Instagram Advertising - A Slippery Slope

Aditya Kumar

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Five years ago, Facebook pages were judged by the number of followers they had. You could happily sign sponsorship deals based on your thousands (or millions) of followers, irrespective of how many shady-looking Russian women were following your business page or your personal profile.

Any page post would be distributed to every single profile, guaranteeing you thousands of eyeballs. Which made page-engagement fantastic, until Facebook decided to restrict the number of your followers who would see your posts — down to a single digit percentage. So engagement dwindled, small businesses suffered, and the larger ones needed to account for a FaceBook engagement budget. But the ever-present Boost Post was an easy way to make sure your own fans would get to see your content.

Engaging content is still King, but we’ll have to discuss that in another blog. Now the only way to catch the attention of your fans is to boost your posts.

The much-talked-about algorithm behind Facebook is the now-defunct EdgeRank. You can read more about how defunct it is over here. But going by all the data present, the logic behind Facebook algorithms is still strong, which seems to mirror the exact same logic that was used five years ago.

 Shift to present-day Instagram.

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Using a new and different hashtag almost always brings you a whole new bunch of followers, a lot of whom have just a single post of their own. Instagram pages enjoy seemingly unrestricted views from their followers who are bombarded with more images (and more ads). And the more popular individuals are slowly being nudged to shift their personal profiles to business pages, with the lure of smarter analytics and a better quality of followers.

It’s not going to be long before your images will reach only a percentage of your fans. Then, the only way to reach your entire fan base would be to boost your Instagram posts (just like Facebook made you do in 2014). Speaking of, it won’t be long before Facebook scrubs its entire user-base, leaving you with a lot less attractive Russian followers.

 When Instagram was born

Even in the early months of 2013 — a period in my advertising life I termed “Power Editor Hell” — Facebook’s targeting features were far ahead of what can be done within the native Instagram app. Power Editor was Facebook’s version of Adwords Editor with massive features and massive bugs.
Aggressive eCommerce clients needed campaigns measured by sales and not clicks. All the hacks and tricks under the sun were used to break a fledgling EdgeRank Algorithm. Conversion trackers placed on homepages would result in EdgeRank assuming high conversions, consequently dropping CPCs by 90% and increasing conversion rates by 5x.

All this madness was clamped down upon by 2015. But even today, we see more than our fair share of businesses trying to boost their posts. That’s a surefire way of losing money, and revenue is hard to track.

 That was then, and this is now.

Instagram’s marketing still isn’t as advanced as Facebook is — or was, for that matter. It is a dumbed-down version of a page boost. You’ll get a few followers and a few more likes. But if you’re looking at KPIs and revenue, this isn’t going to help you. We’re not there yet.

All Instagram advertising still runs through Facebook, and a lot of companies don’t even know they’re boosting posts that land up on Instagram. As marketers, we need to constantly learn from mistakes and spot weird little patterns so we can predict what can happen to a marketing medium down the line. This time we have it easy; Instagram is Facebook from a few years ago. Sure, it’s catching up, but still making all the same mistakes.

 So, in a nutshell…

Follower-numbers might count now. But they will not be relevant a short while hence. If you are a popular personality, try staving off that switch to a Business Account until it is mandatory. And if you are a niche business, it will help to prune your followers every now and again, keeping your fan base tight and engaged.

Spend some time dabbling with Facebook’s Ads Manager — yes, you can run Instagram ads over there. Or try putting all your accounts under Facebook’s Business Manager and check out what happens.

More on this in another post.

Aditya Kumar heads Performance Strategy at Influx. He holds an engineering degree in electronics and communication, but followed his passion for analytics and strategy. A keen motorcycle enthusiast, it’s very likely you will find Aditya dismantling a motorbike — or riding around on one — when he’s not playing with algorithms.


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