I participate in a lot of social media Facebook groups and generally get involved in social media discussions happening on Twitter or Instagram.
Lately, a lot of people have been raising the question…
“Should I convert from a personal Instagram profile to a business profile?”
Short answer: yes, if you’re operating as a brand or influencer, this switch will be beneficial.
This post details the common concerns of switching to a Business profile, and discusses the benefits of doing so, like…
- Why switching to a business profile won’t inherently lower your reach or engagement
- Instagram analytics and how you can manipulate the data to gather insight about your presence and followers
- The extra contact methods Instagram business profiles offer
- The importance of having access to Instagram advertising
Will Switching to Instagram Business Impact Reach of My Posts?
There’s a popular idea that Facebook, after going public, began intentionally decreasing reach of business pages to boost advertising revenue.
And since Facebook owns Instagram, there’s a fear that Instagram Business profiles will receive the same treatment.
There have already been a number of people claiming as much — that their reach and engagement fell after switching to an Instagram Business profile.
Seems like a nice thought on the surface, but…
It’s unlikely Facebook and Instagram are engaging in a wide-scale, secret conspiracy to coerce their users into spending money on ads.
Given that there hasn’t been any past or present employee indicating the algorithm is intentionally killing reach of business pages to artificially boost ad revenue, and that there haven’t been any formal studies backing up this assumption, it’s safe to say it’s likely not happening.
A more likely explanation for declining reach is that Facebook and Instagram:
- Continue to see a growing number of active users and brand pages, so naturally, the feed is a more competitive arena than it used to be.
- Want to preserve the user experience, so the algorithm has gotten more strict in judging quality of content.
- Don’t want the news feed to be an endless flow of brand promotions (in other words, posts that ultimately say “buy this” or “sign up”), because that presents a poor user experience. So the algorithm is allowing only the most engaging promotional posts to make it through organically. For the remainder of promotional posts that aren’t genuinely engaging, the platforms are reasonably pushing businesses to use the ad platform. After all, if your post’s conclusion is “buy this”, that’s an ad. If you want to post an ad, then pay for an ad. The platform has no obligation to offer free ad space.
Think about it this way.
The feed on both networks has the same capacity as it’s always had.
Additionally, hashtag Explore pages on Instagram — where much engagement occurs — still only have nine top spots.
However, the number of people competing for space in the feed and competing for those nine top spots on hashtag Explore pages has increased substantially over time, as the user base and brand usage of both platforms has skyrocketed.
So, the likelihood that your posts will consistently make it into the feed organically or win one of those top nine hashtag spots is far lower than in the past.
As a result, people are seeing less reach and less engagement, unless their content is consistently great and their follower base is very active.
More competition in the feeds = less exposure = less engagement, unless your content is consistently exceptionally good (as should always be the goal).
More brands posting promotional posts (ads) = a crackdown on how often promotional posts show in the feed = a push to force businesses to use the ad platform for promotional posts.
To my knowledge and in my estimation, those attributing less reach and engagement specifically to business profiles/pages haven’t presented any compelling evidence backing up this claim.
So, in the meantime, we’ll go with the next best (and more simple) explanations outlined above.
The Benefits of Instagram Business Profiles
Now, having established that switching to a business profile doesn’t bring any inherent penalty with it, let’s talk about what benefits business profiles currently offer…
- Access to Analytics
- Improved Contact Features
- Access to Advertising
1) Access to Analytics
Marketing is generally a fruitless endeavor if you’re not measuring the results and consistently finding ways to improve.
Social media isn’t exempt from that rule.
While Instagram Analytics doesn’t yet provide anywhere near the depth of Facebook Insights, there’s still useful data that you can manipulate to get basic metrics and observe trends.
Total Reach, Impressions, and Engagement
These are all standard measures, but they provide a baseline for knowing if your presence is improving or not.
Instagram provides a nice filter feature that allows you to rank your posts using the criteria shown below.
- Reach is the total number of unique views your post received.
- Impressions is the total number of views your post received (in other words, impressions can be higher than reach, if someone looked at the post twice).
- Engagement includes all comments and likes. I don’t believe the engagement data includes video views.
Using these totals, we can do some quick calculations to gain a little more insight from our raw data.
Yes, there are some tools that aggregate this information or do these calculations for you, but they’re really not worth the cost at this point, since there’s not much data to manipulate or gain insight from.
Average Monthly Engagement Per Post
First, go into your analytics and filter top posts by Engagement.
I like to do this at the beginning or end of each month using the “last 30 days” filter, so I can compare average engagement per post on a month-to-month basis.
It’s not 100% accurate, of course, since some months have more/less days, but it provides a close enough estimate to see if I’m improving over time.
Once you have that filter applied, add up engagement from all your posts in the last 30 days, then divide that sum by the total number of posts in the 30 day period.
Example: if I had 3,000 total engagements and posted 20 times in that 30 day period, my average monthly engagement per post for that time period would be 150 (3,000 / 30).
This is your average monthly engagement per post.
You could use this metric at any time, but the real benefit is to do it on a specific day each month so you can analyze trends.
If you keep track of this metric every month in Excel, you can easily build a graph to show whether your average monthly engagement is trending up, down, or staying the same.
Engagement as a Percentage of Total Followers
This is a good, simple one.
Again, filter your top posts by Engagement using the “last 30 days” option, the same as the section above.
Then, add up the total engagement for all posts in the last 30 days and divide that by the total number of followers you have. Multiply by 100 (to change from a decimal to a percentage).
Example: if I had 100 total engagements and 1,000 followers, my engagement as a percentage of total followers in the last 30 days would be 10% (100 / 1000 * 100).
As before, the value of this metric is in the month-to-month comparison.
If you record this metric for 4-6 months and observe a downward trend, you might assume your strategy needs re-working.
