Instagram Optimization isn’t top of mind for many store owners. And I get it! Posting alone can already feel exhausting and overwhelming, especially as a retail store owner with a million other things on your plate. That’s why I’m sharing a metric for you to track that can make your social media efforts feel worth it—and that no one else is talking about! 

Keep reading to learn about this hidden metric, plus get a brand-new free resource to help you audit and optimize your Instagram account.


I love and appreciate organic social media growth. I don’t feel like I’m owed anything when it comes to social media, and I’m grateful for every follower, like, and save I get!

As indie shopkeepers, we don’t get free billboards, TV commercials, radio ads, or magazine/newspaper placement. As much as social media frustrates some of us—including me, every once in a while!—it’s crucial to remind ourselves that free marketing is an incredible gift and tool for our small businesses.

Of course, you can “pay to play” on social media. But it IS possible to grow organically! We shouldn’t discount how many sales or connections we make from posting for free.

I’ll admit, when Meta announced it was eliminating taggable posts, it stung a bit. But it is what it is! Even I catch myself with entitled thinking about social media at times.

So what can we do to make the most of this powerful (and free!) tool at our disposal to reach new customers, connect with them, and sell more at our stores? If you’ve ever listened to the podcast or read this blog before, you know exactly where to start: with the data. 

Instagram optimization

The Metrics That Instagram Already Tracks For You

There are several metrics Instagram gives you access to that are worth tracking and analyzing. These include reach, engagement, follow ratio, and more.

For example, you can use the data that IG gives you to calculate your reach rate. Reach rate is the percentage of your followers who actually see your post. To calculate it, divide the reach of a post by your total number of followers.

Another metric you can track is your follow ratio, or your followers vs. “follows.” It’s calculated by dividing your followers by the number of accounts you follow. I’ll be honest, I don’t even know if that ratio matters, but I guess it does if people are writing about it.

The IG Metric No One Talks About (And That I’ve Been Researching For Two Years!)

I may not be an Instagram expert, but I do want to help indie retailers market their stores in the best way possible. So for the past two years, I’ve been running polls inside Master Shopkeepers to research a helpful IG data point that I haven’t seen anyone talk about before.

What I wanted to know was this: on average, how many new followers am I getting each time I post? I’m calling this the post-to-follow ratio.

When I Googled this metric, I couldn’t find anything. Either I’m clueless and this isn’t important, or I’m a genius! Either way, I find this data point intriguing.

In particular, I wanted to know what this looks like for store owners. When I first posted the question in Master Shopkeepers, our members were SO curious about what I was up to! Store owners benefit tremendously from social media, so they were excited to answer. I love how our members humor me when I ask these cryptic questions.

I didn’t do anything with that first poll; I let it sit and ruminate. But it kept nagging at me! I had saved the initial results in a spreadsheet, so I asked again recently and updated the results.

Here’s what I discovered:

On average, the post-to-followers ratio for shopkeepers is 1:3. Every time a store owner posts on IG, they gain 3 followers. If we’re talking about the median, which I prefer, it’s actually 2 followers per post. So every time a store owner posts on IG, they get 2 followers.

The median is the middle number in a sorted list of numbers and can be more descriptive of the data set I’m working with than the average.

The median is more accurate than the mean (average) when there are outliers in the sequence that might skew the average of the values. And there were definitely some outliers in this data set! We’ll come back to the outliers in just a moment. 

Instagram optimization

Why the Post-to-Followers Ratio Matters to Indie Retailers

Since I use Instagram to market my business, it mattered to me if my consistent posting was being rewarded with more followers. I chuckle when I say this, like being rewarded is the goal here…but it kind of is!

Let me emphasize that I am not fanatical about Instagram. I post because I like the platform and enjoy the conversations I have with store owners there. I have something to say and I use IG to say it! But I certainly don’t let my results affect my mood or define my success. 

For me, it’s a place to share and connect. Do I want my account and followers to grow? Yes, of course. But I don’t allow it or the metrics to consume me.

