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Instagram officially announces its new business tools

TechCrunch TechCrunch 31/05/2016 Sarah Perez

Instagram this morning officially announced the launch of its tools for business users, including new business profiles, analytics, and the ability to turn Instagram posts into ads directly from the Instagram app itself. The launch comes following a series of leaks and reports of the tools’ imminent launch, and largely confirms details we already knew – like how the profiles would be structured, and what sort of insights on posts and audience demographics would be available.

The company engaged with hundreds of businesses using its platform ahead of developing the tools in order to determine what needs were currently under-served. The business owners told Instagram they wanted better ways to help their profiles and posts stand out, tools that would let them understand their current and prospective customers, and those that would help them acquire new customers.

This led to the creation of business profiles, Insights (analytics), and new tools to promote posts.

“We’ve grown to 200,000 active advertisers on Instagram, and the vast majority of those are small to medium businesses,” says Instagram’s Global Head of Business and Brand Development, James Quarles, explaining the need for a specialized set of tools for business owners. Plus, he adds, “fifty percent of people follow a business on Instagram, and sixty percent learn about products and services on Instagram.”

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As noted before, the new business profiles will allow a subset of Instagram users to upgrade their accounts in order to gain access to an expanded set of features. This includes the added ability to let customers reach out to them via phone calls, emails or texts with a tap, and the profiles will include directions to the business, when applicable.

Not everyone will qualify as a business on Instagram, however – only those who already have a Facebook Page for their business will be able to convert their account.

“In doing that, it gives us the payment credentials, as well as if they want to prepopulate some of the information like their street address, the phone number, and the website,” says Quarles.

It also means that self-promoters on Instagram who use the service to gain notoriety and followers but without a commercial interest won’t be allowed to use some of Instagram’s more desirable new tools, like the Insights feature.

With Insights, businesses will be able to track which of their posts are performing well, and other details about their audience’s demographics. As previously reported, this includes things like top posts, reach, impressions, and engagement around posts, along with data on followers like their gender, age, and location, for example.

The Insights experience is mobile-first – meaning that bigger businesses may use the feature while on the go, while smaller businesses may use Insights as their primary way of tracking their performance on Instagram.

Lastly, Instagram is debuting mobile ad creation. Users will be able to promote well-performing posts and quickly turn them into ads, and the app can also offer suggestions based on the audience and budget. This tool is designed to be something businesses can use with just a few taps, but that does mean there are trade-offs when compared with the more robust Facebook tools for creating Instagram ads, like Power Editor.

For instance, the desktop tools let businesses do things like upload a list of email addresses for targeting purposes, create a landing page pixel, or access more sophisticated reporting capabilities. Instagram’s in-app ad tools are instead focused on simplicity and speed.

That being said, because of Instagram’s ties to Facebook, users can use the mobile tools to define and save custom audiences based on data from Facebook users’ profiles, like gender, age, and location, as well as their individual interests, as pulled from both Instagram and Facebook.

In the future, Instagram’s mobile ad tools may allow users to create different kinds of ads, like those that look to gather customer data for lead generation purposes. Plus, the company is thinking about ways it can “close the loop” when it comes to the ads’ performance.

“We would love to get to a place where we partner with [businesses] to try and track the traffic…a place in the future where we know someone has actually visited the store,” says Quarles.

Business profiles will roll out in the “coming months” in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, and will reach all regions worldwide by the end of the year.

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