In the last seven days our Instagram account has gained 583 new followers. Over the last month, our likes have increased by 168.91% and our follower percentage has skyrocketed by 3622.22%.

Talk about crackin’!

Before this past week though, there was nothing “crackin’” about our Instagram. Our posts weren’t bad and we would get some likes with our occasional insta-hit coffee themed posts, but they were anything but consistent.

Our posts went out when whichever team member happened to find a spare minute–what they thought was a witty–picture our followers might like.

However, our following just wasn’t growing. It had plateaued around 1,200 followers for a good 5 months. What were we doing wrong?

We weren’t using Iconosquare to track the right metrics.

insta growth madefreshly

After months of frustration, we admitted we had a problem, and set out to fix it. Turns out we were posting the wrong things at the wrong time.

We turned to Iconosquare, the free online tool that tracks all of your Instagram statistics. We found what our audience actually liked, the optimal times to post, and researched relevant hashtags to drastically increase our followers, likes, and comments.

In fact, they are increasing as we speak.

And yours can too.

You probably already have an Instagram account.  So does everyone else. If you don’t, you NEED one for your business.  

According to Digital Marketing Ramblings, Instagram boasts over 200 million new monthly users and is the second most popular social media site after Facebook. During the time it takes you to read this post, there will have been close to 180,000 posts to Instagram.

Don’t let your posts drown in this tidal wave of 2×2 Instagram images flooding everyone’s smart phones. If you want to increase your following, likes, and comments, Iconosquare helps you get there in 3 easy steps:

  1. Track your followers
  2. Analyze engagement
  3. Test your content strategies

REPEAT!

Logging in to Iconosquare

It’s simple, I promise!

  1. Visit www.iconosquare.com
  2. Sign in using your business’s Instagram username and password
  3. Click on the “statistics” tab at the top of the page and get trackin’
  4. The “overview” tabs on the left will allow you to specially search for a relevant statistic, just click and look!

STEP1: TRACK YOUR FOLLOWERS

These Are the Most Important Metrics to Understand

Not all data is applicable to your business so don’t get bogged down by useless numbers and graphs. Iconosquare has a bunch of great information based on your Instagram but not all of it is necessarily useful to you or the marketing of your business.

Here’s a list of some of the more important data your business should focus on:

-Reciprocity: find out who chats with your business the most over Instagram and make sure you keep up the conversation! Make new friends but keep the old…

-Density: find out what days and times the majority of your users interact with your account and learn to post around them

-New followers: specifically see who your new followers are and the demographic you’re working with; make sure to like suggested followers as well!

-Your most liked media: view your most liked post or video so you can continue posting photos along those same lines

-Tag check: see which tags you use most often; it’s beneficial to use recognizable tags as well as spicing up your posts with new trigger words

STEP 2: ANALYZE ENGAGEMENT

Find Out What Your Followers Like

Now that you know which stats to pay attention to, find the posts that generate the most activity. Do most of your followers tend to like inspirational quotes or are they more receptive to a picture of a product? To find out exactly what your user base prefers, simply log on to your Iconosquare account and find out for sure! No more guessing allowed!

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(MadeFreshly’s most liked posts)

Find Out When Your Followers Like

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According to TrackMaven, the most optimal time to post a picture to Instagram is between the hours of 2-3pm Eastern or 11-12am/pm Pacific Time. Instagram users can probably attribute this to what I like to call the “lunchtime scroll.” Ted needs a midday break and wants to mindlessly scroll through his Instagram feed while eating a sandwich (hold the mayo, of course). In order to get our friend Ted, who has a limited attention span­, to like your post, it needs to be effective and straight to the point. That’s why it’s so important to know your user so you can make it easy for them to like one of your pictures. Give Ted’s eyes and brain a break…he’s been working hard trying to market his business all day.

a-complete-guide-to-the-best-times-to-post-on-social-media-and-more-14-638

Keep in mind this is a general pattern of Instagram data. Your audience will probably vary a bit, so adjust your posting times accordingly!

