12 Days of Data 2020, Day 3: Instagram for Brands Key Metrics

12 Days of Data 2020, Day 3: Instagram for Brands Key Metrics

12 Days of Data 2020, Day 3: Instagram for Brands Key Metrics


Welcome to the 12 Days of Data 2020 Edition, our look back at the data that made marketing in 2020. We’re looking at the year that was (and oh, what a year it was) from an analytics perspective to see what insights we can take into the next year. Sit up, get your coffee ready, and let’s celebrate some data.

Instagram Brand Engagement Statistics for Unpaid Content

On day 3, we turn our attention to Instagram, Facebook’s visual network. It used to be photos. Then photos and album. Then videos. Then Instagram live. Then Instagram TV. Then Reels. We’ve lost track of how many different features Facebook has tried to stuff in this application, but it’s all visual.

We start with Instagram account data for brands’ organic (unpaid) content. Using a curated list provided by Crowdtangle (a Facebook company), a sample size of 4,001 Instagram brand accounts. Based on that data, we wanted to see what Instagram brand engagement looked like for 2020.

Before we go further, we define engagement as the number of interactions (reactions, comments, shares) that occurred on an Instagram brand post, divided by the number of followers of that Instagram brand account at the time of posting. For all the computations that follow, we use the median as the measure of centrality, rather than the mean (average) because medians deal better with outliers, especially in large social media datasets.

In 2020, these 4,001 brand pages published a total of 1,377,267 unique Instagram posts that were not paid or boosted posts:

Instagram brand Statistics

The big picture in 2020 is the median engagement rate of 0.372% for unpaid content, a 21% decrease from 2019’s 0.472%. To put that in context, audience engagement with unpaid content on Instagram was 1 out of every 268 people who follow an Instagram brand account. This is still 22 times better than brands do on Facebook, so for brands looking for engagement, Instagram is a far better bet.

Other statistics: – The median number of engagements per post was 1,286 likes, 14 comments per post, up from 1,271 likes and 12 comments in 2019 – The median number of followers of Instagram brand accounts was 425,375 followers, up from 317,897 followers in 2019 – The median number of posts per day by brand is 1.0, down from 1.068 in 2019

When we examine the trendline for this content, we see that brands started the year strong, with almost a 0.5% engagement rate, saw a brief bump early on in the pandemic, and then a gradual decline for the rest of the year.

Instagram for brands

Note that engagement is always low on the most recent 2 days of data due to the way Instagram’s algorithm works.

Key Takeaway

Brands took less of a hit in 2020 than they did in 2019; last year, they experienced a 45.6% decrease in engagement. To be sure, brands still get relatively poor performance on Instagram compared to some other marketing channels, but they do better on Instagram than Facebook.

Our recommendation for brands is to stay the course with Instagram, but do your best – as always – to bring users from the social network to digital properties you own. Activate audiences on social networks, but don’t build your castle there – the ever-declining engagement rate means it’s only a matter of time before paying to be seen is mandatory.


Trust Insights used Facebook’s Crowdtangle software to extract all posts from 4,001 brand accounts for calendar year-to-date 2020. A list of brand accounts was provided by Crowdtangle. Posts that were sponsored/paid were excluded at time of processing. Posts were deduplicated by post URL prior to tabulation. Engagement is defined as (likes + comments) / followers at posting. Due to the changing nature of audience sizes, determining follower size for individual brands was calculated as the median number of followers for the brand account during the study period. The timeframe of the study is January 1, 2020 to December 7, 2020. The date of extraction is December 7, 2020. Trust Insights is the sole sponsor of the study and neither gave nor received compensation for data used, beyond applicable service fees to software vendors, and declares no competing interests.

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