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How Austin Mahone Stole the @iHeartRadio Instagram Award From Bigger Names

With a hashtag or a Facebook contest for virtually every single awards show, social media has taken center-stage.

Last week, iHeartRadio gave out their first ever “Instagram Award.” The award was given to the celebrity who racked up the most votes using the hashtag #iHeart_____.

As a serial-celebrity-stalker, I can honestly say that the competition was fierce; Rihanna, Harry Styles, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and Austin Mahone were nominated. To my surprise, Mahone took home the trophy. Now, I’m a little older than Mahone’s target demographic (despite what people at Simply Measured might think), but compared to the other’s in the category he was virtually a no-name.

So what did Mahone do differently? How did he walk away with this award? I wanted to take a look and find out if there’s a lesson for brands (because lets face it, there usually is), so I ran an Competitive Instagram Report on all five nominees.

Mahone Averages Only 44% of the Leader, Rihanna’s, Engagement

On Instagram, there’s no competition- the ladies hold it down. With over 35M engagements each, over the past month Ariana Grande and Rihanna have handedly outpaced the other nominees.

At 16.5M engagements for the past month, Mahone only averages 44% of Rihanna’s total engagement and came in 4th overall, but to his credit, his followers are incredibly active.
Screenshot 2014-05-05 13.43.25
Mahone made up a little ground on other networks. Mahone’s engagement on Instagram posts shared to networks like Twitter or Facebook put him in 3rd, but still a far cry from the two frontrunners.
Screenshot 2014-05-05 13.44.22

Mahone Has Less Than 1/3rd of Rihanna’s Followers

What also shocked me about Mahone winning the award was that he didn’t have strength in numbers. Apparently Mahone only has 3.8M Tweens following him, in comparison to Rihanna’s whopping 12.8M. In fact, out of all the nominees, Mahone has the fewest followers. Mahone accounted for 9% of the total followers, while Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande all accounted for 20+%.
Screenshot 2014-05-05 13.47.37

Mahone is Less Active on the Network

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 9.17.33 PMAdding to the mystery, Mahone wasn’t even the most active on Instagram. I understand not having the biggest audience and thus the biggest engagement, but to win the award while you’re not the most active on the network is somewhat surprising. Ariana Grande averages 2 posts per day, while Rihanna averages a massive 3.8 posts a day (I follow her and yes, it gets annoying). Mahone isn’t far behind, but only posts a mere 1.8 times per day.

So, how did Mahone win?

The deck was rigged against Mahone going into the contest, but just a few days prior to the awards he let out the full court press. Mahone posted 20 times in under three days, calling for votes from his “Mahomies.” This last minute tactic works for Mahone’s audience, who are young and socially-active teens.

Screenshot 2014-05-05 13.53.52

Mahone ended up winning the award, despite his standing on paper. When it comes to hashtag contests, your brand doesn’t necessarily have to be the biggest or the best. All you need is an active audience and a solid strategy to get them engaged.

Interested in learning more about leveraging hashtags on Instagram? Check out this post by Lucy Hitz: 6 Ways to Use Instagram Hashtag Data to Set Campaign Goals.

Jade Furubayashi

My name is Jade and I'm the Social Media Manager for Simply Measured. We can find common ground in Beyoncé and Chipotle burrito bowls.

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