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Instagram Tips & Resources

Here’s Why Brands Are Taking Over Your Instagram Comments

Updated on March 6, 2019
13 minute read

Have you spotted Instagram comments from huge brands or celebrities popping up in your feed as you scroll through the latest posts?  It used to be that brands wanted to receive Instagram comments from followers to grow their account. But now, thanks to a new algorithm and a culture change, brands, celebrities, and influencers are cleverly

Published March 6, 2019

Have you spotted Instagram comments from huge brands or celebrities popping up in your feed as you scroll through the latest posts? 

It used to be that brands wanted to receive Instagram comments from followers to grow their account. But now, thanks to a new algorithm and a culture change, brands, celebrities, and influencers are cleverly (and successfully!) using witty comments to optimize their exposure on Instagram and gain more followers!

By leaving Instagram comments on other profiles’ posts, brands are opening themselves up to new audiences and the Instagram comments section is quickly becoming one of the most entertaining parts of Instagram.

But these cute, witty and fun comments are not just for laughs — they’re a smart engagement tactic that’s helping brands attract tons of attention and grow their account! 

Here’s how you can use Instagram comments to fuel your growth:

Why Instagram Comments Are More Important Than Ever If You Want More Followers

Instagram comments are going through a big change.

Brands are no longer just interacting on their own profile’s posts anymore — they’re leaving the comfort of their feed to engage and communicate with other brands on Instagram.

In an article for Vogue, Bridget Read wrote: “On Instagram, the comments section is the new frontier in the app’s evolution from a platform once attractive for its immediacy and relative purity to something a lot more akin to its parent application, Facebook.”

“Instagram’s increasingly complex comments section, once a log of emoji responses and acknowledgments, now features a plethora of delights,” said Read. And we tend to agree. 

While the majority of Instagram conversations used to look something like multiple flame emojis and ‘O.M.G’ comments from a follower to another follower,  a follower to brand, and occasionally a brand to a follower, the tables have turned. Now we’re seeing a huge increase in “brand to brand” comments and we’re loving the new trend!

For example, take a look at how Verizon Media left Huff Post a comment supporting their latest post, while tagging in Virgin! This type of three-way convo is the new way brands are communicating with each other!

So what we’re seeing is both Instagram users and brands reacting, and engaging with the comments sections more so than ever. As a brand, this is the place to be if you want to catch the eye of new followers!

How Did This New Instagram Comments Trend Start?

Late last year, users started seeing changes in how comments were displayed in the Instagram feed. Comments, especially those by celebrities and larger accounts suddenly became much more visible as you scrolled through your followers’ posts.

Now, the Instagram algorithm tends to show the 2 most recent comments from verified accounts directly underneath the post’s caption in your feed.

Dubbed a "sticky comment", this is a prime location for influencers, brands and celebrities to get exposure on a follower’s feed.

But that’s not all. The algorithm is so smart that sometimes it will show you comments from profiles that it thinks will be of “interest to you”. So based on who you follow and engage with the most, it will highlight relevant profiles in this “sticky comments” section too. It’s a new way to help users discover more profiles on Instagram.

That’s why sometimes you might see comments from profiles (they’re not always verified profiles, but usually do have a strong following) that you don’t follow, or have never seen before highlighted as a “sticky comment”:

For example, you might follow HBO and a few of the cast of Game of Thrones like Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke on Instagram. So the next time you see a post by HBO on Instagram about Game of Thrones, you might spot comments from other cast members like Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams in that top comments position. The algorithm has learnt that you’re interested (read: obsessed!) with all things GOT, so it’s going to show you other related profiles in the “sticky comments” section.

From a brand perspective, the algorithm is working hard to pull together the relationships between profiles — defining what things you have in common with other brands that might interest to your new, prospective followers.

Here’s an example from The Cut: they shared a photo of Russian Doll’s star Natasha Lyonne. The top two comments in the “sticky comments” were from Rebecca Ramsey (fashion director at The Cut) and fashion designer, Marc Jacobs.

