Instagram Business Profiles: Opt-in or Out?

Instagram is rolling out its Business Profiles. If you’re a business owner or marketing manager using the platform, you may want to think twice before opting in.

What are the perks?

“With a business profile, businesses can choose how they want their customers to get in touch with them: call, text or email with a tap of the Contact button [on their profile page] as well as get directions. Business profiles also unlock access to insights and the ability to promote.” – Instagram Blog

Screenshots originally posted by

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Original business strategies on Instagram

For the most part, businesses have been using Instagram primarily for general brand awareness and fostering brand loyalty from their fans by putting up beautiful content in photos or videos. Like a billboard, if the goal of any call to action is to drive sales, it is difficult to measure the ROI of your efforts. Your own analytics reports could show traffic arriving from Instagram (how many people found your content so compelling that they stopped in the middle of their habitual scroll to visit your profile and click the one and only link you were allowed to publish to visit your landing page), but if someone saw your post and walked into your store the next day, how would you know which of your marketing efforts drove that person into your store, aside from asking them as part of your greeting?

Then came advertising

That’s where Instagram’s first attempt to identify businesses came around – advertising. Yes, we all knew the fun, completely free experience that made Instagram so great would have to end in order to pay back Facebook for its $1 billion investment in 2012. Large businesses got into the game right away, and small businesses soon followed. There are now 200,000 advertisers on Instagram. You can directly hit people in your target market who aren’t yet following you nor exploring the hashtags you have so diligently typed out into your second comment. Best of all? Viewers can click your ad to be taken directly to your landing page. Marketers are able to show that they spent X and received Y clicks and Z new followers – finally, something tangible.

Still, numerous organizations said to themselves “We have thousands of followers that we’ve spent countless hours to build organically, and we continue to grow every day, so why bother paying Instagram?”

Don’t forget who’s pulling the strings

Instagram responded by showing some of its true colors (blue and white) when it then implemented a Facebook-style algorithm that cut down impressions for nearly every one of its users under the cloak of “Don’t miss another post from your favorite accounts again!” Suddenly, your best photos that usually received 300+ likes (because you did the research on the best times to upload to your target audience and added the most relevant hashtags) were now bringing in 150 likes or less. You were left wondering, “What happened? Did the same number of people see my post as before? Was it a bad post? Am I losing credibility with my audience?” For personal accounts, some feelings may have been hurt, but for businesses, some bottom lines may have been affected, too.

After Facebook virtually phased out organic growth for brand pages, regardless of it being a business, community page, or nonprofit, they offered the alternative of paying them in order to get your content out to even the people who already followed you. Taking it even further, if you put $25 behind every post, Facebook will eventually cut the impressions in an effort to make you pay more. This leads many small business to throw their hands in the air and consider writing off Facebook for good (despite the majority of its active users being older, with money to spend).

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You’ve got to be on social – so what’s the plan?

The writing is clearly on the wall that Instagram is moving in the same direction as their parent company, but it’s not so easy to write off Instagram in the same way as Facebook. In the last year alone, Instagram increased their active users from 300 Million to over 400 Million. The community is highly engaged and positive. As a business owner, you’ve got to be there! But as a business or disguised as a personal user?

Facebook advertising has been very successful for those willing to pay the money for their posts. But Instagram ads, like those on Twitter, tend to yield lower returns than Facebook ads. The reason why is because of the habits users have developed on each platform. When on Instagram, they want photos and videos, full of rich content and they tend to click out of the app into articles or to websites less often than they do while on Facebook. If you make the switch to a business profile, you will make it easier for your followers to find you, contact you, hopefully buy from you, and you’ll be able to alter your content based on some solid analytics the app will provide. BUT, by identifying as a business, you can be sure that your organic growth will incrementally decrease until you consider paying. So if you have the budget, go for it.

If you don’t have a large budget, save your money and don’t change your profile. Continue to post good content and be smart about times to upload, relevant hashtag use, and putting in the time to interact with other accounts. There is an opportunity here to stick it to Facebook by taking advantage of the fact that right now, without your help, they cannot distinguish between personal and business accounts. Find creative ways to show your followers how to contact, find, and buy from you and ride that organic wave as long as possible!

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