Instagram Is Slowly Evolving As A Paradise For Brands

Instagram's introduction of Business Profiles and algorithmic feed indicates that it is slowly turning into a paradise for brands. Hopefully it shouldn't become hell for users


eMarketer stated last year that Instagram, the photo and video social network will bring in $2.81 billion in mobile ad revenues worldwide, accounting for over 10% of parent company Facebook’s global ad revenues. Acquired by Facebook in 2012, the 400 million strong mobile first network has been working diligently to evolve into a marketer’s paradise.

So far Instagram’s growth has been due to its community, creative people have helped grow the network. Till last year it was powered by the users, other than the slow expansion of ads (Read: Indian Brands Reveal How They Are Using Instagram Ads Effectively). But looking at the recent feature upgrades, it is safe to say that Instagram is following the footsteps of Facebook. It wants to balance the platform between users and brands.

The latest announcement about Instagram adding business profiles is an indication that the network wants to provide more features to brands rather than being just a means to advertise.

Business profiles/Brand pages

According to Instagram, it is introducing business-specific profiles and a way to track how many times their posts actually have shown up on people’s screens. “Business profiles are a free feature for accounts wanting to be recognized as a business on Instagram. 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 as well as get directions. Business profiles also unlock access to insights and the ability to promote,” said the company in its blog post. In short it is version 1.0 of Facebook Brand pages.

Instagram_business_page_demoAdditionally, brands will have insights that will be about their followers and which posts resonate better than others. These insights will also share details about audience’s demographics, this includes things like top posts, reach, impressions and engagement around posts, along with data on followers like their gender, age and location, for example.

Boosting a post also becomes easy, simply pick a post you’ve already shared on Instagram and add a button encouraging people to take action. You can select a target audience or allow Instagram to suggest targeting for you. After that, your post will be promoted as an ad for any length of time you choose. Very similar to what you do on Facebook with boosting a post to a specific audience for a duration.

Rumors were rife from the beginning of 2016 about Instagram opening up Facebook-like brand pages. The company says that the change comes with business owners demanding better ways to engage with fans. “We’ve grown to 200,000 active advertisers on Instagram, and the vast majority of those are small to medium businesses,” said Instagram’s Global Head of Business and Brand Development, James Quarles, explaining the need for a specialized set of tools for business owners. Talking to TC, he adds, “fifty percent of people follow a business on Instagram, and sixty percent learn about products and services on Instagram.”

At the moment not everyone will qualify as a business on Instagram, however — only those who already have a Facebook Page for their business will be able to convert their account. Business profiles will roll out in the coming months in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and will reach all regions worldwide by the end of the year.

Alogrithm based feed

Along with this recent change, Instagram has been in the news for letting an algorithm decide its feed, much like theFacebook News Feed. The company that very recently stripped its logo and apps in a bid to modernize it, announced in March 2016 that it is testing an algorithm-based feed that is personalized based on past behaviors. (Read more: Facebook’s news feed changes, latest being a positive move)

From here on Instagram will no longer feature familiar reverse chronological ordered photos and videos that most of us love. The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. “As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.”

In an interview with the The New York Times, Kevin Systrom, co-founder and chief executive of Instagram, justified the change by saying that Instagram users are missing 70 percent of the posts made to their Instagram feeds: “What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.”

The feature will be rolled out in the coming months and it will get better with time as the Facebook News Feed has evolved in last so many years. “We’re going to take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way. You’ll see this new experience in the coming months.”

From a user perspective I will get to see posts (images/videos) based on my preference which is okay but then the least popular ones will get lost. There are pros and cons to this upcoming change, says Marty Weintraub, founder of AimClear while taking to Marketing Land.

“A con to some is that friends don’t see ALL of their followings ALL the time. Still, it’s pretty tough to keep track of gazillions of friends, many of whom are active. Algo feeds are actually better for many users. Personally, I like only seeing what I’m interested in as evidenced by my previous behavioral affinities. Ironically, what’s good for users can also be good for platforms.

Algo feeds leave room for ads — and the same data which is used to filter feeds may also drive ad targeting. That’s a big win-win, and it’s why social platforms like Facebook and Instagram sometimes turn out to be monstrously huge business players.”

The change has a wider effect going further, favoring brands. Not only Instagram will keep making changes to the feed as and when required, this will also help better targeting of ads. Looking at how Facebook has grown, it would not be surprising to see a drop in organic reach on Instagram by next year, so that brands and creators increase their ad budgets.

Instagram is indeed  evolving into another Facebook but it is going to be a better one. Mark has been running Facebook for more than a decade now and obviously he won’t make the same mistakes while developing Instagram as a brand paradise.