Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | December 4, 2014

How I got more likes and followers on Instagram, with data!

I love Instagram. I love social media in general – Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Facebook, the list goes on – they’re all great in their own way. But Instagram is an obsession. Because of this, I was all over Instagram the moment I heard about it. My Instagram user ID is just over 5,300. I’ve never had a big following though – I’ve been around 300 followers for a while.

Late last year we began developing our Instagram analytics at Union Metrics. I was so excited when they were ready. Finally, I could understand how my Instagram account is actually doing! Since then I’ve been eating our dog food by using our analytics to help me do better on Instagram. And our dog food has always been tasty. But in the past month, it has gotten so much tastier.

As you may have seen, at Union Metrics we just launched an update to our pro Instagram analytics, along with a brand new free Instagram account checkup. Among these updates were the addition of our new insights, which tell you what to pay attention to in your metrics, and recommendations for what you can actually do based on those numbers. During the month of November, I took our advice and made changes to what and how I was posting to Instagram. And like a good scientist, I have numbers to support this, and I thought it would be interesting to share what I did. You can see my Union Metrics report here.

Content and hashtags

I’ve been using Instagram since October 2010. In those four years, I’ve learned a lot about what gets likes and what doesn’t.

On Instagram, a hashtag represents a community. Different communities respect different kinds of content. For me – an unabashed acolyte of the #landscape hashtag – I’ve had the best success with nature and travel photos. My most effective hashtags are things like #instatravel, #landscape, #travel, #sanfrancisco, #architecture, and a personal favorite, #runSF. The photos and occasional video I post with these hashtags perform way higher than my historical averages. This is because a) thousands of Instagram users are always monitoring their favorite hashtags and b) I’m creating content that fits in well in those communities. I also pay attention to those and related hashtags, learning what others post, finding new Instagram accounts to follow, liking and commenting on images I find particularly inspirational.

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For me, photos with regular people in them (a.k.a., my friends and family) just don’t perform as well (sorry, guys!). My photos of sunsets are off the charts, though. And Instagram loves my photos of celebrities, because the internet.

So now that I know what works well on Instagram, I’ve been posting lots more content like that. Results below.

When to post

Previously, I posted mostly on weekends. But it turns out I get a lot more non-follower engagement on weeknights, particularly in the 6-8pm hours (PT) toward the latter half of the week. So I’ve started to post more during the week to try to reach those audiences when they’re most active. Here’s a heat map of when my content gets the most engagement.

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Followers

Like I said earlier, I never had that many followers. I only broke 300 followers earlier this year. Like many personal Instagram accounts, my average monthly follower growth was pretty low – I would get a few new followers here or there, as new people downloaded the app or somehow stumbled upon my account. I had an average follower growth rate of about 1% per month through October 2014. Not bad, but certainly not great.

But after I made some of the changes I’ve talked about here, my followers grew by 6.7% in November. That’s a tremendous increase for me – I gained more followers this month than I did in the ten previous months combined. Look at this growth rate! If this was a startup, I would invest in it.

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Engagement

The holy grail of Instagram metrics is engagement. We all want more likes and comments on our posts. In 2013, I averaged an abysmal 7 likes per post. I’ve had a few lucky posts that reached 20 or 30 likes (thanks, JLaw!), but historically, most of my Instagram posts got 6-12 likes through the first half of this year.

This month, I averaged 29 likes per post, with some of my most popular photos hitting highs of 40 likes or more. That’s 4x my earlier engagement levels. In all years before this, my average likes per post increased about 50% per year. There’s still a month left in 2014, but I’ve already seen a 300% increase in likes per post year-over-year.

Fans

Last year, 203 unique people interacted with my photos at least once. A year earlier in 2012, it was 163 people. This year, I’m already up to 905 unique participants, 373 of which have been in November alone. More different people interacted with my content this month than did all of last year. My total fans are up 345% year-over-year.

In summary,

  • My followers grew by 6.7% in November, up from 1% per month on average previously. I gained more followers this month than I did in the nine previous months combined.
  • I’m averaging 29 likes/post this month, which is a 300% increase in likes per post year-over-year.
  • The number of unique people who have interacted with my content is up 330% so far this year. More different people have interacted with my content this month than did all of last year.

Anyway, your results may vary, but I’ve been floored by what a few small changes to what and when I post , and the hashtags I use, have done to my Instagram engagement. Give it try – I’d love to see what you learn.

