic reach is dropping. Less organic reach means fewer eyeballs. Fewer eyeballs mean fewer likes, which means less engagement.
So why is organic reach in freefall?
Actually, it’s not a mystery at all. There are two main reasons: 1) Ad Load, and 2) Instagram Stories.
1) Ad Load has increased
More ads = less non-ads. This is the #1 reason why Instagram organic reach is dropping, and it is open, public information.
Instagram is owned by Facebook. Facebook is a business that makes money selling ads. In order to make more money (maximize shareholder profits), the company tries to stuff more ads everywhere it can. Lately, that has been on the Instagram feed.
The same thing happened with Facebook engagement from 2012 to 2014.
The chart below shows the organic reach per fan for Facebook pages from 2012 to 2014.
The company has talked about “Ad Load” on its earnings calls for years now. During the company’s Q1 2017 earnings call, CFO David Wehner told analysts that revenue growth would slow significantly because ad load on the Facebook news feeds were at full capacity.
It seems that in Q1 2019 ad load on the Instagram feed is at our near full capacity, which is good news for your organic reach. It’s probably not going to continue going down at such a rapid clip.
Ad load on Instagram Stories, however, is not at full capacity. This is an interesting opportunity for marketers who can figure out how to monetize the new ad format before the competition.
Speaking of IG Stories, they are the second reason why organic reach has tanked on Instagram.
2) Everyone is Watching Stories!
Instagram now has over 1 billion monthly active users, and they are all watching stories!
Well, not all of them….
As of January 2019, 500 million people watch Stories every single day. (source)
That’s half of all Instagrammers watching stories every single day. 50 PERCENT!
That number has gone up big time over the past few years. In June 2018 it was 40%, and in early 2017 it was only 20%.
While Stories usage has gone up like crazy, overall Instagram usage on a per user basis has not. Translation: the eyeballs you used to get on your feed posts are now watching Stories.
So what are you gonna do about it?
IF you’re smart you’re gonna focus on creating awesome stories, and worry about your Story views more than your post likes.
The Shadowban is Fake News
In 2017, all of a sudden people realized that some of their posts weren’t showing up on the hashtags they were using, and someone somewhere came up with a plausible sounding theory: Instagram is punishing my account for bad behavior, and because they want me to buy ads.
The only problem with this theory is that it is completely untrue.
Instagram has publicly said time and time again that the shadowban is not and never was a thing. Schedugram looked into the data and confirmed that the shadowban is fake news.
But the legend still lives on. Just like some people believe the earth is flat, some people believe that Instagram is out to get them and is willing to lie to the media about it over and over.
Here’s exactly what Instagram told Techcrunch about the Shadowban:
“Instagram doesn’t downrank users for posting too frequently or for other specific behaviors, but it might swap in other content in between someone’s if they rapid-fire separate posts.
Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach. Shadowbanning is not a real thing, and Instagram says it doesn’t hide people’s content for posting too many hashtags or taking other actions.”
“Ok, smarty pants, but why aren’t my posts showing up on #dropitlikeitsscott?” – Scott
Scott, I really don’t know man. Nobody knows except Instagram, and I’d wager that nobody at Instagram knows either.
Instagram’s servers have to process a mind-boggling amount of data. It’s so much data that they can’t process it all sometimes. So they make tradeoffs.
On really popular hashtags, you might not show up because Instagram can’t sort the posts fast enough so it just doesn’t include some.
On really small hashtags, you might not show up because the algorithm is prioritizing the scraping and sorting of content on hashtags that people actually visit.
On some other hashtags, Instagram just thinks there is too much spam on there already so it has stopped showing content entirely (see banned hashtags).
What to Do if Your Engagement Suddenly Drops in 2019
If you’re reading this section because your engagement suddenly dropped and you’re freaking out, you need to confront the brutal, honest, facts of the situation.
If you’re freaking out because your last few posts got 20%, 30%, 40%, even 50% fewer likes than usual, you’re probably freaking out over nothing.
To find out for sure, do these two things:
1) Never do a 1 to 1 comparison.
Some posts do better than others naturally, and that’s ok. The variance is higher than you’d expect.
What you don’t want to do is compare the selfie you posted on Sunday during the super bowl, to the motivational quote you posted the Wednesday before at noon.
You need to look at averages over a long time horizon to see if your engagement really has suddenly dropped. So compare your last 10 posts to the 10 before that, and then we can talk about your engagement tanking.
2) Compare your engagement to similar accounts.
Even if your last 10 posts are getting 30% less likes than the 10 before that (and I doubt it), how is your profile doing compared to the rest of the accounts out there?
You can use a handy tool like this to find out: https://www.socialbakers.com/free-social-tools/instagram-performance-report
Or you can just compare yourself with the averages we found in the study above. If you’re getting 0.8% engagement or above, you are well in line with the normal range.
How to Get More Engagement in 2019 on Instagram
This could be a whole blog post in itself.
Actually, it is —> 33 New Ways to Increase Instagram Engagement
I suggest you check out the article, but if you don’t have time for that, here are my top tips:
- Start conversations by posting engaging content and asking questions in your captions.
- Continue conversations by responding to comments, and replying to DMs.
- Host a giveaway for your current followers where you enter them to win a prize if they like and comment on the photo.
All of these work because of the algorithm. If you don’t understand the algorithm or need a refresher, we have a blog post on that too —> Our Stupid Simple Guide to the Instagram Algorithm
Algorithm is a big fancy scary word, but you can understand the Instagram algorithm even if you didn’t make it through high school algebra if you understand what Instagram is trying to do with the algorithm.
Instagram wants you to keep using Instagram so they can show you more ads. In order to get you to keep using Instagram, they are going to show you the stuff you like. They know what you like because you have engaged with similar stuff in the past.
In other words, if you comment on your friend Tracy’s last post, Instagram will probably show you her next one because you are likely to engage with that too.
So just “trick” your followers into engaging with your stuff once, and they will see your next few posts too.
By the way, this is kind of how Donald Trump won the election. He gamed the Twitter algorithm by posting ridiculous controversial stuff that picked up free media coverage along the way…a topic for another article 😉
Actually, the Best Way to Get More Engagement on Instagram in 2019 is to Stop Worrying and Focus Your Energy on Making Better Content
Especially making better Instagram Stories.
That’s what Zuckerberg thinks anyway…
“I just think that this is the future,” Zuckerberg told analysts, speaking about Instagram Stories.
“The opportunity will be even bigger because it looks like Stories will be a bigger medium than Feed has been.”
How does that saying go? Content is ________?