Weekly Wisdom with Mikhail Alfon: Instagram Success Beyond Likes and Comments

Mikhail Alfon

May 21, 201911 min read
Weekly Wisdom with Mikhail Alfon: Instagram Success Beyond Likes and Comments

Modified Transcript

What's up guys, and welcome to another episode of Weekly Wisdom brought to you by SEMrush. My name is Mikhail Alfon. I am the president and co-founder of Blue Light Media in Costa Mesa, California, and today, we are going to be talking about measuring the impact of your Instagram's content beyond likes and comments. 

What we have actually noticed is no matter how big a brand actually is, they are still relying on likes and comments to see whether or not their content is actually resonating with their audience, but the fact of the matter is, there is a lot of other metrics that are available on Instagram today if you have a business profile — like impressions, like shares and saves.

So these are all things that we are going to cover on today's episode, and I really hope you enjoy it.

Business Page Metrics

There are multiple metrics that are available on Instagram business pages, and I do want to stress that it is on business pages, so if you are running a personal page right now, you are not going to be able to see the same things. Of course, we can see the likes, we can see the comments, and if you swipe up or click insights on a particular post, you can also see shares. You can see how many people have actually saved the content as well, and if you swipe up one more time, you can actually see how many impressions you are getting, also.

Creator Pages

Now, with the new creator pages that were just released, you can also see some deeper audience insights like how many people have followed and unfollowed you in a certain span of time.

Now, there isn't a lot of context to that data, unfortunately. It doesn't say things like how long somebody was following you before they unfollowed you. So in our opinion, it is kind of useless. But what we are going to focus on today is the impressions, the shares, and the saves.

One of the metrics that we like to assess is the impression breakdown, so if you swipe up on your content after you click insights, you can actually see how many impressions a piece of content is getting in different categories. There is "in feed," there is going to be "home," there is going to be "other," and the other one is "hashtags." And hashtags are really what we want to dive deep in today because people are kind of straying away from the hashtag strategy, but we have found that it is actually very important and can help increase your organic reach significantly.

Effectiveness of Hashtags Today

One of the things that we want to talk about is measuring the effectiveness of hashtags. Hashtags can be a very powerful tool that can help make sure that your content is being seen by more people than the ones that are just following you. Now, when you click insights, and you swipe up, sometimes you will notice that you are not getting a lot of reach on your hashtags or a lot of impressions on your hashtags.

Hashtag Reach Instagram

This could mean that it is time to actually break up and create a new group of hashtags because Instagram might think that you are kind of trying to spam or attack a certain category, but also it could mean that your content isn't matching the hashtags that you are actually choosing.

Now, you should always shoot to consistently have more people see you via hashtags than just the ones that are seeing your feed. As you know, Instagram's algorithm is not letting you be seen by everybody that is following you at the same time unless they are consistently interacting with you. So using the correct hashtags will help categorize you outside of that and be seen by more people consistently.

Hashtag Tips for Reach and Engagement

Now, before we move on from hashtags, I want to leave you with a couple of hashtag tips that are going to help increase your reach and engagement. Of course, you want to be using 20 to 30 hashtags per post, and I know that that seems a lot, and if you are worried about the aesthetic of your captions, just put it in the first comment.

In fact, we have actually seen that hashtags in the first comment perform better than the ones that are in the captions despite what people might tell you. And of course, that is as of today. Things might change in the future. Now, you want to make sure that you are using hashtags and different groupings of hashtags daily. Again, the reason being is because if we continuously use the same hashtags for your content, Instagram might think that you're trying to spam that category and thus decrease how many people are seeing your posts within those categories altogether.

In fact, as we mentioned a little bit earlier, you might not get indexed in hashtags at all. You want to use hashtags that are relevant to your post as well, so if you are posting pictures of food, don't put #travelphotography on there or #outfitoftheday. Just because those hashtags are getting a lot of engagement doesn't mean that you are necessarily going to get that same engagement if your post doesn't actually match with what you are categorizing it under.

Choosing Hashtags - Not the Ones You Think 

When we are choosing hashtags, we also want to use the ones that have 50,000 to 250,000 posts associated with that particular category, and of course, you can go up and down a little bit. Now, the reason being is because within that range we believe that you actually have a better chance of being seen under that hashtag as opposed to the ones that have like two million posts associated with it. What that means is too many people are using that, so you are not going to stay up on the most recent posts as long and give your content that chance to be seen, right?

Now, with that being said, pick one or two ones that have like a million posts or two million posts with it. You do have a chance of going viral.Now, lastly, what do you want to do when you are choosing hashtags is be sure to use ones that people might actually be following, right? So you don't want to choose hashtags that are branded, for one, even though it might have a lot of posts, but you want to choose ones that you know people might be looking up every day.

The easy ones for us to kind of point out right now are the ones that have to do with like inspirational quotes or motivational memes, any things like that. Those are the type of hashtags that people might follow. Of course, people might follow things like vegan recipes, daily workouts, things like this. So there are things that people will follow on a daily basis, and you can actually see that when you are searching for hashtags, and that will allow you to be seen more frequently and get more reach with every tag that you use.

Shares and Saves

The next metric we want to talk about, or metrics that we want to talk about, are the shares and saves, and although you might not be able to see that on its surface, it is still a very important way to measure the impact of your content. We have noticed that as Instagram kind of grows and more people are on the platform, people become more picky about what they are liking, about what they are following. It becomes a lot more difficult to create engagement that is public on the platform, so people are reverting to saves and they are reverting to shares to show that they actually care about a piece of content.

