Are Instagram Business Accounts Really A Good Idea For Businesses?
As we mentioned earlier (when Instagram overhauled their branding), Instagram will soon be rolling out “business” accounts, not unlike Facebook Pages. And like Pages, these new business accounts will include a variety of features that only business accounts have access to, like Insights. Here’s the official announcement.
These accounts may be incredible branding and engagement opportunities for businesses… or they may prove to be a disastrous idea. We’ll review what’s been announced so far, and I’ll be sure to update this post as more features are revealed.
Instagram For Business: Features
This is doubtless the most interesting and valuable new feature, particularly for local small businesses. With a business profile, you will be able to add a Contact button to your profile to make it super easy for a fan or prospect to get in touch with you, either via phone, text, or email. With the current requirement of tapping a link in your bio to go to your website, a lead needs to go through a minimum of two steps to get in touch… likely more. So this is a huge benefit.
As with Facebook and other platforms, business profiles will be given access to advanced metrics for their accounts. Beyond just total followers, and the activity you can see on your individual posts, you’ll be able to learn more about your followers demographic spread, as well as view reports on your account growth and post success.
While it remains to be seen what will be included, I do wonder whether the same metrics aren’t currently available using any one of a number of third-party apps. Peg Fitzpatrick recently wrote about the app Command, which I’ve used on my iPhone to help drill down into the data. And I’m a big fan of the regular reporting AgoraPulse offers as part of their platform. (Here’s my full Agorapulse Review.)
The third feature that’s been announced is the ability to Promote your account. Similar to a Facebook Page Like campaign, you’ll be able to run promotions to get your account in front of more likely fans, and pay for those that decide to follow you.
While Instagram advertising has been incorporated into Facebook Advertising for some time, the ability to simply promote your account has certainly been lacking. You can only choose to show your Facebook ads to an Instagram audience, and even then, it’s quite limited, since you can’t build an Instagram post (or boost an existing one) to better suit that platform.
Wait, what? You can schedule posts within Instagram? Not quite.
With a business profile, what you get is the ability for third party scheduling and publishing tools like Agorapulse to post on your behalf. That means you can create an Instagram post on your desktop computer, set it up to publish within Agorapulse, and let Agorapulse handle the actual publishing. No phone notifications or manual publishing needed. That also means you can take advantage of Agorapulse to publish immediately, schedule at a specific time, or add it to a queue, which is great if you want to schedule certain kinds of posts at certain times.
Instagram For Business: Risks
Those are certainly excellent features, and great incentive for businesses to transition their “personal” accounts over to “business” accounts.
Incidentally, there’s been no indication yet what that process will look like. Presumably, there will be an option within your account settings to change to business. It’s rolling out over the next few months to the US, Australia and New Zealand, and the globally by the end of the year. When Pinterest began offering upgrades to business accounts, there were prompts within the platform and occasional emails suggesting certain users may want to upgrade. We do know that upgrading will be free, so access to these additional features will not cost you anything.
Or will it?
Do keep in mind that Instagram is owned by Facebook, and that Facebook went through a similar process years ago. Instead of letting businesses mingle with individuals as profiles, Facebook created Business Pages and, at first, encouraged businesses to start pages. Later, it became a requirement. But then Facebook began to withdraw some of that free exposure businesses had been enjoying for so long. That numeric representation of how many fans a post gets in front of… Reach… began to drop dramatically.
As businesses lost free (organic) reach, and subsequently lost potential customers and sales, they turned to Facebook Advertising for paid reach.
My friend, do not be surprised when Instagram For Business accounts follow the same path.
You’ll convert your account as soon as Instagram grants you permission, because you can’t wait to add that Contact button and start getting more insight into your followers. But then, as time goes on, you may begin to notice a decline in how many people are engaging with your posts. Perhaps Instagram Insights will even include a Reach metric for posts, you’ll see that it’s steadily going down. In a panic, you’ll turn to the Promote feature and start paying to keep building your brand, and that’s when Instagram will have you as a full paying customer.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you this to be cynical. I actually love Facebook & Instagram, and I even love Facebook ads. I think they’re the most cost effective medium for reaching a highly targeted and interested audience.
Rather, I want you to go into this transition with your eyes open. Social Networks are businesses. They exist to connect people with other people, and to provide real businesses with an advertising medium. The idea that I’ll soon be able to promote my Instagram profile and perhaps put my Instagram posts in front of a highly targeted set of users is exciting. Right now, we rely solely on strategic hashtag use to reach new fans, and that only works if the fans are looking at a hashtag stream within 30 – 60 minutes of you posting.
Ads change that game.
So, as this new feature set from Instagram rolls out and you’re eventually invited to participate, think about it before you proceed. Make sure it’s a good long-term decision for you and your brand. And if that means you take a little extra time to think about it, so be it. There’s no rush.
What do you think? Are Instagram for Business accounts great, or a real risk? Let me know in the comments below.