Some brands and influencers are beginning to change their public accounts to private Instagram accounts, or create new accounts which are private from the get-go.
Adding a barrier to followers wanting to follow you may seem like a strange idea, however, it is gaining traction. So, we decided to find out why—and whether it is something you need to consider doing for your brand.
Why brands are making their private Instagram accounts
Setting your private Instagram accounts means that only people who follow you could see and engage with your content. Even when you are using popular hashtags, your posts will still be hidden from these searches.
It also means that any non-followers who want to see your content must submit a follow request.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Reid Hailey, the founder of Doing Things—an agency that manages Instagram pages with a total of over 14 million followers—mentioned that when one of his big accounts was public it was rising at a rate of 10,000 new followers per week. Once he switched the account to private, that number jumped to 100,000—an impressive increase.
Hailey sees it as a method around Instagram’s algorithm change and stagnating follower counts.
“When you are public, people just always see your stuff and they do not feel the need to follow you,” he told The Atlantic. “It did not really become a mainstream thing until the algorithm began hitting hard I’d say about six months ago or so. People are hurting for growth. Lots of meme pages are not really growing.”
If your brand is considering making the move to a private account, consider these advantages:
1. There’s already a trend toward privacy and personalized content
The private Instagram account trend can be a result of the broader trend of users and brands moving towards smaller, closed groups. We have seen this occur with the rising popularity of Facebook Groups.
By limiting the number of people who could see your posts, you are suggesting to the followers that you care more about quality content than reach. Followers will also feel the content you share is tailored just for them, as they are a member of the private area you have to arrange for them.
2. It creates a sense of exclusivity
Why have you put a bouncer on the door to your content? Why is it so exclusive? Why? Tell me!
The FOMO is real.
Making your Instagram private could not only help make your current followers feel valued but also make new followers curious. FOMO may come in handy when you are launching new products, for example. You are rewarding your most loyal followers with an exclusive first look, and giving newbies a reason to follow you.
Everybody likes to feel that they are getting a deal or an exclusive look.
3. It might help you get more followers
As mentioned above in this article, by going private people must follow you to find out what sort of content you are posting. Brands have struggled to see their follower numbers rise since Instagram’s algorithm change, so going private serves as a method to navigate these updates.
There is a reason this private Instagram account trend has been picked up by meme accounts. They know their content is highly shareable between friends. By going private, any time one of their followers shares a post with a non-follower, that non-follower will be enticed to follow the account in order to see the content their friend shared with them.
4. Keep those followers you’ve gained since going private (potentially)
Similar to having to request to follow you, there is also an extra notification that pops up if a fan tries to unfollow you.
Not like a public page, where it is a one-click button to unfollow somebody, private pages ask followers if they are really sure that they want to unfollow you.
This little extra step can potentially have an influence on your retention rates when it comes to follower numbers, making people think twice before unfollowing you.
5. It gives you more control
This may seem like a strange argument, however, bear with me.
By going non-public you could cultivate the type of followers and fans you want to have as a brand. Social for brands should be about genuine connections and providing value to your followers.
Social media by its very definition is public—however, followers may not be willing to provide with honest feedback or share a connection with you as a brand in these open spaces. By having a small, private area, you could give your brand the room and control it needs to facilitate these genuine connections and provide value to followers on that 1:1 level.
Plus you could weed out and ban any trolls immediately.
Why switching to a private Instagram account may not be right for you
So we have told you the reasons you need to consider taking your Instagram account private as a brand, however, what are the catches?
You can’t change a business account to private
You must change your business account back to a personal one in order to make it private. That means you lose analytics and the power to run Instagram adverts and promoted content.
It is especially telling that Instagram doesn’t permit business accounts to be private Instagram accounts—suggesting it is not a trend that they want to promote. It could also mean that Instagram may penalize accounts they deem are ‘gaming’ the system by switching their accounts private.
That is probably the largest downside to switching your profile to private.
Potential followers might be turned off
People have no cause to follow you beyond a FOMO factor—and you run the risk of annoying people by hiding your content behind a follow request.
That is very true when you give somebody access to your account, only for them to find out your content is not what they were looking for. Some people may feel duped into following you, which may lead to a longer-term dislike of your brand.
Your content won’t show up in searches
As mentioned above, even when you use hashtags on a private account, your content won’t show up in public feeds, including the Explore page. You also will not be able to embed your content on a website, or link to it either.
All this could have a dramatic effect on your brand’s ability to improve exposure to potential new followers and customers.
So, should your brand change its Instagram account to private?
Turning private Instagram accounts can be used as a short-term strategy (for example, if you are launching a new product) to help build excitement and exclusivity.
It can also work long-term when you are a smaller, niche brand with a following that you want to cultivate into a community or a meme account that thrives on FOMO.
However, for the vast majority of brands, social media should be a place to be found by a new follower. You could miss out on new and enthusiastic followers, and potentially annoy those that are looking for you. Which is a lose, lose for everybody.
If you want to grow your Instagram following, or create the best Instagram posts possible, and not turn your Instagram page private, we have got you covered.