This guide surfaces the best performing Instagram posts from the Tailwind community, based on the engagement rate of the posts. By focusing on engagement rate, rather than simply volume of likes, our goal is to find great content from accounts of all sizes, not just from celebrities and big brands.Think of this as your regularly updated guide to what's really working on Instagram.Click To Tweet
Video: What’s Working on Instagram – Ep2
Posts from September 2016
9-21-2016, @estynhulbert, 462 followers, post engagement score 77
Estyn Hulbert of Estyn Hulbert Jewlery said:
I made a commitment at the beginning of September to start posting 2-3 times a day instead of 4-5 times a week and it seems like the algorithm is favoring people who post frequently because my engagement immediately went up.
I also discovered that using at least one hashtag in the description of the picture, instead of just in a separate comment, got me more engagement and new subscribers. One post ended up in the top 9 results for #pearls for over 36hrs and got over 800 likes. I went from 274 followers to over 500 in less than a week!
9-10-2016, @mykitchenlove, 4,133 followers, post engagement score 79
Samantha Dawn of My Kitchen Love joined us live and said in the comments:
Hashtags are key for gaining followers, features, and engagement.
Regarding the fact that she posted three different photos of this cake she said:
[The] photos were taken at different times. A close up is a great “sneak peak” to keep followers engaged. The second photo [this one] was posted at my best time of 7:30/8pm PST.
9-5-2016, @superadrianme, 9,785 followers, post engagement score 82
We managed to reach Adrian of Super Adrian Me via email and he said:
At the end of the day it is all about experimenting and sharing compelling content. Some work, some don’t work. Also there’s just too many components in the equation. Be it timing of post, genre of post, hashtags used, colours etc. But it is all about testing and learning I guess.
The textured back ground is a cardboard background. Mooncakes are a Chinese culture during Mid Autumn Festival.
9-2-2016, @greenpickers, 607 followers, post engagement score 85
9-5-2016, @davidcrighton_art, 619 followers, post engagement score 116
Pam Johnston, business partners with artist David Crighton, joined us live and confirmed that Honest Eds is a Toronto landmark. She said:
Very sentimental favourite of Toronto-nians and David’s art is well known and loved by everyone. He’s captured the spirit of City and what’s in their hearts!
Video: What’s Working on Instagram – Ep1
Posts from August 2016
8-16-2016, @forevernicoleblog, 762 followers, post engagement score 105
This outdoor & lifestyle blogger got plenty of love for sharing this gram of her man. It’s an attractive photo and one that we can easily project ourselves into, especially since his face is obscured with shadow. Nicole consistently posts once a day, and is nearly always on topic – her love for the outdoors. This likely means that she takes trips to the countryside every weekend and takes hundreds of photos and then grams the best of them to her account throughout the week.
8-21-2016, @kitchme, 9,926 followers, post engagement score 119
In just under one month Kitchme managed to go from 1,756 Instagram followers to nearly 10,000. This post achieved 11,651 likes and was their most liked Instagram post by more than 3,000 likes. Notice the subtle branding in the bottom right that appears on all of their videos. It doesn’t appear to hurt the post’s engagement and makes it seem a little more professional. The image is also beautiful, the dark background pushes us into the light foreground and the two halves of a strawberry create symmetry. This is an account in high-growth mode, posting consistently beautiful food with deliberately chosen hashtags (in the first comment) around five times a day.
8-26-2016, @thebearfootbaker, 19.5k followers, post engagement score 136
This post shattered all records for Lisa, otherwise known as The Bearfoot Baker. It received more than 5x as many likes as anything she’d posted to Instagram before. It’s simple enough to be doable, yet the resulting cookies are cute enough to be aspirational. She told us that she chooses to start her videos with blank cookies to create interest and suspense for her followers who have to watch till the end to see how her designs turn out. Notice the thematically aligned request to regram “Dance with me!!!!” and then a mention of @michaelsstores and @sweetsugarbelle, both accounts that regram posts. From the engagement levels of this post it seems likely it was featured somewhere by a brand or an account with a large following.
