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Instagram Business Profiles | IG Gets Serious, But What Does This Mean For Photographers?

By Kishore Sawh on May 31st 2016

So this is it. Instagram for Businesses is being rolled out. This, for those who haven’t read about IG’s moves in the recent months or who don’t have a bird’s-eye-view of the photography industry, is tantamount to a massive tectonic shift. If you can grasp and accept – even for the sake of argument – that Instagram is *the* visual communication platform for some 400 million people, you should understand that this is one of the most significant shifts for photo producers and consumers since 1-hour print labs.

As Pamela Chen, Editorial Director of Instagram, has said, IG is the source of imagery from the curatorial to the editorial. Simply put, it’s where the images are, and since attention goes where energy flows, it’s also where all the ‘eyes’ are. We always knew IG would become a massive marketing platform, but what these business profiles and business tools mean is, IG has done for imagery what Facebook did more broadly: Made possible multi-hyphenates of us all.

You see, what Facebook did, is make every single person on FB a potential customer to someone, and when they launched business pages they made each of those same people [you and I] potential advertisers as well. Instagram is following suit, and it could greatly affect the photography industry.


The model, unsurprisingly, is extremely familiar and pulled right from Facebook’s black book. It’s minimalistic, and business pages will be free to sign up for, and while that’s subject to change, it would seem unlikely. Now, once you do so, IG will recognize you as a business, and the following three things will occur:

  1. A ‘Contact’ button will appear next to your ‘Follow’ button. Depressing this will bring up another menu that allows a user to contact the business by email, phone or text, and map the business’ location.
    This is actually rather huge. Prior to this, the valuable text space on the profile had to be used to provide this information, detracting from the message, and taxing the space.
  2.  Easily digestible analytics will now be at your fingertips so you can measure more closely, more accurately and with more refinement, the posts that are more successful. It seems you should be able to get an idea of the demographic that is paying attention to you, and to what precisely, and when, and what the interaction was. As such you can strategize the best times of day to post what to whom. These insights will be available to any business account even if the post isn’t a paid ad. Nice.
  3. We all know that momentum is a cruel mistress, and when it’s going our way we want to make the most of it. Instagram is going to make this extremely easy for the user to do by letting them use the insights/analytics to see which posts are doing well, and directly from the app to allow a user to put some dollars behind posts that are doing well.

Interestingly IG will either allow you to pick your own target audience (though to what degree is unclear), or it’ll suggest and target for you, after which you dictate the length of time you want the post to run as an ad.


So how much could IG possibly be generating in revenue? Not that you would particularly care, but it’s interesting to note that technically IG produced no income prior to the launch of its advertising platform late last year, and yet, Credit Suisse is expecting $3.2 billion in revenue for 2016. That’s billion with a diamond ‘B’, and what that suggests is, IG Business Profiles are going to take off.

There’s some suggestion that you’ll be required to have an FB Business page before having one for IG, which would make sense for auto-population and better immediate insights.

What might this signal for photographers?

I’d be a fool to put much weight into my own speculation, but it doesn’t take a savant to put a few pieces together. Up to this point, Instagram ads had been listed as such, as separate posts that vanished after the allotted time, but it’ll be a lot more organic than that now. Now regular posts can be made ads and then they’ll still remain on the user’s page after the fact, just not as an ad.

If we consider this, it suggests that even with the recent algorithmic change, there was no way to actually pay to reach followers. Now though? It would seem, you can.


To that point, the boffins over at IG have said that the purpose of the advertising is to reach new people, who don’t already follow you, but this would seem a bit odd, and almost downplays the value of building an audience from a marketing perspective, so I expect that to change quickly.

This is the point where I think a lot of photographers are going to start thinking drearily about IG; that it just won’t work anymore unless you pour money in; that perhaps, only photographers who spend will reap. But the fact is, the spending has been taking place in different ways, and the spend doesn’t mean they’ll succeed or that you will fail – good content will always be found, and now even faster and by more.

[REWIND: Instagram Just Became Its Most Relevant For Photographers & They Can’t See It]

This shift shouldn’t deter photographers from Instagram, as much as it should incentivize them. Any working pro knows there’s a need to spend on advertising, and this sort of finally legitimizes Instagram as a business platform to advertise on. It certainly should highlight the need for quality content, and what I think this will do, certainly, is remove some of the frivolity that’s rampant on IG, and that would be a welcome change.

The new features are rolling out in Australia and New Zealand first, likely North America by July, and globally by year’s end. Will you be giving IG Business an honest run?

See Instagram’s official statement here.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Shai Bachar

    How much will the service cost?

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  2. Drake Bergens

    From what I’ve seen in my local market (Louisville, KY.) which is a metro area of about 2 million is that successful working photographers with 6 figure incomes have been doing business for 4+ years minimum and their clients all come from referrals & organic reach on Google + social media. None of them spend a single cent on traditional advertising bc they don’t have to. Great people skills + hustle is always a common denominator as well. If people put more attention into building face to face relationships within their local industry i think they’d fair much better then worrying about how mark zuckerberg is collecting his latest paycheck. This is a self professed tangent though, good read by the author.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Thanks for the kind words, and insights Drake. There’s no lack of validity to what you’re saying; Face-to-face relationships are brilliant. That said, it’s just not the only option anymore, and there have been so many success out of proper social marketing and presence. I know models who can’t get certain jobs unless they have a certain amount of followers, and while that’s madness and won’t last, it shows the impact social can have. If you have a look around and see how many micro-businesses have gained traction and dollars via social, even if we don’t like it, we have to take it seriously.

      Personally, I think it’s only going to get stronger in influence. While it’s been a young person’s arena, the proliferation is so high that the demographics who weren’t on it before or less so (ages 45 and up) are wisening up.

      It’s interesting too, that you mentioned organic reach on Google and social, because while paid ads will be there, organic is going nowhere. It will remain key, but the interplay between properly targeted paid ads that can be tracked with ease while you’re on the train (in ways you couldn’t with newspapers and such), and regular posts is going to be very interesting to watch.

      I’ll be sure to post more about this as it rolls out, and I think I may sing up myself, and test it from scratch.

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  3. ‘Tunji Sarumi

    Here we go again…

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    • Eric Mazzone

      Yup. IMHO Facebook making business pages and adding in the paid marketing is what led to teens and young adults leaving FB and switching to IG. Now that FB is making IG a marketing channel the same demographic will be leaving shortly, at least those who remained and haven’t yet ditched IG entirely.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      It’s an interesting perspective Eric. It’s my view that paid ads had nothing to do with the migration from FB to IG for young people, but simply the massive platform shift. Many of the teens and early 20s use Snapchat now, not because of the ads, but because of the immediacy, and fleeting nature of it. Also, video is just more and more popular to consume, nevermind that Facebook just wasn’t as personal as IG Snapchat. the younger generation, I think, left because they communicate through visuals (and audio – look at the app Musically) versus text – and FB is still text communication.

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    • Robin John

      I agree, new and shiny equals young people migration lol

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