fine-tune

Fine-tune your Instagram through social testing

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Social media has borderline become a business necessity in the last couple of years.

Brands are developing their own social media strategies to keep up with their competition. The process has become a full-blown social media science. 

If you ask any marketer or social media consultant on why they chose a specific approach, you will get one of three answers:

  1. “This is how we’ve always done it”
  2. “The audience seems to like it”
  3. “We reach this strategy through several different tests”

So, let’s discuss each of these types of test marketing and see what’s what.

“This is how we’ve always done it”

In a question where there are almost no wrong answers, this seems to not be correct. In 2020 this way of thinking is beyond dated. It’s regressive at that.

In a fast-paced and ever-changing industry like social media, sticking to one approach can spell your doom. Maybe not right now, but somewhere down the line.

“The audience seems to like it”

Now, this is a bit better. It is, however, lacking the most important aspect. Why do they like it? 

Your Instagram posts look like they are doing well…But do you know why? If the answer is no you might want to reevaluate your Insta-game.  This statement is usually not supported by any real numbers and it may fade quickly.

A good Instagram marketing strategy always has a great equation behind closed doors. 

“We reach this strategy through several different tests”

This is the golden response that we will be focusing on in this blog. Trial and error is the best method to improve the quality of your social media, especially on Instagram.

So why is this better than the rest? It’s simple! This method allows you to get measurable results and change things up from time to time to step up your Instagram game to a whole new level.

Any time you have a gut feeling, questions, or challenges related to your current social media strategy, social testing can get you the insight needed to make the correct play regarding the future.

Getting Started with Social Testing

Social media tests are structured and measurable. They help you understand what works for your brand, rather than relying on what worked until now or other people’s opinions.

This is the basic information you would need to know before you begin social testing:

  • An understanding of the desired goals 
  • Current social media strategy
  • Understanding your Instagram followers
  • Current performance
  • A list of ideas you want to test

The first thing you need is a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an assumption that you can use as the starting point for social media testing. 

It’s okay if it is based on limited information (small sample size or even a hunch). This way, you can set out to prove/disprove your hypothesis with social testing.

Next up, you’d need a variable. A variable is an element that you can change and run the tests on. This variable can be something like the copy you use, the type of content you post, or the time you choose to post.

Lastly, you need a metric that you can base your results on. This can be, for example, the number of likes a post receives, views on your Instagram Story, the number of followers you’ve gained through that post, etc.

When you have all those things clearly defined, it’s time to start testing.

Courtesy of: Pexels

A/B Testing

As the name implies, two versions (A and B) with a single variable are compared. They are identical except for one variation that might affect the behavior of your Instagram followers. 

A/B tests are widely considered the simplest form of controlled experiment and are, as such, perfect for Instagram.

For example, this could be used if you want to learn which type of content results in the highest engagement on Instagram. You could test photo content vs. video content with the same caption posted at the same time on the same day of the week, one week apart.

But one sample doesn’t make it a test. Since there are so many different variables involved in a single post (captions, hashtags, filters, post time, etc.) you would need to repeat the experiment multiple times. With different variables to get noteworthy results too.

So, why is A/B testing recommended instead of a multivariable test? Well, it’s quite simple. Social media is already fast-paced in its nature and testing for more than one variable at a time can skewer your results.

Here are some examples of A/B tests that you can run in your Instagram profile:

  • Time of day – Monday at 9 AM or 5 PM
  • Content types – Image or Video
  • Captions – Short or Long
  • Copy – Question or Statement

How to Run a Test

Now that you know the basics of social media testing, it’s time we show you how to conduct one yourself.

There are 4 distinct steps for running a successful social media test:

  • Decide what you want to test and develop your hypothesis
  • Determine the duration of the test and the variable that you will be using
  • Execute the test
  • Analyze the results and change the strategy accordingly

Here’s an example to help you optimize your social media content strategy.

  1. Decide what you want to test and develop your hypothesis

“I want to test and see which type of content works best for my Instagram profile.”

  • Our hypothesis: posting pictures has a greater reach and engagement rate compared to posting videos. So, you should focus on primarily posting images instead of videos.

  1. Determine the duration of the test and the variable that you will be using

If you are uploading 4 posts a week, this means you will run the test for 4 weeks. In the first and third weeks, you will be posting images and on the second and fourth, videos.

  • The variable that we chose is the type of content.

  1. Execute the test
  • To have everything executed properly, you need to prepare all the posts in advance. Make sure that all of the files are named and sorted correctly in a spreadsheet by type and date of posting. 

  1. Analyze the results and change the strategy accordingly
  • Once the 4 weeks are over, we can finally collect all of the results and see if our hypothesis is correct. This is the “make or break” phase. If our thoughts from the beginning of the test were proven to be correct, we can just make small changes and keep on posting. 

If not, it means we have to take time to improve on our current social media strategy and in turn grow our Instagram profile.

In the long run, it doesn’t matter if you were right or wrong. The point of the social media test is to see where you can improve and what works best for your followers. 

If you aren’t satisfied with the results you can always run another test. This way you reduce the possibility of a false positive/negative.

Courtesy of: Pexels

Common Test to Run on Instagram

Now that you know the steps of running a social media test, it’s time to do one yourself. But where do you start?

Here are the 3 most common tests used on Instagram:

  1. Testing content types
  2. Testing post copy
  3. Testing post timing

Testing content types

When testing content types, you’re comparing what works best with your Instagram followers, based on your goals. 

The most important thing to establish upfront is what key metrics you are using to measure more successful content. These are some of the often used metrics:

  • Impressions – Which content type reaches the largest number of people
  • Engagement (comments, likes, or clicks) – Which content type gets your followers to interact with your content in some way
  • Traffic – Which type of content drives the newest users to your website

Try to not limit yourself when you are testing the different types of content. You have the options of posting images, videos (standard, up to 1 minute long), or IGTV videos (up to 1 hour).

Testing post copy

The caption of a post has arguably the same importance as the post itself. Whether you choose to tell a story using Instagram captions or simply ask your followers a question that they can answer in the comments – it’s important to know which type is received better.

Let’s not forget the hashtags for your posts. Hashtags are really important if you are planning on getting discovered.  

Two options can help out in this regard:

  • You can put them directly in the captions. It is advised to leave some space between the actual caption of the post and the hashtags
  • You can leave them in the comments section after posting. There’s no difference in the functionality and is all preference on your side.

Testing posting time

Knowing if your followers are early birds or night owls is crucial if you are looking to increase your engagement rate. And more importantly, your reach

This goes the same when it comes to days. Maybe your followers are more active on the weekends than on weekdays.

Be specific when running this sort of test. You should be uploading your posts on a full hour (10 AM, 3 PM, 9 PM, etc.). This way you can pinpoint the exact time that works for you the best.

Let us show you an example of a test that was done on Instagram when they first introduced Stories. 

No one knew what was the perfect format and orientation that should be used when posting a Story on Instagram. After a couple of attempts and some trial and error, everyone agreed that the optimal ratio for an Instagram Story is 9:16. 

Give it a try!

Conclusion

Social testing can surely help you optimize your Instagram profile and give your followers the best experience. And we’re not only talking about the people that already follow you. This lets you leave a strong first impression on your potential followers alike.

Of course, for all of you looking to expand your reach even further, Flock Social offers an all-in-one organic Instagram growth solution. It’s the Instagram followers special!

We allow you to seamlessly track your weekly engagement analytics and post-performance, and get smart data points to optimize your strategy. Get started today. 

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