Instagram for Indie Dyers Part Two: Applying Analytics

Now that you have a business profile and access to analytics, what do you do with them? 

First, you need to be aware of the Instagram Algorithm. Much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone, Instagram is no longer chronological. The algorithm works to show only the best content to the most people. That means good content is key. Gone are the days of posting five times a day to reach people. Less has become more when it comes to posting.

Instagram displays posts "based on the likelihood you'll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting, and the timeliness of the post." So the algorithm determines which posts it thinks you will be interested in seeing based on your activity. It's similar to Facebook in that way...which isn't surprising, seeing as Facebook owns Instagram. 

When you post on Instagram, IG will serve that post up to a small amount of your followers. How they respond will determine how high the post ranks in other followers' feeds. If someone you follow has engaged with the post, it will also rank higher. No matter how popular, however, IG takes into consideration how relevant they think the content of the post will be to the user. The algorithm knows what genres users have interacted with in the past. Instagram also combines that with hashtags to figure out what to show users as well. Hashtags will help you reach users that aren't following you yet. 

Is your head spinning yet? 

This is where analytics come in. 

So here are my posts sorted by Engagement. Unfortunately, because of my stupid attempt to deal with what I imagined was "shadow banning" by switching back to a personal account temporarily, when I switched back to a business account, I'd lost all my previous analytics. Obviously the more data one has the better. 

Engagement is the combined likes and comments on your post. Since we want high engagement, we not only want likes, but comments, and one way to do that is, in your caption, always ask a question. 


The post with the highest engagement.

The post with the highest engagement.

As you can see, I had a good dialogue going on, asking my followers to suggest colorways to me. Make sure you respond to every comment-- besides being good manners, it helps the engagement-- you are literally engaging with your viewers. 



The post with the second highest engagement.

The post with the second highest engagement.

On the post with the second highest engagement, I also have asked a question, this time asking my followers what they are planning to buy in my update, as many have been buying from me or at least seeing my fiber and yarn for years. That familiarity is a great advantage for me, because there is so much history to mine. 


The post with the third highest engagement rate.

The post with the third highest engagement rate.

On this post, that has the third highest engagement rate, I don't ask a question, but I tell a story. Think of your IG posts as mini blog posts, and tell stories. Maybe the history of the color way, maybe some musings on knitting or spinning or some story of your life. There are a million options, but try to have more than "Just put these up in the shop!" 

Also, really look at the photography. The top three posts have vivid colors and interesting perspectives and angles. Piles of yarn are always fun to look at. You want your posts to be eye-catching, because remember how Instagram first shows your posts to a small selection of your followers to see how it does?

Why people engage with your posts will vary, but really try to reach out to your audience. These top three photos weren't top three engagement because they were just pretty pictures. They were the top three because I reached out to my audience and I know who my audience is. 


Posts sorted by reach.

Posts sorted by reach.

So let's go to reach now. Reach is the number of unique viewers who saw your posts. Unsurprisingly, the two posts that had the highest engagement also had the largest reach. However, reach isn't just from likes and comments; it's also based on how your hashtags perform.


Hashtags will be the next blog post, but you can see what hashtags I used. Since these posts had high engagement, the likelihood of them showing up in hashtag searches increased. Notice how I switched up the hashtags between the two images. You can use up to 30. There's debate about whether or not hashtags in the comments will affect the reach, but I split the two. I don't really know if this helps or not, but it doesn't seem to hurt. I decided to try it after someone said it seemed to work out for her on The Manly Pinterest Tips Podcast.  (Listen to it. It's good.) I do the dot dot dot so that there isn't a glut of hashtags immediately after my caption. 



The third highest reach 

The third highest reach 

Here's where it gets a little interesting. The post that got the third highest reach is not the post that had the third highest engagement rate. Why? The answer is video. Video appears to be the most powerful form one can use in social media these days. There are actually 7 key factors in the Instagram algorithm. They are:

  1. Engagement
  2. Relevancy
  3. Relationships
  4. Timeliness
  5. Profile Searches
  6. Direct Shares
  7. Time Spent. 

Notice that last one. Time Spent. What is going to capture a viewer's time? Video is going to trump still image every time. Try to give some value with your video. This video is a how-to on braiding spinning fiber. It's simple, and just shot with my iPad, but I'm giving value by showing my technique. A how-to video is likely to get repeat views by someone. The above factors, by the way, are from the Buffer blog post on the Instagram Algorithm, and I highly recommend checking it out. 


Let's get into the Followers information. The more posts you have analytics of, the more insight you will have, which is why I'm kicking myself for that brief switch to a personal profile. Above on the left, it's showing me the days my followers are the most active on, which is Thursday and Saturday. However, keep in mind that this may change as I get insights on more posts. Another reason these analytics are so valuable! 

On the left, it's showing me the time of day my followers are the most active each day. 

We'll take one of the most popular days, Thursday. According to the bar graph, on Thursdays my followers are the most active at 1 p.m. That means I should make sure that on Thursdays, I post at around 1 p.m. Remember, how your post performs in the short time after you post it is going to decide the amount of reach it will have. 

See why analytics are so important? They give me important feedback about my posts, so that I can have a better sense of what content performs the best and when. If we go back to the 7 key factors, number four, timeliness is how recent the posts are. That's why you want to schedule your posts strategically. 

There are third party apps you can use for analytics, like Iconosquare, but, although I actually use Iconosquare myself, I still like to be able to easily see throughout the day how my posts are doing.  Hopefully this post helps you up your Instagram game!