Instagram is one of the few “authentic” social networks. Why? Because it lacks a feature Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all enjoy, but one that makes those platforms open to abuse and bots.

Automated posting.

Because Instagram doesn’t allow you to create posts through its API, you have to use the app itself to upload or capture images. Instagram has its share of issues, though, such as a very public falling out with Twitter that prevented images from appearing in-line when shared to the soon-to-be-anything-but-a-microblogging platform.

Today, AppAction has announced its answer to that thorny issue, along with a suite of tools that help organic reach, provide Instagram analytics, and add integration with other networks. It takes a smart approach to Instagram posting by wrapping your photos into optimized posts on Twitter and Facebook, then deep-linking the contents back to the original image within Instagram.

The result?

Your Instagram photos look attractive and display correctly across three networks at once, and you gain useful data on the users who are liking your photos, commenting, and following your account as a result.

Instagram’s authenticity is one of the reasons for its success, according to Colin Treseler — cofounder at AppAction, and former product manager at Facebook, where he worked on Instagram’s search and explore redesign.

“Preserving authenticity and quality is paramount to Instagram’s long-term success,” Treseler told me. “Initially, the community drove both authenticity and quality. Now, as the app expands with Search and Explore, and Top Posts on hashtag pages, we are seeing more ranked experiences that are bolstering these two pillars of the community.”

AppAction provided me with an account during its private beta phase, and I’ve been monitoring the results. While making a conscious decision to use my account the same way before and after implementation (which took around 1 minute — I simply had to log in using oAuth), my photos have seen an average 15 percent increase in likes, and my follower numbers have started to grow for the first time in months.

And I’m not the only one to see improvements. Photos shared by the likes of ESPN, BBC, Virgin, Vans, and Audi have attracted over 10 million clicks in the past 30 days, generating average increases in engagement and follower growth of 27 percent and 21 percent respectively, according to AppAction.

Instagram made the headlines late last year when it dramatically increased the cadence of its new ads, leading to even its most ardent fans feeling upset and despondent. But for those using sponsored posts, Instagram is delivering high levels of engagement right now.

So how does an organic posting strategy augment a paid media approach?

“Now that there is more ranking throughout the product (Search, Explore, Top Posts for Hashtags, Trending), it is critical to have strong organic engagement in the first ten minutes of a post’s life,” Treseler said. “AppAction’s deep-links enable our users to drive audiences from other platforms into Instagram where they can engage during those first ten minutes, impacting organic reach throughout the app.”

AppAction’s analytics don’t offer the most comprehensive metrics just yet. The initial release includes basic performance indicators — such as likes, comments, and where clicks came from — and a 30-day rolling view of follower growth.

AppAction-Instagram-dashboard

“While many businesses prefer engagement rate as a key metric, we focus more on average likes and average comments per post as an indicator of the quality of content that you are producing,” Fabian Perez, cofounder at AppAction, told me. “Our smallest and biggest clients are using these two metrics to understand their audience and shape their content strategy.”

While Instagram tools that post on your behalf don’t last long — they break Instagram’s terms of service — some analytics tools have carved out their place in the photo marketer’s stack. Ink361, Iconosquare, and Crowdfire spring to mind instantly. How does AppAction differ?

“Existing services today are coming under pressure from Instagram’s new platform policy,” Treseler said. “The policy has banned many well-used features like scheduling posts outside the app, follower management, and automated actions. With AppAction, we’ve found a unique way to increase engagement and growth that is permitted and welcomed by the Instagram team, and it comes with an entirely new data stream for interesting analytics.”

For many individuals, AppAction is available without charge. For individuals and businesses that are driving more than 1,000 clicks per month, pricing starts at $9 a month.

Organic social media is hard: 99% of organic posts on text-focused social platforms get almost no engagement at all. With AppAction, when your image paints a thousand words, at least it will display correctly across three of the most popular networks, and give you a shot at understanding where you’re winning — and losing — with your audience.

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