It's no secret Instagram is an extremely useful tool for marketers. According to a study by Simply Measured, 59% of the top 100 brands are on Instagram, and 41% of those post at least one photo per week. However, like most services, Instagram is not perfect, and there's room for improvement to make it as essential a network for business as Facebook.
Related Article: Instagram Engagement Outpacing Facebook
Here are 5 things Instagram could do to make the experience better, especially from a marketing standpoint. If these things were put into place, they'd not only benefit marketers, but make the site more user-friendly for their target audience.
1. Add a Post Scheduling Feature
The Problem: Many marketing companies use third-party services or the native calendar feature to schedule Facebook posts in order to make the timeliest impacts possible (sometimes with undesirable results). However, advance scheduling is currently not possible with Instagram's API.
The Workaround: Although there are some services that offer scheduling features, it is neither perfect nor straightforward. Latergram.me and Schedugr.am are two services that allow you to schedule posts ahead of time, but they both have very limited (if any) free account options.
The Solution: I would love to see the same advanced scheduling features available on Instagram as we already have access to with Facebook.
2. Provide Better Comment Management Options
The Problem: The Instagram app provides notifications about user comments, but that feature doesn't extend to email. Even though marketers are learning to become increasingly reliant on respective apps, the fact Instagram doesn't currently provide notifications outside of the app. Additionally, Instagram stops notifying the poster after a certain number of likes and comments, which can be a problem for a marketer. The more ways marketers can receive word of followers' interactions, the easier it'll be for them to nurture engagement.
The Workaround: Again, third-party services have stepped in to fill the void. I personally use Iconosquare, which has very well-developed comment management features that treat your followers’ comments like an email inbox.
The Solution: It’s simple—give us the option for email notifications, so we know when new comments come in without having to log in!
3. Allow Links in Image Descriptions
The Problem: On other social media sites, links have always been the direct vein from the network to a brand's website. Outside of that great value, they also provide an excellent way to give further details about an image, especially if it's a picture of a product. At the moment, Instagram is very limited in that respect. In fact, the only place where it's possible to use an embedded link is on your user profile.
This would be fine, except if a mobile Instagram user (remember: that’s most of Instagram’s user base) visits your profile link via Instagram, the referral source doesn't get registered by Google Analytics, because the user has to go through a mobile browser.
The Workaround: One way to bypass that issue is to create tagged URLs with Google's URL Builder, and make a campaign that's called, for example, "Instagram Profile." Then, shorten the URL into a goo.gl or bit.ly URL, and add it to your profile. If you do this, your links will register the correct referral in Google Analytics. This is a great example of how some issues in Instagram have workarounds from right within the service, but they make marketers jump through unnecessary hoops.
The Solution: Obviously Instagram could allow for links in image captions, but marketers will still need to remember to tag their URLs.
4. Roll Out Analytics, Already
The Problem: Instagram has a native analytics program in the works. However, it's taking forever to roll out to everyone, which is making many professionals balk. (I’ve been waiting for Insights to come to my clients’ profiles for almost two months, and still haven’t got them. I’m not alone!)
The Workaround: As with many problem areas, third-party analytics programs are available, such as Iconosquare mentioned above. Like many other solutions that try to compensate for Instagram's shortcomings, they're far from streamlined or simple.
The Solution: Hey Instagram, can you just give me Insights already?
Related Article: How to Get the Most Out of Every Social Media Platform
5. Make it Possible to Post from the Desktop Site
The Problem: Currently, Instagram's desktop platform is just for viewing and commenting on existing content, so users have no choice but to upload photos from a phone. Unless you have a dedicated smartphone for each client, it is easy to mix up personal and client postings, and cross-posting to other networks is nearly impossible.
According to Katie Goodling, social media manager at WebpageFX, “I have to log out of my account on my phone and log into a client’s account to post a photo. Even then, I can’t connect the client’s account to social networks within my app because then it messes with my personal accounts. There’s a lot of risk in accidentally posting a personal photo to a client’s Facebook page through Instagram, so we don’t usually cross-post our client’s images.”
The Workaround: Third-party apps make this possible, of course, but otherwise the “workaround” is careful logging in and out of clients’ accounts. Even then, it’s a mistake waiting to happen.
The Solution: Instagram should take a note from Twitter and Facebook and enable posting from the web for those with business accounts. This would also let us cross-post without worry.
These five improvements could easily alleviate several common Instagram frustrations marketers face every day. Ideally, they'd be fixed overnight, but some of them could potentially alienate Instagram's core user base, even as they help marketers.
Hopefully, at least some of the points I included above can be considered in the coming months, especially if the site wants to maintain its relevance with the brands they hope will advertise on their platform.