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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.