Tuesday April 20, 2021 By David Quintanilla
Do Photos With People Perform Better on Instagram?

Irrespective of how religiously you observe updates to the Instagram algorithm, getting your posts in entrance of individuals isn’t going to do you a lot good in the event that they don’t truly like what they’re seeing.

Social media is finally for folks, not robots — which implies getting true engagement requires interesting to what folks like.

We already know that visually lovely or attention-grabbing content material performs finest right here. (You’ve been attempting out our tips for taking and editing good Instagram photos, proper?)

However past composition or graphic design, is there a sort of picture that folks like extra?

Nicely, the hunch of many a social media supervisor is that photos of individuals carry out higher than these with out. (Sorry, panorama photogs.)

However why depend on a intestine intuition, when we’ve got a whole special column here on the Hootsuite weblog dedicated to rigorously testing these suspicions?

It’s time to place a principle to the take a look at with a deep analytical dive, and somewhat trial and error. (My dad at all times wished me to be a physician, however I’m certain being an unauthorized Instagram scientist is the subsequent neatest thing.)

Does placing your finest face ahead yield higher outcomes? Let’s discover out.

Hypothesis: Photos with people perform better on Instagram

Common sense is driving this hypothesis. Contrary to what general internet culture and human behavior might lead you to believe, people love people.

There’s a trend that happens near the end of a calendar year, where people run their Instagram accounts through a “Top 9” generator (here’s one; here’s another). The generator pulls their hottest posts from the 12 months right into a grid. Anecdotally, these 9 pics are nearly at all times face-focused… whether or not you’re my improv coach or Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift top 9 Instagram photos of the year

Supply: BestNine

Historical past says we’re obsessive about faces

The publishing trade already is aware of that we’re obsessive about faces. There’s a cause why 90% of the covers on any given newsstand have faces on them.

Our brains even see faces where there aren’t any, that’s how a lot we love them. Paper, digital or within the flesh, we see a pair of eyes and subconsciously assume: “Good friend!”

…and social science appears to agree

Again in 2014 (a technology in the past, in social media years), researchers from Georgia Tech checked out 1.1 million pictures on Instagram and located that photos of faces have been 38% extra prone to get a like than pictures with out faces. Face pictures additionally have been 32% extra prone to snag a remark, too.

The identical analysis found that age, gender, and the variety of faces didn’t make a lot of a distinction. If there’s a face (or two, or 10), regardless of whose it’s, we’re simply inclined to double faucet.

I’m going to check this principle right here in 2021 — albeit with a much smaller pattern measurement — by doing my very own face-versus-no-face comparability. Let’s see simply the way it stacks up.


It appeared to me that one of the best ways to check if faces get engagement, could be to look again at my Instagram account and see whether or not pictures with or with out faces acquired extra engagement, as measured by likes and feedback. So easy it’s genius? Thanks.

In fact, testing this on my own personal account alone, the place my face is clearly beloved by a biased group of followers (e.g. my mother) wouldn’t be sufficient knowledge.

Fortunately, I simply so occur to have the digital keys to the Instagram account of a neighborhood weddings journal (upon which I’ve experimented on before — don’t inform my boss!), so I made a decision to additionally observe how a bigger pool of followers (10,000+) reacted to face versus non-face pictures.

(One other distinction from my private account: on @RealWeddings, we submit all kinds of faces that will haven’t any private that means or connection to the viewers.)

To verify we had a large pool of samples to tug from, I regarded again at every account’s posts from the 12 months 2020 and reviewed the highest 20 posts of the 12 months.


TL;DR: Faces don’t truly appear to have a selected benefit on Instagram. Content material that aligns together with your model and what your viewers loves does finest, face or no face.

On my private account, I admittedly didn’t submit a lot in 2020. However right here’s the breakdown of my high 20 most appreciated and the highest 20 most commented pictures.

top 20 most liked and commented photos on personal account

Most-liked pictures

  • 16 out of 20 featured folks (80%)
  • 3 out of 20 have been illustrations (15%)
  • 1 was a couple of cute patio makeover… who may resist? (0.5%)

most liked photos people illustrations and patio

Most-commented pictures

  • 11 out of 20 featured folks (55%)
  • 6 out of 20 have been illustrations (30%)
  • 1 out of 20 was a meals picture (peaches, when you’re curious) (0.5%)
  • 1 out of 20 was a panorama picture (0.5%)
  • 1 out of 20 was my cute patio makeover once more — HGTV, name me! (0.5%)

Over on our wedding ceremony journal account, right here’s the breakdown.

wedding magazine most commented photos

Most-liked pictures

  • 15 out of 20 featured folks (75%)
  • 5 out of 20 featured venues (25%)

most liked photos people and venues

Most-commented pictures

  • 15 out of 20 featured folks (75%)
  • 5 out of 20 featured venues (25%)

Thus far, it looks like faces take the cake. However right here’s the factor: these numbers occur to align fairly neatly with the quantity of faces content material both account is posting general.

Are faces actually extra partaking than non-face content material? Or is it simply extra possible that you simply’ll have extra faces in your high posts when you submit faces extra typically?

After I have a look at a number of different accounts I’ve entry to (I’m a busy lady in media and comedy who craves consideration! I put on numerous hats!) that don’t submit as many pictures of faces, the numbers dip fairly proportionally.

For @VanMag_com (a Vancouver metropolis journal the place I work as an editor at massive) we see about 40% of the most-liked posts have folks… however actually, solely about 40% of the posts basically function folks. (Meals is the true star right here — check out our Restaurant Awards!)

@VanMag_com 40 percent photos with people

For @WesternLiving (one other publication I work for), we see simply 20% of the most-liked posts with folks in them. The main focus for this model, although, is properties and design, so 80% of its content material, basically, is glamor photographs of inside design or structure.

@WesternLiving 10 percent photos with people

And one last instance is @NastyWomenComedy, an all-women comedy trope I’m a part of. Whereas a whopping 100% of our most-liked posts have faces… 100% of our content material features a face (or 10). Is it genius advertising and marketing or are we obsessive about ourselves? Solely you’ll be able to determine.

@NastyWomenComedy 100 percent photos with people

What do the outcomes imply?

I used to be truthfully anticipating faces to blow all different content material out of the water.

However reflecting on all of this, I believe the frequent thread throughout all of those high posts is that they mirror every particular person model’s particular content material area of interest — face or no face.

Creating constant content material that aligns together with your model is what drives engagement.

You don’t have to plan psychological tips to get likes and feedback: simply do what you do finest, authentically and with that means — whether or not that’s sharing a shocking restaurant assessment, or displaying off a patio makeover you’re happy with. (The key? Astroturf.)

However, in fact, this was a small-scale investigation. It additionally didn’t have in mind what time or day any of these items have been posted. So conduct your personal experiments and A/B testing (check out Hootsuite’s scheduling tool!) to find what your personal viewers likes finest — and don’t overlook to Tweet at us with the outcomes.

Handle your Instagram presence alongside your different social channels and save time utilizing Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you’ll be able to schedule and publish posts, interact the viewers, and measure efficiency. Attempt it free as we speak.

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