Will Instagram be impacted by Facebook’s news feed updates?

January 31, 2018

Written by NewsWhip

With Facebook’s algorithm change setting the pace for 2018, it’s worth considering whether there will be a trickle-down effect for other platforms, like Instagram.

Facebook is in full swing with changes, which we analyzed here, and just another change came out this week, prioritizing local news in the feed.
Platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp may stand to be the most affected since they are owned by Facebook.
This in mind, we decided to take a look at the platform and discern whether there had been any notable changes or trends in which accounts and posts are driving the most engagements. We analyzed millions of digital objects using NewsWhip Analytics, our database of the world’s social media trends.

Business as usual at Instagram 

It’s all quiet on the Instagram front. Fortunately, when we looked at the accounts driving the most engagements since Facebook’s algorithm announcement, they are still generally divided across publishers, brands, aggregators, and of course, celebrities.

Instagram News Feed Facebook Change
Just looking at the top English-language accounts since the algorithm change, there’s quite a variety. Instagram already has an algorithm at work, often bumping posts from influencers, publishers, and brands to just below one’s personal connections.

Despite this, 9gag, the Shade Room, National Geographic, Bleacher Report and its niche account, House of Highlights, and 433 all featured. Content aggregators like World Star Hip Hop and Hoodclips, also continue to get users double-tapping.

What are the trends keeping these publishers on top? We decided to take a look. 

What are the top publishers on Instagram this month? 

Since the top accounts don’t seem to have been affected by Facebook’s algorithm shift, we decided to widen our scope to all of January so far. We looked at January 1st to 29th, so January’s final rankings may change.

publishers 2018 january instagram
Again, 9gag is leading the charge on Instagram, with nary a worry to Facebook algorithms. Across the fifteen, they posted an average of 19 times a day.

Publishers have a strong showing here, with all of the top fifteen publishers set to reach more than 25 million likes and comments in January. That’s an average of 833,333 likes and comments per day, at the minimum.

The top publishers in terms of total engagements, also had some of the most actively engaged audiences. Bleacher Report Football, Benchwarmers (#16), Barstool Sports, Complex, and Bleacher Report’s main account had the highest engagements per user.

Before we dive into the trends of these top publishers, let’s take a look at the top brands. 

What are the top brands on Instagram this month? 

We divided our analysis into sports brands and all other brands. Sports do well on Instagram, with thrilling visual content that fuels an already passionate audience.

The NBA and FC Barcelona are neck and neck as we approach the end of January. In case you’ve forgotten that soccer (aka proper football) is the world’s most popular sport, the prevalence of soccer accounts on this list will make that abundantly clear.

These teams have an almost religious following, so it makes sense that their fans swarm to Instagram’s platform to see the latest updates.

Beyond sports, the top brands were divided across fashion, entertainment, autos, and of course, our personal favorite, NASA.

On average, these brands don’t see the same level of engagements as our top publishers, but they are still driving tens of millions of likes and comments for January.
They were also posting less, with an average of seven posts per day across them. 

What are the top content trends on Instagram for 2018? 

Niche content that delights and inspires users, and builds a sense of community, is the trick for going big on Instagram this year. Humor, awe-inspiring visuals, and sharing personal glimpses into the lives of fans’ heroes is also key.

The community building may become a bigger aspect, as Instagram added a new feature to prompt users into commenting.

Below, we explore some of these trends more in-depth. 

Niche is king 

Much like we’ve seen in previous analyses, niche publishers have a solid footing on Instagram. They appeal to very specific audiences or fulfill a particular role for their audience.

As we saw, the top publishers in January all have a tight focus. Whether it was pop culture and celebrity gossip, sports, or stunning travel and wildlife photographs, these publishers know their niche.
house of highlights instagram
Niches thrive on social media. Publishers and content creators can afford to get extremely granular. Instead of just being a sports publisher, House of Highlights (above) surfaces funny and nostalgic basketball videos.

The recent ability to follow hashtags may help out publishers and other content creators. Catering to specific hashtags with quality content might be the way forward to building out highly engaged audiences. 

A break from the ordinary 

If you consider how Instagram is used — love those sweet bursts of serotonin — then you can understand the success of the top publishers.

The top publishers (and aggregator accounts) rely on entertaining memes and content that apply to their specific audiences. Humor appears to be a universal best practice. Just check out Barstool Sports’ growth over 2017.

Barstool Sports Growth
Barstool’s success comes down to a blend of humor, pop culture, surprising moments, and unusual human experiences:

barstool sports
 National Geographic fulfills another role, taking users out of and away from their daily lives with snapshot stories of far-flung destinations or exotic animals. Instagram and GoPro follow this tactic as well. 

Instagram January top post

There’s a second tactic at work here, which is sourcing content from users. According to Nielsen’s Consumer Trust Index, an incredible 92 percent of consumers trust user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising. 

Inspiration & community

Auto brands, beauty brands, fashion brands — what do these have in common? Well, after all of the sports brands, they’re the most engaging brands on Instagram.

But there’s more to it than that. They run on an effective blend of inspiration and community building.

hypebeast instagram january 2018
Hypebeast goes beyond fashion and promotes a lifestyle that followers can aspire to. The above post shows off a nostalgic and super sweet ride.

Auto enthusiasts and style enthusiasts are an equally passionate bunch. The brands’ Instagram accounts cater to that, with user-generated content and posts that fuel their followers’ love.

anastasia beauty instagramAnastasia Beverly Hills regularly features looks from its followers, but also memes that are as on point as their brows.

As we mentioned above, UGC is more trusted, but it also is a powerful incentive for community-building. As we’ve said in the past:

“Your followers are not only your audience but a resource too. By using your fans as a sounding board and source of content, you can learn more about the type of content they value.
Interactivity leads to community. Your readers want to interact with the content they’re consuming. Letting them into the conversation can foster deeper engagements and even extend the life of your stories as users spin-off content into new directions.
This leads to a growing audience and a new lifecycle for content as your followers are inspired by what’s being produced by their peers and join in themselves.” 

Celebrity accounts

Celebrities have long held the engagement throne on Instagram, accruing millions of likes and comments each month.

But, there is a question of how this will play out, given Facebook’s decision to emphasize meaningful engagements and particularly comments on its platform. Will the same transfer over to Instagram, where there is an odd ecosystem of commenting at play?
Selena Instagram Social Media Monitoring
Plus, there’s the question of how many people find the celebs on their Instagram feed and how many people are actively seeking them out.

Still, we can learn from celebrities’ success on the platform. They provide a compelling and personal “hero” narrative that their fans can follow along with, often sharing intimate, behind-the-scenes looks into their lives. It’s the ultimate “Celebs! They’re just like us!” feature from a gossip mag.  


Platform changes are always an inevitability. But, by keeping a pulse on what posts, publishers, and creators are driving the most buzz, you can distill what the best practices and trends are.

To make it way, way easier, take a dive into NewsWhip Spike and explore the top posts on Instagram across any format, metric, industry, or hashtag.

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