Updated: Mar 26
In business, it is common for shareholders and managers to ask for and focus on numbers. There is a maxim in the management world that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Managers and superiors want a quantifiable way to be able to see that something is working and benefitting the company. This poses a unique challenge for social media managers and marketing professionals. Many shareholders and managers want to see that x causes a direct increase in y. Here, they want to see that increased money spent on social media causes a direct increase in sales, or increased posting on social media causes a direct increase in sales. It is important to understand, though, that the goal of social media is not always to directly increase sales. With that being said, it is important to look at the correct metrics when evaluating social media performance. While there are numbers that can accurately evaluate social media effectiveness, these numbers must be chosen and evaluated carefully.
Many social media platforms offer analytics to their business or creator accounts. Looking at Instagram specifically, they offer accounts reached, content interactions, and total followers on the insights tab. For each of these, the user is able to choose to see the graph for the last 7 days or the last 30 days. For each specific post, the user is able to see the number of likes, comments, shares, and saves as well as total reach, interactions (which includes profile visits and website clicks) and impressions (which breaks down where the viewers of the post saw the post). For stories, the user is able to see interactions--which is broken down into replies, profile visits, website clicks, and sticker taps— reach, and navigation. In recent years, marketers have seen a shift in focus away from metrics related to sales and towards metrics related to customer loyalty and brand recognition (Stephen and Bart 2021). With this in mind, I believe there are 3 essential social media metrics that are offered through Instagram insights that social media managers and markers should focus on—each touching on different marketing goals.
The first social media metric that should be focused on is the interactions section under individual posts. This offers information on how many people visited the accounts profile or clicked their website link directly from the specific post. This insight relates to the goal of building brand awareness through social media. In general, interactions like these require more curiosity from the viewer than a like or share. These interactions indicate that the viewer was intrigued by the content and was compelled to see more from the brand or company. In my own experience running a business, the posts with more profile visits lead to more follows—which Instagram also tracks—and the posts with more website clicks lead to more sales of the product being highlighted. For example, I sell mugs on my website. One specific mug—my smiley face mug—is very popular on my site. Photos of this mug have higher profile visit and website click numbers than posts of other mugs and these mugs have always sold out the day I post the photos of them.
The second metric that I think is important to examine is shares. “Sharable content” is a buzz-phrase that is often thrown around in the social media marketing world, but the importance of sharing on social media should not be overlooked. This metric is focused on engagement with a company’s social media content (Stephen and Bart 2021). In my personal experience, posts with more shares are posts that drive the highest reach. Specifically, on Instagram, the “share” metric means that a user either shared the post to their story or sent it to a specific person or group of people via direct message. Of course, it is important to monitor the nature of these shares. You are able to see all public shares to stories on Instagram by clicking the three dots in the corner of a post and clicking “View Story Reshares”. By monitoring these shares, you are able to see the sentiment of the shares. Obviously, the more positive the sentiment of the shares, the better. In monitoring the sentiment of the story shares, this metric also dips into the goal of generating positive attitudes through social media (Stephen and Bart 2021).
The final metric that I believe is important to focus on is replies to stories. This metric fits into the goal of generating consumer engagement. As with the previous metric, it is important to monitor the sentiment of said replies, but assuming they are positive, replies indicate that the story generated a conversation. Instagram stories are an excellent way to engage followers in a different and more conversational way. In my experience, story replies are often a way that my followers give feedback on products or posts or spark a conversation with me about something we have in common. For example, my two most recent story replies as of right now are two followers asking when my smiley face mugs will be restocked. Story replies offer businesses a method to communicate directly with customers and answer questions, help with issues, or simply have a conversation. This increases brand loyalty and makes the customer feel more connected to the business. Rather than seeming like a robot, a conversation from a story reply humanizes the brand and connects the follower with the brand further.
Overall, Instagram insights offer various beneficial metrics to measure when focusing on various marketing goals—from brand awareness to generating positive attitudes. While not all metrics communicate well with these goals, picking and choosing metrics specifically and delving deeper into those interactions allow for a comprehensive picture of the effect of social media on marketing goals.
Photo Credit: Georgia De Lotz