With its over 300 million daily active users and 4.2 billion likes every day, it’s obvious Instagram isn’t just used to post photos of iced lattes and cute dogs.

In fact, businesses use Instagram now more than ever to advertise their products and services. By 2017, more than 70 percent of companies with 100 or more employees will have some form of Instagram presence. Its 300 million daily active users make it a customer base that’s hard to pass up.

At influence.co we’re always fascinated by what is engaging for both brands and influencers–sometimes, it’s the same thing! We wanted to know which kinds of photos are the most popular when used for advertisements and brand influence as well as which industries and demographics respond most favorably to promoted posts. We also wanted to break down which filters earn the most likes to help you customize your photos for greater reach. To figure this out, we scraped the top 2,100 Instagram posts that contained the hashtag #ad, as sorted by likes, and analyzed them for content type, photo composition, and engagement. Want to learn more about how you can put Instagram to work for your brand? Continue reading on to find out.


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When promoting your product or brand through social media photo apps, it’s important to consider image composition. Trends in ads and promoted posts on Instagram are telling.

While some snapshots feature product-only framing, almost 69 percent of Instagram promotional photos showcase a portrait-style product view – which may include a prominent backdrop and other embellishments. From models to brand ambassadors, it’s always a good idea to showcase your product in action.

Selfies can add a sense of intimacy to a brand photo as well, but they’re featured in only 8 percent of posts; it’s possible this style may be too novel for brands that are just starting out on Instagram.


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Certain style compositions of Instagram posts resonated differently by age group.

Participants aged 45 to 54 rated portrait-style photos and product-only shots as the most influential, but they weren’t quite as impressed by selfies. Respondents aged 55 to 65, however, were more likely to prefer selfies over people nearly 10 years their junior.

People 25 to 34 years old were the most responsive to selfies. But still, this age group was most likely to learn more about a product framed as a portrait.

Survey participants in the 35-to-44, 45-to-54, and 55-to-65 age groups were also open to giving product-only Instagram pictures a chance.


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Photo composition seems to make a difference by industry as well. But portrait-style photos are still in high demand.

In the fashion, food and beverage, and beauty industries, portrait snaps were among the most popular. Almost 19 percent of fashion photos were portraits, while fewer than 3 percent were product-only or selfies. Virtually none were featured in a landscape setup.

Showcasing a product in its natural habitat is likely a win based on our survey. Whether it’s a fashion image that features the adventurous spirit of someone wearing clothing or a firsthand look at food via a dish plated in the ambiance of its own restaurant, portrait-style Instagram posts allow the user to understand a brand’s unique narrative. Product-only shots may fail to convey a marketable mood.


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Which commercial category has the most reach in general? We asked respondents to rank a photo’s persuasiveness per industry on a 0-to-5 scale. (Zero was the least persuasive rating, and five was the most.)

Fashion seems to own Instagram feeds for advertising influence. Respondents scored fashion posts 2.5 on average. This middle-of-the-road rating shows that there are definitely opportunities in the market. The recent influx of lifestyle bloggers who showcase up-to-the-minute style offers a marketable way to reach your audience with influencer-sponsored posts.

Department stores also received a similar market response; our survey takers gave them an influence rating of 2.3 on average.

The third-most-persuasive industries were a tie. Respondents scored posts about electronics, TV shows and movies, and food and drinks a 2.2 on average.


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When we break down the impact of influential posts by gender, more marketing trends emerge.

While men ranked “other” as the top category to influence their purchases via Instagram, they also rated fashion posts a 2.7. Men ultimately ranked fashion higher than women (2.4) for persuasiveness.

It also turns out, men are inspired more than women by all post categories we looked at. From electronics to health and wellness photos, they prove that male-focused advertising is just as popular on Instagram.

For women, fashion posts were the highest rated. The “other” category was top of the list for female influence as well.


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The largest user base on Instagram is under the age of 30. But our study revealed participants aged 65 to 74 were actually the most influenced by promoted posts on the platform. Baby boomers make up the smallest percentage of Instagram users, but their influence level is higher than any other age group.

Those aged 45 to 54 had the second-highest-influence rating, while millennials between the ages of 25 and 34 came in third.

