The 5 Fears of Switching to an Instagram Business Profile

In 2016, Kurt Wagner noted that Instagram was building features specifically for businesses. When Instagram introduced the 'business profile', the social networking platform encouraged brands to switch from the original personal profile to a business profile. 

Since then, many people have switched over to the business profile, which has a lot of cool features, like the ability to see analytics information on how posts are performing and on the demographic makeup of a profile’s followers. Buttons are also visible on business profiles, while they are absent on personal profiles. 

Left: an Instagram Business Profile with buttons to send a message or an email. Right: an Instagram Personal Profile without the buttons.

Left: an Instagram Business Profile with buttons to send a message or an email. Right: an Instagram Personal Profile without the buttons.

While each new feature is a nice benefit, I have observed conversations online that surface several fears relating to making the switch from personal to business profile on Instagram. My goal with this post is to address each of these fears head-on. 

First, the fear of no return

People are afraid that they’ll switch to a business profile and then dislike it and not be able to return. This is a myth: just so you know, there is a fail-safe. If you don’t like having a business profile, you can switch back to a personal profile.

Second, the fear of limitations

Only personal profiles can link to multiple Facebook Pages. I don’t imagine this being much of an issue for most people. If you have multiple Facebook Pages, you can still promote all of them and publish to all of them through third-party scheduling apps. 

Third, the fear of going public

Business profiles must be public. If your personal profile settings are switched to “private”, only people who allow to follow you can see your posts. When you switch to a business profile, you lose the option to make posts private. This functionality has a flair of common sense to it—if you’re using Instagram for business, you most likely want your posts to be public anyway—so people can see your content and possibly buy your products or sign up for your services. This is a no-brainer unless you have some sort of rare exclusive brand where impressions are less important than the value you might receive by making people request to get access. 

Fourth, the fear of inauthenticity

Many people express a fear that being a “business” on Instagram makes you less authentic and more “salesy.” Visually, your profile doesn’t change much when you switch, except for details like the call to action links that show up under your bio. The only way to look inauthentic is to publish inauthentic content. The features are tools, but they do not change what your brand is all about.

If you are using Instagram for an actual business, it’s more authentic to be transparent about the fact that you are running a business. There are many ways that businesses build authenticity. You don’t have to trick your followers into following your business by disguising it with a personal profile. 

Fifth, the fear of punishment 

Many people express fear that by switching to a business profile, Instagram will reward their efforts less, or rather punish them through the algorithm, and their reach and engagement will falter.

Also, fear of the unknown

This also is a 'fear of the unknown'—a fear that stems from the fact that it’s hard to understand what really goes on 'underneath the hood’ at Instagram. Kurt Wagner at Recode interviewed Christina d’Avignon, a product designer for the Instagram feed. When Wagner asked if verified users or business accounts ranked higher in the feed than regular users, d’Avignon responded, “We treat everyone the same.” This goes the other way too, then. Business accounts shouldn’t rank lower than personal accounts if we take d’Avignon at her word that everyone is treated the same. 

Caley Dimmock’s observations

I like Caley Dimmock’s study—this numbers-based approach is better than reading people’s anecdotal blog entries about their Instagram fears. In her study, Caley observes a group of personal profiles and a group of business profiles and reports on the median engagement rate. While Caley doesn’t account for all variables, and doesn’t compare the same accounts in personal profile and business profile stages, the comparison does comprise a fair amount of profiles, so the post provides some insight into engagement rates. Depending on the size of the following, the personal profiles had more engagement in some cases, and the business profiles had more engagement in other cases. Also, the percentages are rather close. At 95% confidence (meaning plus or minus 5%), some percentage pairs could be considered even, meaning there might be a small impact or no impact at all to switching. 

For a moment, let’s say the study was conclusive and that you will lose 1-5% engagement on your posts by switching to a business profile. Here is a hypothetical scenario in which it’s true that you will lose 5% reach if you switch to a business profile. For example, you might have 1,000 followers and 10% engagement. If you switch to a business profile and take advantage of third-party apps for scheduling (saving hours of your time) and the extra profile links (getting more leads and making it easier for people to act), wouldn’t that be worth the loss of 5%? What if switching helps you grow your profile from 1,000 to 5,000? If you had started with 10% engagement on 1,000 followers (which is 100 followers engaging on each post), that’s the same as 2% engagement on a 5,000-follower profile (still 100 followers engaged on each post). That’s an 8% loss—but remember, in our hypothetical scenario, you’re only losing 5%. If you’re knocked down to 5% engagement from 10%, you could grow from 1,000 to 2,000 followers and come out even. 

Focus on the right metrics

But it’s not just about followers. Engagement is an indirect metric; it indirectly impacts your bottom line. If people comment and like your posts, that doesn’t mean they will buy. A direct metric could be a click on the link to your product page or a phone call to your sales team. With the business profile, you get action buttons, meaning Instagram users can take new actions when visiting your profile, and those actions include finding your store on a map, visiting a product page, sending you an email to start the sales relationship, or call you to find out more. These are actions that are closer to the bottom line for your business. Do you fear a loss in engagement more than you enjoy a boost in metrics that reflect true leads and conversions? Look at yourself in the mirror and be honest: do you care more about vanity metrics than metrics that indicate business success? Don’t obsess over one metric at the exclusion of other great metrics for success.

Calculate the net impact

By switching to a business profile and taking advantage of all it gives you to impact your bottom line—even if you lost a some reach and engagement—you, perhaps in the worst scenario, come out even. Even if the rumors are true that engagement is impacted (and they might just be rumors), do the math. A slight drop in engagement might be worth all that you will gain for your business by using the features available to those who manage Instagram business profiles. 

Overcoming your fears

You’re reading this post because you honestly want to know if you should switch to a business profile. You might even feel a lot of anxiety about this specific choice. Now, you have the knowledge to make that decision. If you do switch over, let me know in the comments! Follow @apiarity on Instagram to get more social media tips in your feed. Learn something new every day.