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  • Ewan Hamilton

Five tips to up your social media game


Q1 of the year is an exciting time of the year for the Hydrogen Insights team. Not least of all because Rival IQ release their annual industry benchmarking report – for us it’s almost like getting that extra Christmas present just over a month after Christmas.


Every year we take the time to analyse the findings of the report, to see the trends and where the engagements are. This year round however we thought we would compare the key findings against our own collated stats and insights, and here’s what we found.


1: Engagement rates were flat on Facebook and Twitter, and down on Instagram


This continued a trend from 2019 where Instagram engagement rates were found to be declining.


Interestingly, we found an average of 3% increase in Instagram engagement rate from 2019 (6.37%) vs 2020 (6.55%) among our clients. Although it should be caveated that Rival IQ’s report calculated engagement rate against page followers, while we have the benefit of being able to calculate engagement rate against post impressions (there’s benefits to doing it both ways).


Findings from Hootsuite highlighted that there was a 14% increase in Instagram usage in 2020, which could correlate with an increase in grid content engagement across the platform.


2: Posting frequency continues to decline


Across the variety of sectors that Rival IQ analysed, they found that brands posted less organic content in 2020 than in 2019.


We found that this was the case from a recent benchmarking project that compared one of our client’s competitor activities in 2020 vs 2019. The report findings included a 56% decrease in timeline/grid posts across the year (across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) from 1,220 posts to 539 posts.


It would be easy to blame Covid-19 for a reduction in content as brands tweaked their strategies with the ever-evolving pandemic, however the below image from Socialbakers does highlight there was already a steady decrease of content across Q1 2020.



3: Carousels are king on Instagram


Rival IQ notes that “Brands should look for opportunities to combine photos into carousels. Why? Instagram carousels often get re-served to users who don’t engage the first time, earning more impressions.” Away from the stats and on my personal Instagram, this makes sense – I’ve often opened the app up and found the same post has been served to me earlier, only the platform has now shown me the second image in of the carousel.


Examining this among our clients, we found that in the last 3 months carousel content has driven an average of 8% more impressions than other grid content. We can also go a step further, and see that carousel content drove an average of 98% more engagement than other grid content, emphasising that carousel content is well and truly the king of Instagram content right now.


Don’t just take my word for it. SearchEngineJournal reported findings from over 22 million analysed posts found that carousels were the most engaged form of content on Instagram.


4: Diversifying hashtags between channels is key


When talking about hashtag usage, RivalIQ note that “What worked on Instagram might not work on Twitter”, and this couldn’t be any more true in our eyes. Backed up by Hootsuite findings, the ideal number of hashtags to accompany a Twitter post is 1-2, whereas on Instagram you want to be using between 5-10 on a post.


A further tip on hashtag best practice, from the Hydrogen content team, is to make sure you capitalise the first letter of each word within a hashtag – this is called Camel Case. As noted in the Hydrogen blog, this stops any accidental double meaning being taken from your hashtag (in the case of poor Susan Boyle trying to promote a party for her new album) and frankly just reads clearer.


5: COVID was less of a player than one might think


TikTok. No, not the anthem by Kesha but rather the most downloaded app of 2020 per Forbes. TikTok usage skyrocketed in 2020 and the main driver for this was the Covid-19 pandemic – this Guardian article from April 2020 highlights some of the usage of the app from the first few weeks of the worldwide lockdown. So if you’re TikTok, then it would be fair to say that Covid-19 was a positive.


And what of the other prominent social platforms? Well, as noted earlier from Hootsuite - Instagram usage was up 14% across 2020 in comparison to 2019. And Facebook? Despite constantly being told that Facebook is on the decline, Facebook also recorded an 11% increase in daily active users in 2020 compared to 2019.