On the 6th July 2016 Instagram introduced what is likely the single most important update ever to it’s app and platform, allowing for widespread use of business accounts. So what does this mean to the average user, individual businesses and to the greater community as a whole? And most importantly, as I asked myself as soon as this update become available, should I make the switch to a business account?
Firstly a bit of background here – Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012 for a sum of $1 billion for what can really be broken down into a couple of very simple business purposes – to monetise the platform through advertising, and to continue providing information on its users to feed its impressive highly targeted advertising algorithms. Instagram is currently the reigning king of engagement rates across any social media platform. At the time of purchase there were 30 million registered accounts, and this number has now grown to well over 500 million. If you were one of those using Instagram in the very early days, you may have accumulated a fairly large follower base and may have even had some success turning your account into some form of marketing tool, which you have generated an income from. And while I am not going to say it was “easier” to do so, I do believe that having less accounts on the network increased the likelihood of people noticing your content compared to present day.
Since Facebook purchased Instagram, the platform has exploded in growth. For the average person or business, it is now far more difficult than it previously was to have your content be found and to generate a follower base due to the sea of content that is being posted to the network. And Facebook are well aware that businesses are very willing to invest money into having their products and services found. And with the higher engagement rates Instagram has been able to maintain for the content we feed it, businesses have been flocking to Instagram to make use of this potential. While it costs time and money to produce quality content, the process of posting to Instagram is actually free. Make no mistake, Instagram is a marketing platform. It has been used this way by many people and businesses for a long time now. Facebook purchased it to maximise it’s use for this purpose and have been making moves towards this ever since doing so. So while businesses want to make money from the great exposure Instagram can provide, it has effectively been “free to play” on the platform for businesses, organisations and individuals.
What are the benefits of Instagram Business Accounts?
Quite a few new features have been enabled for those who do make the switch across to Business Accounts and I am sure there are going to be many more introduced over time. Here are those that are available at the time of launch –
Any business who is actively marketing online finds the ability to breakdown the statistics behind those efforts useful. One of the most noticeable things anyone migrating to a business account will notice is the ability to see statistics, or as Instagram calls them, Insights. These statistics show you the individual and accumulated post reach, engagements and impressions your content has had. You can refine and filter this information by different date ranges and each available statistic type.
Paid advertising revenue is what enables us to make use of many “free” online services which have no upfront costs to use. And Instagram has been free to use ever since launching. But for businesses and people operating professional services who want to maximise the reach of their content, paid advertising is now an option on Instagram. In a very similar way to Facebook, promoting posts can now be done from within the Instagram app itself. At present, to use promoted content you need to be linking to an external URL. There are currently no paid options available to just directly generate more follower numbers in the same way Facebook has. You need to add an external link as a button onto any post you choose to promote. And you can target based on interests and geographical regions the same way Facebook allows you to do.
This is quite a simple addition but one that could also help streamline the ability for potential clients or customers to contact you. You can now directly add the ability for people to click a contact button to either email, phone or find you on a map. this is not a huge addition, but again could limit the steps needed for anyone who is thinking about contacting you to do so.
Should I Migrate to an Instagram Business Account?
There will be many people the world over who will be asking themselves this question at this very moment. I know I was thinking about it for a couple of days and weighing up the positives and negatives of doing so. There was one question that has constantly come up in considering this – will there be any algorithmic reductions in post reach applied to my content just because I have migrated to a business account? From everything that I have been seeing, I don’t personally believe in the short term at least this will be the case. My reasons for this at the present moment are –
- Instagram personal accounts are not the same as Facebook personal accounts. Generally on Facebook it is a much smaller circle of people who follow a personal Facebook account. On Instagram, unless you have a private account, you are more often that not going to have far more people who you do not know following you, and for many people this is actually exactly how they have built their Instagram accounts. I cannot currently see any technical differentiation on Instagram between a “personal account” and a business account in the same way as there are clear cut differences between Facebook personal accounts, and Business Pages. Business pages on Facebook are well known for having reduced page reach, but business pages and personal accounts are also used quite differently.
- The process of using and maximising exposure for content on Instagram is exactly the same whether you use it for personal or for business reasons. If you do everything right to maximise exposure for your content, it is seen as quality content, and gets great engagement from the people who do see it, it will still surface exactly the same no matter whether you use a personal or business account. I currently do not believe the choice of using a business account over a personal account makes this any different. Again this is based on my current short to mid term predictions for Instagram as a platform. I cannot see any signs telling me there will be a shift in this regard at all anytime soon.
So for me and for many people I think the next questions would be whether any of the new business features would be useful to the types of content I share? Do I promote products or services and potentially benefit financially from doing so? Do I sell or like to sell prints of images? Do I promote tourism experiences? Do I want to maximise the reach of any content I produce or refer traffic to an external website? Will any client or business I work with benefit from an increased reach in whatever messages I could be promoting? Is the information Insights delivers to me beneficial in my marketing strategies?
If you answer yes to any of those questions above, then in my personal opinion the choice to migrate to an Instagram Business Account is quite a simple one. In 12 months from now, advertising and promoted content will be well and truly ingrained into the Instagram ecosystem, and those that are currently quite vocal in their opposition to this will just have to get used to it. I have said this many times before in past predictions of Instagram as a platform – people who are willing to invest the time and money going forwards from now will have an increased chance of success. Instagram is now a marketing platform. Anyone believing differently is going to be left behind by those who are now willing to utilise the opportunities Instagram and Facebook have now opened up to business services. Grab it with both hands and make use of it. Because if you don’t, there will be plenty of others who do. And you will be left behind.
And the answer to the question is yes, I have switched over to a business account. And while not every post I make is a direct marketing attempt or any form of paid work for the clients and brands I now regularly work with, yes, I do intend to make the most of all of the new features whenever I see the opportunity and benefit in doing so.