Did you notice your engagement stats go up after posting an Instagram role? You are not the only one.
Since the short video format debuted on the platform last year, brands and developers have found that there is more to these posts than just views. Many have seen that their number of followers and engagement rates have increased too. One Instagram creator says she gained 2,800+ followers by posting one role every day for a month.
At Hootsuite, we decided to search our own Instagram data and test this theory.
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Hypothesis: Posting roles improves your overall Instagram engagement
Our running hypothesis is that posting an Instagram role can have a shine effect on all of our Instagram metrics. In other words, posting roles can increase our overall engagement and follower growth rates.
To conduct this informal experiment, the Hootsuite social media team implemented its planned Instagram strategy, which includes posting roles, single-frame and carousel posts, and IGTV videos.
The first role of Hootsuite was released on January 21, 2021. During the 40-day period between January 21 and March 3, Hootsuite posted 19 posts on its feed, including six roles, seven IGTV videos, five carousels, and a video. In terms of frequency, we released a roll about once a week.
When it comes to discovery, there are a number of variables to consider on Instagram. In any case, our roles have been published on the Roles tab and in the feed. Some accounts have found that if a role is only published to the Roles tab, the performance of a role degrades significantly. We did not test this theory in this experiment.
Others have found that sharing roles with Instagram stories can also have a significant impact on engagement. We shared all of our roles for Instagram stories. So keep that in mind as you read the results.
Audio is another way to discover roles on Instagram. After watching a reel, viewers can click the track and explore other videos that sample the same audio. Of the six roles we published, three contain trending tracks while the other three use original audio. Eventually, three rolls contained hashtags and none of them were “featured” by Instagram curators.
- Timeframe: January 21st – March 3rd
- Number of roles posted: 6
- All roles published in the feed
- All roles have been approved for Instagram Stories
TL; DR: The number of followers and engagement rate have increased, but not much higher than before Reels started publishing. The range also remained the same.
Check out the Hootsuite Follower Breakdown in Instagram Insights, as shown below. Sure enough, every bump on the green “New Follower” line equates to a reel release.
Source: Instagram Insights from Hoosuite
“We saw significant spikes in our follower count one to three days after posting a role. My hypothesis is that these spikes in follower growth come from our Reels content, ”said Brayden Cohen, social marketing strategist at Hootsuite. But, according to Cohen, Hootsuite’s overall follow-and-unollow rate hasn’t changed much.
“We typically see around 1,000 to 1,400 new followers every week and around 400 to 650 a week (this is normal). I would say our follow and unollow rate has stayed the same since we posted Reels. “
Let’s examine the data in a little more detail. Note: All of the statistics listed below were recorded on March 8, 2021.
Role No. 1– January 21, 2021
Views: 27.8K, Likes: 733, Comments: 43
Audio: “Level Up”, Ciara
Role No. 2– January 27, 2021
Views: 15K, Likes: 269, Comments: 44
Role No. 3– February 8, 2021
Views: 17.3K, Likes: 406, Comments: 23
Role No. 4– February 17, 2021
Views: 7,337, Likes: 240, Comments: 38
Role No. 5– February 23, 2021
Views: 16.3K, Likes: 679, Comments: 26
Audio: “Dreams”, Fleetwood Mac
Role No. 6– March 3, 2021
Views: 6,272, Likes: 208, Comments: 8
In terms of overall reach, Cohen says, “I see a similar increase in the number of accounts reached by our Instagram account on the dates we posted reels.” While there are ups and downs, the reach in the is increasing February steadily on.
Source: Instagram Insights from Hoosuite
What about engagement? Compared to the previous 40 days, the average number of comments and likes per post is higher.
But that is mainly due to the roles themselves. “Our Instagram roles not only have a much higher display rate, but also 300-800 likes per post, while an IGTV and an in-feed video have between 100 and 200 likes”, says Cohen. Take the roles out of the equation, and the engagement rate for both periods is roughly the same.
Do Reels Boost Your Overall Instagram Engagement? In Hootsuite’s case, the answer is a little. The number of followers and the engagement rate increased, but not much more than before when we started posting roles.
What do the results mean?
Instagram wants high quality roles to be seen
Instagram has redesigned its home screen to bring the roles to the front and center. So it should come as no surprise that the number of roles is shown. In this sense, roles have become an important limit to the app’s organic reach. The more people you reach with your roles, the higher your chances of increasing the number of followers and the engagement rate.
While roles may have a wider reach than other formats on the platform, the Instagram algorithm continues to prioritize roles that check certain boxes. Here’s how the company explains its recommendation engine: “People tell us they want to see entertaining, funny, and interesting content in places like the Roles tab, and we’d better recommend it.”
Republish TikTok Videos as Roles? Instagram could do you for this. “We have also heard that rolls with poor video quality (i.e. blurry due to the low resolution) or content that is visibly recycled from other apps (i.e. containing logos or watermarks) make the experience of the roles less satisfactory,” explains a post by the Company. “So we’re making this content less discoverable in places like the Roles tab.”
Roles with people perform well
TikTok’s success largely depends on its creator, and Instagram reels are no different. Take a look at your Reels feed and you will find that most videos have one thing in common: people! Forget hyper-stylized product shots, Instagram aesthetics, or even illustrations. All of this is second only to those with personality in Reels format.
“We see that having a picture of a person on the reel contributes to better performance,” says Cohen. Of the top three Hootsuite roles in this experiment, two feature a person in the cover photo (in both cases, it’s Cohen!). The third role also shows a person (Hootsuites Inbound Marketing Lead, Shannon Tien), just not on the cover.
Audio can make a huge difference
It is probably no coincidence that our top three roles happen to be the three that have a trend track. In particular, Ciara’s “Level Up” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” are currently very popular on Instagram and TikTok.
“Instagram prefers if you natively add your audio and songs to their app instead of adding them beforehand in a third-party app or using other music that isn’t available on Instagram,” says Cohen. “I think that plays a big role.”
Sharing on Instagram stories improves views
Adding your role to a story increases the likelihood that it will appear. Roles can be shared directly with stories, but Cohen recommends a different approach: “I’ll switch the in-feed role to stories so the role in our feed gets more views.”
If your account has more than 10,000 followers, you can use them to drive traffic or conversions by sharing your role in a story. “Instagram story sharing is incredibly helpful when you provide a swipe-up link or CTA as it can’t be done for in-feed reels subtitles,” he says.
Hashtags have little impact on reach
Like other posts on the platform, Instagram reels can contain up to 30 hashtags. According to an Instagram story posted by the company’s @creators account, “Hashtags continue to be a great source of discovery for developers, especially on roles.” Popular hashtags for roles include #dance, #humor, #fitness, and #reelitfeelit.
Hashtags had no apparent impact on Hootsuite’s roles. Posts that did not perform were in some cases just as good and in some cases better than posts that did some. “I think hashtags help make the content discoverable and maybe help get them to the top of certain trending hashtags,” says Cohen. “Currently, however, I’m not one hundred percent sure whether hashtags are relevant.”
All of these aspects are refined by Instagram. In fact, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri recently told The Verge that he was “not yet happy” with Reels. Stay up to date with Instagram updates here.
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