Blog posts on best practice content marketing.

Instagram Research (December 2019): Does having a business account lower your engagement?

Abstract: Instagram has a clear incentive to lower organic engagement rates (the number of people who see your posts) on business accounts because they want businesses to pay to reach people. In this research I tested this hypothesis. The results find some evidence to suggest that Instagram DOES lower organic reach on business accounts. The implications of my findings are that you should not switch to a business account on Instagram until you absolutely need to access the promoted post and other features. There are several caveats associated with the findings that I also discuss.


Many businesses switch to a business account on Instagram to get access to a whole new set of tools not available to regular users, such as paid posts, a contact button, analytics, quick replies, story links, and others. If you’re a small business starting out or just a regular user it seems like there’s no harm switching to a business account to get these potentially useful features, right? (It’s very easy to switch -just swipe a button).

Well… maybe not – if you’ve identified yourself as a business by switching to the business account, you could argue that Instagram assumes you have money. Instagram will therefore make it more difficult for you to get your regular (organic) posts seen, to ‘motivate’ you to spend some of your money to promote your posts. What you end up with is lower organic engagement than if you had stayed on the personal account.

Obviously Instagram doesn’t disclose how their engagement algorithm works, and I am speculating, so I ran an experiment to test the idea that Instagram penalises business account organic reach.


Data were collected on a 7-year-old Instagram account with 100 followers, 144 following, and 114 posts. Six carousel posts were posted on alternate days, 3 with the account set to personal, and 3 with the account set to business. Posting times were 6pm local time. No location was specified with the posts. Each post was available for 24 hours. Each post was pretested for entertainment value, emotions, general affect, arousal, self enhancement value, affinity, and willingness to share on self-report scales, enabling me to balance these factors across the conditions, and distribute any error across the three posts for statistical analysis. The number of images in each carousel was also balanced (average: 6). A set of 30 identical hashtags were used for each post (the maximum number).

The theme of the posts was old memes, and generally each series of images told a story (like a comic strip). Each post was either humorous or thought provoking.

Figure: Instagram carousel examples

Instagram carousel example 1
Instagram carousel example 2


The metric for analysis was likes. Share data were insufficient for analysis. T-tests were used to compare the number of likes between each group (personal vs. business).

The results found the business group posts had significantly less likes (M = 4.00; SD = 1) than the personal group posts (M = 7.67; SD = 2.02), t(4) = -2.75, p = .051.


The results lend support to my hypothesis that Instagram business accounts have lower organic engagement than Instagram personal (default) accounts.

The main implication of this study is that people should not switch to the business account on Instagram unless they intend to use the pay features (sponsored posts, advertising), or really need the other features such as analytics (a hard argument to justify imho).

It might make better sense, even if you are a business, to stay on the personal account to maximise your engagement, then move over to business once you have a decent system setup, and of course a budget. But even then, as a business you don’t want to be promoting every single post… and frankly you shouldn’t need to.


There are limitations of this study. First and foremost, the sample size was used for analysis was very small (low power). Accordingly, we might expect to find different results using a greater number of posts. Efforts were made to distribute the error across each condition however, adding some degree of internal validity.

There are also several variables that are difficult to control, and accordingly you could argue for alternative explanations for my findings. There are many moving parts, and while I did my best to control for potential confounds, my results should be interpreted with caution. Account history (prior engagement) for example might produce different results.

The 3 most essential elements in Dr Coker’s Going Viral marketing framework

The Going Viral Framework is the culmination of 8 years of research conducted by Dr Brent Coker at the University of Melbourne. Parts of the framework have been published in various sources, with the complete framework documented in the book ‘Going Viral’ (Pearson: UK).

Here are the 3 most essential elements of the framework.

1. Emotion

There are two dimensions of emotion: arousal and valence. Although it is critical to use emotions in your marketing content, it is actually the arousal dimension that evokes sharing tendencies. Arousal seems to affect sharing motives through the amygdala part of the brain—a primitive part of the limbic system that is believed to manage feelings-based (affect) memories. Some research suggests it also controls social behaviour. Valence moderates decisions to share marketing content after appraisal from the pre-frontal cortex, though one way to maximise sharing motives is to combine high arousal stimuli of opposite valence.

Consider for example winning a prize or almost getting hit by a car. Both situations invoke strong arousal (through affect), and both situations lead to strong word of mouth reactions (in both cases you will be telling everyone what happened!).

The science of creating high engagement marketing content using emotions centres on the combination of emotions, and how to maximise the strengths of the emotions to evoke arousal.

