If you've been following me @styleandspace on Insta, you'll see I've been posting a lot more lately, and it's not just been pics of rooms and styling. In fact I've been running a bit of an experiment. I implemented a bunch of common advice you'd find around the internet, about how to get Instagram 'growth'. I’ve been doing these things for about 30 days.
This has been a journey of self expression, a creative outlet, and a platform to talk about the things I find important, with the most surprising and lovely result being connections with people. I've had so many old friends and acquaintances contact me with positive feedback and encouragement, I want to thank you for sharing stories of your own journey, and letting me know what you're finding helpful and inspiring. But the nerd in me really wants to understand the numbers too. So here's some detail about metrics and what they mean, and hopefully it will help you understand a bit more of what you're up against on this platform! My ultimate goal in all this is to be helpful. And hopefully make some money some time.
SO. There are so many metrics you can look at in Instagram, but to keep it simple, I'll talk about this stuff:
FOLLOWERS: How many people have made a choice to follow you.
ENGAGEMENT RATE: How committed your followers are to you.
REACH: How many unique accounts saw your post.
IMPRESSIONS: How many times your post was seen.
I posted 78 times in 30 days.
I got 354 comments.
I got 3491 likes.
I couldn't find a free online tool to tally up my total reach, profile visits, and website clicks. Let me know if you know of one!
At the start of the 30 days I had around 1991 followers. I climbed up to over 2020 at one point, but on the day I analysed results, a month on, I had 1994. WHAAAT? I know. There was much anticipation for outstanding results, some kind of magical increase, but not in this case. Usually people would only share the positive and successful stories right? Well I'm not here to blow smoke, I'm here to be helpful, and REAL.
There are so many online courses telling you they'll sell you the secret to growing to 10k followers, but simply put, it's just not that easy. I will explain a few things.
Yes, of course, follower numbers are important if you want the influencer status. Which, who doesn't?! But I'm not pinning my hopes and dreams on that. What I think is more important, is engagement. Which has increased exponentially for me! How connected you are to your followers shows up in your engagement rate. So lets talk about that.
Generally, your engagement rate is number of engagements (likes + comments) divided by no. of followers, x 100.
125 total engagement
The average rate for Instagram currently is around 3%. Plann have some great content on engagement rates and all this. BUT I controversially think that a better measure of engagement is using REACH. Because of the way that algorithms work, it's actually impossible for your content to be seen by every one of your followers, so I don't think it's a fair representation.
So lets look at my highest performing posts over the last 30 days:
Even though I have 2000(ish) followers, the best performing post only reached 726 accounts.
My top performing posts were photos of... me?! I find this surprising and funny to be honest. But there you go.
The least performing post reach was 291, and overall the black and white and travel photos performed poorest. I put these in as part of curating my overall feed to look interesting and cohesive with a predetermined palette, tell stories of my travels, but, they are not really serving me well. Art is not welcome apparently.
The best performing post was this one, in my swimmers. (We can see what I need to be doing in order to get attention!)
I got this data just by hitting "Insights" on the post itself. You'll see where the traffic came from, how many different interactions there were, and how many new people came across the content.
So 22% of total engagement came from accounts that don't follow me. This is where we’re trying to get new followers.
I discovered from Plann, that this post had an engagement rate of 6.6%, so although it performed very well, I got ZERO new followers from this post. 31 people looked at my profile, and decided not to follow. I'm super interested in why this is... I’ll save that for future research!
If we looked at this with the theory of using reach instead of no. of followers:
128 total engagement
726 total reach
I feel this is far more fair as a measure,I just don't think you can count the people who didn't even see the content! Look at this, is a really encouraging result if potential for genuine connection is more important to you.
- DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY! Algorithms make it hard for your content to be seen, especially with low reach numbers, and when you're starting out. And the content doesn't even get to every single person who follows you! You have to work hard to get your content seen. Check this blog post for all the possible places.
- It seems you really need to have consistently high performing posts, or pay for promotions to get more reach. Reach is where it's at!
- FOLLOW ME?!: Perhaps it's perceived in that nano second of choosing to follow or not, that if you're worth following, you'd already have 10K+ followers. Perhaps people are looking for more, and they need to know what they're getting. I'd be interested to know about people's decision making process when choosing to follow a new account. It seems there isn't grace for those with lower numbers, even if your content is good.
- I spent an average 1.5-2hrs per day on Insta during this period. Which at $100 an hour as an average marketing rate, that's around $6000 worth of time. For a total of 3 followers, this is not a particularly good return on investment. If you're paying someone to do this stuff for you, you need to look at that.
- I think organic growth, gaining REAL followers who are engaged, and active in your content, is actually very difficult. I really appreciate the ones that I have!
- There are a LOT of bots and trashy accounts out there!! These 'growth platforms' follow you on behalf of an account, so that you'll follow back. Which I don't. Because I can see they're a bot at work. More on bots another time.
- Stay tuned for my experiences of a 'growth' platform and 'collaborators' that leave messages like "Babe, you look amazing DM me for collab!".
- The MAIN POINT I'd like to make, is that if you really are trying to grow a business, or a presence, Instagram is only ONE part of what needs to be a broader strategy. I don't think you can grow instagram, just with instagram. More on that later.
There could be a number of reasons why this hasn't worked that well for ME in particular, and I think it's different for different businesses and purposes. I'm personally reflecting on these things:
- Perhaps I'm not super clear on what it is I offer to you, in exchange for your time as one of my followers.
- I'm not really selling anything right now, other than my face and fashion style, maybe I'm not niche enough.
- Perhaps my content was total rubbish, and I don't get what people want. But my fairly consistent 'above average' engagement rate tells me it's not totally shit. Could probably have better quality images...I'm feeling a fashion shoot coming on.
- Perhaps the platform is saturated, and because of algorithms, it's very challenging to get cut through with your content. Even if it's amazing.
- I'm very interested to know about why I might have had hundreds of 'profile views' and very few hits on the 'follow' button. I tried very hard to curate my feed, I changed my profile up a few times, but none of that seemed to make a difference. More research required.
- Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Haha. Story of my life #perfectionist.
- I probably just need to post more photos of me in swimmers. Gulp.
SO, WHAT NEXT?
I could give up. There is a big part of me that says "Well shit, that was kind of a waste of time!" And then I think "Actually, I have zero percent self worth tied up in this, so I don't actually care that I only got an average of 3 new followers" I'm having a lot of fun, and creating what I want. People are responding. So that is what's important! I am going to run a few more experiments for building the following, and share them. I'd like to try:
- Sponsoring some posts to increase reach.
- Try to be more focused - make sure I'm very clear about what I'm offering people in exchange for their time and likes.
- 3rd party endorsement - I'm going to try leveraging from other sources and platforms to gain followers. (Pinterest for example)
- Collaborations - work with other 'grammers to build connections and community.
- Higher quality images, and see how engagement goes on them vs regular iphone photos.
- Work out other ways to INCREASE REACH.
Are you trying to grow your Instagram? I'm sure there are some accounts out there growing really rapidly, but I'd say that it's taking more time and energy than I have, and shit, I feel like I've given this a LOT over the last month.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences, and feel free to share this article .