Instagram recently set out to understand more about its users, specifically in terms of the kind of content people want to see from brands on the platform.

The #NoFilter research, commissioned by Facebook IQ and conducted by Ipsos Mori, asked 21,000 people who use Instagram regularly about their interactions with businesses. The study uncovered some interesting stats – not least that 87% of people have taken action after seeing product information on Instagram.

Other findings include the specific types of content that consumers actively search for, and what brands they find the most engaging. Here’s more on the research, and examples of how brands are delivering the content that users want to see.

Bringing communities together

Instagram’s survey found that 29% of respondents say they want content that brings communities together around the topics and the interests they love. Fundamentally, this means that businesses should engage with people by replying to comments, liking posts, and generally encouraging conversation.

Cosmetics brand Glossier is an oft-cited example of this: the brand typically replies to user comments as well as prompting interaction from followers on Instagram. By building a sense of ‘community’ in this way – where users are made to feel valued and important – Glossier ensures that users are truly invested in the content it produces.

Another brand that uses Instagram for community-building purposes is Nike. Buffer reports that the sports giant handles more than 1,000,000 conversations per year across 200 different social media accounts. In order to create a consistent user experience, Nike is extremely careful about customer care on the platform, schooling employees in how to respond in a way that aligns with the brand’s values and tone of voice (while still sounding human).

Alongside direct conversations with users, Nike also creates content that brings people together – in a figurative sense, that is, by using themes of empowerment and togetherness. It also does this more directly by asking its audience to share their athletic journeys and experiences, which is often re-posted as user-generated content.

Highlighting real people behind the business

Instagram’s survey also found that 32% of respondents want brands to showcase their personality in content. Often that means highlighting the real people behind the business – the designers, the creators, and the employees that make a business work.

This isn’t the most common tactic for brands, especially bigger and more established companies. It is much more typical for start-ups or smaller brands to showcase behind-the-scenes content, often because this type of content is low-budget and easier to create.

However, there are some bigger brands that do it (and for different reasons). L’Oréal is one such example: the brand actively encourages its employees to share their own experiences by using the hashtag #lifeatloreal.

The cosmetics brand often retweets this content, creating a refreshing change of pace from standard beauty campaigns and professional photoshoots. This also allows L’Oréal to promote itself in relation to careers, encouraging audiences to see it as a potential employer as well as a favourite brand.

Since 2016, Instagram Stories has helped to popularise this more laid-back and casual style of content. Because Stories disappear, it means that brands do not have to worry about this kind of content disrupting a more polished and well-crafted feed.

Of course, if Stories content proves to be far more successful than regular content, there is now the option to save it to the Stories Highlights feature to drive further views.

Being fun and playful (rather than polished)

One of the most interesting takeaways from Instagram’s research is that 57% of users want to see ‘fun’ or ‘entertaining’ content from brands – much higher than the 36% of people who want to see beautifully-produced content.

From this, it’s clear consumers are looking for personality over polish from businesses on Instagram, perhaps making the stereotype of perfectly filtered photos a thing of the past.

Delving into the specifics, it appears the kind of fun and entertaining content that consumers have in mind is anything particularly novel, playful, or fresh. One example cited by Instagram is Oreo, which used Stories to encourage users to tilt their smartphones in order to align with animated content shown on the screen.

The brand often uses gamification elements to make Stories interactive and engaging. The below video is another prime example, created as a fun piece of content to celebrate ‘National Cookie Day’.

Another example, albeit a much more simplistic one, is US fast food chain Shake Shack, which often posts dog-related photos to promote its popular ‘Pooch-ini’ dessert. Animal photos are still a sure-fire hit on social media, and Shake Shack’s posts prove that the most well-received content doesn’t have to be complicated.

All things travel-related

While Instagram plays a key part in the social strategy of many different types of brands, it is interesting to note which categories come out on top. Perhaps unsurprisingly, travel was voted as the number one interest for people browsing on the platform, cited by 45% of users. This was followed by music and food and drink. Interestingly, sports comes lower down on the list, cited by just 24% of respondents.

Of course, the likes of Airbnb and Booking.com are made for Instagram, both using inspirational and awe-inspiring travel-related content to draw in consumers.

However, what is also interesting is that it isn’t just brands within the travel industry that are capitalising on this interest. It’s not uncommon for fashion or automotive brands to create travel-related content, designed to engage or target people searching for or about a particular location.

Take Lamborghini, for example, which often geo-tags its Instagram photos with exactly where they were captured. This means that the brand is able to capture additional search interest, as well as engage existing followers who have an interest in travel.

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