How are publishers reaching audiences on Instagram? We look at ten pages to see how their presence and engagement on the platform has grown since the start of the year. 
For publishers, Instagram can be a confusing proposition. It’s hard to drive back traffic from the platform, and dealing in a strictly visual medium can sometimes be restricting. But there’s little point in ignoring its strength as a social media platform that’s increasingly useful in reaching audiences.
An algorithm change earlier this year might have gone some way towards benefitting publishers, surfacing posts that people were engaging with more frequently. But there’s a much more straightforward reason why there’s been such growth in engagement: it’s an extremely popular social media platform around the world.
This summer, Instagram passed the 300 million active daily users mark, with over 500 million users in total. On top of that, 80% of Instagram users come from outside the US, making the platform a growing global force in social publishing. In the last six months, Instagram has also managed to double its number of advertisers.
In tandem with those numbers, we’ve seen engagement with publishers’ content increase on the platform throughout 2016. In Spike, engagement numbers in Spike seem to rise and rise, and increasingly, the most engaged posts come from publisher pages.
Instagram in Spike
We looked at 10 publishers’ Instagram pages to see how their engagements grew from January 2016 to August 2016. Here’s a chart plotting those increases in engagement throughout the year.
Growth in Instagram Engagements for Publishers in 2016
Fox News were the big winners of the reviewed pages, increasing the volume of Likes and Comments on their Instagram page by over 195% since January. Business Insider were the second biggest winner, up almost 140% in engagements since the start of the year.
Our analysis doesn’t mean that engagement has grown uniformly across the board – some publisher pages saw a slight drop-off in engagement between the two periods – but overall there’s definitely been a growth in output and engagement for publishers on the platform.
On top of the pile for the group of ten pages we looked for, BuzzFeed have an impressive 4.7 million engagements on their main page. Of all the pages we reviewed, their posts were far ahead in terms of engagements, accounting for the top 65 posts from the ten pages we reviewed. In September, they had a hugely impressive 59,304 average engagements (Likes and Comments) on each of their 79 posts.
While Instagram isn’t exactly built with publishers in mind and doesn’t have the range of publishing features that Facebook has with Instant Articles, or Twitter with Moments, there’s a lot of potential to grab users’ attention on the platform. Instagram is a purely visual medium, and publishers are afforded the same space for their posts as everyone else.
Publishers are certainly putting more resources into creating content for Instagram generally. Fox News had 138 Instagram posts in January, and increased that to 266 over September. Average engagement rates per post are generally much higher than what we’ve seen on other platforms, and publishers have been making use of the longer videos that launched in March.
Most top publishers have been posting more of this year. At the start of 2016, the pages we reviewed were posting hardly any videos on Instagram, with the exception of BBC News. In January, the main CNN Instagram page posted just two video clips. In September, that was up to 38, more than one a day. Those 38 videos pulled in around 310,000 engagements, accounting for almost a third of their engagements for that period.
Videos have been especially useful for Fox News, who increased their output from ten clips in January to 89 in September, accounting for 655,000 engagements.


We aren’t yet tracking the performance of Instagram Stories, but indications are that there’s been a decent level of uptake from many leading publishers. The next questions that publishers are set to have regarding harnessing the audience on a completely distributed platform.
We’d be interested to hear more from publishers about their experiences on Instagram – let us know on Twitter.
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