How to Easily Measure Instagram Success
We've talked before about how to use Onlypult to schedule one or more posts to one or more Instagram accounts, so you can take a look at that article if you'd like to learn more about that functionality.
Today, instead, I'd like to focus on how you can use Onlypult to monitor your brand performance and gauge how successful (or unsuccessful) your activities have been.
Why Monitoring Is Important
As a quick aside, we should talk for a moment about why monitoring is even important, and point out some specific techniques to enable you to get the most out of your monitoring activity.
"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates."
- Thomas S. Monson
Monson's statement, which has been re-quoted and re-phrased many times as an axiom, is easily applied to social media marketing. If you're paying attention to how individual posts perform and how your presence overall is performing, you will inherently discover opportunities to improve.
And each time you make an improvement, you will monitor that and reaffirm your commitment to monitoring and improving.
So if you use that using 20 hashtags worked a lot better than using 4 hashtags did, you'll continue to use 20 hashtags and be rewarded with sustained performance. And you'll be glad that you were paying attention to what happened!
Conversely, if we pay little attention to how our posts and profiles are doing, we'll lack insight into trends, whether positive or negative, that should be praised or quickly adjusted.
The second part of Monson's statement is also true — that if you report your findings regularly, your improvement will come at exponential rates. It's human nature to be anxious about accountability and to determine to be even better when we know others are watching.
And social media performance is largely a private game. Sure, your followers can see how much engagement a particular post got if they're paying attention, but most could care less, as they're focused more on the substance of your posts.
So if you're the only one paying any attention at all, you're only accountable to yourself.
If, however, you have a CEO or Board or even peers that you report to, you will have additional motivation to test, monitor, improve and test again.
How To Measure Instagram Success
If you've updated your Instagram profile to Instagram for Business, you will have some analytics available to you within the Instagram app. If you haven't, or if you want a better, more accessible presentation of analytics, you'll need to use a third party tool like Onlypult.
When it comes to measuring the success of your Instagram profile, you're going to want to pay attention to the following:
- Follower Growth
- Engagement Rate
- Effectiveness of Posting Time
- Effectiveness of Hashtag Usage
- Performance of Individual Posts
We'll review how to go over each of these measurements using Onlypult.
While the exact number of fans that you have on Instagram or any other network is meaningless (we refer to that as a vanity metric) — whether your account and audience is growing is quite significant. If you're attracting more fans that means that you're creating content on the network that people are interested in.
Conversely, if you're losing fans on Instagram, that suggests that you're either turning off fans with your posts, or that you've been using hashtags that are really popular but not well aligned with your brand.
For instance, #motivation is an incredibly popular hashtag on Instagram. If you post a motivational image and sentiment, and use that hashtag, your post will do quite well. However, if your normal posts have nothing to do with motivation, the people that you followed you expecting more motivation will be quickly turned off.
One other important consideration when it comes to Instagram followers is the massive use of bots, for both commenting and following. Once you begin to use more popular hashtags, your account will quickly be targeted by these bots for those actions. In theory, accounts that follow you get your attention so that you're more likely to follow them back.
But if you don't, they'll quickly unfollow you.
This means that, for some of you, your Instagram audience growth may be somewhat inflated by automatic activity. It doesn't necessarily mean that the accounts that are following you aren't real and will never look at your posts - they are and they might. Rather, if you aren't using a sustained posting strategy that's geared toward organically attracting real, targeted followers, you might end up losing followers at a faster rate than you're gaining them.
Keeping an eye on your follower growth within Onlypult will help you see what's going on, and how specific activity that you undertake impacts that growth.
Onlypult will start tracking your Total Followers from the moment you sign up. As you can see, I opened my Onlypult account in Oct. 2016 and gained 86 followers since then.
What's interesting is that, since October, I've only posted to this Instagram profile once, which means the majority of this growth is due to people finding my profile based on previous hashtags used.
Like followers, engagement (liking and commenting), unfortunately, can also be 100% automated. Just ask a real question in a post, like, "How warm is it where you are?" and see how many of the comments still say things like, "Nice pic!" or, "Love that image!"
That kind of activity it easy to spot — and it's easy to predict once you're familiar with your normal hashtags and venture into the more popular ones.
When you're monitoring your normal engagement rates on Instagram over time, therefore, you'll be familiar with what "normal" is for you and can then easily see it when you get spikes in engagement.
As you can see from Onlypult's Interactions report, my Instagram engagement rate TOOK OFF in early 2016. Specifically, it was during Social Media Marketing World that my friends Peg Fitzpatrick and Rebekah Radice gave me some very specific advice on how I could best use Instagram and some apps I could use to improve.
The results were immediate, and impressive.
Interestingly, I wasn't posting that much more than I had in the past.
I'd actually posted to Instagram quite a bit over the previous 5 years, but seldom with any real audience interest.
It was a fascinating and valuable experiment for me, to be sure! Currently, my focus is on other social networks as my time is limited, but clearly I would be able to achieve success on Instagram if I chose to make it a priority.
RELATED: For more in-depth training on Instagram best-practices and recommendations, join my friend Jenn Herman's Jenn's Friends Community!
