How Instagram video grew in importance for publishers, in three charts


By   |   June 28th, 2017   |   Reading time: 4 minutes Digital Journalism

Native video is now a standard content format on Twitter and Facebook. Our data also shows that the format is attracting a lot of engagement on Instagram in 2017. 

As we noted on the blog earlier this week, there has been significant growth in engagement with Instagram publisher content over the last year. Breaking down those numbers for publishers specifically, it’s clear that increased engagement with video on the platform is responsible for a lot of this growth.

Looking at the data available to us in NewsWhip Analytics, it’s clear that publishers and Instagram users generally have been responding strongly to videos on the platform over the last 12 months.

Our first chart shows how engagement grew for ten different accounts from May 2016 to May 2017. Engagement here is measured as the sum of likes and comments combined on now posts in a given month.

Engagement with the content that these accounts were publishing clearly increased over the year. As well as seeing these huge increases in Instagram users liking and commenting on publisher content on the platform, the publishers themselves have responded by posting more.

BuzzFeed News saw almost seven times as many likes and comments on their posts in May of this year compared to May 2016, and all publishers surveyed saw significant increases in the engagement stakes during the same period.

Next, let’s look at how engagement with video accounted for the bulk of those increases over the past few months. Of the ten pages we reviewed, here’s how much video interactions contributed to their total Facebook engagements for May 2017, and how that compared to March 2016, before the 15 second video limit was extended. NewsWhip Analytics allows users to filter by content type (such as Instagram video) to get a clearer picture of how audiences are engaging with their content.

You can see that the proportion of engagements from videos grew significantly for each page. ABC News saw the most dramatic increase. In March 2016, just 1% of their monthly interactions were attributed to video clips. By May 2017, that had grown to 79%, as the ABC social media team started to adapt and post more clips to their main Instagram account.

We can also examine how much videos contributed to the total proportion of Instagram posts from individual user accounts, and how that ratio changed in the last year.

Instagram video engagements as proportion of monthly total, 2016 - 2017

For the main BBC News account, 85% of their total engagements in May came from videos – up from 65% in March 2016. The growth is even more pronounced on the ABC News page, which say almost 80% of engagements on their videos in May. Before the video limit extension, that number was just 1%.

Finally, we can look in the growth of actual videos being posted by each of these pages.

Here’s how the proportion of videos for the seven accounts changed from May 2016 to May 2017. You can see that some publishers (BBC News, ABC News, CNN) have decided to focus almost entirely on video output.

Instagram videos as proportion of total monthly posts, 2016 - 2017

What does this mean for publishers? 

This data shows us something very clear about what’s happening to content formats on Instagram. People are engaging with more content from publishers, who are posting more and experimenting with the new formats available within the platform.

Much of that growth is being driven by engagement with video on Instagram. This is somewhat reminiscent of what happened on Facebook when video was pushed to the forefront of many users’ news feeds in 2015. While we aren’t yet seeing evidence that videos are being algorithmically favoured in the Instagram feed, more videos are definitely being posted in general.

Two significant feature changes from Instagram may have something to do with this rise. At the end of March 2016, Instagram increased the minimum length of videos allowed on the platform from 15 to 60 seconds. Secondly, the Instagram feed was reordered to show content algorithmically (based on previous engagement) in summer 2016, rather than in chronological order. This has the effect of bumping up posts that people react to quickly. From what we’ve seen around average engagement rates on different platforms, video has an advantage here.

This engagement growth is without even taking into consideration the popularity of newly launched Instagram stories, which have been racking up views from users since their launch in August 2016. Stories now reportedly have 250 million users, and publishers have also been experimenting with figuring out how to leverage the format to make people come back again and again.

There are serious opportunities for publishers to reach their readers through Instagram, a platform where strong visual communication skills are richly rewarded. Making the most of the possibilities mean taking the data into consideration.

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