Ashley Elton
5 min read

Assessing the Instagram Grid Approach: Why data-driven marketing matters

For a number of years Instagram has offered professional accounts the ability to review their analytical data, known as insights, within the app (website soon, hopefully!).

From follower growth to engagement information, as marketers we use this data to understand what’s working and what’s not, as a means to influencing the social strategy going forwards. For instance, you may learn that you earn the most likes on posts rather than stories or reels, or that your impressions come from more non-followers than followers. 

Data-driven marketing is a well known way of producing online output, removing hunches and opinions so that actual user results are acknowledged and acted upon for ongoing success. 

Challenging conceptions 

One key takeaway identified across the Instagram accounts we manage for clients at Adtrak is that views of the profile, also known as ‘the grid’, are in fact not that common.

For Adtrak, just 2% of our views came from the profile page in the last 90 days. We’ve seen this trend across many sectors and regions. Woodborough Hall received just 2% and Arc Business Interiors less than 1%! Across the Atlantic, Master Pools Guild who predominantly cover the US received 4% of their views on their profile page. In short, users rarely look at the Instagram profile

A social media mirage?

It’s understandable that companies treat their Instagram page as the definitive digital window display, spending time and energy to ensure it looks a certain way. There are numerous brands who appear to have optimised their grid with pleasing 9x9 ensembles or applied a consistent filter across each upload so their profile page is harmonious. However, based upon the stats, a performant grid appears more of a social media mirage than a results-generating methodology. After all, social media is about being sociable, right? 

To find this info out for your own Instagram business profile, click the profile button (bottom right) > menu button (top right) > Insights. Within here, tap Accounts Reached and you will be provided with Impressions and also Profile Visits lower down the page. 

Focus on the feed

Through the Insights data, we see that the vast majority of social users see content in their feed. Fortunately the feed automatically responds to portrait, landscape and square media, meaning awkward cropping of the uploaded content is not an issue, unlike the grid. Equally, as users only see one post at a time in the feed, legibility of text or smaller details should not be an issue either, unlike the condensed down, three thumbnails in a row on the grid. 

The goal for most businesses on social media is to generate brand awareness to users who haven’t heard of them before and then capture engagement, such as follows or clicks to the website. This is achieved through posting helpful/useful content - nowadays often incorporating text overlays, graphics, moving elements - which users engage with and their friends’ feeds are influenced (or you pay to boost the content to target audiences). Social marketing is about an active stream of communication for users, new and old, which builds up your online reputation and authority, rather than just a gallery page of work.

It’s worth acknowledging that a straightforward photograph can sometimes be more than sufficient to convey a message; ‘a picture paints a thousand words’. That said, given the attention-grabbing nature of social feeds, your business could be missing out on user engagement when simple, “clean” posts prove too simple or uninformative compared to what your competitors have shared in the next scroll. 

Is there a workaround? 

There is a compromise of sorts - Instagram allows carousels of up to 20 images/videos. The first image in the carousel appears in the grid, so tactically picking an appropriate image for the grid whilst knowing that most users who actually see the content will do so in their feed and swipe left to look at more of the slides.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the orientation of the first carousel post dictates the dimensions of the subsequent slides. If you pick a square image in first position, all others in the post will then have to comply with that aspect.  

Another hack is uploading a still image as a video file and then using the setting to handpick the thumbnail for the grid. It’s important to pay attention to the visual quality if you choose to do this, as videos can be compressed more to load in quickly. 

In conclusion

Nobody can deny that first impressions count. But the stats within Instagram Insights suggest the best place for your attention and effort is not necessarily the grid. 

Through a data-driven strategy, your business can produce posts that inform, engage and attract custom, all in an aesthetically pleasing way. Social media marketing, like all marketing, is not achieved through one specific element but the sum of its parts.


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