Effectiveness of Posting Time
At the height of my own Instagram experiments, I was posting an average of 3x per day.
But how does one know when the best time to post is?
(And before you accuse me of killing another unicorn, allow me to define that statement. Yes, there are indeed best times to post to particular networks — but those times differ from account to account and audience to audience. It's certainly ok to use an infograph or some other suggestion to start, but then one must measure how well different posts performed.)
Once you've begin posting regularly, Onlypult will demonstrate for you how those posts performed at specific time slots, effectively giving you recommendations on the "best" time to post.
The more often you post, and the more often you post at these optimum times, the better your posts should perform.
Onlypult's Best time to post report clearly shows you (by darker shades of green) when your best days and best times of day are to post based on past post performance. For my own account, it looks like between 10 - 11am tend to be very good, and that 3am is universally bad. (Note that I tested every day and virtually every time of day during my experiment.) Due to the fact that it's based on individual post performance, and that every post is different, the more often you post, the more reliable this data and report will be.
Effectiveness of Hashtag Usage
I mentioned using 20 hashtags earlier. In point of fact, I tend to use 25 - 28 hashtags per post (thanks to that timely advice from Peg and Rebekah). Unlike Facebook, using a lot of hashtags on Instagram is a really good idea. You can use up to 30, but it's a good idea to leave a couple of slots open incase someone else wants to use a hashtag in a comment (or you do).
PRO TIP: If you want to keep your image captions clean, and particularly if you're also posting your Instagram images to a Facebook Page, leave your hashtags out of the initial image description and, instead, post them as the first comment. Instagram treats them the same either way.
Onlypult's Top Tags report shows you specifically which hashtags, out of the ones you've used, performed the best.
Frankly, I was surprised to see #LinkInBio rank so well, but, one has to keep in mind that with 20+ hashtags per post, and the fact that a #LinkInBio post is referring to a new blog post I'm promoting, it's possible that those posts received more engagement and interaction due to those factors and not the hashtag use specifically.
Still, it's a really fascinating report, and it's rewarding to see that most of the terms are highly targeted and related to my business. While I've certainly used more general terms like #motivation which have done well, the most successful terms, over time, have been great ones for me.
And that's what you'll be looking for in your own report. Which of the terms that you've used did well? Which ones should you use more of, or are you using too much of (because they're less targeted)?
Performance of Individual Posts
Finally, Onlypult's Posting isn't just for adding new posts — you can also see all of the posts you've shared and, at a glance, how they performed.
You can then quickly see when each post was shared, what the engagement for that post was, and how that post's imagery differed from the previous posts.
In my case, we can see that quote graphics usually get nearly 2x the number of likes as a "social media" topical post, but comments are fairly consistent (and we know the social media posts result in more overall interaction, such as follows or profile clicks to get to the profile link).
As you scroll down, you can see how trends in posting style have impacted individual post engagement. And also get a sense for the overall impression you're creating with your brand.
Offsite Goals and Measurements
The above 5 measurements were all based on analytics and activities within the Instagram network. For most businesses, that's only the beginning of the usefulness of a network and audience. If those audiences never leave the network and participate in an actual business activity, it's likely a waste.
So, we do need to also pay attention to "offsite" goals. But these may vary from business to business. They might include pure traffic to the site, newsletter signups, downloads, purchases, contacts & leads, and so on.
The key here of course is to define what these goals are and to make sure that you're measuring them alongside everything else.
Typically, Google Analytics will be your friend here, and since Instagram and mobile browsers now play nicely together, it's easy to see when traffic comes to your site from the network, and what they do next.
Create Goals or Events within Google Analytics to easily track the completion of specific activities within your site so that you can attribute them to Instagram (or other referrers).
For instance, if you want to use a digital download opt-in to attract your Instagram followers to your website and into your mailing list (a good idea!), set up a Goal within Google Analytics that's associated with that offer's signup and confirmation process. You'll then be able to see a report for all of your goal completions in a given timeframe with attribution of referrer.
Having these kinds of offers and analytics is place is critical to making sure that we're building the right audience on Instagram, or any network. If you have thousands of followers but can only generate a few leads or signups, it would seem like we've cast too wide a net with our social activity.
That's easier to do than one might think.
When you see Instagram accounts that post dozens of quote graphics a day, for instance, getting 1000's of likes and lots of new followers with each post, it's tempting to mimic that kind of activity to try and achieve the same levels of success.
The problem is, people that are interested in liking quote graphics may not be interested in what you as a business are actually offering. If there's a disconnect there — if they're truly interested in you — then all of those new followers will be nothing more than the vanity metric we mentioned earlier.
And so we return to the importance of testing and monitoring. Trying new techniques is great. Particularly if they result in posts that are wildly successful. But the success of an individual post is just one part of the overall picture. If you're measuring the entire process from beginning to end, you'll be able to see how successful those strategies and tactics are all the way through to your real business goals.
If you aren't yet measuring your Instagram activity, give Onlypult a try! And just be sure to set up Google Analytics goals for your website's activity so that you put together a clear picture of everything that's happening.
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."Follow @Mike_Allton