Digiday Research: Instagram is more important for driving revenue for the smallest publishers

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This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

Instagram has grown into a core piece of publishers’ revenue and branding strategies. But the photo-sharing platform is more important to small publishers than it is to the publisher ecosystem as a whole, new Digiday Research reveals. 

Despite having fewer resources to devote to creating content for social platforms in general, large percentages of small publishers — defined as those that generate $10 million or less in annual revenue — post frequently on Instagram and invest resources in creating content specifically for the platform. And more than two thirds of them say that it is at least somewhat important in driving revenue, a significantly higher share than publisher respondents as a whole.

In late May 2021, Digiday conducted a survey of media and marketing professionals and how they used and viewed social media platforms; 127 publisher professionals participated; 44 respondents said they worked for publishers that generated $10 million or less in annual revenue.   

The survey found that Instagram was one of three most-commonly used platforms among publishers, along with Facebook and Twitter.

Almost three quarters of small publishers posted to Instagram in the past month, compared to 93% that posted to Facebook and 80% that posted to Twitter. Those percentages were slightly lower compared to the survey’s publisher respondents as a whole: 95% of them said their employers had posted to Instagram, 94% to Facebook and 99% to Twitter.

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Source: Digiday Research Platform Value Survey, May 2021; Sample: 127 publisher professionals

Among those that have posted to those platforms, 37% say they invest at least a moderate amount in creating content specifically for Facebook, compared to 50% for Instagram. 

Through its history, publishers have treated Instagram, which has traditionally been inhospitable to their traffic-driving efforts, as a tool for brand-building and engagement. And large chunks of respondents still see it serving those purposes.

Among the respondents that post content to them, 50% say Facebook is valuable for brand-building, compared to 66% for Instagram; among publishers as a whole, 64% say Instagram is valuable for brand-building, while just 57% say Facebook is.

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Source: Digiday Research Platform Value Survey, May 2021; Sample: 127 publisher professionals

Yet as Instagram has expanded, first through Stories and more recently with Instagram TV and Reels, it has become increasingly important as a revenue-driver for publishers of all sizes. Among small pubs posting there, 70% say Instagram is at least somewhat valuable for driving revenue, compared to 60% who said Facebook is at least somewhat valuable; for both platforms, only small percentages — 10% and 18%, respectively — said the platforms were extremely valuable for driving revenue.

Those numbers diverge sharply from publishers’ responses overall. For publishers as a whole, 76% said Facebook is at least somewhat valuable and 62% said Instagram is at least somewhat valuable.


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