12 Days of Data 2021, Day 3: Instagram Media Types

12 Days of Data 2021, Day 3: Instagram Media Types


Welcome to the 12 Days of Data 2021 Edition, our look back at the data that made marketing in 2021. We’re looking at the year that was (and oh, what a year it was… again…) 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 and look forward to the year ahead.

Instagram Media Types

On day 3, we look at media types for Instagram. Instagram currently publishes analytics data for four kinds of media – albums (carousels), photos, videos, and IGTV. Each media type offers its own benefits and drawbacks, but the key question marketers have is, which media types seem to offer the best performance? Let’s take a look at some headline numbers.

Instagram Media Types

For brands, we see:

  • Videos earn a median of 0.16% engagement per video
  • Photos earn a median of 0.33% engagement per photo
  • Albums earn a median of 0.43% engagement per album/carousel
  • No brands published IGTV videos in our sample

For influencers, we see:

  • Videos earn a median of 0.58% engagement per video
  • Photos earn a median of 1.32% engagement per photo
  • Albums earn a median of 1.71% engagement per album/carousel
  • IGTV videos earn a median of 0.40% engagement per IGTV video

For both brands and influencers, the clear winner is definitely the carousel format. Let’s look over time to see how these media types performed over the year.

Brands had this performance:

Brand Instagram Media Performance

Influencers had this performance:

Influencers Instagram Media Performance

What we see in both cases is a significant decline across all media types, but a substantial absence of IGTV. Why? While we don’t get Reels data from Facebook’s Crowdtangle software, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Facebook’s strategy – to copy Tiktok as much as possible – has led to their cannibalizing attention away from IGTV to promote Reels.

So What?

While we don’t have data for Reels or Stories, it stands to reason that these featured – Reels in particular – have diverted substantial attention from existing Instagram features. At the same time, we note that Facebook continually looks for ways to extract more revenue from large accounts; it should be no surprise that unpaid content, especially from brands, continues to decline in effectiveness over time.

So what should we do about this? Two key takeaways. First, for existing legacy content types – albums, videos, and photos – test them to see which delivers the best response from your audience. Generally speaking, albums – carousels of photos and videos – seem to perform best across multiple account types.

Second, if you haven’t already, start testing Reels and Stories on your account. Reels in particular are intended to be a clone of Tiktok’s main features, so if you’re already generating content for Tiktok, porting that content to Reels should be trivial. Conversely, if you find it relatively easy to create Reels content, you should consider posting it on Tiktok as well if you aren’t already.

As we reach the end of our investigation into Instagram, it’s become clear that for many brands, if you want to achieve reach and results, you’ll need to pivot into paid advertisements. If you don’t have the budget, look into collaborating with individuals and non-competitive accounts to reach new audiences, or explore newer platforms like Tiktok if your audience is there.

Methodology Statement

Trust Insights used Facebook’s Crowdtangle software to extract 2,951,092 unique posts from 7,647 brands and 1,461,599 unique posts from 10,290 influencers on Instagram. The timeframe of the dataset is 1 January 2021 – 30 November 2021. 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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