Instagram ROI: How to Measure the Tangible and the Abstract

The question has been vexing marketers since the dawn of social media for business: how does one measure Instagram ROI?

The mystery is on the brink of elucidation. 💡

wifi > you. 🎂 @dontfeedtheunicorn

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The only thing anyone really needs these days .

A Little Context

Before brands began hopping on the social media bandwagon, networking platforms like Instagram were just a fun hobby that regular individuals would partake in to connect with their peers. Times have certainly changed since that fateful foot shot taken in July 2010.

In less than eight short years, what began with the visual of a smiley pup and a less-than-stylish flipflop (sorry Nicole, just keeping it real) is now the world's most prioritized brand marketing channel. Kind of mind-blowing when you think about it. I don't reckon Kevin even knew what kind of machine he was about to set in gear.

As the existence of pretty much every citizen of planet Earth continued to rapidly move from analog to digital, it became clear that visual communication, which Instagram facilitates, was actually the most opportunistic means for brands to connect with their consumers. An image is indeed worth a thousand words, and those who have locked in that strategy and evolved with it are winning the modern social race.

For a majority of B2C businesses, a huge chunk of budget now gets allocated to all matters of visual communication activity through social media—from funding strategies and day-to-day operations to content creation, community management, customer service... Not to mention gifting programs and influencer activations. Yep, it's a real, extremely effective machine.

Which brings us back to our initial quandary: how can a business measure the ROI of all that spend? Unlike television or print ads, the yield from Insta endeavors is primarily intangible. Although arguably way more valuable.

If there's one vital thing to understand, it's that times have changed and generational discourse discrepancies are very real. Businesses that choose to stick with the old ways because they're easier to execute and measure will get smoked. And that cloud of dust you'll get left behind in is very dense. Suffocating, some would say.

The crux of it is that the benefits you'll reap from a strong social media strategy range from the intangible to the concrete, although the latter has eluded many businesses and the former is difficult for them to wrap their heads around. Both advantages work in tandem, are complementary of one another, and are equally as important.

Tell Me About the Intangible

There are different types of marketers: those who are good with numbers and those who understand the role of branding. They intersect in so many ways, but creating a successful social media strategy demands the use of both the left and right sides of the brain. If you don't grasp the conceptual, perhaps leave your company's social media ventures to someone who does.

Think of social visual marketing as an ecosystem with various degrees and ranges of beneficial functions for all the layers of your biz. Everything you do intersects, and the abstract value points of Instagram (conceptual ROI, natch) actually converge with the more tangible, measurable ones.

Let's begin by laying out those pesky "unmeasurable" (dare we say puzzling?) visual social marketing attributes that help your business.

tag the friends that approve your instas 👇👇 (@samstryker on Twitter)

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What a time to be alive!

1. Awareness

Ok friends, let's bring it back to basics for a quick sec. What attribute sits at the very top of the marketing funnel? Awareness (cue bell dings 🛎). The first order of business for any brand is being discovered and gaining equity.

Instagram is today's primary discovery tool. It's where people are able to stumble upon accounts they've never seen before or become reacquainted with old favorites.

Users willingly follow the companies whose content they're fond of. In fact, Instagram has now become the new homepage for brands, as customer behavior has shifted from logging onto a website to opening up Instagram to learn more about a business.

If you want people to discover your brand, establishing a strong Instagram presence is your best bet.

2. Communication

There's no greater gift to marketers than a direct line of communication with their consumers, period. And communication on social is delightfully multilayered.

In the literal sense, it means that your business can have direct interactions with its followers. But thinking of the bigger picture, it also enables it to reach them through well-crafted, targeted imagery to convey specific messaging. Millennials speak in visuals and if you're not creating that kind of a dialog, you can count yourself out. Period.

When it comes to visual communication, it's all about being a part of relevant conversations to create connections and relationships with your audience. The more its members feel close to your brand, the better engaged they will be. Which leads to loyalty and advocacy (more on that below).

3. Consumer Loyalty

The thing with visual communication is that it's a really efficient way to create emotional connections through photos and videos. Which, as a smart marketer, you know full well that the E word is the holy grail to unlocking one of the most coveted sentiment from a consumer: loyalty.

When you're interacting with the community you lead, those followers will feel compelled to engage back with you, ergo solidifying that relationship status you should be keen to cinch. The ripple effect is immeasurable: a consumer's positive attachment to a brand can turn into loyalty and, if all goes well, advocacy.

