Why SNL Can Post 80 Times a Day on Instagram (But You Still Probably Shouldn’t)


I’ve come to terms with the fact that Tina Fey will never join Twitter. It’s sad, because I love Twitter and I love Tina—but never the twain shall meet.

Fey reaffirmed her stance during last night’s three-hour Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special. During Weekend Update, Fey noted the show’s multi-generational appeal from boomers to, “whatever you call the little dummies who are live Tweeting this right now instead of watching it.”

If you watched the show and any of your favorite social feeds you know that plenty of people had their second screen in full effect—breaking two Nielsen Twitter TV ratings in the process.  And NBC was prepared. Mashable previewed the network’s “major social push” for the show.

How major?

74 Instagram photos in one day, major.

Did it work?

Well, yes. But don’t ask your Community Manager to start publishing three times an hour on Instagram just yet. Let’s take a look at some data, shall we?

Here is a trend line showing post performance over the course of the day. Users were engaging with @nbcsnl’s content way more than usual— posts yesterday averaged +70% higher Likes than their last two hundred posts. And, much to my surprise, there were no signs of the law of diminishing returns in effect. Post engagement actually grew as the night went on.

What about that big peak?

Eat your (double-tapped) hearts out, Instagram. It’s none other than JT and Jimmy Fallon.  When you have flawless content like this (or the duo’s epic musical cold open) it’s bound to perform. This post received 4X the normal level of Likes and 5X the normal levels of comments (when compared to @nbcsnl’s last 250 posts.)


Brothers from another mother. #SNL40 #LiveFrom8H @justintimberlake

A photo posted by Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) on


So, it works, when can I post this often on Instagram?

Short answer? Probably never. Unless you have an upcoming event where you will bring together 40 years of musicians, athletes, comedians, and actors (or something equally amazing) this Instagram strategy probably falls under, “don’t try this at home”.

I was seriously smitten by the InstaBumper approach.  Bringing the iconic image bumpers shown at commercial breaks on to Instagram en masse was smart. The image quality was incredibly high (naturally, with SNL photographer Mary Ellen Matthews at the helm) which made it fit with the other content and the overall experience users expect from the visual platform. Here are a few personal faves:


#SNL40 InstaBumper with Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch. @maryellenmatthewsnyc

A photo posted by Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) on


#SNL40 InstaBumper with Elvis Costello. @maryellenmatthewsnyc

A photo posted by Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) on


#SNL40 InstaBumper with Glenn Close. @maryellenmatthewsnyc

A photo posted by Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) on


That said, most of us follow friends, family, businesses (large and small), and media that inspire us. There is some limit on having your entire feed hijacked by any one user you follow. (Case in point: I once unsubscribed from Beyonce, Tina Feye’s counterpart in the female role model duo of my dreams, because she just posted too much.) SNL took a risk that appears to have paid off, but generally speaking, in social, there can be too much of a good thing.

What would I have done differently?

OK, now I’m being downright greedy. The show and the social activations around it were pretty spot on. I just wish that NBC had created an experience where viewers at home could make their own #InstaBumpers. Who hasn’t dreamed of being a cast member? Maybe Lorne Michaels just wanted to keep the dream alive—no shortcuts.

I’ll close with a line from another Weekend Update anchor, Amy Poehler. In her new book, Yes Please, Poehler shares a motto for women on various paths to success: “Good for her! Not for me.” If you were impressed by SNL’s Instagram strategy last night, give them a few double-taps, say, “good for them! Not for me!” and chart your own course to Instagram success.

Want to get started? Download our Blueprints for Social Network Success that is jampacked with best practices on Instagram and other major social networks.


cdoman@spredfast.com's picture

Courtney Doman

Courtney is the Content Marketing Manager at Spredfast. She focuses on sharing smart social ideas and insights to transform the way companies connect with consumers. Courtney is a passionate football fan (supporting Arsenal and the USMNT), curious traveller, and ambitious home cook.