4 Ways to Measure Success on Instagram

    by Tim Cigelske
    March 29, 2016

    Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have long been a natural extension of news organizations that want to drive traffic to their websites.

    But on Instagram, viewers can’t click on links that are posted with photos. To make matters worse, Instagram has no native analytics platform if you’re not advertising. This can make it a frustrating experience for newsrooms used to quickly posting links in social media and easily measuring the results.

    At the same time, it would be a missed opportunity to ignore Instagram entirely. Instagram has more users than Twitter and can be a powerful tool for the media — if they get creative with their strategy and their metrics.


    Traffic is certainly one measure, and there are also other ways news organizations can harness Instagram and measure their success. Here are four examples.

    Growing Audience

    Photo from https://instagram.com/nytimestravel

    Photo from https://instagram.com/nytimestravel

    If you could use a beautiful visual to get free advertising for your organization, would you take it? That’s one way to think of Instagram. Even if you aren’t getting clicks to your site, you can still raise the profile of your brand by attracting followers with photography from or about your articles.  


    Measurement Tools: For this, all you need is the Instagram app or a link to your profile to track your number of followers. You can also use a spreadsheet to view growth over time. For example, create 12 columns in a spreadsheet and then input your follower number on the 1st of each month. At the end of the year, you can chart your annual growth with the month as each data point.  

    Example: You can think beyond your main masthead and segment your feeds into different accounts that appeal to niche interests on Instagram. For instance, the New York Times has seven different Instagram accounts, including profiles devoted to fashion, travel and sports.



    Though you can garner some data by eyeballing your individual posts on Instagram, it helps to aggregate your measurement with top posts, overall likes and comments as well as growth over time. This will provide a more comprehensive picture of how you are engaging your audience. For that, you’ll have to leave the Instagram platform.

    Measurement Tools: Instagram analytics service Iconosquare offers a 7-day trial and pro accounts to show what content is performing the best on your account. Paid accounts range from $4.90 a month to $149 a year. 

    Example: Foundr Magazine has amassed more than 687,000 followers on Instagram, using Iconosquare to find the best time to post and then interacting with fans via the tool’s dashboard. Publisher Nathan Chan discusses more in an interview with Iconosquare.

    Traffic to Individual Stories

    Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 10.26.16 PM

    Unfortunately, links that are posted in the caption area of your posts aren’t active — meaning viewers would have to copy and paste a link to their browser to use it. That’s an awkward process, made worse by making it harder to measure actual clicks. But there’s a way around that — the link in your profile.

    Measurement Tool: Rather than creating a new link and changing its bio every time it updates its top story, Mashable uses a Bit.ly enterprise account and changes http://on.mash.to./InstaLink on the back end to redirect to a new page. Note: This is a paid enterprise feature that goes beyond the capabilities of a free Bit.ly account. 

    Example: Mashable will pick a top visual of the day and then tell viewers to “click the link in profile” to go directly to the story on its website. Mashable uses the link http://on.mash.to./InstaLink, which is a bit.ly link that redirects to its site. Using bit.ly, Mashable can track the number of individual clicks that come from Instagram.

    Custom Landing Page Clicks

    Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 10.25.57 PM

    The limitation of creating a link for your most recent post in your bio is it can be confusing out of context. It’s usually only relevant to viewers if you saw one specific post first. But there is a solution — have a link that goes to a landing page that hosts all the stories related to your Instagram post in chronological order.

    Measurement Tools: Have2Have.it creates one custom landing page that displays (and tracks) all of the posts from your Instagram page when you click on the bio link. From there, you can click on individual posts that take you to the full story, such as the ones on Techcrunch.com. The Chicago Tribune similarly houses all the photos from its @VintageTribune feed on one custom landing page, which it can then aggregate in one place using Google Analytics or any web measurement tool.

    Examples: Techcrunch, Vintage Tribune


    We’re always interested in case studies. What has worked for you? Have you noticed any tactics that resulted in great engagement or a notable increase in followers? If you’re using Instagram in an interesting way for your media organization, drop us a line or let us know in the comments.

    Tim Cigelske (@TeecycleTim) is the Associate Editor of MetricShift. He has reported and written for the Associated Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Budget Travel, Adventure Cyclist and more. Today, he is the Director of Social Media at Marquette University as well as an adjunct professor teaching media writing and social media analytics. You may also know him as The Beer Runner blogger for DRAFT Magazine. 

    Tagged: analytics instagram measurement metrics new york times photography social media

    Comments are closed.

  • MediaShift received funding from the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), which receives support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to launch the MetricShift section to create a vibrant hub for those interested in media metrics, analytics and measuring deeper impact.

    About MetricShift

    MetricShift examines the ways we can use meaningful metrics in the digital age. We provide thoughtful, actionable content on metrics, analytics and measuring impact through original reporting, aggregation, and audience engagement and community.

    Executive Editor: Mark Glaser

    Metrics Editor: Alexandra Kanik

    Associate Metrics Editor: Tim Cigelske

    Reader Advisory Board

    Chair: Anika Anand, Seattle Times Edu Lab

    Brian Boyer, NPR

    Clare Carr, Parse.ly

    Anjanette Delgado, Gannett

    Hannah Eaves, consultant, Gates Foundation

    Ian Gibbs, Guardian

    Lindsay Green-Barber, CIR/Reveal

    Celeste LeCompte, ProPublica

    Alisa Miller, PRI

    Connect with MetricShift

    Facebook group: Metrics & Impact

    Twitter: #MetricShift

    Email: alexandra [at] rationalact [dot] com

  • Who We Are

    MediaShift is the premier destination for insight and analysis at the intersection of media and technology. The MediaShift network includes MediaShift, EducationShift, MetricShift and Idea Lab, as well as workshops and weekend hackathons, email newsletters, a weekly podcast and a series of DigitalEd online trainings.

    About MediaShift »
    Contact us »
    Sponsor MediaShift »

    Follow us on Social Media