Initially launched as a free photo-sharing social app back in October 2010, Instagram started out as a place for people, not businesses. But as the platform rapidly grew in popularity, notably passing 100 million active users less than two year later, businesses began to sit up and take note.

Acquired by Facebook in April 2012, we all knew what was coming; Instagram would soon begin its journey down the road of serious, unbridled monetisation. For better or worse, Silicon Valley’s prodigal son had to justify its $1bn investment.

The changes didn’t happen overnight as some of us were expecting, with Instagram only beginning to roll out advertising options in 2015. But the pace of evolution has picked up, with Instagram recently announcing a whole raft of changes to how businesses can interact with and better integrate with Instagram. We give you ‘Instagram Business Tools’.

Instagram Business Tools: Everything You Need to Know

According to Instagram, its new ‘Business Tools’ are the result of careful listening to businesses. Its findings? Businesses on Instagram want to ‘stand out, get insights and find new customers’. Nothing new there, then. Whatever the real reason driving these changes to Instagram, the experience for businesses and, therefore, consumers is about to get a whole lot different.

Below is our comprehensive guide to everything you need to know to get ready for when Instagram Business Tools is rolled out in the UK later this year.

Business Profiles

Partly solving their understandable desire to stand out, businesses will now be able to sign up for a free business profile. Slightly different from a regular profile, businesses will be able to use their profile to choose how customers get in touch with them.

Whether it’s a call, text or email, a tap of the new ‘contact’ button will give customers a direct line for purchases. While this is nothing earth-shattering, and we’re a little surprised this hasn’t been implemented earlier, new profile layouts will help businesses see better returns from advertising campaigns and even organic social efforts. But it’s the extra features and opportunities having a business profile unlocks that is most interesting and compelling about this latest update.

Analytics

First Facebook, then Twitter, and now Instagram. Analytics has become an important feature of every major social network. No longer are businesses – and even individuals – happy to hit and hope, or use instinct to predict what content works best for them.

Signing up for a business profile gives users access to ‘insights’, which Instagram says ‘give businesses actionable information about who their followers are and which posts resonate better than others…’ Expect this to be very similar to the sort of information delivered by Facebook and Twitter. That is, impressions, reach and engagements.

Essentially, these insights present an opportunity for businesses to streamline their social media activity, discovering the best times to post which piece of content. It’s simple, but potentially effective, especially for small businesses who haven’t necessarily got the time to analyse their own figures.

Promoted Content

If you’ve ever been involved with a ‘page’ on Facebook, you’ll be familiar with the ability to ‘boost’ your posts. Well, you’ll be relieved to know that a similar feature is coming to Instagram. Clearly, covering the ‘find new customers’ angle, businesses will now be able to ‘turn well-performing posts into ads’ at the click of a button.

The process is pretty much identical to Facebook’s. Pick a post, add a call to action, select a target audience (or have Instagram do it for you) and promote it for a given amount of time. This was, of course, where Instagram was always heading and is the clearest sign yet of the sort of direction Facebook ownership is taking the photo sharing platform in.

So, there we have it; a raft of changes for Instagram. And while they may not be anything we haven’t seen before on other platforms, the changes represent a fairly significant development in Instagram’s shift to the “dark-side” of paid advertising.

Having said that, businesses will likely relish the opportunity to better engage with and profit from users of one of the biggest social networks. For the reason of popularity alone, we’d recommend getting plans in place to build a big brand presence on Instagram before these changes come into force later in 2016. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Digital Visitor is a social media agency specialising in influencer PR and marketing campaigns across a wide range of industries. Click here to find out more and get in touch today…