The Evolution of Engagements: how posts generate likes and comments

How quickly do posts gain their engagements? Do likes build faster than comments? Do Instagram posts gain their engagements faster than YouTube? These are the questions this post aims to address. 

Key Takeaways

  • Instagram acquires its engagements faster than YouTube does
  • Instagram posts acquire their Comments faster than their Likes
  • YouTube posts gain on average around 60% of their total engagements within 24 hours of being posted
  • Most Instagram posts gain more like 80% of their total engagements within 24 hours of being posted


We looked at 300k posts across Instagram and YouTube, from over 6k accounts, published between 1st November 2017 and 1st March 2018, with data on their engagement counts (Likes + Comments) every day for 30 days after publication - 3.8 million data points in all.

Most Instagram posts acquire 80% of their total engagements in the first 24 hours...

Evolution of Engagements on Instagram vs. YouTube

We want to know how long it takes for most posts to obtain the vast majority of their engagements. This helps us report more accurately on campaign performance and gives context to our live campaign tracking.

This chart shows how engagement builds over time on Instagram and YouTube. On the x-axis is the number of days since post publication. The y-axis is the % of their total engagements after 30 days posts have received. The lines show the vast majority of posts will have achieved at least this % of their engagements by this time on each platform.

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This chart tells us that nearly all Instagram posts acquire the bulk of their engagements in the first few days. YouTube takes longer. From this chart we can say nearly all Instagram posts will have achieved at least 90% of all the engagements they're going to achieve after the first 5 days. YouTube is closer to 75%.


Comments vs. Likes

Focusing on Instagram, we look at the same chart, splitting out Comments and Likes. We see that posts acquire their total Comments faster than their acquire all the Likes they're going to receive.

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The vast majority of Instagram posts acquire at least around 68% of their total Likes and 82% of their Comments after 2 days.


The first 24 hours

Next we look at what happens in the first 24 hours after a post is published, when the bulk of engagement activity occurs. In this chart we plot the percentage of total post engagements acquired in the first 24 hours after publication on the x-axis. The height represents the number of posts.

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This tells us that most YouTube posts acquire around 60% of all their engagements in the first 24 hours. Most Instagram posts get their engagements faster, with around 80% acquired in the first 24 hours. The small bump at the right of both of these distributions suggest a bunch achieve everything in just the first day. These are posts that were probably deleted within 24 hours of being published.

We can also see the 'shape' of YouTube activity on day 1 is symmetric, whereas on Instagram it's skewed. For Instagram this means the bulk of posts gain 60%+ of their engagements on day 1, with a few building engagement more gently (the left tail). On YouTube by contrast there are as many 'gentle' as there are 'aggressive' posts around the average.

    CampaignDeus is the leading independent provider of influencer marketing campaign data for Instagram and YouTube. Our platform identifies and classifies brand sponsored influencer campaign performance metrics, tracking hundreds of thousands of posts.

    We use this data to provide Brands & Agencies with industry insights across verticals, benchmark campaigns against vertical & competitor averages, and equip clients with in-depth reporting and recommendations on how to make campaigns more effective. Get in touch for more details.

    Duncan Stoddard is the co-founder and Chief Data Officer of CampaignDeus. Previously a data scientist with DS Analytics, AlphaSights and media agency Mindshare. He specialises in statistical modelling, machine learning and data visualisation.