- Maybe you need to look into using more or different hashtags to get more reach and hit audiences you haven’t saturated yet.
- Ask yourself if the quality of your content has suffered lately.
- Start posing more questions in your posts and captions to generate more conversation, which helps boost your post in the feed.
Website Traffic / Clickthroughs
Beyond building brand awareness, one major goal of Instagram, or any social platform, is driving people to your website where they can opt in or make a purchase — convert to a customer.
So, it’s a good habit to monitor any traffic Instagram is providing.
If you want a quick overview, Instagram tracks this metric on a weekly basis if you scroll through the top portion of your analytics page.
Personally, I think it’s difficult to get any meaningful insight out of the way this data is presented without tediously keeping an Excel sheet every week.
It’s much easier to just check your traffic from Instagram in Google Analytics.
If you have Google Analytics installed, you can do this easily by going to Acquisition > Social > Overview.
Your Instagram traffic numbers will be listed in the table on the right, as shown below.
Bonus: install the Google Analytics Social Dashboard described here and that will give you a great breakdown of traffic from social media.
Instagram Stories: Impressions, Reach, Exits, and Replies
Instagram Stories are the 24-hour disappearing posts that show in the circles at the top of your app.
In the words of Instagram, Stories “allow you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile.”
Stories are useful for documenting moments throughout your day or within your business that are worthy of sharing, but aren’t necessarily worthy of a permanent post on your profile.
As shown above, Instagram provides analytics about your past Stories similar to analytics for posts.
For Stories, you have…
Exits refer people closing out of your story before the full timer has expired and Replies refer to the number of people who Direct Message you in response to your story.
The main insight I can see being gathered from Stories analytics is simply determining what type of content performs best.
- Are you asking people to reply to your stories, and what impact is that having?
- Are your stories too long, leading people to exit prematurely before you’ve had time to deliver your full value?
- Are still-photo stories getting more engagement and replies compared to video stories?
It’s difficult to do any formal analysis on the minimal data provided, but getting a bird’s eye view and using intuition is a positive first step to improving your presence.
Demographics and Follower Activity
It always helps to know who you’re communicating with.
Instagram provides demographic information about your follower base, as shown below.
- Gender breakdown
- Age range
- Age range by gender
Instagram also gives information about the:
- Location of your followers by city and country
- What days of the week your followers are most active
- What times on each day of the week your followers are most active
This goes a long way into crafting your messages to appeal to your audience, and also provides insight about how often you should post on Instagram and at what times for maximum engagement.
While the analytics provided by Instagram are fairly basic at the moment, they do provide valuable insight and allow you to monitor improvement of your brand’s presence. Also, it’s likely they’ll eventually expand this area, allowing you to export data similar to Facebook Insights, which opens the door to much more in-depth analysis.
2) Improved Contact Features
Prior to business profiles, the only method of reaching out to a brand was through a direct message (DM) or finding their website.
With many companies, especially smaller, not responding that frequently to DMs, you were often left in the dark or sent on a hunt for a contact page.
Instagram offers a convenient Contact feature in business profiles, as shown below.
Upon clicking Contact, you’re given the option to email, call, or get directions to the business (depending on what the account owner has set up as contact methods).
It wouldn’t surprise me if Instagram eventually allows this button to be customized to a degree, similar to the call-to-action buttons on Facebook pages.
Another benefit of this Contact option is improved account security.
I’ve seen a number of people with email addresses in their bio, encouraging people to contact them for business opportunities, customer support, and so on.
If this email address is the same the email address you use to log in to Instagram, you’re giving hackers (and their bots that scrape accounts for info) an easy first step to taking over your account.
The Contact button allows you to seamlessly funnel people to an email address, without sacrificing account security.
3) Access to Instagram Advertising
With over 600 million active users and that growth expected to continue in the future, Instagram is undoubtedly a viable advertising medium.
After switching to a business profile, you’ll have access to easily promote your posts from within Instagram and create sponsored posts within Facebook’s ad platform or Power Editor.
Instagram Ad Options and Effectiveness
Instagram offers photo, video, and carousel advertising options.
Each ad type has a clear call-to-action button directly below the ad (e.g. Shop Now, Sign Up, Learn More).
More importantly, research shows that ads are well-received by users.
- Instagram claims average ad recall is almost 3x higher than average ad recall on other social platforms.
- A 2014 study from Forrester Research found that consumers were 58x more likely to engage an Instagram ad than a Facebook ad, and 120x more likely compared to Twitter.
2014 statistic…take it for what it’s worth. It’s likely those numbers have gone down as there’s a higher concentration of ads on Instagram today. And probably more “low quality ads” today, since that stat is mostly based on only big-name companies with solid branding and creative having early ad access.
Instagram Ad Targeting
With the backing of Facebook’s ad platform, Instagram ads are an equally dominant option.
Instagram also fits right in with the growing popularity of visual commerce currently running the digital and social media world.
As with Facebook, you can target Instagram ads based on a large number of demographics, including:
- Financial Status
- Ethnic Affinity
Even better, you can target custom audiences and lookalike audiences just the same as with Facebook.
With custom audiences, you can target users based on email address, visits to your site, visits to a specific page on your site, and plenty more.
This goes a long way to improving conversions and re-targeting people who have previously interacted with your brand’s website or made a past purchase.
In my estimation, Instagram ads have potential to be just as powerful and targeted as Facebook ads when used strategically.
Overall, if you’re a brand or influencer trying to enhance your Instagram presence, switching to a business profile is a bit of a no-brainer.
There is no formal data or credible evidence backing the notion that business profiles are inherently “penalized” by the algorithm, and having access to analytics, improved contact methods for your followers, and advertising is absolutely worthy of transition.