4 steps to optimize and measure your brand’s efforts on Instagram

Hi all! My name is Nick Marvik - I’m one of the new consultants here at Distilled Seattle. I enjoy talking about all things small business, social media and online marketing. Aside from everything I learn daily here at Distilled, I will also be using the growth of my custom ski/snowboard outerwear startup to share with you the experiences I’ve learned along the way.

Over the past two years, I have learned first-hand how to naturally create a community built around social media, and Instagram has recently been one of NWT3K’s primary focuses. Don’t worry; this is not a ‘How-To Use Instagram’ post. These strategies are intended for smaller brands that are currently using Instagram, have some traction with users, and want to take their efforts to the next level. It’s important to note that not all brands will be able to generate the ROI necessary to make Instagram worthwhile – but B2C startups, especially those dedicated to eCommerce, shouldn’t hesitate to jump right in. 

1. Prospect users and interest levels with hashtags

We all know Instagram users love to share, curate, and discover other images, but you need to focus on making this process easy for them. Start thinking of hashtags as way to place your content in front of prospects – people that are actively searching for topics, trends, products, or places but haven’t found you yet!

Don’t pay attention to how many hashtags you’re using (unless it feels out of place). Instead, pay attention to which hashtags you’re using, and how they relate to the people you want to target.

For example – we commonly post product pictures similar to the one below. By using hashtags we can place this picture in front of different users, in different categories. For free!

Ask yourself: what type of activities does this content relate to? Who would find interest in this? Use this as way to develop your hashtags. Take for example - #skiing #snowboarding #snowmobiling #sledding #winter #outdoorgear etc.

2. Stop being lazy – get close with your audience

Simply flushing quality content through Instagram only works for so long, so let’s take it to the next level.  Get close with users and go the extra mile to engage with them.  Reach out, say hello, give them a thumbs up – users love this. Especially for small brands, this is extremely simple but can have a huge impact on your brand’s exposure.  

Protip: Use Hootsuite to track related categories and quickly find engagement opportunities. In the example below, I’m tracking skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and outerwear all in one single view. This allows us to quickly engage with multiple users across multiple categories.

3. Promote engagement within each post

Don’t be afraid to get people talking by asking questions and trying to foster discussions. Since this is easier said than done, creating content that naturally engages users is your best bet.

Below are two separate examples: example one showcases content that easily creates engagement. Example two showcases how our team will make the extra effort to ask for engagement when it’s not always obvious: 


4. Use web based tools to scale your efforts

Let’s be honest, you can only type so fast and process so much information via your mobile device at any given time. Using web based tools allows us to quickly browse categories, comment feeds and engage users quicker than if we were to just use the mobile app. Some tools also provide metrics around followers, engagement and overall account growth. 

-        Hootsuite (my favorite)

-        Statigram

-        Followgram 

-        Nitrogram

And the mother of all strategies: Tracking your efforts

I have already learned from my short time at Distilled that there can be endless ways to splice data and find meaningful answers. For this specific post I only want to focus on answering one question: How do I track the referral traffic from Instagram to my website? What is the best and most accurate way to do this?

Instagram allows users to place a link in the bio section of their profile; however, measuring referrals in your analytics platform from an app is difficult because apps do not contain header information as a normal webpage would. 

Option 1Browser & Operating System report

In Google Analytics we can take a look at Audience > Technologly > Browser & OS.  

I set my date range for exactly one year and began to find different versions of Instagram referring traffic back to our website. Instagram 3.4.1, 3.4.2 and 3.2.0 summed to a total of 36 visits. 

Wait a sec – our Instagram efforts had to have paid off to more than 36 visits in an entire year? Considering our young, social media loving client base, there’s no way this data is accurate. So I put it to the test:

Option 2 – track referring traffic at the page level (this is what I suggest)

For this, you will need to create a custom url. I suggest creating a landing page on your own domain and also trying to create a call-to-action within the url. 

