This past year, Instagram reached a tipping point. Everyone now knows about it, thanks to a $1 billion purchase by Facebook and a strong, engaged community of photographers worldwide. Brands such as mine jumped on the bandwagon…quickly creating accounts and evaluating their visual storytelling style in order to connect with this broad, engaged community, despite the CEO’s admission that there was no revenue model on the horizon.

This weekend, I saw a couple of posts on Instagram that looked like this:


And were accompanied by something along the lines of:

It looks like [insert brand name here] is buying up Instagram followers…not sure if this is legit, but I’ll do it anyway!

First off, this is not an unrealistic behavior. People on the internet don’t just like their freebies. THEY LOVE THEM. But, let’s do the math. Let’s say that the example on the left is true. Retailer H&M promises their first 20,000 followers on Instagram a $75 gift card, just for following them on Instagram. That means that H&M has decided that each Instagram follower is worth not $75, but more than that. Otherwise, there is no way that their fraud/loss team agrees to that deal.

But let’s, for the sake of argument, say that they write that off as “acquisition fees” and somehow get their analysts to agree this is a great idea. The next part of that equation is getting someone to agree to writing a $1.5 million check for all those gift cards. To some people, that’s small potatoes…their media budget doesn’t even get dented by that number. But for most, that’s not a small amount.

And let’s not forget…Instagram offers absolutely ZERO way to track engagement for brands. You can’t click a link from the app unless it is in your profile and you have absolutely NO IDEA how many impressions any individual image receives. All of these things are a no go for marketers.

I think Colin may have said it best:


This may seem a bit judgmental, but a little common sense goes a long way here. And just in case you were wondering, H&M already has a gorgeous Instagram account.

Now, there are some viable solutions to how to keep people from falling for stuff like this besides common sense. Unfortunately, those all fall on Instagram actually adding some pieces of functionality to their popular application with their small team under Facebook’s direction. I doubt these are new ideas, but I believe that if Instagram were to add them to their roadmap, they’d see even more popularity and (gasp!) possible profitability.

Verified Accounts

This is something that was HUGE for Twitter. That blue checkmark next to someone’s name, especially for celebrities, became the new American Express Black Card for a while.

Sponsored Posts and Accounts

This is something that I think brands would actually pay for. It works really well for Twitter and it’s working extremely well for Facebook (despite how annoying it is to brands).

Algorithmic Tweaks for Popular Posts

If you’ve ever looked at the “Popular” tab on Instagram, the majority of posts are nonsensical madness that somehow have several thousand likes. Usually they are from overseas and rarely are they photos that were originally taken inside of the app. Maybe I’m out of touch with what is interesting and engaging to the Instagram community, but some big improvements could be made for discovering new content.

So those are my quick thoughts on ways to improve Instagram. What are yours?

Author: Shane

Shane Adams is a marketer, designer, blogger and preacher man who lives in the Kansas City area with his beautiful artist wife Alli and his corn-chip-smelling dog, Dreyfuss.

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