8-8-2016, @wolvesinlondon, 843 followers, post engagement score 136
A charming glimpse into the life of this blogger “crafter, gardener, writer and inveterate waffler”. Again this post is delightfully rustic, yet achievable (all of these things can be bought locally). It also appears authentic and not overly produced and that is reinforced in the description – this is just how we would find her kitchen if we walked in off the street. Sabrina has a strong and charming voice that comes through both her photography and her writing. Sabrina says of the success of the post on her blog:
“[I] discovered that it had somehow, somehow found its way into the #dslooking (Design Sponge’s user generated content hashtag) top posts selection and by the end of the day I had more than 1,000 likes and a new 150 or so followers. To put this into context, in case lots of instagram influencers are reading, this is about four times more than I usually get. I was rather chuffed! (Though, also, isn’t instagram a funny place? Yes, my shelves are kind of nice, I think so too, of course, but this is so so so so far from a really great photo, or even one of my best photos, that it does amuse me it’s my most popular…)”
8-15-2016, @amazinglashlkgrove, 521 followers, post engagement score 162
Holding a blogger event yielded this Instagram post with 10x as many likes as this lash studio’s posts usually get. Notice all of the smiling faces of these blogger/influencers, nearly all of whom are @mentioned in the description and some of whom regrammed this post to their own accounts. Notice also the branded hashtags like #amazinglash. This franchise is very active on Instagram and likely other Amazing Lash Studio franchises picked it up from there and regrammed it to their followers.
8-10-2016, @whitneylichfield, 4,463 followers, post engagement score 164
This blogger announced her second pregnancy on Instagram in adorable style. This photo is simple and balloons against a wall is achievable by anybody. The star of course is the little girl showing her genuine joy. This post represents the triple-whammy: it’s on message (Whitney grams her daughter almost exclusively); it’s real news to her followers who will soon get grams of two cute children; and it’s practical for people looking for pregnancy announcement ideas.
8-7-2016, @bunsenburnerbakery, 513 followers, post engagement score 205
This image of a vegetable tart is so visually arresting that it’s hypnotic. It also feels very original. Whilst @bunsenburnerbakery has relatively few followers today, she’s a bit of a hidden gem with a natural eye and a real understanding of what works. Notice the care with which she responds to comments. She responded to our request for some thoughts on why this post did so well.
“Food that looks like art is always popular. There is lots of beautiful food photos (think lighting, props, tablescapes), but simple food that is beautiful on its own is so eye catching, especially in a small format. This post had no props, no background, and was taken with my iPhone – but it’s visually interesting enough to jump out when searching hashtags.”
Video: What’s Working on Instagram – Episode 1
This month we discuss the highest engagement posts from August, what worked, how and why, with David Christopher, Tailwind’s Director of Marketing and Growth, and Erin Cooper, artist, designer and Creative Director at Cooperhouse Creative.
Posts from July 2016
7-17-2016, @kitchme, 1,756 followers, post engagement score 112
Kitchme is a recipe website with plenty of content to share. They’ve got their Instagram account in growth mode with these carefully selected hashtags. Videos seem to perform especially well for them.
7-11-2016, @todobarro, 427 followers, post engagement score 117
This terracotta tile maker from Spain creates glorious patterns in rich, warming colors and grams with remarkable brand consistency.
7-6-2016, @bobkillen, 546 followers, post engagement score 135
Bob teaches Photoshop and art photography and is finding Instagram to be a natural outlet for his talents.
7-30-2016, @crumbkitchen, 1,039 followers, post engagement score 219
Riding high on National Cheesecake Day, this cleverly timed post drove a massive engagement score.
7-9-2016, @mysilskitchen, 1,755 followers, post engagement score 858
Annette Barney has seen excellent engagement from regramming unusual cooking videos like this one, alongside photos of food she’s cooked from the recipes on her blog.
How we choose which posts to feature here
The short answer to how we find post to feature is that our analytics suite does the heavy lifting. Every month we query our database of 100,000+ users to find posts with high engagement scores to feature in this list.
Where an account has multiple posts that qualify we pick the one with the highest engagement score.
Since we’re interested in the underlying quality of the photography, messaging, and marketing, we do not feature competitions and other posts that promise a reward for liking, commenting, or otherwise engaging with the post.
Tailwind’s engagement score can be calculated for an individual post (as we do for this post) or for an entire account (as it is in the Tailwind dashboard). The calculation is engagements divided by followers for a post, or average engagements per post divided by followers for an account.
How to calculate your Instagram engagement score:
Post engagement score = ((likes + comments) / followers on the day published) * 100
Profile engagement score = (total likes + total comments) / # of posts) / 1000 followers
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David is Tailwind’s Director of Marketing and Growth. He is a former journalist who wrote for The Times and The Financial Times, a marketing agency co-founder, founder of Confluence digital marketing conference, father of two, and early morning writer. He grew up on The Isle of Wight in England and lives in Oklahoma City.