4. Brand World

Ummm, hello opportunity to create a larger-than-life brand. The visual nature of Instagram is a bonafide brand facilitator, a golden opportunity to create a hyper-focused world around your core brand strategy through a deliberate narrative. These days, it's how you become celebrated by your rivals and venerated by your consumers. Visionaries, this is all you.

Raconteur, party of one, your seat is ready at the table of brand icons—think Glossier, Reformation, Everlane. In old school speak it would look like Nike, Apple, Patagonia.

A brand aura of this stature is not measurable by cold hard numbers, but it's the source of life and meaning for all your other activities.

I whisper “WHAT THE FUCK” to myself at least 20 times a day.

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About to explain it all, Padawan.

Now Let's Talk KPIs

If you want to be able to input actual numbers in your reports, key performance indicators are what you need to be looking at. The following Instagram KPIs are the metrics you'll want to track to better understand what you're getting for all the money you're putting in. They yield concrete figures to measure. 📏📈

Sidebar: like we mentioned earlier, it's vital to note that they're all intertwined and affect one another in some way. Their communal health is critical to accelerating growth and understanding how to drive conversions.

Now without further ado, here's how to extract the numbers that matter to measure your Instagram ROI.

1. Organic Reach

Your brand receives organic impressions every time another account mentions it in their caption or tags it in a photo. This is also known as earned reach, and it wouldn't be possible without those users. Your influencer marketing endeavors? Organic reach.

Let's just cut to the chase: it's brand exposure. When other accounts post about your brand, their followers have the opportunity to convert into new ones for you. Being exposed to audiences other than your own is the number one tactic for getting your business in front of fresh eyes to ultimately give it a boost.

If you want more eyeballs on your biz, you have to harness all that fan power. Start an influencer gifting program, create activations around a special launch, run a contest. Basically anything on-brand to encourage the creation of UGC will help unlock access to potential new followers.

What Does it Measure?
The impact of your influencer partnerships and campaign activations, your popularity among fans.

The DH Way
The Organic Reach tab in your dashboard reveals all the important numbers relating to the reach of your UGC, which is important to both collectively and individually measure if you're working with influencers. Instantly compile your reach numbers for a specific timeframe, or for any single post by clicking on an image thumbnail.

Instagram ROI, social media ROI

Levis can see all of its organic reach numbers at once.

2. Growth Rate

Your growth rate is the percentage at which your audience is growing, and can be benchmarked on a weekly or monthly basis.

Gaining new followers is what the 'Gram is all about, isn't it? Monitor this metric closely to understand whether or not your strategy is working.

Buyer beware: it's one thing to be growing, but it's another to make headway with quality acquisitions, hence the importance of organic reach, which drives authentic growth. Increasing the size of your audience with real fans (whether new or not) is key, as they're the ones who will become engaged members of your community.

This one goes hand in hand with organic reach because most follower acquisitions are made when another account is featuring yours. Make sure your strategy is tight and that you're leveraging launches and influencer marketing consistently.

What Does it Measure?
The effectiveness of your strategy, the impact of your organic reach, the quality of your content, and the general health of your account.

The DH Way
In the Your Followers tab under the Insights section of your dashboard, track the amount of followers your receive on an hourly, daily, weekly, or custom basis. Correlate your follower spikes with a piece of organic content in which you've been tagged, and learn what your weekly follower increase is. Also inquire about our custom reporting for more granular coverage of your growth rate.

Instagram ROI, social media ROI

Volvo can check its growth rate right here and there in DH.

3. Content Engagement

This is the amount of engagements that your posts receive, which is measured by likes and comments. Your post engagement percentage can be calculated with this basic equation:

(Likes + Comments) ÷ No. of Followers = Average Engagement Rate

Your average engagement is the most indicative figure relating to your content's success. It's a direct correlation to its performance because it's revelatory of how much your photos and videos are resonating with your followers.

The benefits of having a high engagement rate are endless, namely that it alerts the algorithm of your high quality posts to prioritize them in user feeds. It's also a very strong indicator of potential sales conversions, brand loyalty, and growth opportunity.

Converting your amount of likes and comments to a percentage is the most effective way to measure engagement because it puts all of your posts on an even playing field as your account grows. Counting solely the number of likes and comments doesn't enable an apples to apples assessment of your content as your follower acquisitions ramp up.

Monitoring your engagement will teach you what's resonating within your posts so you can adjust your social strategy accordingly for extra lit numbers. ⚡️

What Does it Measure?
The quality of your content and whether or not your posts are resonating with your followers.

