instagram metrics cover art

It’s just another normal day at the office as a social media manager. You start replying to Tweets, scheduling a few Facebook posts and put up a couple pictures of last night’s company dinner on Instagram. Then one of your executives comes to you and says “I need you to pull a report of our Instagram progress for the past three months.” You say sure, no problem. But once he leaves, you sit thinking to yourself, what in the world should I put in this report?

If that scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. With social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest, you have plenty metrics to measure the success of your campaigns. But with Instagram, it’s not as simple. Although the company is taking steps to make the app more marketer friendly, it’s not all the way there yet. Thankfully there are some Instagram metrics you can (and should) track to measure your efforts.

1. Comments Received

What this metric tells you: How engaging your content is.

The first metric most brands look at to measure social media engagement on Instagram is the number of likes for their photos. Likes are nice, but comments are an even stronger indicator of engagement. Think about it. It takes more time to think out an write a comment that it does to like a photo. TrackMaven found that brands average 18.54 likes per photo per 1,000 followers, but just 0.63 comments.

Instagram Likes vs Comments

When your followers are going beyond double tapping your photos and taking the time to leave a comment, it’s because they resonated with it. Comments, whether positive or negative, are the result of a person feeling some type of emotion for your content, your brand or both.

If your average number of comments per post starts to increase, it could mean you’re building a community and a loyal following, which is a big goal for most companies. On the flip side, if you notice you’re barely getting any comments or the number of comments you’re getting per post is declining, it could be a sign that your followers aren’t connecting with your content. Don’t throw in the white flag just yet. Use it as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and think of ways to create better photos and boost your engagement. Try adding videos instead of just pictures, or get more creative with your Instagram captions.

Instagram Comments

2. Most Engaged Hashtags

What this metric tells you: Which hashtags you should be using.

Hashtags and Instagram go together like peanut butter and jelly. Not only do Instagram posts with hashtags get more engagement, but hashtags also make your posts more discoverable. There are a few different Instagram metrics you can track when it comes to hashtags, but measuring which hashtags are getting the most engagement is your best bet.

Instagram Hashtag metrics

Since Instagram is one of the few social media platforms that encourages the use of multiple hashtags in your posts, you should start putting together a list of the ones that get the most likes and comments. That way you can add them into relevant posts as often as you need to. Remember, hashtags on Instagram function like keywords for search engine optimization. The hashtags with the most engagement are likelu your keywords that bring in the most traffic. Learn what those are, and you’ll have a lot more success.

Another overlooked benefit of this metric is that it gives you an idea of what type of content you should post. For instance, in the screenshot above we see that #cafe, #coffee and #espresso received a lot more engagement than the other hashtags. As a cafe, this tells you that you should post more pictures inside the coffee shop, or pictures of drinks. You can never go wrong with the classic coffee art photo.

Mid-week pick me up ☕️

A photo posted by Sumbal Chaudhry (@sumbal_chaudhry) on

If you find that your posts aren’t getting the amount of engagement you’d like, look over this metric. The problem could be your hashtags.

3. Engagements Per Follower

What this metric tells you: Your engagement relative to your audience size.

Looking at companies like Nike and Starbucks that get thousands of likes and comments on each post can be very overwhelming if your photos and videos only average a couple hundred likes or less. But there’s one thing you’re forgetting. Nike and Starbucks have millions of followers, so their posts have more reach. The engagements per follower metric is perfect because it shows you how many likes and comments your posts are getting per individual follower. This way, you don’t get wrapped up in comparing your company’s numbers with larger brands. It’s possible for a smaller page to get more engagements per follower than larger ones, even if they have less engagement overall.

When this metric is increasing, it shows that your followers are resonating with your content, and that your page is a priority for them since they’re liking and commenting on multiple posts. If this number is low or shrinking, it means users are engaging with your content every once in a while but probably not checking your page regularly.

In order to boost this number, you can try posting more exciting content so that people look forward to checking out your page every day. For instance, photographer Joel Strong takes pictures throughout New York and uses replacement heads of celebrities and famous characters. Followers can’t wait to see what’s going to be posted next, so they constantly come back.

Another good idea is to upload new content on a regular basis. Aim for at least one or two new posts each day.

4. Followers Gained

What this metric tells you: How much reach your posts have.

Up until this point, the Instagram metrics we’ve looked at have centered around measuring your engagement and the activity around your account. But let’s not overlook one of the most universal metrics in social media, followers. Although it’s more important to have engaged followers than just a huge amount, there is strength in numbers.

Ideally, the number of followers you have will grow over time as you build your brand. Whether it’s through shoutouts from influencers, word of mouth between friends, or even paid ads, you want to grow your audience for social proof and to be able to reach more people.

Instagram Followers Gained

When you look at this metric, measure it over a period of time. Tracking it day by day isn’t going to give you the information you need in order to make informed decisions. For example, if you notice that you’re only earning a handful of new followers each month, you need to ramp up your marketing efforts. On the other hand, if you see the number of followers you gained one month and noticed a huge spike on one specific day, then you should look into what you did to achieve that growth so you can replicate it.

Some marketers look at your number of followers as a vanity metrics, and in some ways it can be. However, the real benefit of measuring your follower count is to know what your brand’s potential reach is for the content you’re publishing. Pages with more followers have more reach. The fewer people that see your posts, the less engagement you’re going to get. Getting more followers gives you a better opportunity to get your content seen.

5. Referral Traffic

What this metric tells you: How much traffic your website is getting from Instagram.

One of the biggest complaints businesses have about social media marketing is not being able to track the return on investment (ROI). Although we know that it’s possible to track social media ROI, Instagram threw marketers for a loop because the app doesn’t allow clickable links within posts. So what do you do if you want to promote a new piece of content or a special on Instagram, and be able to easily track the results? Use UTM parameters of course.

UTM parameters are tags that you can add onto a URL to give Google Analytics more information about the link. By adding UTM parameters to the links you share on Instagram, you can accurately track your campaigns and credit traffic that comes directly from Instagram. Here’s a complete guide on how to setup UTM parameters for your social media. Since the URL’s will be a bit long, it’s a good idea to use a URL shortener like Bitly when you’re including links in your captions. That way, people can open up their browser and type in the URL.

Another option that’s more convenient than adding URLs inside captions is to use your bio. Instagram allows you to have one clickable link in your profile section. Some brands like to use this link to promote special deals or new content. Whenever you have something new to promote, it’s as simple as changing the link. If you go this route, it’s still a good idea to use UTM parameters.

Here’s an example of how Dove used this technique to promote the company’s Self Esteem Project. Notice how within the caption, Dove directs people to click the link in the bio for more information.

Dove Instagram Bio

Start Measuring

The thought of dealing with metrics, data and social media analytics might not seem like the most exciting thing in the world at first, but don’t get discouraged. As your Instagram account grows, you’ll start to look forward to checking your numbers and watching the progress. Plus, with Sprout Social’s spiffy Instagram reports, you won’t have to worry about being totally confused by data, which is a huge bonus.

The only way to make improvements and move forward is to know where you started, and where you currently stand. Tracking these five Instagram metrics will make it easier for you to see what’s working for your business and make the right moves to help you grow.

What metrics do you track for Instagram? Leave a comment and let us know!