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

Regardless of how religiously you comply with 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 really like what they’re seeing.

Social media is in the end for folks, not robots — which suggests getting true engagement requires interesting to what folks like.

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

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

Effectively, the hunch of many a social media supervisor is that footage 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 idea to the check with a deep analytical dive, and a bit of trial and error. (My dad at all times needed me to be a health care provider, however I’m positive 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 virtually 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 motive 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: “Buddy!”

…and social science appears to agree

Again in 2014 (a era in the past, in social media years), researchers from Georgia Tech checked out 1.1 million images on Instagram and located that footage of faces had been 38% extra more likely to get a like than images with out faces. Face images additionally had been 32% extra more likely 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 idea right here in 2021 — albeit with a much smaller pattern dimension — by doing my very own face-versus-no-face comparability. Let’s see simply the way it stacks up.


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

After all, 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 images.

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

To ensure we had a large pool of samples to drag 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 really appear to have a specific benefit on Instagram. Content material that aligns along with your model and what your viewers loves does finest, face or no face.

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

top 20 most liked and commented photos on personal account

Most-liked images

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

most liked photos people illustrations and patio

Most-commented images

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

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

wedding magazine most commented photos

Most-liked images

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

most liked photos people and venues

Most-commented images

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

Thus far, it looks as if 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 total.

Are faces actually extra participating than non-face content material? Or is it simply extra probably that you just’ll have extra faces in your prime posts if you happen to publish faces extra typically?

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

For @VanMag_com (a Vancouver metropolis journal the place I work as an editor at giant) we see about 40% of the most-liked posts have folks… however actually, solely about 40% of the posts usually characteristic 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, usually, is glamor pictures of inside design or structure.

@WesternLiving 10 percent photos with people

And one remaining 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 or are we obsessive about ourselves? Solely you possibly can resolve.

@NastyWomenComedy 100 percent photos with people

What do the outcomes imply?

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

However reflecting on all of this, I feel the widespread thread throughout all of those prime 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 along with your model is what drives engagement.

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

However, in fact, this was a small-scale investigation. It additionally didn’t consider what time or day any of these items had 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 possibly can schedule and publish posts, interact the viewers, and measure efficiency. Attempt it free right this moment.

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