Instagram is a network that's growing and on the move. With more than 200 million active monthly Instagram users who share 60 million photos daily, the network is growing and thriving and quickly becoming the next broad-stroke social network of choice across a wide age range.
And yet, with all this success, Instagram can feel like a marketer's worst enemy. After all, it's not set up today to cater to the advertiser at all. Let's take a look at some of Instagram's major flaws.
Links don't work
Brands love Pinterest. Why? Because images they post can link directly back to their websites and actually convert pinners to purchasers. In fact, Pinterest drives more traffic to websites than Twitter, LinkedIn, and Reddit combined, and marketers are seeing $1 to $2 in revenue per pin. But Instagram is a different story. Not only does your image not link to anything, but you cannot use links in the captions. That makes it very difficult for a company's Instagram account to be responsible for referral traffic or directly linked to purchase.
No API access
Instagram is a native application. That means you're using it from your phone and nowhere else. You're not plugging it into your Hootsuite, your Storytellit, or any platform, for that matter. That makes it difficult to manage--and particularly difficult for multiple people to manage.
Limited/expensive advertising (no self serve)
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which have opened self-serve advertising platforms that can help businesses of any size, Instagram's advertising platform is open only to select advertisers--and the ad spends are well north of six figures. To cut through the clutter on Instagram, you have to have great content--you can't pay your way to success.
Because of the ongoing Twitter/Facebook duel, Instagram posts are now blocked through Twitter, which means that if you share that gorgeous filtered photo, users will have to click on a link to see it, versus viewing it in stream. There are some ways around this, but generally, it's just not viewed as an easy network to integrate.
So, after reading this, why would any company ever want to be on Instagram at all?
I'll tell you exactly why: It's because the community is there. In fact, people are spending more time on Instagram than on any other network other than Facebook. This is an engaged audience that's spending a majority of its time there. As Instagram continues to rise and Facebook continues to fall out of favor with the under-25 set, you will see that this will be the No. 1 place to attract engaged fans and build a loyal customer base. It's just that you need to make your content that much better to cut through the clutter--and do it fast, before Instagram becomes as pay to play as its parent company, Facebook.