Starbucks, Nike Tops In Instagram Engagement

Fifty percent of Fortune 500 brands are active on Instagram, compared to only 24.6% in 2013, according to TrackMaven’s Fortune 500 Instagram Report: 2016 Edition.

The report — which analyzed 41,071 unique Instagram posts from May 1, 2015 to May 1, 2016 — notes that 98.9% of interactions with Fortune 500 brands on Instagram come in the form of likes or “double-taps,” indicating that Instagram is by and large an engagement network, not a conversational network. 

The Washington, D.C.-based marketing analytics company found that 89.03% of Instagram posts from Fortune 500 brands have no filter. This finding reflects a tendency for Fortune 500 brands to upload pre-designed photos and videos to Instagram.



Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, and AutoNation were the first Fortune 500 brands to adopt Instagram. Starbucks and Southwest Airlines have remained dedicated to the platform, and the commitment has paid off, according to the report. 

To avoid brand affinity bias, TrackMaven chose to identify the best Fortune 500 brand on Instagram using data, says Kara Burney, TrackMaven’s director of content. 

“Our favorite metric for comparing content performance is the engagement ratio, or the average number of interactions per post per 1,000 followers,” she says. “This metric normalizes for differences in audience size and posting frequency to provide an apples-to-apples comparison of brand engagement. By this metric, Starbucks leads the rest of the Fortune 500 on Instagram, with an engagement ratio of 24.64.”

Starbucks has the second-highest Instagram follower count and the highest Instagram engagement ratio among the Fortune 500. Starbucks even beats other digital marketing elites from beyond the Fortune 500 in Instagram engagement, including Old Spice, Taco Bell, and The North Face.

Starbucks effectively uses Instagram by tying its product to every aspect of their customer’s lives, Burney tells Marketing Daily.

“At a summer pool party? Here’s a fun way Starbucks fits in,” she says. “On a road trip over Memorial Day Weekend? Here’s how Starbucks can make it more bearable. Getting excited for fall? Here’s a reminder that with fall comes Pumpkin Spice Lattes. No matter the occasion, holiday, season, or circumstance, Starbucks has found a way to link their brand to your life.”

With over 50 million followers and counting, Nike is by far the most popular Fortune 500 brand on Instagram. That’s five times more followers than the closest fellow Fortune 500 company on Instagram: Starbucks. Nike’s Instagram popularity is fueled by brand recognition and stellar Instagram content. The brand averages 469,842 interactions per Instagram photo, which is twice Starbucks’ average engagement.

Too many marketers are still treating Instagram — and digital marketing in general — as a 9-to-5 job, Burney says. 

“Our data shows that brands post far less content on the weekends, and by and large publish during the East Coast work day,” she says. “However, the brand-generated Instagram posts that are published on weekends and late-night East Coast hours see higher engagement on average. Social media is a leisure time activity for many digital consumers. Marketers need to understand when their audience is active on Instagram so that they can publish content when it’s most likely to be seen.”

There is a dramatic mismatch between the most popular and most effective Instagram filters among Fortune 500 brands, Burney adds.

“Our research shows that 89% of Instagram posts from Fortune 500 brands have no filter,” she says. “This finding flies in the face of the original intention and appeal of the Instagram platform: to make your everyday photos look better. Filters are essential to Instagram’s appeal for individuals, but brands — and Fortune 500 brands in particular — hardly use them.” 

TrackMaven’s research shows that there are 12 filters that perform better on average than the Normal or no filter option for Fortune 500 brands. 

“This finding indicates that there is an appetitive for authenticity on Instagram,” Burney says. “Brands need to remember and respect that their content is appearing not amongst a feed of other brand-generated content, but among content from users’ friends and families as well. Remaining true to the aesthetics of each social network, like taking and editing photos natively in each platform, could prevent the jarring 'this is obviously an ad, let me ignore it' effect on social media.”

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