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10 Ways to Measure and Amplify Instagram Engagement

With Instagram’s monetization, our filter-friendly startup is evolving its business identity.

What is clear amidst the shift? Facebook’s prodigy child is home to over 300 million active users (and other impressive stats) who are eager to share and engage. While brands rightfully wish to capitalize on engagement in this social space, many mistake participation for strategy.

Below are guidelines and tools to nurture fruitful Instagram activity in order to maximize ROI.

1. Excuses lose you money.

Every excuse made is revenue lost. Regardless of your budget, industry or marketing capacity, your desired customer base in on Instagram.

It’s where you find each other. It’s where you engage and influence.

Whether image friendly or a traditionally unphotogenic company like General Electric, the same principles apply: do your research, know your audience, tell stories and measure results.

GE ss

2. Figure out what makes people like you. (Know your metrics.)

Not responsible advice for teens growing up in a visual world, but a necessity in the world of Instagram for business.

Iconosquare is a great tool to hone in on your Instagram metrics. The “Love Rate” statistic gives you an idea of which pictures generated the most traction, while “Talk Rate” tells you who and how many felt compelled to comment.

Iconosquare’s optimization feature also allows you to figure out the optimal time to post and indicates the lifespan—how quickly posts generate responses and fizzle—for each piece of content.

Knowing which images (filters and times) resonate with your audience allows you to better target their interests. More importantly, determining these external results turns you into a safe and encouraging host for their affirmation and insight.

iconosquare 2

3. Set benchmarks.

While the small, orange notification on the bottom, right portion of your phone makes you feel validated (and perhaps a small sense of self-worth), it is important to put those hearts and comments into perspective.

The way to do that?

Set benchmarks. Count your followers and calculate a percentage with which you wish to engage. NineClouds suggests that for every 1000 followers, you should have 37 likes and comments.

benchmarksImage: Bufferapp Blog

4. Diversify your posts.  

A stern lesson from Pinterest’s Kevin Knight reminds us that utility is often more important than beauty. Is a pristine image of Half Dome more likely to garner attention than one that (uncreatively) shows the bottom of Uncle Ron’s foot? Most likely. But breathtaking photos on Instagram are plentiful.


The key is to test which stills and videos resonate with your particular audience, so that you you can provide relevant content. Your chance for engagement (and return on that engagement) relies on your understanding of your desired audiences’ motivations and behaviors.

You must be able to answer the following two questions: What type of content does my audience enjoy? What type of content does my audience share? (What feeds their personal visual needs and what provokes them to pass it on?)

Gather this information by measuring response to different variations of content. (Thank you, Iconosquare.)

5. Don’t just be useful: inspire.

Paul Coehlo says, “There are those who make you think, and there are those who make you dream.” A post shouldn’t just tell people how to be more effective; it should inspire on an intrinsic level.

National Geographic and Humans of New York are examples of profit-generating accounts that stir the soul.

national geographic

humans of ny

6. Post with intention.

Posting high-quality images—even ones you find useful or moving—isn’t a strategy. Without a thorough understanding of your audience—and creation of targeted campaigns to engage with specific segments—your double-filtered masterpiece is a waste of your artistic and entrepreneurial energy.

Define your goals and post with intention. (Take a lesson from Chobani.)


7. Use the power of the #hashtag for campaigns.

If you’re not using hashtags to create targeted campaigns on Instagram, you are choosing to strike out on a perfect pitch. Hashtags allow you to mechanically group images together to become discoverable. They also provide the architecture for you to coordinate an organized campaign that stimulates recognition and entices brand participation.

While Gap nailed its #SpringIsWeird campaign, you don’t have to reside in a sexy industry—or be a well-known brand—to take advantage of the hashtag. Just look at Turbotax and its #Absolute0 contest.


turbotax 2

8. Incorporate video.

Videographers are often expensive (though, cheaper if you use Thumbtack). If your creative team is small or underfunded, it can be tempting to negate video altogether. Why dabble?

Instagram’s true value lies in its existence as an experimental venue. Your video doesn’t have to be the highest quality or the most expensive in your industry. It must be strategic and targeted in a way that will resonate with your audience.

Banana Republic shows the transformation from sketch to product. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream reveals the art in its creation. Mini pours you a cup of tea (in parallel-park form). The SF Giants highlight killer game moments. In each case, video takes its (well-researched) audience on a journey that allows them to experience the brand.

mini tea

Your method for recording doesn’t matter. Pivotal is your intention. (What type of stimuli does your target audience respond to?) When in doubt, test and return to your data.

(More on specific Instagram video campaign ideas and editing techniques.)

9. Tell a story.

It’s not new information: science tells us that storytelling is an innate part of who we are. Research has found the ads that tell the complete story arc (five acts of a story) perform significantly better in consumer-rating polls than lackadaisical (or frugal) storytellers.

Incorporating a narrative into your post—photo and video—increases your chance to stimulate an emotional response in your viewer. That response differentiates your brand.

north face

go pro

Photos are a great way to share personal journeys. North Face, Coke, Asia Foundation and GoPro are strong examples of organizations that chronicle the individual. Videos provide an outlet to tell stories in chapters and entice your audience in segments. Gap’s #SpringIsWeird 12-part miniseries shows the power of nontraditional storytelling in this form.


10. Be human centered.

Instagram is made for you to stretch your creative potential. Let's be clear: Instagram is a business. But what makes the platform such a powerful tool for your business is that is it structured to unleash imagination in a way that inspires connection with humans—not nebulous consumers—on an intimate level.

Be strange. Be thoughtful. Be profound. Test the limits (even when upper management tells you to tighten the reins). Your metrics are there to back you up—and lead you in the right direction.


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