Here’s an example of the url we used - 

Google Analytics updates site statistics regularly, so this new landing page may not show up immediately. Also, if no one has ever clicked on this link the landing page and data will not appear in your analytics profile. 

Now for the fun part. In Google Analytics, select Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. 

Next, I like to set the “show rows” drop down to 1000 rows (our website is fairly small). I’ll do a quick search for our landing page “design-yours”. 

From here you can click through to get a better view of your page level metrics.

We have now had this custom url live for three days in the bio section of our Instagram profile (Nov 22nd- 24th) and we can see that the link has referred 73 unique page views. This process was useful because we now have a metric that shows the actual referral traffic Instagram is sending to our website. Also, based on these last three days of data, I’m going to conclude that tracking your Instagram referral traffic at the page level is more accurate than tracking it from the Browser & OS report. 

How will these strategies broaden your brand’s Instagram audience & awareness?

To give some insight, after focusing on these four key strategies for the past 12 weeks we have seen a strong increase in the number of likes & average likes per photo, as well as the number of comments & average comments per photo > 

Number of likes & average like/photo

Number of comments & average comment/photo


I hope this post encourages you to try some simple changes with your brand’s Instagram - some of these strategies can even span across all of your company’s social media accounts. Are there any Instagram tactics that your brand has tried and found success with? Share your experiences as comments and let’s discuss! 

Nick Marvik

Nick Marvik

Nick recently joined Distilled after a year with Amazon Webstore as a Marketing Coordinator, learning various strategies in eCommerce, email, and SEO. Amazon was his first stop out of Western Washington University, where he graduated with a...   read more

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  1. Hey Nick,

    I would just like to say that I am pleased with your inclusion of Statigram on your list of apps - I have been using this to measure the success of client content on Instagram and it has been exceptional over the past 3 months. It lacks some interesting insights, such as real-time data (would this even be possible?) but it's a neat app for on the move 'checking up'.



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    • Nick Marvik


      I totally agree. I really like using Statigram for engagement and account growth metrics but it does lack deeper insights.

  2. Hi Nick,

    I totally agree with all of the practices talked about in this blog post.

    I also like how it is mainly focused around Instagram, purely because a lot of companies do not branch out past the typical 3 social media platforms (G+, Facebook and Twitter).

    So not only does this blog post talk about some great practices that we, as SEO "Gurus", should take on board and use but also that we should really expand our social media platforms as much as we can to reach out to a broader audience.

    Great technical knowledge and as always 2 thumbs up!

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  3. Why not create an advanced segment and use a regular expression which tracks data from Instagram. This would then cover any content being clicked on Instagram as referral traffic. Why not use the social settings in GA to track social interactions as well. There of course are several way's of doing it, but it might also depend on the user's level of experience.

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  4. Base on a study, Instagram is now the fastest growing social network with 150 million users and 40 million photos being uploaded each day according to social analytics company Simply Measured. So I think using it for online marketing would be really effective!

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  5. Hey Nick,

    Finally an in-depth look at one of the more 'difficult' social networks to monitor. Loving your processes here. We have implemented some similar practices, however is there anything out there that will allow posting from a web platform rather than the native app? Does it already exist?

    We use Hootsuite a lot for the monitoring and interaction side of things but the ability to also post would be a massive time saver for us.

    Love the post.

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  6. Great points, thank you Nick

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  7. Nick Marvik

    Hey Joe,

    I have not personally used it but give Gramblr a try. If this works well for you it would be great if you could share your experience with me. Thanks again!

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  8. Great advice Nick,

    I have recently started getting Grand Prix Motorsports tied into apps like Twitter & I.G. .. This post was very helpful in advancing my steps for our Instagram strategy. Thanks man!

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  9. Hey Tim,

    That's awesome to hear! Glad you found this post useful :)

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  10. Hi, after reading this amazing piece of writing i am too glad to share my
    experience here with colleagues.

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    reply >

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