The DH Way
You could manually do that math, but don't waste your precious time when it's all automated in your DH Dashboard! In your main Dashboard, glance over your average for the past three months as soon as you log on. Get granular by looking up your average engagement rate on each of your posts in the Your Posts tab of your Insights section to learn what did great and what tanked, and compare those performances to your average.

Go deep into content performance assessment with Dash Hudson's Boards, where you can cluster content segments for further scrutiny. Compare the top and bottom numbers to hone in on your best performing visuals for the highest returns, every single time you post.

Instagram ROI, social media ROI

A granular way for Elizabeth & James to get concrete figures on their content segments.

4. Profile Engagement

Your content engagement might be the crux of your social activities, but your profile also receives engagements that should be measured, such as your website click-throughs, the number of content saves, how many profile visits your received. This engagement is comprised of all the little actions that people take around your profile.

Because you want to know exactly how much hype your milkshake is bringing to the yard, you feel me? Knowing your volume of clicks and views is instrumental in understanding not only your traction, but your potential sales conversions as well.

The importance of a killer bio is not to be underestimated. Since Instagram is the new homepage, all the necessary information about your brand needs to be displayed on your profile. But the honey that's first going to attract the bees is your content. If it's high-quality, you'll get more taps and more saves. If you're using call-to-actions to get people to the URL in your bio, it'll indicate whether or not your CTAs are strong enough.

What Does it Measure?
The aesthetic of your profile, the resonance of your content, and the efficiency of your CTAs.

The DH Way
The LikeShop link-in-bio solution is a game-changer in terms of traffic and revenue driver. Attribute product URLs to your Instagram posts before you push them live to make your feed shoppable, crush your captions with super strong CTAs, and then head to your LikeShop tab in your DH dashboard to learn how many click-throughs your received. Link it on the backend to google analytics to know if those clicks led to sales. Magic.

Instagram ROI, social media ROI

The opportunity for & Other Stories to monetize and measure traction from their link-in-bio is huge.

5. Influencer Partnerships

Influencer marketing: brands love to hate it and hate to love it. This trade is set to reach a value of over 2 billion dollars in 2019, which is more than double its 2017 number.

The issue with hiring popular social stars to post about your brand is that it's been tough to understand on a tangible level what the return is on those investments. Even if Instagram is primarily a means of discovery for users and a brand-building tool for businesses, marketers don't like to invest in something without understanding how to measure its value.

While a lot of brands grapple with how to approach the practice, the net-net is that it works, and it can make a brand go viral faster than you can say Instagram. Whether your strategy entails power instagrammers or micro influencers, choosing who to work with wisely is key.

First things first, make sure you're partnering with on-brand influencers and not choosing people solely based on who you personally like. The image of your collaborators has to reflect your brand for them to be the right fit—that synergy is what converts their audience members into followers for you.

Once you've established who you want to hire and have outlined your goals and scope of work, you need to track the results of your collabs based on those objectives.

The DH Way
Dash Hudson's sophisticated tool suite encompasses specific functionality to evaluate the ROI of influencer marketing.

Relationship IQ is a game-changer, a section where you can register each one of your influencers to see all their basic stats and posts for your brand. It also reveals an estimate of how many new followers each of those posts converted to your account, along with their engagement percentages to benchmark against their average.

This is also where our new EMV tool (earned media value) lives. It attributes a unique monetary figure to each of your influencers and their posts based on their Instagram stats. This helps you better assess their worth to your brand.

Want to go real deep? You can also make influencer-specific Boards to scrutinize your partner content. This type of analysis will help you make all sorts of correlations to the results of your activations, also pinpointing what works and whose content is most on-brand for you. It's a great way to focus on what brings your business the most value.

Instagram ROI, social media ROI

Tommy Hilfiger can evaluate the worth of its partnership with Gigi Hadid in detail.

Social marketing goals tend to vary from company to company, along with strategies on how to reach them. But throughout all the differences, one common denominator never wavers: the focus on the bottom line. Profitability is a universal business objective and Instagram marketing is undeniably a great green facilitator 🤑.

You're now equipped with all the consequential knowledge to analyze the numbers that matter to measure your Instagram ROI, as well as all of its more intangible benefits.

The Dash Hudson visual intelligence platform is a one stop shop for all your social needs thanks to sophisticated tools built explicitly for ROI measurement. Time to crunch some numbers.

instagram roi

Want to learn more about how Dash Hudson can help you succeed at visual marketing? Hit us up today (right after you sign up for our weekly newsletter 👇).