Is Sharing Your Tweets on Visual Platforms Like Instagram A Good Social Media Strategy?
Adam Grant is a bestselling author with five books to his credit, Grant’s TED talks have garnered over 25 million views. He hosts the TED original podcast, “WorkLife.” Grant’s clientele includes Google, the NBA, and the Gates Foundation. He contributes to the New York Times, and has over 4 million social media followers.
And the most relevant for this conversation – he is an organizational psychologist, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and a B.A. from Harvard University. He currently teaches and researches at Penn where he’s one of Wharton’s top-rated professors.
Adam Grant is a thought leader. He is the epitome of a publicly engaged academic. He gained popular following by publishing popular press books, his first one in 2013, and built on his momentum with speaking engagements, sharing his research and insight on social media, a monthly newsletter, podcasts, op-eds and public writing, and a few Ted Talks.
In this post, I examine Grant’s social media strategy, specifically how he utilizes Twitter, a text-based platform, to create content for Instagram, a visual platform, and whether this is a sound strategy.
Adam Grant ‘s Presence on Social Media
Social Media Presence.
Adam Grant utilizes Twitter primarily. Twitter is a natural platform for researchers and writers. The written word is powerful. We find comfort in writing, not in videos, not in photos, but in our words.
He supplements his Twitter presence with Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook, and Threads. And how does one know Twitter is his main platform? Just take a quick look at his Instagram feed, and tell me what you see?
It’s filled with screen shots of his Tweets! This is not a groundbreaking strategy in content creation. In fact, it’s the opposite. To promote engagement, gain followers, etc., the powers that be say to post consistently, post valuable content, include photos, comment on other posts, respond to any comments on your posts, etc etc etc. Yet, here we are. 4 million social media followers across platforms, all with similar content.
Frequency of Posts.
Based on his Twitter feed, Grant posts sporadically, from once every few days to once a week. There is usually no more than one post a day. His other social media feeds (i.e., Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Threads) mostly follows the frequency of his Twitter posts, with the exception of videos, shared research, and a few personal photos
Type of Content.
Twitter is Adam Grant’s main platform, joining in January 2013. This is the base for all his posts. His posts rarely share anything personal, instead focuses on highlighting research (tagging the authors or journals), sharing very simple data visualizations, and insights about human behavior.
His posts are very relatable, accessible in language, and concise. He doesn’t include many links or data or dense jargon to support his points.
He utilizes his Twitter content to feed his other social media platforms, reusing the content in the most obvious way – he screen grabs his tweets and posts them as images.
His Instagram feed mostly follows the content of his Twitter posts, with a dash of videos, shared research, and a few personal photos/moments.
His LinkedIn feed is also much of the same as Twitter and Instagram, with the occasional business-focused post. Considering the audience, this makes sense. He is an organizational psychologist after all.
His Facebook feed closely resembles his LinkedIn feed, mostly images of his Tweets with a few videos.
Threads is a new addition to the social media mix, and it fits perfectly with his vibe since it is a text-based platform. A quick look at Grant’s Threads account shows many of the posts the same as Twitter though there are a few of posts unique to the site. It will be interesting to see the role this site plays as Twitter’s general popularity wanes.
He’s on TikTok but also not on TikTok (has an account, has not posted any content).
An important element of building a strong social media presence is variety in content. Fresh thoughts, fresh ideas, engagement, consistency, videos, images, memes, personal stories, etc. are all keys of gaining followers and influence in social media.
Yet, we see that Grant’s approach is minimal, almost passive. His pretty strict focus on mostly sharing Tweets, a strategy not recommended for content creators or and thought leaders.
Engagement and Impact.
There is a lack of engagement across Grant’s social media platforms. In this context, engagement is responding to commenters, liking other posts, liking comments, etc. Engagement helps content creators gain more followers, build trust, and create community. But outside of Grant’s usual posting, there is not much engaging with the audience on any of the platforms.
And despite this, Grant’s 4 million followers remain.
While Adam Grant has a substantial following, what I am interested in learning more about is if this is a sound strategy for thought leaders. So what can audience engagement tells us about what they prefer to see from the thought leader?
What Audience Engagement Can Tell Us About Social Media Content Strategy
In order to answer this question, I used a state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence tool to help me analyze Adam Grant’s top performing Instagram posts from the last 5 years. This tool, called Creatrix, analyzed Grant’s Instagram feed from Feb 2019 until Feb 2024, pulling the top 10 performing posts based on number of likes. The data was pulled in a matter of minutes, providing me with a snapshot of data that would have taken me HOURS to figure out. If you are interested in learning more about Creatrix, connect with its incredible founder, Lauren Wallet.
I focused on Instagram for a few reasons.
- Instagram is a visual social medium. It gained its popularity because of photos and filters. Yet, Grant uses it primarily to share text. Tweets to be more specific.
- I wanted to see how his strategy (or lack thereof) resonates with the audience. He posts personal photos, interviews, etc., so my hypothesis was that the more visually appealing, personal content would be the most popular.
- (Because many things can be true at once) I wanted affirmation for us introverts/people less inclined to share videos and photos of themselves, that visual media isn’t the end all be all.
