Instagram Saves Are The New Likes. Right? (2/2)

Instagram saves

Keep reading to explore the results of the test and see whether or not Instagram saves are really the new likes.


Posts that were saved had a much higher reach than non-saved posts… however, that did not essentially translate to more likes, comments, or shares.

Let’s jump into some detail.

First, check this battle of the breakfast bowls! I posted two stunning shots of smoothie bowls, with detailed captions explaining what I was trying to do with this experiment because I am an ethical scientist, and also I didn’t want everyone to think I’d been hacked. (Normally my content veers more towards the “unhinged illustrations” or “my renovation is ruining my life” category, which people are more likely to quietly block than save to treasure for a lifetime.)

To find out which of these posts were most engaging, we’ll use an engagement calculator from Hootsuit that measures engagements by impressions. We’ll take the total engagements (in this case, I’ll think about that to be a like, comment, or share) and divide by the number of people that really saw it to get an “engagement rate.”

smoothie bowl

Seventy-seven people saved this smoothie bowl picture, as requested. It wound up reaching 612 people, based on Instagram’s in-platform analytics. It also received 49 likes and 3 comments. (There were no shares in this case.) That works out to an engagement rate of 8% for this post.

Let’s see the numbers that the non-save breakfast bowl post gets.

smoothie bowl non-save photo

This post had zero saves, as I requested. (Great listening, everyone!) It still reached 430 people and received 32 likes and 5 comments. No shares. That’s an engagement rate of… 8%.

More people saw the post that had a high save rate, however, the percentage of viewers who liked or commented remained the same for both two posts.

Okay, onto the dog-eat-dog comparison. Which of those pug images — save or no-save — received more engagement?

I asked people to save this dog in a sweater picture, and 80 people obliged. I also received:


In total, this post had a reach of 770… which means the engagement on it was 12% if I’ve calculated those numbers right.

dog in sweater non-save photo - Instagram saves

I begged people not to save this dog picture, and they didn’t. It still garnered:

  • 1 share

It additionally reached 522 people. The engagement rate for this bespectacled pug was 15%… slightly higher than the Instagram saves of the same pug in a different outfit.

For the final comparison, let’s see how my two graphic typographic posts fared.

graphic typographic save post

I couldn’t have been more clear that I wanted people to save this one, and 98 people listened. (Thanks, my sweet guinea pigs!)

There are 596 people who saw the post in total. It received the fewest likes of all my posts this week, however — just 25 — and 4 comments. There were no shares for this one. That means it only had a 4% engagement rate.

graphic typographic non-save post - Instagram saves

One jerk saved this post, despite my very clear message not to, but typically one has to let go of control and let the internet do what it’s gonna do. It had a reach of 488 and garnered 38 likes, no shares, and only one comment. The engagement rate? 8%.

Let’s take a look at the stats from Instagram’s in-platform analytics:

Instagram in-platform analytics

Instagram in-platform analytics continued - Instagram saves

What do the results mean?

Overall, each of the posts that was “saved” did have a significantly greater reach (by approximately 38%) — they did wind up in front of more eyeballs.

However, that didn’t necessarily translate into other useful interactions: likes, shares, and comments.

(Another unintended result of this experiment: my mom realized the way to save things on Instagram. Not sure how that may affect your social media strategy going forward, however, I just thought you need to know.)

Asking followers to save may actually be a “trick” to get your content featured in front of more people. These brands asking people to save their posts to be entered into a contest? They’re probably doing the best thing because typically the goal of an Instagram contest is to extend brand awareness and followers — and saves do seem to get your posts in front of more eyeballs.

That being said: followers may soon tire of being asked to “save” posts that aren’t really saveable, making their collections disorganized and full of the feature useless. So use this hack sparingly, and only once your main goal of this post is to increase brand awareness.

And note: a wholesome Instagram strategy can’t survive on reach alone. Finally, you still need to have great, engaging content if you’re going to take advantage of that reach and build long-term relationships with your followers.

If high engagement rates are what you’re chasing, here’s the hard truth: The real secret to great engagement is to build a holistic social media strategy and content calendar around compelling content that encourages people to like, comment, share, and, yes, save too. After all, if people are seeing your posts and not enjoying this content, what’s the point?

However, all that being said… this was a really small sample size that took place over the course of a week on my personal account of 1,600 followers, so please take this lesson with a grain of salt. Or, better yet, do your own experiment to learn how your own posts work with Instagram saves.

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