Instagram is awesome. It’s got a great story of becoming a billion-dollar company in two years. Its fantastic filters make amateurs look good. It’s an environment where pros engage with you directly. It’s just a photography lover’s delight. If you’re part of the community and are looking to get more likes, more comments and more followers, science has a few tips for you.
Most of these studies have been focussed on photos, but a lot of the principles would apply to making videos too. Of course, it would help to know how to create unforgettable Instagram videos in the first place.
Use Filters That Add Contrast and Warmth
Instagram is all about those wonderful filters. As you might expect, using the right filter is one of the best ways to get noticed on Instagram. But which is the right filter? Obviously, there is no one perfect answer, but studies have shown an indication of what you should use.
Yahoo Labs researcher Saeideh Bakshi and others analyzed 7.6 million Flickr photos (more than half of which were from Instagram) and interviewed 15 mobile app users for their study. What they found that the highest engagement happens in photos which exude warmth and highlight contrast. What does that mean? Here’s an example from Bakshi’s paper:
The takeaway is that you need to choose filters like Sepia, which add warmth to your photos, or go for high-contrast filters like Graphite or Noir. The researchers also noted that you should avoid filters that add artifacts in the image and lose details.
Social media research firm TrackMaven conducted a study of how brands use Instagram. According to their experts, the filters Mayfair and Inkwell drive a high number of likes and comments, with Mayfair bringing in on average 23.044 interactions per 1,000 followers.
These studies were conducted before Instagram introduced five new filters, so those aren’t taken into account. But the principles involved remain the same: add warmth, boost contrast, and don’t lose details.
Focus On Faces to Draw Engagement
If you think Instagram is just a photo app with filters, you’re wrong. Instagram is all about the community, and the sooner you realize that it’s the users who make the app worth it, the sooner you will be able to get more likes.
Last year, Bakshi and his research team studied over a million Instagram photos and found that photos with human faces were more likely to get likes and comments than those without. The age, gender, or number of the people in the photo didn’t affect the statistics. And they are significant statistics: photos with faces were 38% more likely to receive likes and 32% more likely to receive comments, even after controlling for social network reach and activity.
So make sure you have people in your shots. If you can’t get people, turn that lens around and take a good-looking self portrait—and don’t forget to hashtag it with #selfie.
5 Hashtags is the Golden Number
Speaking of hashtags, users have a tendency to overuse or underuse this feature. It’s not surprising, considering some of the unusual but entertaining hashtags on Instagram. Still, there is a sweet spot.
TrackMaven’s research into how Fortune 500 companies used Instagram showed “there is a strong correlation to the number of hashtags used and effectiveness; up to 5 hashtags, which has the highest average at 21.21 interactions per 1000 followers.”
That said, Instagram hashtags can be cryptic, so you need to know what to use and when to use it. For example, if you have an old photo that you want to highlight, don’t just post it; wait for Thursday to roll around and tag it with #tbt (Throwback Thursday), one of the most popular Instagram hashtags. That will drive more engagement and even get you some new followers.
Don’t Worry About Your Caption’s Length
Unlike Twitter and its 140-character limit, Instagram allows for lengthy captions up to 2,200 characters. Yet, many people think they should go for a shorter caption because Instagram cuts off the caption preview at about 240 characters. Well, you don’t need to do that.
Analyzing several prominent Instagram accounts, research firm Simply Measured found that “there is no statistically significant correlation between caption length and engagement.” In fact, they recommend using the caption space to add value to the visual, but without being unnecessarily wordy.
Of course, the caption will include hashtags, but apart from that, Simply Measured also found that posts which tagged another user handle in the caption got 56% more engagement. The same study also found that tagging your location got 79% higher engagement.
All of the Above in One Post a Day
Do you upload multiple photos and videos in a single day? Your engagement might be dropping because of that, according to research by Iconosquare. After analyzing 39 billion interactions and talking to 16,000 Instagrammers, the specialist Instagram analysts found a direct correlation between how much you post daily and the engagement you get.
“Daily publication of 0.5 to 1 post generates the highest levels of engagement by the fan base, in the region of 7.3%. This level falls off to around 5% for a frequency of between 1 and 2 posts/day. Above 3 posts it is very low, with an average engagement of 2.4%,” — Iconosquare
Now, you need to make that one post count. So it’s about using all the aforementioned tips and making that single post awesome!
What’s Your Single Best Instagram Tip?
Science aside, let’s not forget that Instagram is about the community, so we want to hear from the people. If you had to share one, and just one, tip on how to use Instagram well, what would it be?