19 May '22

Nick Edwards

Reality check: what is good growth?

Have you noticed that only exceptional cases make the headlines? That might not be surprising, but it can distort our perception of what’s normal.

’ABC musician shares their secrets about how to go viral’

‘Entrepreneur hits 7-figure revenue on their Shopify store with no marketing’

Or, in our team’s case:

‘xyz tech company reaches 89 billion users 4 months after launch’

It’s compelling clickbait, because it’s what we aspire to. And probably aspire to RIGHT NOW, not after 10 years of grinding away.

But what’s normal? What might be considered average, good or great growth?

We’re building an audience growth tool (Feed, in case you missed it), so we wanted to debunk some growth myths using our data.

We’re starting with Instagram growth - read on to see how you measure up.

Does size matter?

You should think about follower growth in context of the number of followers.

Why? Because adding 50 followers is +50% growth for a profile with 100 followers but only +0.5% for someone with 10,000.

So it’s important to look at both percentage (+50%) and absolute (+50 followers) growth too.

That’s why we break down growth by a few different ‘buckets’ of follower size.

So what’s normal?

Overall, average Instagram follower growth hovers just under 1% per month. This is regular, organic growth (to the best of our estimation).

Breaking it down, monthly growth decreases from ~3% for people with under 1,000 followers to 0.3%if you have over 100,000 followers.

This is a far cry from the ‘going viral’ story of gaining hundreds of thousands of followers in a few weeks.

For most people, growth of 1–2% per month should be the norm, your bread and butter. That means adding 50-100 followers per month if you have 5k followers, for example.

Going viral - even in a small way - should be a nice bonus, the cherry on top.

The paid premium

Wait… surely some accounts are using paid promotion? Wouldn’t that skew things?

Yes, it would!

It’s tricky to find data about the impact of promoting your Instagram on follower growth. Luckily for you, dear reader, we have access to some of that lovely data.

On average, accounts grow over 100% faster when using paid promotion (in other words, more than twice as fast)

You get this paid growth uplift even with quite a modest ad spend ($5-20/day range).

N.B. this uplift data is based on people using Feed’s Instagram growth objective. Not to blow our own trumpet (I’m going to), but in general non-Feed ads produce a smaller growth uplift 😏

Why should I care?

You might ask: why does this matter?

Quite a few people ask us for benchmarks - that’s why we put them in Feed. I think it’s because the information out there isn’t great and our perception of what is normal is skewed by the reporting of exceptional cases.

I hope these benchmarks provide a more realistic set of expectations - and also provide some reassurance that what you’re doing is probably good enough.

Realistic benchmarks also help you decide what to focus on, given you have limited time.

For example, in Feed you might see that your content has a great engagement rate, but Instagram growth is lagging comparable accounts.

That helps you diagnose the problem: it’s probably not your content, so the bottleneck must be elsewhere. Maybe you could try increasing your posting frequency, having more links to your Instagram in your newsletter, or promoting your content to new audiences.

What next?

In future, we can extend this analysis in a couple of ways and look at factors like:

  1. Industry breakdown. Most of the people using Feed are creators, musicians and small creative businesses. So quite similar. But we could go further by looking at how growth breaks down by segment - e.g. does average growth differ between a musician and a podcaster?

  2. Growth over time. At the moment we’re talking about a snapshot: what is average growth for someone with x followers? But we could also look at how growth evolves over the weeks, months and years on average. Does it increase/decrease/stay roughly the same the longer you’re around?

Organic benchmarks in Feed

Want to see how you compare to similar profiles?

Sign up to Feed and use our free organic benchmarks to see how you stack up on things like growth, engagement rate and reach of your posts.

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