I originally wrote this article for Entrepreneur. It was published on Entrepreneur.com on Sept. 2nd, 2016.
It was a marketer’s dream come true when Instagram announced the launch of its tools for businesses. (Analytics and insights built into the app? Yes, please.)
But before rushing to create a business profile for your brand, let’s examine a similar journey taken by Instagram’s parent company, Facebook.
Ten years ago, Facebook introduced “pages", which allowed organizations (and celebrities, pets, food groups) to make public profiles to interact with their fans on the platform. It was a great way for brands to engage with existing fans to cultivate advocacy. In 2007, over 10,000 businesses were taking advantage of Facebook pages. At the time, a page was a page- there was no way to differentiate a business page from a personal one.
Facebook then started rolling out “business pages", and over the next several years attracted marketers to convert to business with in-depth analytics, insights, and advertising. In 2014, Facebook announced an update to the News Feed -- a change to the algorithm that would limit the reach of business pages, and populate feeds so users “see more of what they want”. (Sounds familiar to the news Instagram recently shared with us, right?)
This change ultimately forced Facebook page owners pay to have their content seen as sponsored posts, even by the existing fans who follow the page. Although Facebook positioned this as a way to de-clutter the News Feed as way to create a better experience for the users, we now know that this change was implemented so Facebook could monetize. They saw the value the platform brought to brands, and seized the business opportunity. Free ride over.
If we knew that Facebook would make pages' organic reach nonexistent back in 2007, we wouldn’t have wasted our time and money building a fan base for a page that won’t be seen. We would have gotten more creative with our digital marketing strategies and put our effort into building an active community another way. In other words, we would have been better off without "business pages.”
At the end of the day, Facebook is a business and their apps are evolving (for good, or ill) to reach their business objectives. We now know what Facebook is capable of and can predict where their protégé Instagram is headed, so we can use this information to limit the impact these new changes may have on our brands.
For these three reasons, brands that do not convert to Instagram business profiles will stay ahead of the curve.
1. You’ll maintain your organic reach.
The value of organic reach and engagement is priceless when it comes to building a brand. When your followers are organically engaging with your content, you’ve earned your their interest, and they want to be associated with your brand.
What will happen when your organic reach is limited? You’ll have fewer impressions, and get fewer engagements, which leads to fewer conversions, and ultimately, fewer sales.
Of course, you could pay for promoted posts, but constantly paying for ads isn’t sustainable. Even if you’re an established brand with a multi-million dollar advertising budget, you need those organic impressions to stay top of mind with your followers.
2. You’ll avoid being labeled as “sponsored.”
When you search for something on Google, what link to do you click on first?
If you’re anything like me, you naturally scroll past the sponsored results and click on the first link that’s not an ad. If your target consumer is anything like me, (a social, well-connected millennial), he or she most likely scrolls past the sponsored results as well.
Same goes for Instagram. Once we see “sponsored” above the photo, we'll scroll right past it. Not because it’s bad content, we just don’t like being advertised to. We want real content from the accounts we choose to follow, not ones that are forced on us.
If you convert to business and need to reach your fans with Instagram ads, you’ll be labeled as "sponsored" and your targeted group may just scroll past your post. Or worse, they may find your ads annoying or irrelevant and block your account.
3. Your ability to act human.
I believe lifestyle brands that create the least amount of friction will win, i.e. brands that naturally fit into people’s lives will win. In order to do this, brands must act human.
Social media was built for humans, not robots. It was built so people can inspire, share and build relationships. The brands that perform the best on Instagram create an emotional connection with their followers -- one that triggers a human feeling.
Advertising on Instagram (or any other social channel) is not something an average person would do, so when we see brands advertising on Instagram, it removes the human factor from those brands.
People want to believe that a really awesome person who is similar to them (or someone they aspire to be) is behind these brands. When we see a sponsored post from a brand, the robotic features of automatic posting arise, and the human features of transparency and authenticity are lost.
As marketers and business owners, our best bet is to keep our Instagram accounts as-is to maintain our organic reach. As long as we keep putting out relevant and inspiring content and engage with our fans in an authentic matter, we’ll come out on top.