As a user, you might tap into either profile to learn more about them, or see how they’re related to The Cut brand.

Instagram comments has become a game changer for increasing a brand’s exposure with very little effort — even if you don’t post new content, your comments on related brands and businesses, could still appear in a follower’s feed and attract their attention.

And while being verified definitely does help you get to that top spot, it’s not essential!

The hugely successful Instagram account @CommentsByCelebs really optimized on this Instagram algorithm update and based their whole content strategy around extracting and sharing screenshots of celebs commenting on other celebs’ Instagram posts.

In a podcast interview with Who? Weekly, co-creators of the @commentsbycelebs Julie Kramer and Emma Diamond said: “We picked up on the [new] algorithm… We would follow celebrity accounts to specifically see how they were commenting on each others’ posts”. And from there, they dedicated their page specifically to sharing these hilarious celebrity interactions.  

After humble beginnings in April 2017, the pair have grown the account to over 1M followers, and each post exposing the daily quips, chats, and shoutouts between celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Drake, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Chrissy Teigen receives tens of thousands of likes!

Because it’s a little bit like reading someone’s DMs, right?

Simply put, reading comments from celebrities and seeing the interaction between two profiles you follow is an insight into that personality and the relationship they have with one another.

And with spin-off accounts like @cbcathletes, @cbcbravo, and one in the pipeline dedicated to The Bachelor, it’s clear the trend is here to stay! The Instagram audience clearly wants to follow the engagements between celebrities — it’s like overhearing the “cool gang’s” conversation at high school, you’re being let into something supposedly private.

As Kramer and Diamond suggested: “It’s the smaller gems that we uncover, the quieter conversations between celebrities that are most charming and often are most popular”.

So we can start to see how brands’ interactions with each other might be interesting to followers too.

But from a business strategy standpoint, it’s a real opportunity to grow your following, let your followers see your personality, and build a stronger community of like-minded businesses!  

Let’s not forget that this brand-to-brand conversation tactic started on Twitter and Facebook, and the most outspoken brands were often the ones with the highest following. We’re used to following, liking and retweeting witty comebacks from brands like Wendy’s, MoonPie, Tesco Mobile, and Campbell’s.  

Some of the sassiest tweets from brands gained thousands of likes and retweets, projecting them into viral status and exposing them to new, engaged audiences. And the Twitter community lives for these moments of playful beef between brands!

In a Mashable interview, Wendy’s social media manager, Amy Brown, backed that throwing some shade, while being witty and honest does work to get more followers:

“I think both as a brand and a human being trying to use Twitter, authenticity goes a long way. And, of course being funny doesn’t hurt,” said Brown.

While overall, Instagram seems to be sticking to it’s inclusive, community roots, and dodging any troll-like comments, brands are jumping on board to show genuine appreciation and support for each other. And that’s one trend we can all get behind — brands supporting brands while growing their community of like-minded followers! It’s a win-win strategy for your business!

Ready to start growing your following with Instagram comments?

Here are 3 easy tips to get you started:

How to Use Instagram Comments Tip #1: Comment and Support Brands You Genuinely Admire

When it comes to leaving comments on Instagram, there’s no point in faking it. Make sure your message comes from a place of genuine interest and support, especially if it’s to a fellow brand or business!

What you want to think about here is leaving comments that add value to your users, and also the brand you’re engaging with. There’s zero point in adding a heart eye emoji to a brand’s comments — that’s not going to put you in a position of authority, or of interest to other followers.

Remember to add a spark of your personality, give back and always leave a comment that can only be construed in a positive light.

For example, @iliabeauty recently commented on @vitruvi’s shoppable Instagram post:

A simple, lighthearted message sparked a conversation, one that followers of either account would pay attention to as it gave insights into the products!

It can feel daunting jumping into another brand’s post and leaving a comment, but if you’re struggling with identifying who you should start engaging with, think closer to home. Take a look at your recent collaboration or co-marketing projects and start engaging with your “Instagram friends” first.

