Instagram Followers & Consumer Loyalty Results

Earlier this semester I shared a post about my independent study and invited everyone to participate in a survey (thank you for participating!) that asked about the retail brands Instagram users follow (both the brands they have purchased from and those they have not).  The results are in!

While I am writing a more comprehensive blog post that combines my research with interviews from marketers at companies like west elm and J. Crew, I wanted  to share some interesting findings with you in the interim.

  • Among Instagram users ages 18-33, 55% of us follow at least one brand.
  • Of those that follow brands, 82% follow a brand that they haven’t made a purchase from.
  • Does that mean that all followers are just lusting after designer clothes or their dream car?  Nope.  Of people who follow retail brands that they have made a purchase from, 40% followed the brand before they made their first purchase.  Sometimes you like a brand and its products, but you’re not ready to make a purchase just yet.  Or you haven’t come across the perfect thing to buy yet.

What does this mean?  It means that people who follow brands tend to follow a mix of brands that they have made purchases from and haven’t.  And just because they haven’t made a purchase, doesn’t mean that they never will.  My research showed that this is especially true for people who follow beauty brands.  Beauty brand followers had a greater likelihood of making a purchase from the brand when compared to followers of apparel, tech, or home décor companies.

According to Iconosquare, here’s the top beauty brands.


Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 8.50.23 PM

Top 5 beauty brands according to Iconosquare.  Two of the top five (MAC & Sephora) have their own retail stores.


What characteristics indicate that individuals are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that they follow (but haven’t bought anything from yet)?  If potential customers talk to their friends about the brand’s Instagram account or believe that the brand cares about its current customers, they exhibit greater purchase likelihood than others.  Whether or not a brand’s Instagram account “inspires” you doesn’t play a statistically significant role in your decision to make a purchase.  This doesn’t mean that anthropologie should stop posting whimsical photos.  Rather it means that as much as we love aspirational Instagram posts, they’re not the deciding factor in determining if we spend money on a product (or at least we don’t admit it to ourselves).

In 2017, Facebook will earn a predicted 14% of its mobile advertising revenue from Instagram.  They currently have over 200,000 brands advertising on Instagram.  Results about purchase intent of followers can help marketers justify the ever competitive cost for a share of our screens as we scroll through Instagram.  But to truly stand out in a crowded marketplace, brands will need to continue to differentiate themselves from one another and convince consumers that the time to buy is today, not tomorrow.






  1. I love that you tied in your own research into this post. I don’t necessarily follow consumer goods or clothing brands, but I do follow companies. I think I would be inclined to purchase if I saw a good deal or discount on instagram. The hard thing, I think, for brands is that (I think) you have to pay for an ad to be able to put a link on a post (as opposed to in the bio). Without being able to hyperlink for free, brands have to do more work to get their followers to their actual sites.

  2. I’m pretty sure I commented on the previous blog regarding this study so it only suits that I follow it through the end. I have also read that it is way more effective for companies to advertise their products in a brand awareness fashion opposed to selling (ie. prices & features). An approach like this often just keeps products in mind for customers to make associations.

    As you mentioned just because we follow brands does not mean that we will never make a purchase from them. I think it is important for companies to follow and target these customers because these will be their next generation customers. When they are ready as you said they will make these purchases, so why not prepare for that now. You should forward the class your final case study once it is complete. I would love to read it!

  3. This is a very interesting topic and I think you asked exactly the right questions in the survey to be able to conclude these results. Personally, I do not follow brands that I necessarily make purchases from, but rather ones that post pictures that I like. An Australian clothing company @hellomollyfashion posts not only items they sell, but also scenery images, interior design images, and funny/relatable quotes. Some brands focus too much on selling their products/advertise too much on their Instagram accounts and I think that can draw people away from following them.

    Considering that social media users interact with brands on Instagram 58 times more than they do on Facebook, and 120 times more than on Twitter (, it is imperative for companies to realize that Instagram deserves a completely different marketing approach than other social networking sites.

  4. I’d love to know your thoughts on the ad campaign they’re releasing on Instagram. It isn’t overly annoying so far, but I feel as if it goes the way of Facebook we might see a bunch of spam in our Instagram feeds. I completely agree with your points; I also follow a few brands that I have never purchased from. But when the time comes, I know I’ll prefer them over those I don’t follow

  5. Interesting blog post, and thanks for throwing your research in the mix. Like many others, I can relate in saying I definitely follow brands that I haven’t necessarily purchased from, but I follow them in the event I decide to make a purchase. I agree with “just because they haven’t made a purchase, doesn’t mean that they never will.” I follow them with the mind state that there is something about that brand that I like, and it may not be now, but at some point I may plan to buy something from them because there was something that drew me to follow the brand to begin with.

  6. Thanks for sharing your research! I think it’s interesting that we relate more to (and are likelier to purchase from) brands that show care for their consumers than those brands that are “aspirational” in their communications. That particular finding seems like it could have an interesting impact on how much companies concern themselves with CSR…Perhaps if consumers see companies acting responsibly in their environments/communities they will feel that the brand cares more about them?

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