Instagram Saves Are The New Likes. Right? (1/2)

instagram saves are new likes

Did you hear that? The Instagram algorithm loves likes… but it prefers saves more, so Instagram saves are really new likes.

Or at least that’s what the social media marketing pros are just claiming.

May we turn the title into: “New Instagram Super Like – Save!” or “Forget Likes, Saves Will Help Grow Your Instagram.”?

Influencers and brands have to notice, and we’ve seen tons of accounts encouraging followers to save posts to Collections, or hosting contests that require a Save to enter.

For example, here’s an adorable toddler influencer asking followers to “SVE” and “SHR”…

… and here’s a Vancouver-based fitness studio running a giveaway that offers to people who save the post and follow a few other instructions.

However, does saving really do things?

Time to take a look at the theory to find out once and for all if saves are the key to increase engagement… or just a bunch of hype.

What is an Instagram Save?

Before we really get to know if or how saves can help boost your engagement, let’s find out what an Instagram save is.

Can you see that little ribbon icon on the bottom right of a post? Tap that, and you have added that post to your saved folder.

Instagram saves

To access your saved folder, just visit your profile, choose the three horizontal lines in the top right corner, and tap “Saved”.

saved folder-instagram saves are new likes

You can divide all the saved posts into Collections — “Vacation Ideas,” “Food,” “My Story” et cetera. Just tap the + icon in the top right corner of the screen.

saved collections

Tap and hold the ribbon icon to add a post to your favorite collection. You can see your collections at the bottom of the screen. Choose the one you’d like to sort the post into and it’ll be there waiting for you when the time comes to evaluate the best wispy pixie cut for your face shape.

Hypothesis: “Saves” help your post reach more than “Likes”

Now that we all understand what a save is. So, why do a lot of people seem to think they matter?

The idea is that the Instagram algorithm now values “saves” more than likes. The reason why is that it indicates the value of your content is so high that users want to keep it to reference again later. Meanwhile, Instagram likes are just a flash in the pan, a fleeting crush! A save is commitment.

While we all know that the Instagram algorithm takes saves into consideration when trying to determine the strength of a relationship, the idea that saves would be more powerful than likes (particularly when it’s sort of a less obvious and rarely used feature for many followers) seems a little off-brand.

Let’s put the theory to the test.


To test out whether saves help you to boost engagement on a particular post, you can use scheduling tools that help you post your Instagram posts in advance.

For example, I publish 6 posts a week on an Instagram account to test. Three of these captions would be explicitly asking people to save the posts. Three of the captions explicitly asked people not to save the post, and to instead just interact with the post as normal.

To try to even the playing field, content-wise, and ensure that I wasn’t accidentally skewing the results by featuring better content on “save” posts than “non-save” posts, within these six posts, I made thematically and visually similar pairings:

  • Two photos of dogs in sweaters, take free photos from the site Unsplash, one with a “please save” caption and one without
  • Two photos of smoothie bowls (also use photos from Unsplash), one with a “please save” caption and one without
  • Two graphics designs were made with Canva, one with a “please save” caption and one without

thematically similar images for saves experiment-instagram saves are new likes

And to ensure that the time of day didn’t affect results (because we know that there are best times to post on Instagram), I posted the save and non-save posts at the same time on different days. On Tuesday, posts are published at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 4 p.m.; the other three are published on Wednesday at the same hours.

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