“I’ll buy the first batch of clothes, create an Instagram profile, post pictures of products and sales will go!” – That’s what many aspiring entrepreneurs think. Instagram application as an ideal platform for selling products with minimum investment, where millions of users are just waiting for a new product is a myth. High-quality and beautiful Pinterest-style photos are no longer enough. But there are other nuances. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t make your Instagram profile your only sales channel.
Unstable platform performance
Bugs in the app and on the Instagram site are not uncommon. In the profile communities, SMM specialists and ordinary users often complain about the incorrect operation of the application. There are various problems: missing menu items or inactive buttons, difficulties with publishing stories and posts both separately and together with the text. In addition, it’s not uncommon for features that were available before to disappear after an app update. Unstable operation of the app entails many additional problems – displacement of the publication schedule, cancellation or postponement of sales, promotions, and other planned activities with the audience. By the way, instagram.com is also occasionally unavailable.
Lack of a number of important features
The Instagram site announces more and more new features, but not all of them will be available for most countries of the world. The most effective promotion strategies on Instagram using absolutely all of the platform’s features right now are only available to U.S. residents. For example, the Instagram Checkout feature (which allows users to make purchases without even leaving the app) is only available in the United States, according to business.instagram.com. In second place in terms of diversity of features is Canada. In Ukraine, Shopping Tags and Checkout are still not fully functional for full interaction with customers, and Reels and music in stories are not available.
Interestingly, the ability to make purchases directly in the app appeared a couple of years ago, then it was tested among authors and commercial accounts from the United States. However, beyond these tests and access for local users, things did not go further. No announcements about this feature for other countries were made.
Fewer advertising options and maneuvers
The app allows you to use a limited list of advertising formats. For example, the “Carousel” advertising format with products and a relevant link separately for each item can only be connected if you have your own site or online store. Inside the Instagram app itself, it is impossible to implement this approach without involving third-party resources and tools. At least until Checkout is connected.
High risk of being banned for no reason
The platform uses an automated system to check users’ actions. Robot bots are aimed at blocking offenders. However, there are cases when the artificial intelligence “misses” and bans people’s personal profiles, commercial and advertising accounts with a completely “white” history, which have not previously been noticed in violation of the platform’s rules. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to remove a profile or advertising account from the ban promptly. This may take up to several weeks or even months. Some accounts will remain in the block without the possibility of recovery.
Playing by platform rules only
Essentially, the platform owns all commercial and non-commercial profiles, and makes its resources available for people to use. The profile does not belong to the user, it can be blocked for any reason (or no reason). It is not a fact that it can be returned. The blocking can happen at any moment, for example during the high season when the company’s sales depend on seasonality, or during the days of campaigns, sales or holidays, when the owner is planning to earn as much as possible. In short, there is a moment of unpredictability. The same goes for the rules of the platform, its usage policy.
Limitations for testing different strategies and audiences
Limited functionality naturally leads to the fact that it is impossible to fully test a particular strategy, approach or tool. Marketing without testing hypotheses (and identifying the most productive of them) is impossible in principle, because this is its essence. All this leads to the inability to know the situation as a whole, to analyze it, to draw conclusions and find the best solution of all possible.
Huge competition for customers’ attention
No matter how you look at it, users come to Instagram for entertainment and communication, and only then – for shopping. The main task of the company is to attract the user and switch his attention from entertainment content to commercial content. And then with the help of consistent actions lead to a purchase. The more companies, the greater the competition. In such an environment, old methods of advertising are losing effectiveness, and newer and fresher approaches, strategies and tools are needed.
Minimum opportunities for organic growth
Of course, much depends on the business niche, but in general the situation is as follows – organic growth on the site is almost impossible. In a sense, it is beneficial for the company itself – more and more users will invest in targeting ads on Instagram itself. If we put aside the conspiracy theory, it turns out that growth is now possible through hashtags and getting into the recommendations section, but the company does not explain how exactly this works. There are no statistics on hashtags, no description of the ranking mechanics for recommendations, and users are offered to act blindly. Or pay for targeting. The price per click goes up as the competition increases.
UPD: Instagram’s openness policy has changed a bit and in June 2021, platform representatives spoke for the first time about the in-app ranking principles. Interestingly, the announcement on the site says that the platform “does not have a single ranking principle.” Allegedly this is a common myth, and in fact there are several methods, principles and mechanics for ranking.
Persistent photo and video quality issues
A pain for many users and SMM-specialists is the low quality of photos and videos after they are uploaded to the app. There is a perception that the cause is the settings and characteristics of the files. Initially, the application was only run on the iPhone, which has its own video settings and codecs that are different from the settings on Android-based smartphones. This leads to additional time and labor costs – users spend time on transcoding or go to other tricks so that the files don’t lose quality. I wrote about how you can solve the problem with the quality of photos here.
Social networks are one of many marketing tools, and they work well and well with the prospect of scaling in a well-built system. Thanks to Instagram you can implement different ideas and test many hypotheses, but it is in conjunction with other channels and tools that it works most fully, dynamically and effectively. A full-fledged marketing plan includes several promotion channels at once in order to reach several target audiences, types of users and convey information about the product to them. It is a holistic and systematic approach in marketing that leads to success. And to profit.
Whatever the nuances of the Instagram app, it also has distinct advantages. First of all, it’s a visual platform where users “love with their eyes.” They like a bright picture, and thanks to the gorgeous visuals a huge number of daily sales are made. That is to say, it is worth bringing out physical products here, which can be advantageously presented through photos, animations and videos.
In addition, the Instagram platform is suitable for testing different techniques, strategies and approaches (of course, with an eye to the nuances above). With its help, it is possible to reach an audience of a few million users by telling about a mass consumption product, or to play “long game” by building a personal brand and then converting into sales.
The main thing is to understand that the rules of the game can change at any moment, which means that it is worth developing at least 1-2 more channels in parallel, so that in case of account blocking or other force majeure you will not lose all your assets and communication with clients and customers at once.