And the requisite plug – you can use our free Instagram account checkup tool here anytime you want to see how you’re doing. And I’d love to be friends on Instagram – you can find me at http://instagram.com/jdeeringdavis.

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Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | October 7, 2011

The simpler life in San Francisco, a year later

About 13 months ago, my husband and I sold our condo and basically everything we owned and moved to San Francisco. I mean this literally – we packed up our Nissan Versa hatchback with a couple suitcases of clothes, our laptops, a few other possessions and headed west. The car wasn’t even full.

We did this for two reasons. One, our new SF apartment was less than half the size of our old Austin condo. There simply wasn’t going to be room for most of our stuff. Our furniture was too big to fit in the new place and there was way too much of it. Two, we didn’t relish the prospect of hiring movers or driving a U-Haul van halfway across the country. We did a few calculations and decided it would actually be cheaper to buy new things when we got to SF. So we sold or gave away all of it. My parents kept a few boxes of books and a couple pieces of furniture we couldn’t bear to part with. And when we were down to a pile that would fit in the car, we packed it up and set off.

It’s been a surprisingly easy adjustment.

Occasionally, people ask me if I miss anything from our old place. These aren’t questions about whether I miss Austin or our friends there, because of course I miss them. No, these questions are about the things we left behind.

I sometimes miss my clothes and my closet. We had a spectacular master closet – it was huge. Everything was organized by color. There was a whole wall of shoes, lined up in pretty rows from the floor to the ceiling. There was even a row comprised entirely of purple, lavender and blue pumps. I’d collected these shoes over many years – I even had a pair of Adidas Gazelles from 1997. There was a cabinet of sweaters and a shelf full of sundresses. I don’t really need either of those these days. When we moved, I gave all my shoes and clothes away. My sister and some friends took most of them, and the rest I donated. I like to imagine people all over Austin wearing little pieces of me. Sometimes I see pictures my friends post to Facebook and someone’s wearing a shirt or a necklace I used to wear. That makes me smile.

I miss our books. I think the biggest sacrifice in this whole endeavor was getting rid of so many books. Hayes and I had hundreds of books. We kept a box full, and left a few more with my parents. But the rest we sold at Half Price Books or donated to Goodwill. I miss those books. Yes, I read books on my iPad or iPhone, but I still prefer a physical, paper book. I’ve always loved books. As a child, I spent hours roaming the stacks in the library where my mom worked. I love the way books smell and the sound a book makes when you crack it open after it’s been on the shelf for a while. So this has been the hardest part – not having all these beautiful books around anymore. Even if I did judge them by their covers and organize them by color.

But really, I don’t miss much else. This new apartment and our new simpler environment is just so easy. It’s much faster to clean now. I can find anything in a few seconds, because there are really only two places something could be. I don’t worry about someone breaking in while I’m traveling, because what are they going to steal? Even if every dish in the house is dirty, I can wash them all in about 10 minutes.

It’s nice to think that I’m surrounded by only two kinds of things – those I really need and those I really love. My physical life has been distilled to its most important elements. And practically, I love knowing that next time we move, it’ll only take a few hours to pack, instead of a few weeks.

At the end of conversations about the move, everyone always asks, Would you do it again? A year later, my answer is still an immediate, unqualified yes.

Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | March 29, 2011

We’re hiring at TweetReach!

We’re looking for an inside sales representative at TweetReach. This person will be the fifth member of the TweetReach team!

It’s a great position for someone looking to work at a fast-growing early-stage startup. We’re looking for someone who can manage our sales leads and grow our customer base. Some experience in sales, marketing, biz dev or communications is a plus, but for the right passionate and smart applicant, that’s not required. The ideal candidate is in (or near) San Francisco or Austin, but we’ll certainly consider qualified candidates in other areas. It’s a part-time position to start, but can/will evolve into a full-time role if we find the right person.

You can read the full job posting here. If you’re interested – or know someone who is – please let me know! My contact info is on the About page here.

Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | March 22, 2011

5 steps to being a better entrepreneur

A few months ago, I wrote a post about some of the startup things I’m better at now that I’m (a little) older and wiser. Lately it’s occurred to me how much more I understand about the startup business in general these days. Not just that I’m a better salesperson or that I’m more willing to talk on the phone than I used to be, but that I actually feel like I’ve learned a thing or two about running a startup and being a good entrepreneur. (Just one or two things, mind you. Give me a few more years to figure the rest out.)

