The free lunch is officially over on Instagram. Here’s the reason for this proclamation: On May 31, 2016, Instagram announced a new set of business tools designed to help brands “stand out, get insights, and find new customers” on the platform.
We’ve been chronicling this impending shift in Instagram’s utility for marketers for months. But before you start lamenting the loss of Instagram’s engagement buffet, consider the upside: content delivery on Instagram is now professionalized.
Here, we’ll walk through the new Instagram Business Tools, and explain how to avoid being left behind by the changes.
What are Instagram Business Tools?
The new Instagram Business Tools include three core components:
- Business profiles for brands on Instagram;
- Insights into audience engagement and demographics; and
- The ability to promote content to targeted audiences.
Let’s walk through the key features of each component of Instagram Business Tools.
Instagram business profiles
Prior to the announcement of the new business tools, a brand profile on Instagram bore no distinction from an individual’s Instagram profile. With this homogenous co-mingling of brands and people, Instagram had more in common with Snapchat than its parent company, Facebook, which was quick to distinguish brand pages from individual profiles.
However, brands and individuals on Instagram have very different objectives. Individuals want to document and share their experiences, but don’t necessarily want to be contacted by the Instagram masses. Brands, however, want to entice Instagram audiences to engage further. To address this distinction, the new Instagram business profiles will allow users to contact brands via call, text or email, directly from a “Contact” button in the brand’s Instagram profile.
Instagram perusers can even click the brand profile for directions to a business address, if applicable. Important note: Brands must update to a free business profile to get access to the two other Instagram Business Tool components: insights and content promotion.
As a marketing analytics company, the new Instagram Insights piqued our interest the most. Native analytics platforms on many social networks are oft-maligned by marketers, namely for their user un-friendliness. For this reason, we’ll withhold comment on the utility of Instagram Insights until we’ve had a chance to experiment with them firsthand.
The details to date about the breadth and usability of Instagram’s new insights are vague. Here’s what Instagram has promised so far:
“Insights on Instagram give businesses actionable information about who their followers are and which posts resonate better than others—all from within the mobile app. By learning more about the behavior and demographics of your audience, you can create more relevant and timely content.”
TechCrunch reports that Instagram Insights will include data on top posts, reach, impressions, and engagement, along with follower demographics, such as gender, age, and location.
For brands on Instagram, follower growth, audience demographics, and post engagement are only part of the analytics matrix used to measure success. Check out Instagram Analytics 101: Must-Watch Metrics for Marketers to understand six key Instagram metrics and how to evaluate them, or learn more about how to report on competitive and historical performance on social media.
Content promotion on Instagram
Perhaps the most user-friendly component of Instagram Business Tools is the ability to put money behind posts that are originally posted organically on Instagram. Instagram explains that you can “turn well-performing posts into ads” with the addition of a call-to-action button.
When will Instagram Business Tools be available?
We marketers will have to temper our excitement for a few months. The rollout of Instagram Business Tools will begin in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand in the next few months, and will be available worldwide by the end of 2016.
What do the new Instagram Business Tools mean for marketers?
The introduction of Instagram Business Tools will change how marketers approach the social network. Here are three important repercussions marketing teams should take note of:
1. Leading metrics are more important than ever
First and foremost, these new capabilities give marketers new means to monetize their efforts on Instagram. Yes, this will also require budget. But these new targeting tools offer greater predictability around audience engagement on Instagram.
Most notably, Instagram Business Tools make it much easier for marketing teams to connect leading metrics with ROI metrics. With the introduction of content promotion, for example, marketers can be smarter about juicing the content that’s working and cutting losses on the content that flops. Let’s take a look at an example from a brand with impressive social media ROI: J.Crew.
In the last 90 days, J.Crew had some highly impactful Instagram posts. For example, this post, which tagged the fashion influencer Gillian Stevens, received twice as many likes and comments as J.Crew’s average Instagram post, according to the TrackMaven platform.
With the new Instagram Business Tools, J.Crew’s marketing team could quickly spot this post as a top performer and add a call-to-action button directly on the post, rather than asking viewers to click over to a link in their profile.
It remains to be seen, however, how much visibility Instagram Insights will provide into a brand’s historical performance. The Pinterest for Business analytics platform, for example, limits insights into content performance to the past 30 days across many key metrics. If you’re in search of a richer set of marketing analytics, the TrackMaven platform provides complete insight into the historical performance of brands and their competitors on Instagram and 14 other digital channels. (We’d be happy to arrange a time for you to see the TrackMaven platform for yourself, with your brand’s own data! Just request a free demo, and we’ll be in touch.)
2. Facebook and Instagram are officially co-dependent
The announcement of the Instagram Business Tools has one subtle but important caveat: only brands with a business Facebook Page will be able to upgrade from an individual to a brand profile on Instagram.
In other words, if you want access to Instagram’s new tools, Facebook is your gateway. This fine print will also prevent personal accounts with large Instagram followings from boosting their Instagram content without a verified Facebook business. For Facebook, this could be a step to push the influencers and celebrities on Instagram back onto its parent platform.
Just for fun, we used the TrackMaven platform to identify the top 25 most engaging celebrities on Instagram in 2015. Here they are:
The Top 25 Most Engaging Celebrities on Instagram in 2015
Instagram Interactions (in Millions)
- Justin Bieber — 1227
- Ariana Grande — 752
- Christiano Ronaldo — 627
- Kendall Jenner — 504
- Demi Lovato — 403
- Ellen Degeneres — 393
- Chris Brown — 364
- Beyonce — 348
- Drake — 227
- Leo Messi — 207
- Chiara Ferragni — 192
- Joel Osteen — 192
- Five Seconds of Summer — 164
- Gigi Hadid — 132
- Katy Perry — 122
- Alessandra Ambrosio — 101
- Kevin Hart — 89
- Lebron James — 76
- Chrissy Teigen — 63
- Donald Trump — 62
- John Cena — 60
- Jamie Oliver — 59
- Hardwell — 59
- Ben Carson — 57
- Karlie Kloss — 56
3. Consider the drawbacks of a mobile interface
It’s also important to note that the new Instagram Business Tools are designed for mobile (for now), as is the platform itself, of course. In the short term, this ease of use on mobile will likely come with tradeoffs in sophistication. Mobile ad creation and insights will be beneficial for small marketing teams. However, for more sophisticated marketing organizations hoping to track robust ad campaigns, the tools will likely feel elementary.
Keep in mind that the usability of Instagram’s mobile interface has been slow to evolve for marketing purposes; it wasn’t until February 2016 that Instagram created a way for users (and community managers) to toggle easily between accounts.
But if Instagram follows in the footsteps of Facebook, it is likely that a more robust set of analytics and ad targeting is on the roadmap for Instagram. Stay tuned for more updates!