With over 600 million active monthly users and a top-15 Alexa ranking, Instagram is definitely an enticing social media service to include in your marketing strategy. But is it just selfies and pictures of food, or is there a business case to be made for marketing on Instagram?
Management, an inexperienced digital marketing beginner or website hobbyist can be forgiven for questioning whether Instagram is worth the investment of time and money if results aren’t showing up on Google Analytics. After all, isn’t Analytics the go-to source for identifying which digital marketing activities are working and which ones are not? Yes and no. Google Analytics is a powerful tool to use to gauge the success of your campaigns, and your overall success in promoting your business. While it can be incredibly detailed and granular in some cases, it’s important to keep in mind the limitations of Analytics as well.
If you’re familiar with Instagram, you’ll know that while posts can be quite long and spammed with many hashtags, you’re unable to put a clickable URL. Yes, you can of course enter a URL that you’d like interested viewers to continue to, but they are unable to click to it directly through Instagram itself. The purpose of not allowing clickable URLs in Instagram is of course to help prevent spam. Herein lies the problem with identifying whether your marketing strategy is successful or not, though. To show up as a referral in Google Analytics, there would have to be a clickable URL so Google knows where the traffic is coming from. If not, someone has to manually copy/paste your URL or simply enter it manually in their browser. This kind of traffic shows up as direct and you have no idea whether it came from Instagram, a non-digital marketing campaign, or black-hat bot traffic.
All is not lost, however, and you don’t need to abandon or cut-back your investment in Instagram marketing just because you can’t easily identify the amount of traffic it generates. Instagram does allow a vanity URL to be posted on your main profile, and that URL is clickable and will show up in your Analytics data. To reach this URL, a viewer would have to first view your Instagram post, and then click to your profile and decide to click the link. While of course some may, you can infer that the number of people visiting your website as a result of Instagram will likely do so immediately after viewing a post that piqued their interest.
You can also look for so-called ‘dark social’ correlations between spikes in your direct traffic to specific days and times when you post to Instagram. Instagram analytics can show you which posts are more successful than others, and you can use that information alongside your Google Analytics data to see if successful Instagram posts correspond to a spike in direct traffic. In a similar vein, you can take a look at the number of likes, comments and direct messages you receive in Instagram to judge community engagement. In the case of Husaria Marketing, the number of Instagram referral visits is tiny, but we receive more direct messages from interested clients there than from any other social media service. So, while Facebook, Twitter and other sites provide us with more identifiable traffic, we receive more leads from Instagram where traffic is marginal. You can also incorporate a way of asking leads where they heard about you, but it’s important to not be invasive and not make this obligatory.
You will never be able to identify the source behind 100% of your direct traffic, and it’s not worth your mental well-being to even try. You can, however, make educated guesses and inferences based on Instagram’s own analytics alongside your Google Analytics data. Instagram is one of the largest websites online, with hundreds of millions of users to reach out to. Its reputation for selfies isn’t relevant: there’s a sea of potential clients out there waiting for you to reach them. A successful social media marketing strategy will incorporate as many avenues as possible to reach clients, build trust, and reach your sales goals. Don’t let the lack of referral traffic in Google Analytics or your own inexperience blind you to what is a powerful social media marketing platform for your business.