Instagram followers are often depicted as a quintessential vanity metric. The conventional thinking is that they’re nice to have but don’t really help a business drive quality traffic or sell products.
Here’s the truth: When someone follows you on Instagram, they’re opting in to receiving your content. That’s powerful. It’s the same action as signing up for your email blasts. Celebrate it!
Here are four reasons Instagram followers are more than just a vanity metric:
1. Followers are valuable, especially if they’re highly targeted
On the LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions EMEA Blog, Jason Miller says social media followers shouldn’t automatically be classified as a vanity metric. If you can attract highly interested and engaged followers, he argues, you should rightfully be ecstatic when your follower count goes up. Your target audience will consistently view your posts, like them, comment on them, and share them. This will help you reach new customers organically, and increased reach is nothing to sneeze at.
Not only will your target audience engage with your content, but they’re also likely to become customers themselves. Of course, it’s not easy to calculate the ROI of a new follower. But the more you put your brand in front of interested audiences, the more you’ll ultimately convert followers into new customers.
2. Conduct audience research
Followers represent an opportunity to glean helpful audience insights. Conduct audience research simply by browsing through your follower list:
Figure out who your target audience is. You’ve assembled a formidable collection of interested consumers. Now, analyze your followers and look for patterns.
Check out what your followers are posting on their accounts. Is there a general aesthetic? Are followers posting products from other brands (a.k.a. your competitors)? Where do their interests seem to lie? This can help you fine-tune your content strategy.
See if there are influencers or micro-influencers you can work with. If someone’s already following you, there’s a good chance they’d be thrilled to team up with you on a campaign.
Use this strategy with the others below to attract your target audience. As we discussed above, followers are far from mere vanity metrics when they closely resemble your ideal customer.
3. Figure out which marketing strategies are working
Last week, your follower count was 50,000. Now it’s at 51,000. But so what?
That’s precisely why follower counts are often seen as vanity metrics: Businesses often just look at the numbers without context. With context, however, followers become a useful yardstick of marketing effectiveness. Specifically, you want to check your follower growth by seeing how many followers you gained and over specific time periods.
Here are a few questions you can ask about your follower growth:
- How does your follower growth change after you work with a specific influencer or micro-influencer? How about after you launch a certain type of marketing campaign?
- Do you lose followers after publishing certain types of content?
- Are your marketing strategies attracting the right type of follower?
When you measure your follower growth weekly or monthly, you’ll gain insights that may help you tweak your marketing strategies. Look at the big picture of how many followers you’ve gained, but remember to check whether you’re attracting the right type of follower.
4. See whether your content is resonating
Your follower count can help you determine how effective your content is. You do this by looking at your engagements per follower. Here’s a simple way to calculate this:
- Let’s say you have a post that has 500 likes and 100 comments. That means your engagement is 500 + 100 = 600.
- Now, find your total number of followers. Let’s say it’s 10,000. Take your engagement and divide it by your total followers. Here, that is 600/10,000 = 0.06.
- Then multiply that by 100 to get the percentage: 0.06 x 100 = 6%.
Your post got a 6% engagement rate. That’s pretty good! Now you have a benchmark to compare your other posts. If your engagement rate drops, you might want to switch up your content. But if your engagement rate rises, you have a hint that your content is resonating with your audience.