The goal for most small business owners with IG is to grow their followers, either for influence or for sales. And that’s part of my goal here, too. When I share content and lessons about Instagram, I genuinely hope it helps shopkeepers grow. 

That’s why I focused on the post-to-followers ratio. Knowing how many followers we typically get for every post we make is one way to measure the growth we’re achieving from the effort we put into our social media marketing.

While the median was 2 followers per post, there are some unicorns out there with atypical results. 

In my research, there are some store owners with ratios over 10 and one as high as 25. Yes, for every post they share, they’re getting around 25 new followers. Impressive, right?!

What the Post-to-Follower Ratio Might Mean for Your Retail Store’s Instagram Growth

So, does the post-to-follower ratio indicate that if you post 1000 more times, you’ll get 2000 more followers? I honestly don’t know! 

This ratio also doesn’t account for activity on stories, reels, or lives, especially if they aren’t posted on your actual grid. I know lots of shopkeepers post on Instagram in these other ways!

In the end, the post-to-follower ratio is the result of me being curious. It might not mean anything. But for most of us, there does seem to be a pattern with that median of 2 new followers per post. 

With that, I believe knowledge is power. Instead of beating myself up for what sometimes feels like slow growth on IG—my account is in the median camp!—I now see what’s happening. 

This leads me to think how do I break the algorithm IG has created for ME? How do I bust it open? What can I do? Doing the same thing is creating the same results, and as you all know, I love a good challenge to do things differently and create better results.

New Instagram Optimization Checklist for Store Owners

It’s easy to get into a rut with social media. We do the same old thing over and over or forget to check back on our accounts. 

However, if we take the time to update our accounts, we can ensure that we’re providing our customers with the most helpful information possible and make it easy for them to shop with us! 

That’s why I created a checklist for store owners that will help you perform an audit of your Instagram account and then optimize it. 

Sign up for the checklist here:

This list got even better when I enlisted my marketing assistant, Sam of Heck Studios, and Master Shopkeepers member Amanda of La Petite Maison Antiques to add anything they felt would be helpful, too. They definitely helped improve the list! 

This new resource is meant to help you check in with your Instagram account, think about what you ARE and AREN’T doing with it, and inspire you to do something different. If you’re in the median camp of 2 or less, this checklist will help you improve your post-to-followers ratio and grow your account! 

Remember, Social Media Isn’t Everything

You might be wondering what makes those standout post-to-followers ratio unicorns unique. How are they breaking the average algorithm rules?  What are they doing differently? We’re going to continue this conversation in our Master Shopkeepers group, so I’ll be able to report back to you in a future episode.

Remember that social media is NOT your only source of marketing. Don’t get stuck in that rut, either. If you’re a Master Shopkeepers member, you can do the Email Marketing Challenge and focus on another aspect of your marketing! It’s under the Marketing – OTHER module in The Lab.

Resources

  • Ep. 202: What’s Working On Social Media NOW for Retailers with Crystal Vilkaitis
  • Free resource: ChatGPT Guide for Retailers
  • This episode is brought to you by the Savvy Shopkeeper Quiz. Find out what stage of your retail journey you’re in & get a retail roadmap with curated resources to help you along the way. 

Timestamps

  • [03:14] The Metrics That Instagram Already Tracks For You
  • [04:24] The IG Metric No One Talks About (And That I’ve Been Researching For Two Years!)
  • [07:56] Why the Post-to-Followers Ratio Matters to Indie Retailers
  • [10:10] What the Post-to-Follower Ratio Might Mean for Your Retail Store’s Instagram Growth
  • [13:07] New Instagram Optimization Checklist for Store Owners
  • [17:18] Remember, Social Media Isn’t Everything

Connect With Kathy

Kathy Cruz is an Independent Retail Coach who helps store owners work smarter, profit more, and grow their brick and mortar businesses. 

Connect with Kathy and learn more here:

Website: www.savvyshopkeeper.com 
Instagram: @savvyshopkeeper
Mastermind Group: Master Shopkeepers

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