Car brands on Instagram: Who is the king?

2 Apr ’17

I have been following automotive brands on Instagram for quite a while now. I am fascinated by automotive design and how much love for the details is behind every curve and which imagery car brands choose. It’s easy to recognize different styles among brands, each of a specific metaphorical language. You can see a lot of lensflare in Volvo’s imagery, while Ferrari tries to stay within a certain range of colors and always use red as the center of attention. Lamborghini is colorful and crazy. American car brands tend to show their cars in very urban scenes. So I was interested in how they perform on Instagram and found some fun details in this numbers.

This article shall in no way represent a scientific study, it is only a use case of Instagram usage by brands in a certain industry. Also, I have only chosen certain car brands and also I did not use other popular brands like Volkswagen or any Japanese brands. The questions I asked myself were:

  • Is it true that the usage of a lot of blue in your photos creates more engagement because it is more appealing to people?
  • Do brands with the highest amount of followers also have the highest amount of interaction?
  • Who is the most active?
  • Who is using Video and how do carbrand-followers engage with video content?

I have defined the following in advance:

  • A like is easily given on Instagram and the easiest way of interaction. But a comment is much more worth because it creates real engagement and is not as easily given as the double-tap. That’s why I have only counted comments as interactions and engagement. It says a lot more than a like. If a brand has a lot of followers but almost no interaction, those followers are not worth that much.
  • I have taken all postings from January 1st until March 31st 2017. Three months is a pretty good sample.
  • The sample of photos for the photo analysis was 50 per brand

I paid attention to the following brands:

  • Alfa Romeo
  • Aston Martion
  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Bugatti
  • Cadillac
  • Chevrolet
  • Ferrari
  • Jaguar
  • Lamborghini
  • Maserati
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Porsche
  • Tesla

The basics

If you look at the follower numbers, it is pretty easy to see that BMW is the king amongst  the car brands I have analyzed.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-04-01 um 14.16.08

Brand Followers
BMW 11335157
Mercedes-Benz 8850581
Audi 7569808
Lamborghini 6885600
Porsche 6780187
Maserati 4478810
Jaguar 4199825
Bugatti 3776810
Aston Martin 3452543
Ferrari 2296454
Chevrolet 1707083
Tesla 1704917
Cadillac 1328193
Alfa Romeo 461639

The most active account is most definitely held by Mercedes-Benz, whose Social Media team has posted 554 times in those three months, almost double as much as the second placed, BMW. Tesla is the extreme opposite: They have posted only five times in three months, which was not bad for the interaction at all, which we will see later.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-04-01 um 14.20.22

Marke Postings January – March
Mercedes-Benz 554
BMW 270
Ferrari 141
Aston Martin 122
Jaguar 120
Alfa Romeo 79
Cadillac 72
Chevrolet 71
Lamborghini 65
Maserati 53
Porsche 42
Bugatti 35
Audi 29
Tesla 5

Although Mercedes is the most active, the engagement of the brand’s followers is only somewhere in the middle, whereas Audi – who has less followers than Mercedes-Benz – has a more engaged crowd as followers and they perform very well in that area. So it is not said that a lot of postings also bring you a lot of engagement. I am 100% sure that Mercedes could post half as much as they do now and they would perform not worse than now.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-04-01 um 14.26.17

Brand Comments
Mercedes-Benz 141826
BMW 90726
Lamborghini 27212
Ferrari 25173
Aston Martin 16916
Audi 16155
Jaguar 16045
Porsche 13861
Maserati 9996
Bugatti 9571
Chevrolet 5535
Cadillac 3794
Alfa Romeo 3504
Tesla 2240

The total amount of comments does not really say anything, because every brand posted a very different amount of content. So I have just estimated the average amount of comments per posting for a certain brand. As you can see in Audi’s case as I mentioned before, the engagement is not depending on how much you post on Instagram. Tesla is an extreme case, but also their five postings created way more engagement than BMW or Mercedes does on average.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-04-01 um 14.28.35

Marke Comment average per posting
Audi 557,0689655
Tesla 448
Lamborghini 418,6461538
BMW 336,0222222
Porsche 330,0238095
Bugatti 273,4571429
Mercedes-Benz 256,0036101
Maserati 188,6037736
Ferrari 178,5319149
Aston Martin 138,6557377
Jaguar 133,7083333
Chevrolet 77,95774648
Cadillac 52,69444444
Alfa Romeo 44,35443038

The most interesting finding was that video content – except for Lamborghini, Tesla and Ferrari – is commented significantly less than still pictures. Video is only a high engagement content for brands where sound is important. In general, car brands do not operate a lot with video content. Only Lamborghini and Tesla seem to have a higher ratio of video to still image. Of course, video content is more difficult to produce, post-process and use the right snipet for social media. Audi, for instance, is not using video content at all and look at them: they have the highest engagement rates. So, I assume, video content is still not a big thing on Instagram, except for very the highly priced brands like Lamborghini. The content of the video itself is also important, which I will tell you later about.

Three of five Tesla postings were videos, by the way.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-04-01 um 14.35.30

Marke Relation Fotos/Videos
Tesla 60%
Lamborghini 35,40%
Jaguar 21,70%
Alfa Romeo 20,30%
Cadillac 19,40%
Chevrolet 15,50%
Bugatti 14,30%
Mercedes-Benz 14,10%
Porsche 9,50%
BMW 8,10%
Ferrari 7,80%
Aston Martin 5,70%
Maserati 3,80%
Audi 0%

As you can see above, Lamborghini has a 1/5 video, 4/5 photo ratio, which seems to work very well for the brand.

A few months ago I have stumbled upon an article that said: Some scientists found out that the bluer a photo and an Instagram feed is, the more likely we engage with it, because blue tones are more appealing to us human beings. I wanted to see if car brands used a lot of blue tones and if the more engaging brands also have the bluer Instagram feeds. Let’s look at every single brand.


audiaudi_colors Tesla





bmwbmw colors










ferraricolors_ferrari Aston Martin








Alfa Romeo

alfa romealfaromeo_colors

If you compare the amount of blue tones (the ones you can see as blue with your eye) with the engagement, there really is not a significant thing to find. Tesla uses the most blue colors, followed by Audi, Lamborghini, Bugatti and Mercedes.

The content of the content

All those statistics are fun but the most interesting things were to be found in the analysis of the content: Which postings are the ones with the most likes and the best engagement? I have analyzed every single feed (yep, that was pretty intense) and found that

  • lifestyle shots seem to be more appealing than pictures from e.g. auto shows
  • detail shots are more commented than those “spontaneous” auto show photos
  • pictures from auto shows are only highly engaging when the car is completely new and an absolutely new model
  • pictures with a lot of text in the image are commented a lot less
  • videos are only often commented from sports car brands like Lamborghini
  • completely new cars and very very old models are commented way more often than models in between those.
  • people on pictures are less popular, even if they are famous testimonials
  • American car brands have a higher engagement rate on pictures that show their very old models
  • the more action a video shows, the more people comment on it. But in general, videos have a significantly smaller engagement rate than still pictures.
  • People don’t like to engage with pictures from a composition (when you put together three ore more photos to get a bigger picture in the feed)

Example for a posting with very high engagement:


New cars are always the best way to have people comment and like, especially in the case above where they present a completely new category of car in their brand. This is an only-exception because usually pictures from car shows are not very popular.


Also interesting and intriguing shots like this one from BMW are liked and commented a lot. BMW is a master of the light and shadow game and their fans seem to enjoy this.



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