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With Instagram being the fastest growing social platform – and now well on the way to being the next billion user network – it makes sense that more brands are also putting increased emphasis on their Insta presence.

Indeed, Instagram notes that some 200 million of the platform’s daily users visit at least one business profile in the app every day, while more than 25 million brands have signed up for business profiles on the platform, two million of them running ads.

Competition is clearly heating up on the Facebook-owned visual app – if you want to stand out, you need to move with the latest trends.

So what are the latest shifts you need to know about on Instagram? The team at Mention recently conducted a study of more than 115 million Instagram posts to see what’s working.

Here’s what they found.

Hashtags

Mention has split its report up into several segments which probe specific elements of the platform. The report itself is huge – if you want the full detail, you can check through the complete findings here.

In this post, we’ll look at some of the key highlights, starting with hashtag use and engagement – which, according to Mention’s data, may have changed over time.

As per the report:

“Naturally, many people would assume that using Instagram hashtags would help increase engagement. They make your post easier to find, which means more views, and should mean more engagement, right? Well, no. In fact, we found no clear correlation between the number of hashtags in a post and the number of engagements (likes and comments).”

That’s quite a different finding to most other Instagram hashtag reports – according to this one from TrackMaven (published in 2016), eleven tags is the optimal number to boost Instagram post engagement.

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As you can see from Mention’s chart, what they found was that posts with no tags (33% of the posts in their study had no tags) actually fared better, in terms of engagement.

It feels counterintuitive, in opposition to almost every other Instagram advice post I’ve read. But the data doesn’t lie.

Should you stop adding hashtags to your Insta posts? It seems that it could be worth a try – though I would suggest trying to add more niche tags to connect with specific audiences before cutting them out completely. But it may be worth a test, either way.

Mention’s researchers have also highlighted the tags that generate the most engagement – which are different from the most popular tags.

That’s important to note, because as mentioned, the tags you need to use should be relative to your business, not always the ones seeing the most use. Trying to tap into those broader trends could see your message being drowned out by sheer volume – the data here suggests that more focused hashtag use is key to generating reach.

Engagement

In terms of what type of content, specifically, is generating more engagement on Instagram, Mention’s data shows – unsurprisingly – that video leads the way.

If you haven’t considered video within your content process by now, you haven’t been paying attention – Mention’s data further reinforces the need for all businesses to be considering video, and how they can use it to showcase their business.

Tagging

One of the more interesting findings in Mention’s report – though again, not overly surprising – is the fact that tagging other users in your posts clearly boosts engagement.

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“With every user tagged, the number of likes go up. This increase is basically linear; every user tagged brings 0.5-1 new like.”

The finding, as noted by Mention, makes sense – if you tag another user in a post they’re more likely to comment. Still, Mention also notes that 72% of the posts they analyzed contained no tags, which could be a missed opportunity for engagement.

There’s a heap more insights in Mention’s full report, and the sample size is definitely large enough to highlight indicative trends. The data raises some interesting questions, and considerations for your strategy. 



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