STEP 3: TEST

The Only Way to Know What Works For Sure

Now, if your business is new to the Instagram game and doesn’t have a huge following yet, don’t get discouraged! Use this growing time to trial and error your account. If you’re not sure whether a post will get more likes in the morning, middle of the day, or at night, test it out!

Create three separate (yet visually and content-smart) pictures or videos to test. Post one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. If the afternoon post is more popular, you will know to post around that time.

If over a period of two weeks you track which time of day generates the most likes and has the most activity, chart it, and go from there!

REPEAT

Use What You Know of Your Audience to Gauge Optimal Posting Strategy

If you know your business’s demographic is middle-aged stay at home moms, think about posting during the middle of the day or during naptime. (Again, if you’re not sure when your users are most active on your page, test it out, and check back with your metrics on Iconosquare). If your target audience is 18-25 years old, posting early in the morning or late at night will probably generate the most likes and comments.

Now that you know the steps to optimize your Instagram, there’s a couple other things you need to do to fully optimize your account. Set goals, and use the right hashtags!

Set Goals to Reach Goals: Engagement Formulas

Everyone needs to have goals for motivation and productivity… and so does your business.

The folks at Buffer Social posted a formula generated by TrackMaven on Fortune 500 companies who use Instagram. They found for every 1,000 followers a large company receives 37 likes.

Multiply your business’s number of followers by 0.037 and whatever number you end up with should be your goal number of likes and comments.

If you have 500 followers, shoot for 19 likes

If you have 1,000 followers, shoot for 37 likes

If you have 5,000 followers, shoot for 185 likes

Don’t wait for followers to magically appear out of nowhere–set a goal and work to target those people waiting to be your followers based on their Instagram behaviors you find on Iconosquare!

Use the Right Hashtags to Reach the Right Audience

Iconosquare tracks which hashtags generate the most activity and have the most repeated use.

For example, if I’m posting a picture of my dog wearing the new collar I’m selling through my dog collar business, I would probably hashtag #DogsofInstagram #KristensCollars #YouNeedThisInYourLife. Before I actually hit send and post my photo, through Iconosquare I can track which of these hashtags is the most popular. If #youneedthis is more popular than #youneedthisinyourlife, then I’ll choose to go with the most viewed option.

Something to note, however. Make sure you use the correct spelling when you’re hashtagging or your users won’t be able to find you: #DosgofInstagram vs. #DogsofInstagram. Attention to detail makes a huge difference!

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In an article by Bottom Line, L2, a popular research company, concludes that “80% of brand posts contain at least one hashtag, and the average brand post will have three.” Buffer Social recommends the maximum number of hashtags is five.

Remember, do some hashtag research and know why and to whom you’re posting!

Take a Step in the Right Direction: Start Using Iconosquare for More Followers and Engagement

How to Start Today:

  1. Sign up for an Iconosquare account (remember it’s free!)
  2. Browse your Instagram data that is most relevant to your success–reciprocity, density, new followers, most liked media, hashtag check–to better target your audience
  3. Document when your followers like your posts and what they like about them…remember, more eyes on your account means more success for your business!
  4. Trial and error your posts to see which ones do the best
  5. Repeat using the information you’ve collected through Iconosquare

Eventually, you will be able to narrow down your audience and see what they like and when you should post for them. Once that’s done, your posts won’t just float around the Instagram sphere catching a few glances, they will be seen by the people that matter… the people that bring your business success.

Every week, Iconosquare shares a post of the top ten most popular Instagram pictures based on likes.

Check it out and see what the top dogs are doing. What are they doing that you could do too?

Kristen Zepeda
Kristen is a graduate of Texas Christian University with a degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Spanish. She recently returned from a solo trip to South America where she hiked Machu Picchu and fell in love with all things culture. When she's not trying to quench her insatiable thirst for adventure, you can find her blogging and searching for inspiration anywhere she can find it!