Using engagement data (i.e., likes), we can see what his 2.2 million Instagram followers prefer. Here are Adam Grant’s top 10 performing Instagram posts between Feb. 2019 and Feb. 2024, based on likes starting with his most liked post.
2. Avg. Engagement Rate – 14.7%
3. Avg. Engagement Rate – 14.5%
4. Avg. Engagement Rate – 14.4%
5. Avg. Engagement Rate – 13.8%
6. Avg. Engagement Rate – 13.4%
7. Avg. Engagement Rate – 13.3%
8. Avg. Engagement Rate – 11.5%
9. Avg. Engagement Rate – 11.3%
10. Avg. Engagement Rate – 10.8%
Type of Content.
Nine out of the 10 most liked posts are Tweet posts. But let’s take a deeper look at the content of the posts to gain a bit more insight.
The top 3 comments are celebrity related.
- Monica Lewinsky’s @ response to the worst advice is classic, and as you may have noticed, the date of the Tweet is a few years before he posted it to Instagram.
- The second post, the black square, is an interview clip with Grant and actress Jennifer Garner about mentorship and providing tough feedback. Comments on this post discuss their interviewing chemistry and the ease and flow of this interview made it feel like they were old friends catching up.
- The third most popular posts, in terms of likes, includes an interview clip of actor Andrew Garfield’s interview with Stephen Colbert on recently losing his mother. The post leads with a Tweet on grief and a short clip in the following slide. His caption is humanizing, talking about how Garfield’s perspective on grief challenges the way we process grief.
There is not much of a through line across the top 10 Instagram posts but there are a few key insights.
- In general, Grant’s captions for his top 10 Instagram posts were short or nonexistent, which makes sense. The Tweet capture is enough to trigger the audience to engage with the post.
- The top 3 posts are celebrity-related. He does have many other Instagram posts with celebrities such as Brene Brown, Malcolm Gladwell, Rainn Wilson, and Oprah, yet these three stand out.
- Two of the top 10 are recap posts, which might be easy to discount (I did it myself), but these posts are a good reminder of valuable messaging that may have been lost or forgotten. Clearly, his followers valued the reminder of his advice and insight.
- Most of the posts focus on human behavior in relation to mental health, parenting, relationships, and expectations – all topics related to the human condition, and topics he is well versed in.
- Within these posts and insights, he does not share links to research, data, jargon, over-explanations, etc. His message is clear, relatable, concise, and presented in the form of a Tweet.
Engagement and Impact.
Above, we have Adam Grant’s top 10 Instagram posts ranked based on likes. If one wanted to look deeper at engagement, there are a few, albeit nonscientific, approaches. One engagement metric is to add the total number of likes/shares/comments/etc. from the post divided by the total number of followers and multiple by 100 to determine your engagement rate.
Despite the large audience, the engagement rate is fairly reasonable. My first reaction was – what is the point of having a large following if a majority of your followers do not engage with your content? 2+ million followers may be nice but if only a quarter or less of those are seeing/reading/liking/commenting on your posts, what are we really doing here? This is an important lesson in social media strategy for thought leaders – do you want inflated numbers or do you want genuine engagement?
Lessons on Adam Grant ‘s Instagram Strategy
There are many ways scholars can publicly engage. Right now social media feels like one of the easier and passive ways. And Adam Grant provides one of many examples on how to make social media work for you, your personality, and your bandwidth.
It is possible to provide value to your Instagram followers by posting and sharing text on your profile.
Grant has a well-established public profile with a foundation of books, research, interviews, public writings, etc., which absolutely helps. An integrated approach to developing thought leadership is crucial to reach various audiences. But we all have to start somewhere.
If you go back to the beginning of Adam Grant’s Instagram feed, back in June 2018, you will see that his first 40+ posts are photos, memes, and various data visualizations. By no means was he an Instagram early adapter either. Yet, today he boasts over 2 million followers, sharing mostly screen shots of Tweets. He began sharing Tweet posts in earnest in September 2018 and hasn’t looked back since.
I do believe training your audience is what made him successful here. He is consistent across platforms and true to himself and how he wants to communicate. There is absolutely nothing telling you or me to step outside our zone of comfort in terms of promoting our thought leadership. Take it from Adam Grant.
Adam Grant ‘s strategy on repurposing his Tweets is successful.
Maybe it’s because he’s trained his audience to accept this. There are far fewer people on Twitter in comparison to Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook, so the chances of someone seeing the same post may be minimized. Another way to look at this strategy is content reinforcement. Either way, his messages across all platforms relate to organizational and personal/human behavior. The key is consistency.
I do wonder how the devolution of Twitter will impact his strategy in the months and years to come since Twitter is now a cesspool.
Adam Grant ’s strategy is a confirmation that people are interested in text.
With some audience training, you can get there.
Your social media strategy should be based on your goals.
Do you want a large number of followers? Are you seeking high engagement with your followers? Do you want to build community? Do you want your followers to learn something new? Are you interested in shifting behaviors? Whenever you set out to publicly engage, start with setting your outcomes and your goals for what you want your followers to do or how you want them to behave. Let this drive your content and strategy.