Why brands are missing 78% of their products on Instagram

With the rise of social media, it has become crucial for brands to manage their presence on visual platforms such as Instagram. Traditional listening solutions follow hashtags to monitor brand popularity. However, this methodology is fraught with problems.

Firstly, hashtag pollution is widespread on Instagram, i.e. a large majority of posts with a brand hashtag have in fact no relationship to that brand.

Secondly, a large majority of Instagram users do not include hashtags in their posts, i.e. brands miss products.

As a consequence, unless brands follow all of their clients’ accounts, it is impossible to find their products.

The example of Balenciaga on Instagram

Hashtag pollution - Balenciaga brand
Social Listening Image Recognition

To illustrate the problem, let’s take the #Balenciaga on Instagram. Here, we retrieved the most recent results for #Balenciaga on Instagram.

The first 12 results were:

x3 Balenciaga

x1 Chanel

x1 Dior

x1 Hermès

x1 Gucci

x2 Fendi

x2 Nike

x1 other

Only 3 out of the 12 posts were relevant to Balenciaga. But there is more: the majority of results did match Balenciaga’s competitors.

Why is there so much hashtag pollution? Were we just unlucky with this specific search?

In fact, the root of the problem lies in the way hashtags work. Post rankings are calculated according to the popularity of hashtags. Because many users and vendors want to be noticed, they regularly “hack” the popularity of trendy brands to come up in searches.

That these hashtags are irrelevant to the content of the posts is secondary.

Facts and figures about Instagram hashtag pollution 

Heuritech ran a study to assess the impact of Instagram hashtag pollution on brand image.

Methodology of Heuritech’s study

Heuritech’s visual recognition technology, based on the latest deep learning research, is trained to recognize hundreds of branded products — such as the Nike Air Jordan — in images.

For this study, we analyzed 1.5 million Instagram posts from April to July 2018 thanks to our image recognition algorithms.

We then analyzed the relationship between the recognized products and the mentioned hashtags.

We called it “Missed Content” each time a product from a brand was found by our visual recognition technology without that brand’s hashtag.

We labelled posts as “Spam” when our algorithms identified a competitor’s product instead.

Visual recognition for brands and products: Valentino’s case study

Let’s take Valentino as an example: how relevant are specific and general hashtags to finding products from this brand?

Specific hashtags being for example #valentinokittenheels while general hashtags are for instance #fashion or #instagood.

valentino fashion brand

Here, searching for #valentino allowed us to retrieve only 10.99% of the posted Valentino products. Meanwhile, there is a 90,07% pollution rate related to posts in the feed, caused by products from other brands.

General hashtags tend to be heavily polluted by spam, while specific keywords are too narrow to retrieve a significant volume of Valentino products.

The brand’s own hashtag is in between these two extremes, yet fails to provide satisfactory metrics.

Brand ranking

This phenomenon is in fact not specific to Balenciaga or Valentino. Hashtags for all fashion brands show high pollution rates while missing a lot of products at the same time. For these rankings, we analyzed 30 fashion brands.

On average, brand hashtags contain 77,5% of pollution on Instagram. Without visual recognition technology, brands miss on average 78,4% of their products.

Pollution Brands
products missed

Do you want to lift the veil on your brand’s Instagram presence, without spam and without missing any products?

Day and night, Heuritech collects and monitors all the content associated with your brand on Instagram. Our platform allows you to visualize moodboards of your products worn in real life to understand your customers better. You can also benchmark your products against your competitors over time and measure your products’ adoption rate among influencers and consumers.

About the writer: Jean Liénard, Data Scientist at Heuritech

Jean writes about the analysis he is conducting at Heuritech as a Data Scientist.

Questions or feedback? Email us at info@heuritech.com

Don't miss any of our articles

and subscribe to our newsletter

Trend forecasting Heuritech

Get contacted by one of our consultants