Now, I’m certainly not claiming that these are the only things you need to build a successful startup or even that these pertain to every single entrepreneur out there. These are simply some of the lessons I’ve learned that have helped us over the past few years. I’m sure there are plenty of other things you should be doing. In fact, I’d encourage you to share some of those things here if you have other ideas.

1. Be helpful. Help other people when you can. They’ll remember it. This goes for everyone – be nice to customers, co-workers, other entrepreneurs, neighbors, whoever. It’s a simple southern rule, but it’s a good one. Be helpful and courteous to everyone. It’s worth the time it takes. Plus, no one likes a self-absorbed asshole.

2. Make friends. Networking sucks; this is a scientifically demonstrated fact (really, it is). But you still need to do it. Build relationships, even if you don’t see the strategic value of a particular relationship right this second. The more people you know, the better positioned you’ll be later. Building a large, strong network takes years, so start now. Relationships I started 10 or more years ago are still incredibly valuable to me today. (PS – I wrote up some small talk tips if you need something to get started.)

3. Learn about and then get over your competitors. You obviously need to know what others in your space are doing. But don’t spend all day stressing over what they’re working on, how much they tweet about being in the office on weekends, how much money they’re spending on marketing, and everything else you could possibly worry about. Stay aware of them, but don’t let them freak you out. There’s always going to be someone else doing what you’re doing. So just keep doing your best work and try not to get bogged down in anxiety.

4. Know what you’re good at (and what you’re not). Work to your strengths when you can. It’ll keep you happier and more productive if you’re doing things you’re good at. This means that you need to delegate the tasks you’re not good at. One, you can’t possibly do everything. And two, someone else might be able to do some of those things better. As a wise Appozite advisor once said, successful businesses don’t build their cultures around founders’ weaknesses. Know what you can do and more importantly, what you can’t.

5. Keep going. If I had only one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur – or really anyone struggling with anything – it would be to just keep going. Do not quit. Perseverance is an incredibly useful trait for running a successful startup. Overnight successes really don’t exist; it almost always takes years and years for that awesome startup you just heard about to become an “overnight success.” This is true for most of us. So stick it out. Of course, simply sticking it out won’t guarantee success, but quitting definitely won’t get you there.

Lately, I’ve realized just how important these five simple things are. We wouldn’t be where we are with TweetReach if it wasn’t for the relationships Hayes and I have built over the years. And if we’d thrown in the towel any of the million times we might have wanted to, we definitely wouldn’t be here now. We still have a long way to go before we’re where we want to be with our startup, but over the past few months I’ve seen how incredibly crucial the above five things really are.

Got any to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | February 7, 2011

Chrysler, Eminem and why a car commercial makes me feel patriotic

My favorite ad from this year’s Super Bowl was definitely Chrysler’s Imported from Detroit commercial. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

This commercial was the most-tweeted-about Super Bowl ad of the night! We used TweetReach to perform analysis on tweets about Super Bowl ad. I wrote an in-depth blog post about this commercial for the TweetReach blog that went into more detail about the ad’s stats, but I wanted to talk why I personally liked it here.

Detroit has been hit hard in the past few decades as the U.S. auto industry has struggled to compete with increasingly popular imported vehicles. Images of the devastating decay in the Motor City are haunting. In recent years, both General Motors and Chrysler – two of the Big Three auto makers in Detroit – filed for bankruptcy and received billions of dollars in federal aid. And while Detroit and its big car companies have been very public examples, they’re not the only ones who have been struggling lately. It’s been a rough few years in the United States as we’re fighting to get out of one of the worst recessions in the last century.

The Chrysler commercial was not just an advertisement for a car (the new Chrysler 200, actually), but it was a statement of hope and a commitment to the future. And I don’t think I’m the only one who felt like maybe this ad wasn’t just about Detroit. It was about all of us. And this is why it resounded so strongly with so many people. In the midst of all the other silly, immature, even mean-spirited ads for soft drinks and snack foods, the Chrysler ad felt honest and authentic, which made it really stand out.

In the ad, the narrator says:

I got a question for you. What does this city know about luxury, hmm? What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?

Well, I’ll tell you. More than most.

You see, it’s the hottest fires that make the hardest steel. Add hard work and conviction. And the know-how that runs generations deep in every last one of us. That’s who we are.