At Later, we drop comments to lots of brands and businesses we’ve collaborated with in the past, particularly if we’re loving their current content!

Later’s social media strategist Mel Brittner said: “We’re always so hyped to collaborate with brands on Instagram and our blog, so it feels completely natural to leave a comment on their posts, even when the project is long finished.”

How to Use Instagram Comments Tip #2: Add a Touch of Humor to Your Comments

As Kramer and Diamond mentioned in their podcast interview, funny comments left by celebs were often the most popular with their followers.

We all know Chrissy Teigen as queen of the humorous clapbacks, but Kramer and Diamond mentioned smaller accounts like Katharine McPhee and The Fosters as some of their favorite accounts to follow for their witty comments to their peers.

When it comes to brands, it can be hard to get your sense of humor across, but keeping the tone light, and upbeat is just as good. Take a look at how TV host and journalist @iamcattsadler backed a post by @girlboss:

It goes without saying that you can’t be funny for funny’s sake, and there will be times when humor has no place in an Instagram comment. So be mindful of the tone of the post, “read the room” and make sure you only leave comments that you think will genuinely make your followers or the brand chuckle.

How to Use Instagram Comments Tip #3: Show Support for Brands Following Your Mission

Every brand and business has a mission or ethos that they’re backing. Whether that mission is organic produce, environmental issues or animal protection, odds are you’re not the only one fighting for the cause and using your social media platforms to share the message.

So there’s no better way to engage on Instagram than to leave comments cheering on other brands and businesses that support similar causes to you.

For example, ocean preservation organization @take3forthesea regularly receives comments from pro surfers, product designers and other environmental charities on their posts. It’s a great way to spread the word, while also putting your profile in front of a new audience that has similar interests to your business.

But When Does Commenting on Instagram Become Spam?

While this added exposure for Instagram comments is of huge benefit to brands and businesses, there’s a fine line that’s all too easy to cross into spam territory.

While you may not follow, or even know of Sia Cooper, there’s a strong chance you’ll have seen her handle @DiaryOfAFitMommyOfficial popping up in the “sticky comments” section of Instagram posts from celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Rihanna.

Cooper was one of the first influencers to recognize the algorithm change and to start using it to her advantage. As a verified account, Cooper’s comments on high-traffic and hugely popular celebrity accounts would often appear in the top position of the comments section and would remain there until another verified account commented on the same post.

Even if it was just a quick one-liner like “Beautiful ladies!” on Kim Kardashian West’s post, her comment would be seen by the millions of people that follow Kim!

In an interview with Refinery29, Cooper wasn’t shy to reveal that in just two short months, her strategy helped grow her following by +70K!

“It’s a fun way to connect with them [celebrities], and now it is even better due to Instagram’s new algorithm with highlighting verified accounts’ comments first. I’ve had interaction back with celebs such as Khloé Kardashian and Nicki Minaj,” said Cooper.

But, her persistent comments didn’t go unnoticed — Tweets and Instagram comments flooded in from average joe Instagram user wanting to know why they were seeing so much of @DiaryOfAFitMommyOfficial in their feed, even if they didn’t follow her.

Even Chrissy Teigen chimed in with frustration for Cooper’s constant comments, even though the tweet was later deleted.

Instagram users are savvy and will spot a spammy comment in an instant. So, if your approach is to shower every celebrity account with a comment, you’ll fall on deaf, and impatient, ears. Your plan could very easily backfire and lose you a lot of followers.

Also remember that the Instagram algorithm is getting smarter, and is learning to identify, and penalize spam comments by bots. So not only will you be testing your followers’ patience with blanket-commenting, but you’ll also play a risky game with Instagram.

But don’t be disheartened, there are ways to correctly, and authentically engage with brands and businesses on Instagram that will grow your following!

You don’t have to completely overhaul your Instagram strategy to start adopting some of these tips — it could all be done in a couple of minutes each day.

Remember that your comments on other brands’ posts should always be genuine, and never forced, so if you spot a post you’d like to engage with, do! It’s time to start building a conversation and growing your following!

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