Instagram Business Profile vs. Facebook Business Pages
There is no doubt that Instagram is the platform of the day, recently passing the billion active users milestone, and hosting more than 500 million Stories from users every day. However, some business users are growing concerned, despite that enormous growth, that Instagram may adopt the same approach that Facebook did with its Pages. Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, it’s a natural concern, especially since it would mean that the reach for Instagram business pages would be diminished, as the platform pushes brands into using its paid ad options.
Facebook’s Pages approach
Over a long period of time, Facebook gradually went from providing support for businesses to reach all users liking their Page, to reducing that ability little by little. According to Facebook, the intent was to improve the user experience. It certainly was true that as more brands populated Facebook, users were becoming inundated with all the content from these brands, and it was tending to drown out posts from family and friends.
Facebook was concerned that users who were experiencing difficulty receiving posts they really cared about from acquaintances, would abandon the platform in favor of one less troubled by brand updates. So there certainly were some grounds for Facebook’s action, but it’s also true that it played directly into Facebook’s overarching business strategy, which was to reduce organic reach, following the point where a business had established a dependence on Facebook traffic.
This then, forced businesses to pay for that continued reach, and essentially directed them into Facebook’s business hierarchy on a paying basis. The end result of all that is that at the present time, the vast majority of Facebook Pages are fortunate to be reaching single-digit percentages of their Page followers. This is exactly the scenario that business users are hoping to avoid on Instagram.
Instagram’s new approach
It has become very obvious that Instagram has dramatically increased ad exposure on its platform, and it is reported that Instagram has been pressured by Facebook to at least double the volume of ads over last year’s displays. This has spurred Instagram into developing more options for ad placement. In June of this year, Instagram provided new ad units on its feed for Explore.
More recently, it has been reported that Instagram will rollout a test affecting its Stories feature where back-to-back ads will be highlighted as a means of increasing the potential for revenue generation. Of course, it will be hard to predict what the impact will be on user experience, since the Explore ads weren’t particularly intrusive, and it doesn’t seem like back-to-back Stories ads would be either. However, Instagram is still under the gun to find additional ad options, even if they aren’t as successful as planned, so you can expect to see more ads in your feed in the near future.
The new direction
Given the fact that Instagram is seemingly being pressured to introduce more and more ads for businesses, it could very well be that the concerns expressed by business users might be legitimate and well-founded. The new direction which Instagram is obliged to embark upon might be exactly what business users have long feared. Probably the most effective way for Instagram to increase ad spend would be by reducing the organic reach of business users.
There have already been rumors swirling about how Instagram is quietly taking steps to reduce the reach of posts to no more than 7% of the total following for any given brand. Of course, many of those rumors started up in response to the natural fears expressed by businessmen. It should be remembered though that Facebook does provide Instagram with a vehicle for urging businesses toward paying ads.
It’s also true that there has been a natural decline in the reach for many Instagram business pages, according to a report published by Trust Insights. This report notes that the average engagement rates on Instagram for brand accounts, have clearly been sliding for a number of months already, and that this decline appears to be continuing.
The Facebook model
While it’s quite natural that there should be some kind of decline in reach on Instagram’s business pages, the inescapable fact is that Facebook’s business model was explicitly announced as much as three years ago, and that model seems likely to be adopted by Instagram. When CEO Mark Zuckerberg reviewed Facebook’s monetization strategy for all its assets, he announced a very specific three stage process.
In the first stage, it would be necessary to provide a product that everyone loved. Next, it would be necessary to facilitate and encourage organic business activity on that app, and make it available free of charge. The third and most crucial step would be to provide additional methods for businesses seeking to increase their presence on the platform, and to expand their reach.
While Zuckerberg did not explicitly reference anything beyond these three steps, it can be inferred that the third step would impose a limiting action on the second step, and that brands would then be forced to pay for their advertising reach. In effect, the unspoken fourth step would be to reduce organic activity so that paid activity could be dramatically increased.
The Instagram model
Knowing that Facebook has adopted this model for business activity, and that it encourages usage of the same model for all its assets, it isn’t hard to figure out that it is very likely Instagram will be adopting the Facebook model in the very near future. The only real question is how quickly that will happen, and exactly what the impact will be on business users.
This means that the smart business user should anticipate a decline in referral traffic, and should begin to plan right now for an alternative strategy with regard Instagram. Other options which may be appropriate for some businesses could include influencer marketing, since that could provide an alternative method of increasing reach among your followers. Success with one influencer could lead to success with several influencers, and that might serve to cover the decline of your organic reach on Instagram.
In any case, Instagram business users would be wise to expect that a shift is coming on the platform, and that your brand is likely to be urged toward more paying options for advertising. A little foresight and planning right now could help you to avoid a serious drop-off in user reach, with a resulting reduction of revenues. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.