May 9, 2014, 11:23 AM

Shoppers engage with brands far more on Instagram than Facebook

With less clutter and no discriminatory filters, consumers are interacting with top brands’ posts on Instagram at a much high rate than with posts on other social networks.

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The time for retailers to get involved in Facebook Inc.’s photo-based social network Instagram is now. That’s the recommendation of Forrester Research Inc. analyst Nate Elliott whose analysis of 50 top brands’ Q1 2014 social network activities shows consumers interact with brand posts on Instagram at a rate that far surpasses the interaction rates produced on Facebook and Twitter.

Elliott found that consumers who followed the studied global brands on Instagram liked, shared or commented on the brands’ Instagram posts 4.21% of the time, whereas consumers who followed the studied brands on Facebook engaged with the Facebook posts only 0.07% of the time. On Twitter, the engagement rate was 0.03%.

Elliott used brand consulting firm Interbrand’s list of top 50 global brands for the analysis. That list includes several Internet Retailer Top 500 e-retailers, including Apple Inc., No. 2; Disney Store USA LLC, No. 84;, No.1; and, No. 243.

In his “Use Instagram Now” report, Elliott cites multiple reasons for the higher engagement rate.  Instagram currently has fewer marketers active on the network, and the ones that are there post less frequently, which means brands have to compete less to get their followers’ attention, he says. Instagram also does not apply a filter to brand posts—unlike Facebook—which means Instagram shows users every post made by the brands they follow. Facebook only shows consumers posts the social network think will be relevant, typically less than 20% of a brand’s messages. Elliott also says Instagram users skew younger than users of other social networks. The median age of Instagram users is 27 compared to Facebook’s 40, and younger users tend to engage more often with brands than older users.

But if brands and retailers want to take advantage of Instagram, they need to move quickly, Elliott says. The number of active Instagram users—more than 200 million—doubled during the last 13 months, which Elliott says means clutter is coming, and Instagram executives have said they are looking at ways to filter brand posts. The social network also signed a deal with ad agency Omnicom Media Group this spring as it seeks to develop paid ad formats.

“Instagram delivers best-in-class social engagement rates for brands today, but it won’t last,” Elliott writes. “Marketers must use Instagram now; before it changes the rules—and they must be ready to move on to another social site when Instagram’s phenomenal engagement rates disappear.”

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