Let’s face it, growing our Instagram followings would be a lot easier if Instagram built analytics that allowed us to track what’s going on with our following and figure out what content performs best. My hope is that as Instagram rolls out more and more sponsored content, brands spending money on Instagram will push for analytics, eventually trickling down to us. In the meantime, I use Iconosquare (Since publishing this article, Iconosquare changed from a free to a paid service and then switched back to free) to track both Julia’s and my Instagram accounts. There are 3 areas of Instagram analytics that I find most helpful on Iconosquare, those are:
Most Liked & Most Commented
More Likes and More Comments on a photo are positive feedback that people are enjoying the content we are posting. If, like us, your Instagram is a major part of your business every photo posted on Instagram should be done to maximize engagement.
I have a theory based on years of analyzing our Instagram photo performance that states that the vast majority of followers will only take one desired action. For someone that already follows us I define a positive action as a Like, Comment or engagement with our Call to Action. A Call to Action might be a link for people to shop the product or it might be asking them to go visit the blog because a new post is live. We’ve found that very few of our all-time top Liked photos are also top Commented photos. Additionally, our posts that have a strong call to action, mostly trying to get them to visit the website, are great at getting people to do the call to action but this reduces their Liking and Commenting on the photo.
If you subscribe to my theory then every photo you post should have a targeted objective. To maximize likes, wow your audience. To maximize comments, ask questions or post something that people will tag their friends in. To drive people to your website, either post a bonus Instagram sized image from that day’s blogpost (preferably one that isn’t in the blogpost) or one image that sums up the blogpost. It’s really important that you don’t show them too much of the blogpost images, otherwise, why would they need to visit your site? To maximize sales on more affordable items give them multiple angles in a collage that can help them imagine themselves in the outfit and write great copy calling out the price. For items that have a higher price tag, take them somewhere dreamy that really creates a whole experience around the item.
Gain & Loss
What’s your current system for tracking your follower growth? Do you just keep a mental note of your following number? Do you write it down every so often? Or do you wake up at the same time every single day to record your number, like one blogger I know? If you want to figure out how to grow your following you can’t just track your overall growth but you have to break it up into followers gained and followers lost. Just tracking overall growth is like a business only checking their profit without monitoring their revenues and their expenses separately. Using Iconosquare, every time you refresh your analytics you can view the followers you’ve gained and followers lost since the last refresh. Every time I check, I add the date of the refresh and the followers gained and lost to a spreadsheet. You can get a copy of my spreadsheet with dummy data here: Instagram Gain vs. Loss. If you have any questions about the spreadsheet, email me or fill out the contact form.
I keep a close eye on Gain-to-Loss Ratio, Daily Gain, Daily Loss and Daily Growth. If Daily Gain is higher than other periods I like to make note of it by screenshotting popular content from that period of time and putting in a Keynote document. I’ll do the same if Daily Loss is higher than normal. It’s also good to have a little notes section so you can remember what happened during that period of time. Things like “sick in bed” or “on vacation in Hawaii” are all important to note because they help with future analysis. Extreme increases in Daily Loss or extreme decreases in Daily Gain warrant deep investigation on your part to determine what’s going on. To help explain any major swings think about Macro effects such as Fashion Week and Micro effects such as high amounts of sponsored content or meaningless posts. For the Micro things that you have control over address those areas first, next you can strategize for future similar Macro events.
Best Time to Post
It’s no secret, if you time your posts correctly your going to cut through the clutter and get more of the users attention and get more likes and comments on your photos. It’s more difficult than just identifying the hot times to post, you have to put yourself in the user’s situation. For instance, Sunday morning at 6am PST is the optimal time for us to post a picture, at this time we are catching most followers while they are still in bed and they have time to scroll through their feeds. On top of that there’s less competition because few people post that early. Additionally, think about what you would want to see on a Sunday morning in bed, late night party pictures from Saturday or a light and airy photo that inspires you to start your Sunday off on a positive note?
To touch a bit more on the strategy behind this, your goal is to grab the attention of the most followers. Think about Frequency and session duration of followers vs. post frequency by the followed. The optimal times to post a photo are when there’s high usage rate by users, continously checking and for longer than normal times, and when other influencers aren’t posting content. The worst time to post would be on a day where every influencer is posting images and followers aren’t checking Instagram.
I highly recommend that you go and take a look at this section in Iconosquare and create a spreadsheet that you can use as a reference when posting your Instagram photos. On my spreadsheet I have a column for optimal times, good times and times to avoid. When you do this the first time, try and plan out the next week of Instagram photos based around the optimal times for each day.