That’s our story. Now it’s probably not the one you’ve been reading in the papers, the one being written by folks who have never even been here and don’t know what we’re capable of. Because when it comes to luxury, it’s as much about where it’s from as who it’s for.

Now we’re from America – but this isn’t New York City. Or the Windy City. Or Sin City. And we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City.

Replace “city” and “town” with “country” and you’ve got a beautifully worded commentary about the United States. It’s been a tough ride, but we’re tough. We no strangers to hard work and difficult times, but we always come out stronger than before. Or, to paraphrase Eminen, “This is the United States, and this is what we do.”

Or, maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just an advertisement. But it feels like something important.

Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | January 11, 2011

2 interesting TweetReach datasets

I do a bit of blogging over on our TweetReach blog about some of the more interesting Twitter data we’ve tracked, particularly when the tweets relate to news and tech events. Sometimes I find a particular dataset so interesting that I want to share it here, too. Today I have two such datasets to share.

You can read the full analyses on the TweetReach blog – there’s one for CES and another for Verizon iPhone. Up first, the post about CES tweets. Here’s an excerpt:

We used the TweetReach Tracker to monitor tweets for one week around CES (the two days leading up to the event, the four days of the event, and the day after the event). And during that week, we tracked:

443,290 tweets
from 136,738 contributors

generating 1,112,409,883 impressions
reaching 42,200,045 people

I love this CES Tracker because it’s just enormous. It’s the first Tracker that’s generated 1 billion impressions, which is particularly impressive given that it ran for only one week. And it’s intriguing to see how the number of tweets per day peaked on the second day of the conference (CES officially ran from 1/6-1/9). I don’t know about you, but I tend to be most excited – and tweet-happy – about a conference on the first full day I’m there (which was 1/7 for CES), but then my energy starts to fade in the later days. Seems like that happened for lots of CES attendees. There were 140,000 of them, by the way.

So, after thinking the CES Tracker was so compelling, I couldn’t wait to see today’s tweets in our Verizon iPhone Tracker today. (In case you didn’t hear, there’s a Verizon iPhone now.) We’ve been tracking tweets about Verizon and iPhone for a while, but things really heated up during the official announcement today. Here’s an except from our analysis:

Verizon iPhone tweets peaked at more than 56,000 in one hour. As a comparison, the highest number of tweets per hour about CES was 9,641. In one week, 136 thousand people tweeted 443 thousand times about CES. In less than one day, 103 thousand people tweeted 175 thousand times about the Verizon iPhone. Tweets about CES reached 42 million people in a week; tweets about Verizon iPhone reached 33 million people in a day.

And my favorite part:

What this tells us is that Apple can basically do in one day what 2,700 other tech companies did in an entire week at CES. No wonder Apple is the world’s second most valuable company.

So, if these snippets interest you, take a look at the full posts. At the very least, I can promise more pretty graphs.

Full posts:
Tech blogs rule CES. Tech brands don’t.

So, did Apple and Verizon overshadow CES? Oh yes.

Posted by: Jenn Deering Davis | January 4, 2011

Small talk sucks, or how to have a conversation with anyone

I have a PhD in Communication, am an experienced public speaker, and love being the center of attention. But I’ve always hated making small talk with people I just met. It makes me really nervous and turns me into a babbling, sweaty idiot. This can be a big problem if your job requires that you spend a lot of time meeting people, as many of you fellow startup founders probably know. So I set out to solve my problem like any good scientist would – I spent years researching and testing until I had developed a foolproof formula for small talk success. (Well, something like that. Just read on…)

First, some background

When I was working on my Master’s degree at NC State University, I helped run the Writing and Speaking Tutorial Center. Part of my job there was to give presentations and workshops around campus to help students and staff develop better communication skills. Invariably, workshop attendees would ask for help with conversations and small talk. These workshops were usually focused on more formal topics, like public speaking and presentation skills. We didn’t even offer a conversation workshop; it simply didn’t occur to us that people would want something like that. After all, as many as 75% of people have a fear of public speaking, but I’ve never heard stats like that about conversational communication.

So I began to develop a set of go-to small talk topics and tips I could provide to workshop attendees and students in my classes. I even set aside entire class days to practice conversation. These classes were often my students’ favorite days of the semester.

