Digiday+ Research deep dive: Brands’ confidence in Instagram grows, while agencies’ confidence wavers

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Last week, we covered that confidence in Facebook’s ability to drive marketing success is trending downward among agencies and brands. This week, we tell a much different story about its Meta sibling Instagram, based on a Digiday+ Research survey of 138 agency and brand professionals. (Spoiler: Brands’ confidence in Instagram is actually growing.)

Digiday’s survey found that, along with Facebook, Instagram is the top marketing channel among agencies, with 93% of agency pros saying their clients spend at least a very small portion of their marketing budget on the platform.

However, there’s a big discrepancy between agencies whose clients spend anything on Instagram and those who spend a lot: Only 33% of agency pros said their clients spend a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets on Instagram. That puts the platform in third place when it comes to big spending, behind Google and Facebook.

A very large portion of brands also spend on Instagram, Digiday’s survey found, but to a slightlly less degree than agencies. Eighty-five percent of brand pros said they spend at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on Instagram, putting it in third place with Facebook after Google and online display ads.

And as with agencies, one-third of brands spend a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets on Instagram. It’s a big difference from the 85% who spend at all, but it puts Instagram in second place among platforms brands spend a large or very large amount on — behind Google but in front of Facebook.

Digiday’s survey found that most agency clients are spending a moderate amount on Instagram advertising. Nearly a third of agency pros (31%) said their clients spend a moderate portion of their marketing budgets on the platform, which has remained consistent over the last year.

The next-highest spending category, Digiday found, is among agencies who said their clients spend a large portion of their marketing budgets on Instagram. To be exact, one quarter of respondents said this. This percentage remained steady over the last six months, but did jump a bit from a year ago, when 19% of agency pros said their clients spent a large amount on Instagram.

Interestingly, agencies that said their clients spend just a small portion of their marketing budgets on Instagram also make up a significant chunk of respondents to Digiday’s survey. Twenty-one percent of agency pros said their clients spend a small amount on the platform. The percentage is a rebound among respondents who said their clients’ marketing spend on Instagram is small after falling from 20% in Q1 2022 to 12% in Q3 2022.

It’s also worth noting that the percentage of agencies who said their clients spend a very large portion of their marketing budgets on Instagram remained at 8%, after falling to that percentage six months ago from 14% a year ago.

When it comes to brands, Digiday’s survey found that the largest groups of brand pros spend either a moderate portion or a large portion of their marketing budgets on Instagram — 27% in each category, to be exact. In both instances, it’s a significant jump from six months ago, when 17% of brand pros said they spent a moderate portion of their budgets on Instagram and 14% said they spent a large portion. For the 27% of those who said they spend a moderate amount on the platform, however, that is on par with a year ago, when 28% said they spent a moderate amount.

The percentage of brand pros who said they spend a small portion of their marketing budgets on Instagram also saw a big change over the last six months. In Q3 2022, more than a third (35%) said they spent a small amount on Instagram. That percentage fell to just 12% in Q1 of this year — which is much closer to the 18% who said a year ago that they spent a small amount on Instagram. Based on Digiday’s data, it’s possible that some brands shifted from spending a small portion of their budgets on the platform to spending a moderate or large portion there in the last six months.

As with Facebook, agency spending is solid on Instagram. However, agencies’ confidence that the platform drives marketing success for their clients is on much shakier ground.

For instance, the percentage of agency pros who told Digiday they’re confident that Instagram drives marketing success for their clients has fluctuated a lot over the last year and a half. In Q1 of this year, more than a third of agencies (35%) said they’re confident in Instagram. Just six months ago, that percentage had fallen to barely more than a quarter (26%), after falling all the way from 45% in Q3 2021.

Meanwhile, those who said they’re somewhat confident in Instagram’s ability to drive marketing success fell slightly to one-third from 38% six months ago. But that’s still up quite a bit from the 21% who said they were somewhat confident in Instagram a year and a half ago.

For brands, on the other hand, confidence in Instagram’s ability to drive marketing success has been steadily growing for the last year. In Q1 2022, 30% of brand pros told Digiday they were confident in the platform. That percentage rose to 38% in Q3 2022 and is up to nearly half of brand pros (46%) in Q1 of this year.

Meanwhile, the percentage of brand pros who told Digiday they’re only somewhat confident that Instagram drives marketing success saw a drop-off over the last six months. Just over a third of respondents (35%) said they were somewhat confident in Instagram in Q3 2022. That percentage had remained fairly steady since Q3 2021, until Q1 of this year, when the percentage fell to under a quarter (21%).

Interestingly, brands who said they’re just slightly confident in Instagram’s ability to drive marketing success surpassed those who said they’re somewhat confident in Q1 of this year (24% said they’re slightly confident in the platform). And it is also worth noting that, while it’s a very small percentage, 3% of brand pros said they’re not confident at all in Instagram this quarter, after not one respondent said so in Q3 2021. That percentage jumped to 18% a year ago before dropping back down to 4% in Q3 of last year.

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