Special techniques are used to attach a brand (create branded content) and imprint strong favourable brand associations – both critical parts of the creative process.

2. Self Enhancement

Self enhancement is a biological tendency for humans to behave in ways to boost positive self-opinion. It is believed to be a primary mechanism behind building and sustaining self-esteem. Because self enhancement motives appear to be fixed, it is an extremely powerful tool for motivating content engagement.

People self-enhance in different ways, and for different reasons. Understanding self-enhancement motives in your target audience is a critical step in the initial phases of creating an online marketing campaign. This requires a deep understanding of psychographic preferences—particularly values and ideals. Oftentimes the required information is not obvious, though there are techniques to more accurately identify self enhancement triggers.

There are three general categories of self-enhancement cues used to guide content creation.

(a) Membership cues.   Humans are a group-oriented species. Members of a group are bound by common values or beliefs. If you attend the group’s social meetings you’ll eventually discover what those values and beliefs are—since the topics of conversation give clues about what they might be. For example, motorcycle clubs will mostly talk about the lifestyle of riding a motorcycle, such as near misses with cars, or long-distance adventure tours. These are membership cues—basically things that members in the group think is important and that they all share an interest in. People use membership cues in conversation to confirm, endorse, and legitimise their membership. If membership cues are known, they provide the impetus for content engagement.

(b) Impression management.           People share content to manage other people’s impressions of themselves. The usefulness of content that can shape others’ opinions is that it circumvents ego-inflation needs. Content that enables people to manage impressions includes anything that signals something about a character trait that is revered. For example, a middle-aged man might share a picture of a customised motorcycle to remind his peers about his passion for freedom, rebelliousness against the aging process, and connection to his youth. Note that his reason for sharing might not necessarily be to seek agreement from his network over the beauty of the machine.

(c) Approval cues.  Approval cues are sought to obtain recognition and respect – two extremely powerful social needs. There’s nothing like the feeling of approval from those around you. When people applaud, laugh, or even pat you on the back, it gives you a tremendous boost in self-esteem. The equivalent of this in social media is engagement (Likes, Retweets, Thumbs up etc). Some types of things people share to earn approval cues may include recent purchases made, recent sporting or life achievements, or amusing situations.

3. Affinity

Affinity is a feeling of warmth, respect, and deep appreciation for an activity, idea, or object, that endures over time. Affinity is different from emotion, primarily because emotions are short-term and affinity can be used to evoke strong powerful memories – an extremely useful tool for content marketers.

The most important thing to note about affinity is that it’s a requirement for something to go viral. If you don’t invoke affinity, people most certainly won’t share it. In other words, although emotion might be important when creating marketing content, affinity is critical.

There are several ways to invoke affinity, though two of the most popular include the following:

(a) Youth. People value memories from their youth. Activating time-based affinity from youth-based memories requires identifying a theme that has strong meaning. Youth-based memories don’t have to be specific memories, but rather can be characterised by themes, which widens their appeal. For example, everyone has memories of receiving gifts in their youth. These memories are tied to nostalgic times of being young, which do have importance for a wide range of people.

(2) Relationships. Almost everybody has had relationships in their lives that matter. These memories can be general in nature (mothers vs. a specific person). Using this strategy, the task is usually to identify a likely relationship theme, which usually means romantic or family based but could also be mentor based such as a teacher or leader.

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These are the three basic elements of the Going Viral framework. At Wear Cape, the Going Viral framework is our foundation. We use it is all our content creation, including influencer and seeding selection.

If you would like to find out more about the Going Viral framework, please contact us for a free no-obligation consultation.

The psychology of colour – 5 effects on human behaviour you didn’t know about

Colour affects people’ judgements, decision making, perceptions, and behaviour. Yet marketers all too often ignore colour when designing content. Used the right way, the right colours can enhance engagement (through arousal). Used the wrong way – and colours can actually repel engagement.

What effects to colours have on people? And how should you be using colours in your content?

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Colours enhance expectations

One thing colours do is enhance, or magnify, people’s expectations. For example, one study found that a refrigerator is perceived to be better at cooling food products when the inside colour is blue. Another study found that people perceive the attractiveness of skin cream differently when the colour is more earthy, and yet another study found that beverages green in colour were perceived to be sourer (even when they weren’t). People’s assumptions about what they’re seeing will change depending on the dominant colour.

How can you use this when creating content? Make sure the dominant colour you choose (see table below) is consistent with the feelings you are trying to evoke. Don’t for example use Red or Orange if you’re trying to signal trust, and don’t use blue or green when you’re trying to evoke positive emotions.

