Posted by: bluesyemre | January 13, 2022

#Instagram is the most engaged with #SocialMedia Platform, and that matters a lot for #Libraries

This is Part 2 of the Instagram mini-series. In Part 1 I suggested Instagram could be the thing to focus your time and energy on for your library’s social media in 2022.

Let’s talk about why Instagram is worth the time it takes to learn and do well as an institution.

3.6 billion people use social media (we’re getting close to exactly half the global population now, which is ridiculous!), and most of them do so in a very passive way most of the time. Instagram is, to invert the title of this post, the least passively used social media channel. I get asked a lot about what social media metrics matter – analytics can be overwhelming, so what should we look for? It basically all comes down to engagement rate: if you focus on that, everything else flows from there.


In short, the engagement rate on any social media post is the amount of people who DO something with it, divided by the amount of people who see it. The ‘doing’ part includes replying or commenting, Liking, reposting, following a link, clicking on the profile of the poster etc. In other words, engagement rate shows you the relative level of interaction your posts are getting. (There are other definitions of the term, but this one – specifically known as Engagement Rate by Reach, is the one I find most practically useful.)

The ‘total number of impressions / views’ for a social media post isn’t always overly meaningful – more is better of course, but a lot of it is dictated by how big your network is already or if someone else with a large following has drawn attention to it. The great thing about engagement rate is how universal it is. Whether you have a huge network or a relatively new, relatively small one, the engagement rate can be similar.

So for example, the University I work for has an Instagram account with 38.5k followers – clearly everything they post is going to be seen way more times than the library’s Insta with its 2.3k followers, and they’re going to get way more Likes than us, making comparison meaningless. But engagement rate is still meaningful for comparison, because it is interactions divided by views, and what matters is how one performs against the other. If the University’s engagement rate is considerably higher than the library’s I know we’re doing something wrong, because the same audience is engaging more with the Uni than with us. If the figures are similar or ours are slightly higher, then I know our strategy for Insta is working well.

Engagement rates are, generally, surprisingly low. People consume social media in droves, but rarely actually react to it in any measurable way. My library’s twitter account has, at the time of writing, an engagement rate of exactly 2% over the last 28 days – and trust me, this is GOOD. My library’s twitter is a really popular, hugely engaged-with organisational profile. (2% engagement is more than 40 times better than average across all industries – to give you an idea of what is typical.) My library’s Instagram engagement rate is currently 3.56% (and that is just above the Uni’s, so we’re on track!). So if only 2-3.5% is considered a big success, why even chase this particular metric?

If you have an account with 10,000 followers who do NOTHING differently as a result of following you, this is of less value than an account with 100 followers all of whom act on your posts – after all, why are we even on social media in the first place? To inform, of course, but also to drive behaviour (in a non-sinister way) – to start conversations, to help people and to answer questions, to get people to sign up for classes or find books or click on the link to use that new resource you’ve invested in. Essentially, size of network / following is just a means to an end – that end is engagement. We want people to DO something when we take the time to craft some content online.


According to Rival IQ’s 2021 social media industry benchmark report, average industry engagement rates are as follows.

Twitter: 0.045%
Facebook: 0.08%
Instagram: 0.98%

As you can see, Instagram is stratospherically higher than the other two (more than 12 times higher than FB). I found this graph particularly interesting:

You’ll notice that Higher Ed is waaaay up there above all the other industries in terms of engagement, and non-profits is also ahead of all but three other industries. It also appears that less is more – three or four posts a week seems to be effective (with Sports Teams being a particular outlier here!). So not only is Instagram the most-engaged with platform, but libraries are part of the most engaged-with industries on the platform, and we don’t need to be posting every day to make it work.

A disclaimer here is that I’ve not found credible engagement rate averages for TikTok so I can’t add it to this comparison – I suspect the average would be high though.


So we know that people take more actions on Instagram than on other platforms. This is good because they’re proactively responding to our posts: the next step (and ultimate goal) is try and turn that into offline behaviour – or at least not-just-on-Instagram behaviour. Visiting the building, using the resource, attending the workshop and so on.

The most useful thing you can do with Engagement Rate as a statistic is record it and try and make it better. That sounds over-simplistic but it really is an incredibly productive use of your time. Don’t focus on amassing followers, or even on total views – just focus on trying to post content that people appreciate enough to do something with. Experiment with content types, with tone, with time of day and make a note of what works. If you’re current engagement rate is 0.3%, try and get it to 0.5%. If it’s higher, try and get it higher still. Make a note of the least-engaged with posts and do fewer of them. Everything else – the size of your network, and their off-site behaviour – flows from this.

With Instagram specifically, Comments and Likes are important because it’s not a democratic, merit-based platform. It’s owned by Facebook and so it has an algorithm which decides how many people to show your posts to (unlike Twitter which is pretty straightforward – if your followers are online when you post on Twitter, they’ll likely see it), and that decision seems to be influenced by how the people who HAVE seen it respond to it. So I look at the number of Likes / Comments per post, and work out from that what my library’s community responds best to, and do more of it. Every year I divide the number of posts by the number of Likes in total to get a Likes Per Post average, and compare that with the year before – if it’s moving in the right direction I know that what we’re doing is working.

It also provides a benchmark – if the average likes per post is 70, then I know that a post with 90 Likes has been especially successful, and a post with 50 Likes hasn’t quite hit the spot.

The next post in this series will be all about making the case for Instagram at your library if you don’t already have it. If you have any question about engagement rate, you can ask me a question in the comments below, and boost the engagement rate for this post!

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