Research Briefing: Still images receive more attention than Reels on Instagram

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In this edition of the Digiday+ Research Briefing, we examine how influencers see more Instagram engagement with still images than Reels, how publishers aren’t yet worried about the impact of a potential TikTok ban on their revenues and what types of first-party data are most important to marketers for ad targeting on streaming platforms, as seen in recent data from Digiday+ Research.

Sponsored still images on Instagram had the highest engagement rate

It can feel like social media is a bit obsessed with the short-form video format these days, but images actually perform better than short-form videos when it comes to sponsored posts featuring influencers on Instagram. This is according to data from 15 influencers and their Instagram and YouTube channels that was analyzed for this year’s Influencer Index

Digiday+ Research examined which types of sponsored posts garnered the most attention for a brand on an influencer’s Instagram account. Sponsored still images had the highest engagement rate on the platform, meaning the number of likes and comments per following count. Interestingly, Reels had the lowest engagement rate.

Looking specifically at the brand category for these sponsorships, those in the beauty category received a higher rate of engagement on average for posts that included a single still image. Beauty content on Instagram is largely focused on imagery. According to influencer Stephanie Valentine, that is because the beauty audience tends to be well-educated in beauty products and includes high numbers of industry professionals.

Insights and stats:

  • “Instagram is more savvy in beauty. YouTube is more relationship-built and people are looking for more relatable content. TikTok is more education and intro to beauty.” — Stephanie Valentine, social media influencer
  • Carousel posts, which allow for up to 10 images or videos to be grouped together in a single post, had the highest average rate of engagement for fashion and all other categories. Carousel ads have been beneficial for categories outside of beauty for their ability to showcase more information in a swipeable interactive format.
  • Influencer Alix Earle partnered with Warner Brothers on a sponsored carousel post to promote last year’s release of the “Barbie” movie. The carousel post garnered over 926,000 likes and over 1,000 comments.

Read more about engagement rates on Instagram

Digiday+ Research digest

Publishers aren’t worried yet about the impact a potential TikTok ban could have on the revenue they make from brand-sponsored TikTok videos. Publishing executives Digiday interviewed said they hadn’t heard concerns from advertisers and they were confident advertisers would move their marketing dollars to support short-form videos on other platforms should a ban take effect. As publishers sort out their 2024 revenue priorities, direct-sold ads are a major focus this year, while subscriptions and affiliate commerce are taking a back seat. This is according to Digiday+ Research surveys of more than 150 publisher professionals.

The stats:

  • Direct-sold ads remain the top revenue source for publishers this year (84% of publisher pros said direct-sold ads accounted for at least a very small portion of their revenue in Q1 2024), followed by programmatic ads (which 82% of publishers said they got at least a little revenue from as of Q1 2024).
  • Subscriptions and affiliate commerce revenue saw noticeable drops. Last year, 62% of publisher pros said they got at least a very small portion of their revenue from subscriptions. This year, 56% said the same. In Q1 2023, 62% of publisher pros said affiliate commerce accounted for at least a very small portion of their revenue. In Q1 2024, less than half (45%) said the same.
  • Publishers’ events revenue also has been trending downward. In Q1 2022, 63% of publisher pros told Digiday that they got at least a very small portion of their revenue from events. A year later, that percentage fell to 57%, before falling again to 47% in Q1 2024.

Read more about publishers’ 2024 revenue priorities

At the IAB’s annual NewFronts last week, Samsung pitched new ad formats and measurement options for advertisers while Roku talked up its home screen ads and introduced a new ad product called Showrooms. When placing ads on streaming platforms, in addition to weighing their ad options, marketers also consider the types of audiences they want to reach with their ads and the audience data that is most important to help them achieve their targeting goals. This is according to Digiday+ Research’s recent series on ad-supported streaming services.

Insights and stats:

  • The vast majority of advertisers (81%) said it’s more important for ad-supported streaming services to offer premium or targeted audience reach capabilities than it is for them to offer higher total audience reach (chosen by 19% of respondents). Return on investment may be higher with premium targeting because marketers are reaching consumers who fit the profile for their products.
  • Almost two-thirds of marketers (65%) said that demographic information, including age and income level, is the most important type of first-party data reserves for streaming platforms to have for ad targeting. Geographical information was the second-most important type — 47% of respondents selected it.
  • “Demographic and geographic information are other really important pieces of information. It is just uniformly helpful to know who your customer is, and be able to target people like them. There are very few advertisers who have so saturated a demographic that they can’t get some advantage from targeting their existing customer demographic.” — Harry Browne, vp of media innovation at Tinuiti

Read more about ad targeting on streaming platforms

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