A few years later, I started going to tech and startup events regularly, as part of my role as a co-founder of a startup. And suddenly I realized why everyone wanted to practice their conversation and small talk skills. This stuff is hard! I remember the first tech happy hour I ever went to in Austin. I stood in a quiet back corner for at least 20 minutes, steeling myself with a beer to go start that initial conversation with whatever unlucky stranger I ran into first. And I’m a pretty chatty, gregarious person, so I didn’t expect to get that nervous (which of course made me even more nervous). I’ve spoken to audiences of a thousand people; why would a conversation with one person freak me out? But there’s something particularly intimidating about those kinds of networking events.

I started to rely on that set of topics and tips I had taught my students. The list was expanded and refined as I worked on my PhD and attended more and more startup and academic events. Even now, I quickly scroll through it in my head at every happy hour, party, conference or seminar I attend in San Francisco and elsewhere, and I can always come up with something to talk to a new person about.

The formula (a.k.a. the Fore Cs)

Which leads to me to what I call the “Fore Cs” (laugh if you want – when I was in high school, I wrote an advice column for our newspaper called “Jennerally Speaking”, so I’m impervious to teasing about my questionable wordplay). Of course the Fore Cs aren’t actually foolproof or magic, but they are a reliable set of topics you can use to get any conversation going. Because I think that’s the hardest part – just getting the conversation going. Once you get started, you’re golden.

  • Family – Do you have any children? Spouse/partner?
  • Occupation – What do you do for a living? Where do you work?
  • Recreation – What do you do for fun? Any hobbies?
  • Education – Where did you go to school? Been to/ever thought about grad school?
  • Community – What neighborhood do you live in? Have you always lived here? What’s your favorite restaurant in the area?
  • Current events – Did you hear about a recent news event?
  • Calendar – What are your plans for the upcoming holiday?
  • Climate – Can you believe this weather?

These topics are not listed in order of importance or usefulness. Depending on the situation, some will be more appropriate than others. And please don’t ask these questions exactly the way they are written (if you do, you might be the most boring person at the event). Instead think of them as generic examples you should customize, fill in and expand upon for your own use. Try to contextualize or personalize these topics as much as you can, given the specific event and person you’re talking to. Use these topics as starting points and poke around until you find something that your conversation partner latches on to. And yes, some of these are most definitely clichés (anything about the weather, for example), but can they still work to get a conversation started. You just need to break the ice.

To round it out, some conversation tips

Even if you have a list of possible topics to discuss, a good conversation needs more than a topic. Here are a few other conversation tips:

  • When in doubt, discuss the event itself. This isn’t listed in the Fore Cs (mostly because it doesn’t fit), but it’s a great way to get started. Discuss how you know the host, how you heard about it, what you learned, etc…
  • Introduce yourself. If you see someone standing alone at an event, just go up to her/him and say hello. If you’re the one to start the conversation, you’ll feel more confident.
  • Find something in common. It won’t take long before you find something you share with your conversation partner. Take advantage of that. Whether it’s a common acquaintance, shared interest, or overlap in work history, anything that you two have in common will make for an easier and more interesting conversation.
  • Keep it short. Don’t dominate the conversation or talk too long in one conversational turn. Remember that this is a multi-party conversation, and other people want to participate so share the floor.
  • Ask questions. Engage the person you’re talking to by asking questions. These can follow-up or probing questions that continue one conversational line, or questions that start an entirely new topic. Either way, questions are a good way to get the other person to talk while you get more comfortable.
  • Be an active listener. Nod and use other nonverbal listening cues to indicate to the other person that you’re actively engaged in the conversation. A little encouragement goes a long way.
  • Smile. It sounds silly, but if your face is relaxed, you’ll start to feel more relaxed. Plus, you’ll be more approachable with a smile on your face.
  • Don’t be a douche. Stop pitching and start talking. Networking events are primarily about building relationships and no matter how cool your startup is, most of us go to those events to meet people and relax a little. We don’t want your 10-minute elevator pitch (unless we ask you for it, then feel free to give it to us).
  • Practice. You’ll get better at this. You just have to keep doing it.
  • Remember that most people are nice. They’re at that event for the same reason you are – to meet people. There’s really nothing to be worried about.

This is certainly not a completely comprehensive list of topics or tips, but they have worked for me. I’d love to hear what sorts of things work for you. How do you handle small talk? What works for you (or what doesn’t)?

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