This post appears courtesy of The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research and The Conference Board. The full study is available here.

Though much of its popularity is fueled by millennial users, The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research dove in to the details of how the fastest-growing businesses (Inc. 500) versus the wealthiest businesses (Fortune 500) engaged on the highly visual social network in 2016.

The companies who have worked Instagram in to their media efforts are performing at the top and research suggests their competitors should take note.

Findings based on user data:

  •  Companies from both the Inc. 500 and Fortune 500 who use Instagram (in addition to complementary social channels) are among the top 200 in their group’s ranking.
  • Consumer and retail companies are top performers when it comes to posting. Among the best is Jane (@veryjane) a women’s retail company that has posted over 6,000 times to Instagram.
  • Companies like Starbucks and Nike tend to have more followers than companies that aren’t as well-known. (see table 3 & 4)
  • Hashtags are widely used by company posts. Researchers recorded that over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies posts featured one to ten hashtags. Inc. 500 companies had over 70 percent doing the same. #trending
  • The comment feature was a little less consistent, with companies generally having about 30 comments per post, but, sometimes no comments. (see Chart 2)
  • Researchers observed that Fortune 500 company accounts were generally better at replying to comments on their posts than their Inc. 500 counterparts.
  • The study concluded that Inc. 500 and Fortune 500 companies had different goals in mind with their Instagram posts. The conclusion was also made that Instagram was used in a different way than Facebook to communicate to target audiences. The claim made on Inc. 500 post goals was product promotion and thought leadership. Alternatively, Fortune 500 was said to use Instagram as a platform for sharing more information about specific products with their audiences. With different goals in mind, both groups were said to use Instagram in a creative way.


Conclusions made in this study were not extremely surprising. Researchers point out the reach Instagram has to the next generation of buyers, and the billion-dollar industry that the social channel has made for itself. Statistics shared in this study are something companies are tuning in to and will continue to do. In 2017, researchers predict more companies from both groups of 500 will adopt the platform and start #engagingwithusers.


One parameter of the research conducted included an active (must have posted in last 30 days) account.

Both company groups had something to show for themselves, with 110 Inc. 500 and 149 Fortune 500 active company accounts. Researchers benchmarked the two by evaluating post and follower totals, use of hashtags, likelihood of company response and achievement of goals intended to reach with post. Five buckets were made for a posts’ goal; informational, thought leadership, product promotion, engagement or company event.

About the SNCR
This research was conducted and linked to a series of other findings from the SNCR 2020. They are exploring topics such as communications tools and technologies, including digital, social media, and mobile, and their effect on business, media, health, law, culture, and society.

The full study is available here.

Lauren Maloney is a senior public relations student at the University of Florida and the President of UF’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Follow her on Twitter @LaurenMalogna.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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