You Can’t Grow What You Don’t Measure: Getting Started with Instagram Analytics

Written by Sean Brown on April 8, 2020

When it comes to social, some brands just get it. Audi’s Instagram is the perfect example. Their content gets users excited, their hashtags are witty, and as a result, their engagement is through the roof.

In terms of analytics, likes, comments, and follower growth barely scratches the surface. It’s no secret that content is the backbone of any successful social media profile, but it’s impossible to optimize your posts without first learning what resonates with your audience.


Why Analytics Are a Must

It’s impossible to improve without keeping track of your performance. Paying attention to analytics increases engagement—it’s that simple. With Instagram’s frequent algorithm updates, it’s getting harder by the day for brands to reach their followers without using metrics to optimize their posting strategy.

Measuring your past performance on social media removes the guesswork from future campaigns. In the highly speculative world of social media marketing, tracking data on posting times, frequency, hashtags, and engagement is crucial if you want to set your brand apart.

While switching to a business profile does provide you Instagram’s own basic analytics dashboard, there’s no history, no customization, and no hashtag tracking. The analytics provided by Instagram is great for an on-the-go snapshot, but to do the heavy lifting, you’re going to have to sign up for third-party analytics platform.


Key Features to Look For

Finding the right platform can be pretty intimidating—a 15-second search on Google immediately reveals a wide range of options coming in at a wide range of price points.

But at the core, none of them are really that different. Some come with a few bells and whistles like automated reports and in-depth link tracking, but almost any third-party analytics app will be better than what Instagram offers. It’s important to find the blend of UI and data tracking that works for your individual business. As a marketer, you want to know what content is performing the best, how your followers are interacting with your page, and of course, how to increase engagement.

The Necessities:

  • Basic snapshot of likes, comments, and follower growth
  • Hashtag tracking
  • Location/age distribution
  • Photo/video engagement
  • Best posting times
  • Follower reachability (how many people your followers are following)

Helpful to Have:

  • Automated report generation
  • Competitor insights
  • The ability to add multiple users


What to Measure

Comments, Likes, and Followers

Followers and likes are largely vanity stats, but these days, vanity is important. Comments, likes, and follower growth all have a huge impact on your overall engagement. Instagram carefully watches your engagement to assess feed placement and the organic reach your posts receive.

Your follower count offers a quick glance of the total reach of your posts, while comments and likes indicate how engaged your followers are.

Likes may the least important in terms of taking action, but they have a huge impact on your placement in the feeds of your followers. The quicker you get comments and likes, the higher your photo will rank in feeds and the explore section.

Comments are the strongest indication of how far your followers are willing to go to engage with your content. Getting more comments on your posts also has a significant impact on your placement within Instagram’s algorithm.

Follower Reachability, Age, and Location

The reachability of your followers plays a massive role in how many impressions your posts get. It’s impossible for followers to engage with a post if they can’t see it. Taking a look at how many people your followers are following can also tell you whether or not your followers’ profiles are actually real.

With Instagram marketing becoming increasingly popular, businesses are turning to bots in order to drive engagement and grow their following.

If you spot a follower with a small follower count following 2000+ people, that profile is likely running a bot. And even if they were a real person, you can’t expect someone to engage with your posts if they’re mixed in with 2000 other profiles.

If you’re trying to target a specific audience, looking at age and location can indicate whether or not you’re reaching your target user.

Your Most Engaging Hashtags

Hashtags are an integral part of growing any Instagram page. Using hashtags increases discoverability and drives organic engagement from highly targeted niches.

An effective hashtag strategy means keeping track of what works and what doesn’t. Try switching up your hashtags frequently to figure out which ones are the most engaging. Make sure your analytics platform has the ability to track hashtag engagement so you can monitor which ones are your best performers

Use a mix of niche tags and larger, more popular tags to get a good balance of targeted engagement and discoverability. Hashtags with larger post volumes make you more discoverable, and smaller hashtags typically result in higher engagement amongst a niche audience.

As you continue to grow, rising to the top of popular hashtags will become easier, and you can change your strategy to reach massive audiences by targeting what’s trending.

How Your Stories Are Performing

Instagram is beating Snapchat at its own game: stories. Stories have quickly become a favorite amongst Instagram marketers due to its innate ability to boost brand exposure and drive profile engagement. With feeds becoming increasingly cluttered, Instagram is pushing stories to provide new ways to increase profile engagement. You can always access stories at the top of the feed, from individual posts within the feed, and now scattered throughout the feed while you’re scrolling.

Despite the massive exposure, like Snapchat, there isn’t too much data collected right now. With some analytics platforms you can keep track of impressions, reach, replies, taps forward, taps back, exits, and “see more” swipes (for profiles with more than 10k followers).

Impressions refer to the total number of views, while reach refers to unique viewers. Replies, taps forward, taps back, and exits all indicate how engaging your stories are. It’s good to keep an eye on everything, but taps back and exits are particularly useful in figuring out what resonates with your following. Always try to post something that will make users do a double take—beautiful visuals, games, polls, and content strung across multiple posts all engage users in unexpected ways. If you want to attract attention on social media, you have to be fun. Remember, people want to share posts that make their friends smile.

Give Users the Inside Scoop

Social media is all about showing users something they can’t see by going to your store or visiting your website. Yes, Instagram is ultimately a platform for advertising, but you’ll have nobody to show your ads to if you can’t build a following.

It’s impossible to fake being interesting. If you only post promotions and product links, you’re going to experience extremely low engagement. The quickest way to grow on social media is to create content that is genuinely interesting to your audience. A good analytics platform in combination with eye-catching content is an unstoppable combo.