Your audience of followers may have been your #1 way to reach users in the past, but the growth of the platform, the evolution of the algorithm and new in-app features now offer so many new opportunities for your content to be seen. Consistent follower growth is important, of course, but by focusing on this one vanity metric, you’re missing the full picture. Take a deep dive into your Instagram analytics with these five insights, many of them built right into the Instagram app, to measure the success of your content strategy and set goals for continued growth.
The algorithm means you’ll likely never reach 100% of your current followers, but a well-executed social strategy that takes advantage of all the features Instagram has to offer will allow you to expand your reach much further than your existing audience. From hashtags and geotags to the Explore page and Reels feed, the opportunity for your content to be seen goes far beyond your followers’ feeds in 2020.
Two metrics help you understand how your content is being seen: reach and impressions. Reach is a measure of the unique number of users who have viewed a piece of content, while impressions are a measure of the total number of times your piece of content appeared on someone’s screen. Use these metrics to compare the success of everything—your content pillars, use of different hashtag sets, single images versus carousels versus video—and plan your future content calendars around your highest-reaching, most-seen types of content.
You might be tempted to measure the success of your content by the number of likes it receives, but with the removal of visible like counts, even Instagram agrees that this metric on its own is not a strong measure of success. A like lasts for a moment before the user moves on and likely never sees that piece of content again—saves and shares, however, are an opportunity for a piece of content to be seen again and again.
Saves keep your post in a collection the user can refer to later, while shares send your content either via DM to another user or into the user’s story, where it will be seen by a new audience. Both of these actions also have a positive impact on algorithmic reach—the more times your content is shared or saved, the more likely the app is to show your content to more users. When you’re doing your weekly, monthly or quarterly reporting, compare your content based on the number of shares and saves, and use your findings to plan your future content creation.
Saves, shares and other discrete pieces of engagement on their own are important, but they don’t paint a full picture of success. Would you consider a post with 100 likes and 10,000 impressions exactly as successful as a post with the same number of likes and only 1,000 impressions? By calculating engagement rate, you gain an understanding of how engaging a post was relative to the size of its audience, allowing you to compare success more accurately across a range of posts that received a range of impressions.
At Talk Shop, this is how we calculate engagement rate:
(Likes + Comments + Saves + Shares + Other Engagements) / Impressions x 100%
In the past, engagement was typically calculated based on likes, comments and followers—and some platforms still calculate engagement this way. We believe impressions are more important than total followers—if you don’t understand why, scroll back up and read point number one again—and that all other types of engagements, including saves, shares, profile visits, website clicks, emails, get directions, phone calls and follows, are just as valuable as likes and comments. This more holistic approach to engagement allows you to evaluate all possible metrics of success, and in tandem with pure engagement, reach and impressions, plan your future content creation and calendars.
This little-known metric is buried in post-level insights within the Instagram app, but offers a valuable look into the growth potential of your content and account. Discovery is a measure of how many people who saw your content weren’t currently following your account—for example, a discovery rate of 48% on a post from an account with 100 followers means that your content was seen by 52 of your followers, and by 48 other users through hashtags, geotags, shares or visits directly to your profile. A high rate of discovery means your hashtag and geotag strategies are successful, your content is likely being shared and users are finding your profile—potentially leading to still-important-but-maybe-less-important-than-you-think follower growth.
All of the above metrics allow you to measure the success of your content against other pieces of content within the same reporting period, but on their own, they don’t measure growth. A solid social media strategy should result in consistent improvement over time—if your posts received an average of 1,000 impressions in November, this number should be higher in December, and increase even more than that in January.
At Talk Shop, we compare average post impressions, average post reach, average engagement rate and average discovery (among many other metrics, including—yes—follower change) month-over-month using this formula:
(This Month’s Average – Last Month’s Average) / Last Month’s Average x 100%
This gives us a rate of increase we can use to compare month-over-month. For example, if your average post impressions increased by 5% in December, we want to see at least an equivalent 5% increase in January, if not more—and if you’re seeing a decrease, you know you need to dive into the data, revisit your strategy, and pivot where necessary. The end result is exponential, and successful, growth.
Instagram is more than just pretty pictures—it’s a data-rich platform packed full of insights that allow you to measure success and plan for future growth. With the help of your in-app analytics and a couple of formulas in a Google Sheet, regular reporting will help you chart a path to success and drive results that go beyond your follower account.