Success Is A Result Of Decisions
And if you think 80/20 like me, very few choices lead to the majority of results. This post is about Instagram, but it’s also about making choices. Why DO we make the decisions we make? The psychology is mysterious. Yet as online marketers, our success … and our jobs depend upon sound decision making.
You may be comfortable making decisions with your gut, but in an analytical world much of the process relies on data. (I’m in the camp of trying flex both instinctual and analytical muscles, and being able to switch, which isn’t always easy)
But data can be noisy. VERY noisy. Take the lost iOS search traffic for example. How many people thought their SEO efforts were failing when it was actually iOS spoiling the data?
Instagram Has More Users Than Pinterest
Actually, Instagram reportedly has double the amount of active users as Pinterest (which is currently around 200M for Instagram. For context, Twitter is only around 232M active users). Yet Pinterest is often championed as the star child of transactional social networks (meaning traffic from Pinterest tends to be high, and have a good conversion rate).
But you probably wouldn’t know Instagram has twice the users by looking at your analytics. And marketers aren’t praising it with the same fervor as Pinterest. Why?
Your Analytics Is Lying
The whole idea for this post came to be because of a recent embarrassing situation with a client. I innocently suggested they “give Instagram a try”. Only to have them tell me they HAD been using Instagram. For three months. He could even attribute direct sales coming from Instagram. (This is a luxury product too, so I should note just a few sales is a big deal).
The point is, I didn’t see any referral traffic from Instagram in Analytics, so I just assumed they weren’t on it. Boy was I wrong.
How “Links” From Apps Work
Try going to Instagram on your phone right now (let’s be honest, no one uses it on their desktop). Find a profile page with a link, and click it. You get this dialogue (at least on iOS you do);
(NOTE: Whole Foods is not a client – this is a generic example).
Annnddd… see that “open Safari” prompt? You guessed it. Clicks on Instagram profile links do NOT show up in referrals in analytics. We can verify this with Real Time Analytics.
That visitor just entering the site is me. And the source that popped up? Direct. Further, filtering for Instagram under traffic sources reveals an unusually low number;
But. What if we look at direct traffic and segment by mobile and tablet traffic?
See that spike? That’s the exact week my client started using Instagram. We get NO such spike for direct traffic and desktop. Look at the percentage increase;
Wowzers! That’s a 171% increase on mobile / tablet.
Stats For My Client’s Instagram Account
I don’t want to reveal the client’s site here – but I can put this into context a bit;
- As of writing, their Instagram account has 18k followers
- Their posts regularly get 500-1000+ likes
- The posts get anywhere from 20-75+ comments (all users, no replies)
- They’ve only made about 150 posts in the last 3-4 months.
Percentage wise, this isn’t huge click through rate. But that’s not the point. The point is we went from 40 visits showing in analytics, to potentially around 8,000 visits from Instagram.
That’s one heck of an attribution problem. Think of all the brands, whose Instagram accounts are not getting appropriate credit.
The lack of default attribution leads to confusion around how Instagram may affect traffic … and the bottom line.
Even the social media expert Gary Vaynerchuck (whom I greatly respect) says that you should more or less treat Instagram like a print ad. That you can’t really “go anywhere” and get outside of it, like it’s a closed channel. I disagree. And I’m sure his agency, Vaynermedia would LOVE to take more of the credit for success with Instagram.
And yet, every, Instagram, analytics, tool measures only within Instagram. Likes, comments, engagement. Which is great. But isn’t that a whole lot like SEO’s measuring only rankings and leaving out traffic and conversions?
Getting Referral Data For Instagram
I have a few recommendations to help shine a light on your Instagram referrals. None are without their own flaws, but I’d suggest picking the one that’s best for your brand.
1. Segment Direct Traffic by Mobile / Tablet Only
This is the method I used above that revealed a spike in direct mobile/tablet traffic for my client, right at the time they started using Instagram. This is the least scientific way to measure it, but also the least invasive to your Instagram profile. You can also “track” it historically, depending upon how noisy your direct mobile / tablet traffic is.
2. Use Campaign Tagging + Bitly
This is currently my favorite method, although I have not tested it extensively. Fortunately, I’d just been reading this essential guide to campaign tagging by Annie Cushing. So campaign tagging was at top of mind. You CAN actually add URLs with campaign parameters on them, but they look terrible;
So I’d recommend shortening it into a custom bitly link (or you can use your link shortener of choice);
This of course not only gives you proper referral data in analytics, but also some click data in bitly. Won’t complain about that.
I used real time analytics to confirm this was working. I clicked my bitly URL from my Instagram profile on my iPhone and got this;
Apparently the only visiter to my own site … is me.
Note that for tagging, I recommend using the tag builder and I chose;
- source – instagram
- medium – social
- campaign – profile
The con to this method of course is the lack of showing a “real” domain name in the profile. Some brands may not want something that looks “un-official.”
3. Create An Instagram Only Landing Page
The last option, is to create a landing page only accessible via Instagram. It is an “orphaned” page not linked to from anywhere else. This way you can assume a visit to this page must have originated from Instagram.
In general I like this idea if it matches your preferred user experience. But there is the chance your landing page will get “out there” on the net – in social or get back links – and then your data is corrupt. You could segment your traffic to this page, but it could get hairy.
Instagram Is More Than Just Selfies, Folks
There are two amazing things to me about Instagram right now;
- The potential for getting visibility on that platform right now is insane. Unlike it’s higher power Facebook, there are NO limits to the reach your posts currently have. And with some clever uses of hashtags and interacting you can get in front of a decent number of eyeballs.
- “Selling” is totally kosher. That’s right. I see post after post which is an obvious product placement, event announcement, sale announcement or basically selling in one way or another. As long as you do it in a subtle, entertaining or artistic way users love it.
If you’re any sort of B2C company, and you’re NOT on Instagram it’d be a huge mistake to not at least test it out. Here you go, here’s plenty of resources to get you started.
Ultimately Not Ideal
I admit. I don’t think I have the complete answer here. Ultimately, I think the answer needs to come from within Apple or Analytics. Just like with the lost iOS search debacle, they should really be more attentive to how this affects analytics data. I know Google is working to better track and understand users activity across apps and websites.
But until a more reliable system is in place, the responsibility falls on us to pick up the slack. No matter how temporary a bridge it might be, it’s better than nothing.
PS – You can find me on Instagram at danshure. No selfies, promise.