2. Colour increases engagement

 We’ve known for some time that physiological and affective arousal increases content sharing motives, and that some colours are more arousing than others, so it’s perhaps not surprising that some colours increase engagement with online content. Some studies for example have found that certain website colour combinations increase motives to recommend the website. Blue for example is viewed as more positive than yellow, and more likely to be recommended.

How to use this when designing content? The aim of seeding content online is almost always to earn engagement (shares). So it makes sense to use more arousing high chroma colours (Reds and Oranges) if the aim is to maximise shares.

3. Time perception

A little known effect of colour is that certain combinations, shades, and tints can influence people’s perceptions of time. For example, waiting times can be perceived as being shorter when colours are associated with relaxing states (e.g., pink and warm pastel/low chroma colours). Warm ambient light configurations in stores, emulating the same tints and strengths in a typical home, have been found to increase the amount of time spent browsing in a store.  Other studies have found that the speed with which consumers complete their shopping tasks increases when the light source is intense and artificial.

How can you use this when creating content? Sometimes we want consumers to spend more time viewing our content, so it seems that adjusting the hues and tints to emulate attractive light sources might facilitate time spent viewing content. However, since we’re also usually trying to increase arousal for digital content (to maximise engagement), it seems there might be a trade-off between time spent processing your content, and maximising engagement.

4. Colour increases recognition and memory

Research has found that colour improves recognition and memory. For example, one study found that colour can increase brand recognition by up to 80%. The presence or absence of colour also affects recognition and memory – according to one study, coloured advertisements attracted 42% more readership than when the same advertisement was non-coloured. Research in the medical field has also shown that vivid colour cues can help to enhance the short-term memory performance of Alzheimer Disease patients.

How can you use this when crafting content? Obviously, we want our content to be memorable. Using minimal colours like black and grey might seem appropriate in certain design contexts, the research suggests its better to use colours (hues) in your content to maximise memorability.

5. Colour affects moods and feelings

Many studies have been done on this. For example, cool colours (blues/greens) have been found to be associated with calm, serene, and comfortable moods. A study by Kaya and Epps found that participants associated green colour with the feeling of calmness, happiness, comfort, peace, hope, and excitement. In contrast, Black was associated with the feeling of sadness, depression, fear, and anger. Warm colours (yellows, reds, oranges) were found to be associated with stressful and exciting moods.

Other studies have found that bright colours are associated with positive feelings, such as happiness, joy, and hope, and in general are perceived to be friendlier, more cultured, pleasant and beautiful. In contrast, dark colours may evoke negative feelings, such as boredom and sadness.

How to use it in content marketing? Well – if you’re producing content to affect people (which you should be), then you should be matching the dominant colour(s) to the emotions and feelings you’re aiming to activate. In perennial content, such as branding decisions, colours should be chosen to match your desired brand persona.

Below we’ve summarised the research on colour reactions and perceptions to help you choose the right colours for your next project.

ColourCognitive AssociationsContent use
Redenergy; action; desire; love; passionstimulating; exciting and motivating; attention-getting; assertive and aggressive
Orangeadventure and risk taking; social communication and interaction; friendship; divorceenthusiasm; rejuvenation; stimulation; courage; vitality; fun; playful
Yellowmind and intellect; happiness and fun; communication of new ideascreative; quick decisions; anxiety producing; critical; non-emotional; light; warmth; motivation
Greenharmony and balance; growth; hope; wealth; health; prestige; serenityrejuvenation; nurturing; dependable, agreeable and diplomatic; possessiveness; envy
Bluecommunication; peace and calm; honesty; authority; religion; wisdomconservative; predictable; orderly; rigid; trustworthy; dependable; secure; responsible
Purple/Violetinspiration; imagination; individuality; spirituality; royalty; sophistication; nostalgia; mystery; spiritualityempathy; controlled emotion; respectable and distinguished; impractical; immature; dignity; cynical
Pinkunconditional love; compassion; nurturing; hope; girlishcalming; non-threatening; affectionate; caring; immature
Brownstability; structure; security; natural and wholesome; earth-likecomforting; protective; materialistic; simplistic; durable
Greyneutrality; compromise; controlindecision; detached; depression; unemotional
Whiteinnocence and purity; new beginning; equality and unity; fairnessimpartial; rescuer; futuristic; efficient; clean; soft; noble
Blackmystery; power and control; prestige; value; timelessness; sophisticationformal, dignified and sophisticated; depressing; pessimistic