Instagram recently announced that its community reached over 400 million monthly active users, surpassing Twitter. In addition, the platform opened up advertising to businesses, enabling them to reach their target audiences. Businesses that are not already on Instagram should consider including it in their social strategy.

Like any social platform, marketers need the ability to analyze and interpret results of their marketing efforts on Instagram. Instagram does not currently offer its own analytics tool, but there are other third-party tools available.

The most popular analytics tool is Iconosquare. I love it because it provides a quick, useful snapshot to help business owners make informed decisions. An Iconosquare account is free, but there are paid options available. Interestingly enough, Iconosquare tried charging customers $200/month in April 2015, which many users thought was ridiculous. Shortly after, Iconosquare returned to its free platform.

To get started, connect your Instagram account with Iconosquare. Once you are logged in, you’ll see your feed, which includes posts from the people you follow. This feed is also what you would see if you were using Instagram on your mobile device.

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The first thing you want to do is set up your statistics, which will take time to calculate. Iconosquare will notify you via email when statistics are completed. Following set up, your stats update and refresh whenever you log in.

You also have the option to upgrade and automatically update stats, regardless of whether you are logged in to Iconosquare or not. This is really only necessary if your business posts a lot and wants a daily recap of analytics.

Best Iconosquare Features

One of Iconosquare’s best features is the comment tracker, which allows you to see all of the comments on each post. This is great for accounts that have a large following and frequent engagement. It can be hard to see every comment notification on a mobile device. Having this feature makes it easy to view, delete, and even reply to comments.

The optimization tool is ideal for looking at how your followers behave. Specifically, you can view the times when your posts receive the most likes and comments, helping you determine when your business should post. The image below shows that one of the best times for me to post is Monday at 6 p.m. These recommended times are unique and specific to your audience and account. Every business’s audience behaves differently, so I think this is an especially useful feature.

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The newsfeed is another great feature, again making it easy to view photos of accounts you are following from a desktop. You can also easily like those photos. This is great for social media managers who need to monitor Instagram and other social platforms from a computer. One of the best ways to gain followers on Instagram is to engage with others who may be interested in your business. Iconosquare’s newsfeed makes this much easier.

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Finally, the engagement tool can help you analyze what types of content your followers prefer. Which posts received the most likes? Which posts had the most comments? This is extremely valuable for planning future Instagram content.

The Cons

Unfortunately, Iconosquare doesn’t completely replace Instagram. It doesn’t allow users to upload photos or videos to directly from Iconosquare. Therefore, the mobile app is still needed.

Also, the paid version offers additional features that users with free accounts don’t have access to. For example, want your feed to be ad free? It will cost you. If you want automatic updates every day, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid account.

If you’re looking to gain followers and raise brand awareness, Instagram contests are a viable option. You can set these up manually, or with a paid plan you can easily set one up with Iconosquare. This is a great feature for companies with a large social media budget, but isn’t completely necessary for smaller companies. If you have the right team and resources, you can set up your own Instagram campaign without Iconosquare.

Despite these shortcomings, Iconosquare is still the most popular among Instagram analytics tools. It’s user-friendly and provides a lot of valuable data, even with the free version. And with Instagram ads available, having an additional tool like Iconosquare to measure engagement is especially crucial. However, it may be worth exploring other tools to determine which one is best for your business.