How to Find the Half of Brand Mentions Most Marketers are Missing on Instagram

Sometimes we start off researching one question, but instead find valuable insights that answer questions we never thought to ask. That was the case with our latest Smart Social Report, titled The Impact of In-Store Experiences on Brand Awareness. In the report we found data that shines light on the incredible power of the in-store experience, even as online shopping becomes the new normal. But we also found a more unexpected insight: brands that fail to monitor in-store experiences using multiple data aggregation techniques are missing out on about half of their total brand mentions.

In our Smart Social Report, we used four approaches to monitor brand mentions. We examined posts that:

  1. Tagged the brand’s handle with an at-mention (“@brand”)
  2. Included the brand’s hashtag in their post (“#brand”)
  3. Mentioned the name of the brand sans at-mention or hashtag (“brand;”) 
  4. Tagged the brand’s store location, regardless of whether the brand was mentioned in the post text (see below)

Editor's note: The capability to query Instagram posts by keyword, rather than hashtag or at-mention, is a new feature within Spredfast Intelligence. Explore our solution for social media insights or request a demo right now to learn more.

We found that using only the first approach—looking for at-mentions—left out an average of 88% of brand mentions. For IKEA, at-mentions only encompassed 1% of total brand mentions, meaning that if their marketing team looked for at-mentions alone, they would miss 99% of the conversation.

Only looking for at-mentions on social media means a brand misses an average of 88% of brand mentions.


Looking only for hashtag mentions, meanwhile, left out almost three-quarters of all brand mentions. Most brands look only for at-mentions and hashtag mentions because many social media monitoring platforms will only allow for those two simplistic methods of data aggregation. Using a platform like Spredfast Intelligence that allows users to monitor standalone brand mentions—those not paired with a # or an @—doubles the number of brand mentions an analyst or social media strategist can gather. If the platform allows both standalone mentions and store tags, we are able to aggregate 260% more brand mentions than if we were to look at hashtag and at-mentions alone.

Why is aggregating the full number of brand mentions so important? The mentions that come from the more advanced methods tend to be more authentic than looking at hashtag mentions or at-mentions alone. Why? Because hashtag and at-mentions are much more likely to be either promotional or spammy content.


We found that 8% of all at-mentions and 4% of all hashtag mentions included some sort of promotional language (#sponsored, #ad, #discount, etc.). When we did the same analysis of standalone brand mentions, we saw that only 2% of mentions included promotional language. For mentions that tagged the store location, but did not include the brand name in the text, an even smaller share included promotional language–only about 1.7%.

This means that using a four-pronged approach to aggregating brand mentions results not just in more total mentions, but more authentic messages. In other words, they come from average customers rather than paid partners.

Adopting a more sophisticated approach to searching for brand mentions means finding the authentic messages—the ones from real customers.


These authentic mentions contain troves of helpful information. For instance, you can look for specific products within the mentions to find out which are sparking the most social chatter. If the chatter is negative, you can find out why customers are disappointed and strive to fix the problem. You can also find opportunities to interact with customers who are visiting your stores, and even potentially offer them an incentive to return. Interacting with customers at your stores can also promote brand love.

So you now know what you’re missing if your brand isn’t using the right tools to aggregate all brand mentions on social media—to find specific tactics you can use to inspire customers to share their in-store experiences, click through to our latest Smart Social Report: The Impact of In-Store Experiences on Brand Awareness.


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Justine Braun the Senior Analyst of Research & Insights at Spredfast. Her career began in Chicago studying social data from a psychological perspective. When she’s not buried in analysis, you can find her climbing, making ice cream, or rambling about female-fronted punk bands.