The saves are the one that we find very interesting because that means that people are actually going back to that content later on.

We have noticed a significant correlation between saves and shares and organic reach, which makes a lot of sense, because there is more interaction with that content, and even though it is not public, Instagram will probably pick up on the fact that this is resonating well with a certain audience and it is going to want to push it up in more feeds.

We also found that shares specifically will actually drive more content to your actual page than the actual content, and that makes a lot of sense. When somebody actually shares a piece of content, it is going to their Instagram story, and anybody else that views that story might click on the post and thus take you back to the profile page. Again, it is actually really important to shoot for more shares and saves, and you can actually shape your content in a way to create this more often.

Creating and Publishing Content – What do you want?

All right. Let's talk about some considerations when creating and publishing content. First of all, what do you want your content to do? You should start creating your content based around whether or not you want it to be shared more often, whether you want to create engagement in the captions, or whether or not you want saves.

Each piece of content is going to do something different. For example, if you create an inspirational meme of any sort or even a funny meme, there is a bigger chance that it is actually going to be shared more than a photo of yourself or a piece of product.

Most likely, when you put out a piece of content that shows a picture of a product or a person, it is not going to get shared as often as a quote of some sort.

Take into consideration that not all content deserves a comment, so if you are looking for comments to be a measure of how impactful your content is, make sure that you are using like captions that actually get people to read and spark conversation, or a photo that might actually intrigue somebody to ask a question or something like that.

Create Instagram captions that spark conversations.

Sometimes somebody will just like something and save something and never leave a comment at all. In fact, we have seen content that gets hundreds of shares and hundreds of saves, but two or three comments, and that is very common, especially if there is no reason for somebody to talk about it at all. 

Now, as we were saying before, is your content actually shareable?

I have offered great ways for more people to see your content, that don't necessarily follow you, but as we mentioned before, with memes, quotes, things like this, you are probably going to get more shares out of that than you are a photo of products.

Now, take into consideration that if you do create a video that you want shared, that you should probably put it in meme format anyways or like a quote card format anyways, because when it is shared, the video does not actually play from an Instagram post, only on stories. 

Bonus Instagram Tips

As you can see, there are many ways that you can gauge the impact of your content far beyond likes and comments, right? So it is important to understand that there are different metrics that will actually show, like is our content even working well at all? So we have a couple of final tips for you, and I'm going to read off this piece of paper because it is actually a lot.

To Brand or Not to Brand

One of the things that you want to consider is if you are looking to get more shares out of your content, be sure to use light branding. Something that we have noticed is that the more branding there is on a piece of content, the less likely people are to share it. So what I have personally tried is taking Tweets that I used to just put as a meme, really to save a lot of time, and that was performing well for a lot of people in my category. I was taking my name and my photo out of it completely, and it gets shared tons, tons more.

And we have noticed this on different pieces of content too for different brands that we are working with. The smaller the logos are and the lighter the branding actually is, the more likely it is to get shared on somebody's Instagram stories.

Long-Form Captions

We also found that long-form captions actually get indexed really, really well on Instagram. So what we mean by long form is those microblogs. You will see a lot of people that are actually using long-form captions.

Visual of what long-form captions look like on Instagram

They might be Instagram influencers, or it might be a product that is explaining a little bit more about that brand's mission. Now, the great thing about this is long-form captions actually seem to spark more conversation than just a short form one, right? So consider using these if you do actually want to start a conversation in the comments, and start engaging with your audience that way. 


Although videos are favored on Instagram Discovery and it is a great way to drive new traffic to your page, make sure that you are using a great thumbnail with your video at all times. And the reason being is because if it does get shared, as we mentioned earlier, the video does not play. So you want to make sure that when it gets shared to somebody's stories that it is very clear what you are trying to communicate in that video.

Insights on Promoting a Post - Don't Tweet This

I really hope Instagram doesn't see this, because we have actually noticed a big correlation between promoting an Instagram post from Instagram, like with Instagram ads, and the organic reach being decreased. So to clarify, we have noticed that if somebody actually does use the promote feature on Instagram, that later on their organic reach is actually going to get crunched a little bit, and our theory is that they want you to continue using that feature on Instagram.

So if you do want to use Instagram ads, we recommend to just go to your Facebook ads manager and create the Instagram ad that way so that you are not messing with your actual profile. Of course, we don't have too much data to support this, but everybody's saying it. We have noticed it ourselves so there might be some truth to it. 


And lastly, shoot for deep engagement with every single post. We have noticed that the more interactions that a piece of content gets, the more reach it actually gets in every single category under the impression breakdown, right? Which obviously makes a lot more sense, and we know that this is something that is relatively common knowledge now, but we also have seen that many brands are really just milling in their content and they are using a pretty picture without actually trying to spark any sort of conversation. The more that we do that not only helps amplify the identity of the brand, but it also helps increase its reach, thus getting more people and more eyeballs to your profile. 

And that concludes this episode of Weekly Wisdom brought to you by SEMrush.

We really hope you enjoyed this content and you find it useful, and remember, no matter what you do, be sure to put your heart into it, and we will see you next time.

Author Photo
Mikhail AlfonMikhail Alfon is the co-founder and President of Blue Light Media in Orange County, CA. His experience in marketing and leadership has grown into a fast-growing digital marketing agency helping businesses and brands spanning from natural product consumer packaged goods, real estate developers, and SAAS products.
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