Ultimately, older generations might make up a smaller percentage of Instagram users; however, companies shouldn’t overlook the demographic’s willingness to learn more about a product based solely on an Instagram post.


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Of the many in-house editing options offered by Instagram, filters are perhaps one of the easiest and most obvious ways to gain product attention.

Photos posted with the Clarendon filter garnered more likes than any other filter option – almost 2.6 million on average per the more than 2,000 photos we studied. Whether it’s because Clarendon is the first option when users swipe through the filter choices or because of the eye-catching brightness it adds to a shot, the look reigned supreme.

Edits with the Aden filter earned just over 2.5 million; the platform added it to the mix in 2014. Aden – which is subtler than Clarendon – adds a soft, bluish tint that still manages to draw the eye.

While they drew significantly fewer likes than Clarendon or Aden, Gingham, Valencia, and Juno were still popular. Each received more than 1.7 million average likes.


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As we mentioned, influencers can provide a connection between brands and consumers. And some brands are willing to shell out big bucks to the best in the business. Looking at the post content, however, what do people think influencers are paid for their pictures?

When asked how much they think influencers were compensated, survey participants believed that most industries pay less than $100 to their influencers for a single post, but that some industries offered much more. As an example of how lucrative some Instagrams ads can be, Selena Gomez (who works with brands like OPI nail polish, Pantene, and Coca Cola) earns over $550,000 a year in sponsored posts.

Relating to posts that fall within the category of the electronics industry, 46% of people thought that influencers were paid between $100 and $499 to post sponsored photos, and that more than 10 percent were paid between $500 and $1,000. Similarly, 30 percent of participants believed that health and wellness influencers pulled in between $100 and $499, and that more than 66 percent of people thought that department store posts had the same price tag.

Respondents said that influencers in the food and drink industry were mostly paid under $100, but, surprisingly, they also thought that 3 percent of posters earned more than $25,000 for their brand contributions!

While many were split as to what they thought fashion ads were worth, popular accounts like Danielle Bernstein’s We Wore What (@weworewhat) are believed to earn her between $5,000 and $15,000 per post. Similarly, Jane Aldridge of @seaofshoes currently has over 190,000 followers and earns an average of $5,000 for each of her sponsored fashion posts.


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If you’ve been thinking about using social media for marketing, then the internet welcomes you. But keep in mind, Instagram is the real digital gold mine. Its staggering user base is connected to accounts related to almost half of all brands with 100 or more employees. Another stunning insight: Over 90 of the top 100 companies in the U.S. utilize Instagram for marketing and promotion.

In fact, while Twitter usage has risen roughly 7 percentage points in company usage over the last four years, Instagram has skyrocketed from just 11 percent of companies utilizing the social media platform for marketing to a projected 70 percent in 2017. If the forecast is correct (Instagram 70.7% and Twitter 67.2%), it will represent the first time Instagram has surpassed Twitter for marketing use.


From photo styles and filters to industry and consumer trends, there’s an art to utilizing Instagram’s 300 million active daily users to build your online presence. Our study shows that these product posts are more likely to influence men, and baby boomers might be easier to please than millennials. When you’re crafting your social message, these insights can help you capitalize on existing and up-and-coming markets.

At Influence.co, we bring together all the tools you’ll need to build your marketing profile and grow your business. As the world’s first open platform for influencers to profile their work, brands and agencies across the globe are using our tools to work with the internet’s top names.

Social media is changing the way we connect brands to consumers, and we can help you put all your social media in one, accessible place. Visit us online today or follow @influenceco to stay on top of influencer trends, opportunities and more! to see what Influence.co can do for your marketing strategy and how you can turn likes and comments into traffic and sales.


We began by collecting the top 2,100 Instagram posts that contained the hashtag #ad hashtag (a recognized way of making it known that a post is sponsored). Next, we administered a survey, asking participants to identify the qualities of each post. Users defined photo composition, persuasiveness, brand industries and more, and we compiled these data in the visualizations above.



Knowledge is power. If you enjoyed viewing our research, please feel free to share any of the graphics in the above piece. What’s the catch? All we ask is that you properly cite Influence.co in your coverage, as well as providing a link back to this page.

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