The COVID-19 Instagram Engagement Report

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[Originally published on the Dash Hudson blog.]

  • Brands across industries saw a rise in engagement in the midst of COVID-19.
  • In a study that looked at 100 top brands across industries, home, beauty, and food brands saw the biggest jumps in engagement in March 2020 compared to the prior month.
  • A marketing strategy that focuses on connections over conversions is how brands are authentically engaging online audiences.

With the closure of brick and mortar, cancellations of events, and shift to ecommerce, social media channels are the only place where marketers can engage consumers. Brands are pivoting marketing strategies on the fly to curate authentic narratives that build deeper connections with online communities and adapt to shifting consumer behavior. And Instagram has quickly become the backbone of an effective marketing strategy to bring these narratives to life.

In a study conducted by Kantar, consumers reported a +63% increase in social media usage since the coronavirus outbreak. The recent bump in usage is translating into an increase in engagement on Instagram for brands across industries. As consumers turn to social channels as a place to connect, discover, and distract themselves from reality, brands are crafting timely campaigns that are resonating with online consumers.

And that’s not to say that all industries are equal when it comes to this change in Instagram performance. The sectors that are seeing the biggest surges in sales during social distancing are unsurprisingly seeing similar upticks in engagement on social media. Dash Hudson took a deep dive into 100 leading brands across industries, and found a +5.7% increase in engagement in March 2020 compared to February 2020. Brands in the beauty, home, and food industries all saw even higher rates of engagement in March compared to the prior month.

The Home Industry

Hunkering down is giving people the chance to make their dream home a reality. From painting bathrooms and building fences to cleaning closets and organizing drawers, consumers are using this time to conquer their to-do lists and it’s paying off for brands in the home industry.

Home brands saw an +11.27% rise in engagement in March 2020 compared to February 2020. And the home industry is the only industry that also saw an increase in average growth rate. Home brands had a +14.3% increase in audience growth in March compared to the month prior.

Ecommerce furnisher Wayfair never shies away from showcasing its customers’ latest kitchen makeovers and tablescapes. The brand is using this time to offer up the best WFH set ups, playroom spaces, and organization hacks. Wayfair is leaning into its community more than ever to inspire them to take on their own DIY projects. Known for its plush sheets and cozy towels, Brooklinen is putting its community before commerce on Instagram. The brand is partnering up with its network of influencers to create a digital world rooted in wellness and relaxation.

The Beauty Industry

With consumers buying their favorite beauty products online, and turning to new brands to fill changing product needs, the beauty industry is making the most of the shift in retail. For instance, hair clipper sales rose +166% over last year’s sales and hair dye sales increased +23%.

As consumers invest in their grooming and beauty routines, brands are seeing engagement rates rise. Across the top beauty brands on Instagram, engagement increased +17.65% in March 2020 compared to the previous month.

Haircare brand Living Proof is rising to the occasion with the hair dye expertise its followers need most right now. The brand is leveraging user-generated content (UGC) to inspire and educate online consumers, while strengthening brand loyalty and increasing engagement. Product launches promoted on Instagram are also becoming an industry norm and a catalyst for engagement growth. Glossier launched a hand cream to help nourish our sanitized soaked hands and Summer Fridays brought its community a new addition to their daily routine with its lip butter balm launch. And these brands are turning double taps into purchases in one click with frictionless Instagram shopping experiences.

The Food Industry

The coronavirus outbreak has turned eating and cooking patterns upside down. Whether consumers are trying out new recipes or finally giving new delivery apps a try, food brands are quickly adjusting to new norms and are seeing a rise in engagement on Instagram as a result. Baking yeast has hit its prime, sales increased +647% over the last week of March 2020. And consumers are turning to their favorite brands for advice on their new bread making adventures. Restaurants and food publishers are there for born-again bakers in their time of need by serving up inspo, recipes, and new alternatives to dining in.

In studying a selection of top food brands on Instagram, we found a +27.8% increase in engagement in March 2020 compared to February 2020.

Everyone’s favorite salad joint sweetgreen is giving back to frontline workers across the country and is using Instagram as a channel to rally support. The brand also makes sure to mix in some at-home salad tips and tricks to cure its followers’ kale caesar withdrawals. The Infatuation is engaging its fellow foodies with the best recipes to level up its followers’ at home dining experience. The brand is using its rep in the restaurant world to give back and help local restaurants get back on their feet.

Social Media in Social Distancing

It’s more important than ever for brands to deepen connections with consumers — beyond just a transaction. Community is top of mind for consumers and brands alike. In this new era of social distancing, we crave interaction. And brands across industries are converting their IRL community-building activations into digital ones to meet new needs and stay relevant. Whether consumers are shifting to new platforms to shop or absorb information, or in search of inspiring content and refreshing narratives to navigate these trying times, brands have an opportunity to create deeper connections with their target audiences. And these connections are rooted in effective storytelling and engaging photos and videos across organic social channels.

Header image: @brooklinen

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