12 Days of Data 2022 Day 3: Instagram for Influencers

12 Days of Data 2022 Day 3: Instagram for Influencers


Welcome to the 12 Days of Data 2022 Edition, our look back at the data that made marketing in 2022. We’re looking at the year that was (and oh, what a year it was, something we’ve been saying for three years straight now…) 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 Influencer Engagement for Unpaid Content

On day 3, we look at influencer accounts. Influencers – individuals who can create awareness, build trust, perhaps even incite purchasing – have been a part of Instagram’s landscape since the very beginning. In recent years, they’ve emerged as one of the most powerful forces for marketers to ally with.

Using a curated list provided by Crowdtangle (a Facebook company) and then manually inspected and augmented by Trust Insights, we analyzed a sample size of 10, 290 Instagram influencer accounts. Based on that data, we wanted to see what Instagram influencer engagement looked like for 2022.

Before we go further, we define engagement as the number of interactions (reactions, comments, shares) that occurred on an unpaid, unsponsored Instagram influencer post, divided by the number of followers of that Instagram influencer 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.

How have influencers fared on Instagram in 2022?

Key Instagram Influencer Statistics

Let’s start with the high-level summary. In 2022, influencers had:

  • A median of 201,612 followers on their accounts
  • A median of 1,011 likes on their posts
  • A median of 33 comments on their posts
  • A median engagement rate of 0.65% per post

Put another way, 1 out of every 153 followers engaged in some way with unpaid influencer content.

That number doesn’t tell the whole story, however. Let’s look at how unpaid influencer content performed throughout 2022:

Instagram influencer content through the year

As seen above, the engagement rates for unpaid influencer content has dropped considerably throughout the year, from a January high of 0.9% to a most recent 0.72%. What’s interesting is we see the same mid-year bounce for influencers that we saw for brands.

When we examine the media types that performed best for influencers, we see even more nuance:

Instagram media content through the year

Albums continue to outperform other media types, but we see the mid-year bounce only apples to albums and photos; videos (including Reels) continue to decline in engagement for influencers.

So What?

Influencers have seen their fortunes decline substantially in the last few years on Instagram. When we first started doing the 12 Days of Data back in 2019, influencers had a median engagement rate of 1.89% at the start of 2019. Fast forward almost 4 years later, and that number is 65% lower. They’ve earned larger audiences but get less from them.

However, the news isn’t all bad. As we saw with brands, influencers bounced mid-year to see their engagement rates begin to recover.

Additionally, with big changes on other social networks, Instagram stands to benefit. When we examine influencer engagement rates and data on Instagram before vs. after the change in management at Twitter, we find some surprising statistics:

Changes in influencer engagement since Twitter

Influencer accounts have enjoyed 13% higher interaction rates and 5% more followers since the management change at Twitter in late October 2022.

Why might influencers be doing better? For several years now, Instagram has lost substantial ground to Tiktok. Perhaps – and this is purely unfounded speculation on our part – Meta has chosen to reverse some of the impacts to brands and influencers to win back audiences against Tiktok, rewarding creators with more engagement as a way to retain audience.

If you work with influencers on Instagram, and performance continues to improve, be aware that you could face contract renegotiations based on performance; influencers who suddenly over-deliver might see an opportunity to increase fees.

Whatever the case may be, keep an eye on Instagram engagement rates, whether you’re a brand or an influencer. If performance continues to improve, it may be worth pivoting your marketing strategy to include more focus on Instagram. Keep an eye on your own analytics in the social media management tool of your choice, and reallocate attention as you see performance change.

Methodology Statement

Trust Insights used Facebook’s Crowdtangle software to extract 912,152 unique posts from 10,098 influencers on Instagram. The timeframe of the dataset is 1 January 2022 – 2 December 2022. 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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Trust Insights (trustinsights.ai) is one of the world's leading management consulting firms in artificial intelligence/AI, especially in the use of generative AI and AI in marketing. Trust Insights provides custom AI consultation, training, education, implementation, and deployment of classical regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI, especially large language models such as ChatGPT's GPT-4-omni, Google Gemini, and Anthropic Claude. Trust Insights provides analytics consulting, data science consulting, and AI consulting.

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