Thinking of launching a private Instagram account?
You’re not alone.
An unusual trend emerged on Instagram during the summer of 2018. Out of nowhere, a significant portion of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly users started making their accounts private.
It wasn’t just everyday users that were making the switch for better Instagram privacy either. Leading meme accounts like @CommentAwards and @Moistbuddha changed their status too.
For big brands, the whole purpose of being active on Instagram is to gain a committed following.
So, why would companies decide to place a barrier between themselves and their fans?
Who is Using Private Instagram Accounts?
A private Instagram profile alters the way you use your social media profile.
The only people who can view private profiles on Instagram are the people who follow that account. This means that even if you’re using popular hashtags in your posts, new people won’t see your content on the Explore page – or anywhere else for that matter.
Non-followers who receive links to your content will even have to submit follow requests to access your new photos and videos.
This might seem like a bizarre strategy for companies to take. However, it’s particularly popular among meme accounts, like Couplesnote, which continues to gain millions of followers, even as a private profile.
Even leading fashion brands have made the switch to private profiles.
For instance, @Everlane told their audience that they would be switching to a private account last year, to give users an “exclusive” experience on social media.
Why Would Brands Want a Private Instagram Profile?
Surprisingly, moving to a private account hasn’t left the brands above with no followers.
In fact, according to an interview with Reid Hailey the founder of “Doing Things” – a company that manages Instagram pages for clients with more than 14 million followers, taking Instagram privacy seriously may improve your chances of success.
Once one of Reid’s clients went private, the number of followers it gained shot up from 10,000 per week to 100,000 per week.
So, why are so many companies considering a private Instagram profile these days?
Let’s take a look at the facts.
1. There’s a Growing Trend Towards Privacy
As the digital world continues to evolve, and we’re learning more about the amount of data businesses have on us, privacy has become a common concern for many people. Just look at how people responded to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, for instance.
The trend towards Instagram privacy could be a result of more companies looking for ways to show their audience how much they care about privacy. By limiting the number of people that can see their posts, these brands are showing users that they care more about quality content and great experiences than reach and “likes.”
What’s more, because your customers have applied to join your following, they’ll be more likely to feel as though the content you’re producing is just for them. It’s not designed to attract as many new customers as possible.
2. A Private Instagram Account can Gain more Followers
Probably the biggest reason that brands are using private Instagram accounts these days is that it can help them to gain more followers.
You’re probably thinking – how could you get more followers when only your existing fans can view a private profile?
The simple answer is that if you create awesome content that your customers want to share with your friends, those friends will need to sign up and join your community if they want to see the post. On the other hand, if you’re publishing public material, anyone can view your content and move on without hitting the “Follow” button.
There’s also a sense of mystery that comes with Instagram privacy. It’s kind of like putting a bouncer in front of your business that only lets a select few people in. You’re going to get people feeling curious about you and what you have to offer. It’s just human nature.
3. Privacy Creates FOMO
As mentioned above, a private Instagram account gets people wondering what makes you so special. If you’ve put a lock on the door to your content – potential followers will want to know why. Everyone wants to be a part of the in-crowd – particularly on Instagram.
This strategy works particularly well for people who already have millions of followers. If someone happens upon your Instagram account and sees that its private, but also has 8 million followers – they’ll want to know what those people have seen that they can’t.
FOMO can come in handy for brands that want to create an exclusive environment for their brand. You can launch new products and reward your most loyal fans through Instagram and give people a behind-the-scenes look into your business that they won’t get anywhere else.
4. A Private Profile Improves Follower Retention
Another common reason why an account on Instagram may decide to go private is that it helps them to keep their followers sticking around.
There’s nothing to stop your customers from unfollowing your account if it’s public. If they change their mind and decide they want to check out your posts again, they just need to search for your username. On the other hand, if you have a private Instagram profile, unfollowing is much more permanent.
Your customers will even see a popup reminding them that if they unfollow you, they’ll have to request to be part of your community again in the future, should they change their mind.
That extra step might not seem like much, but it could be all it takes to convince your followers that they want to stick with you.
5. Instagram Privacy Gives you more Control
One of the most obvious reasons that you might choose to create a private Instagram profile is that it gives you more protection for your content. It’s harder for people to copy and repost your content without you finding out. After all, if you post something unique and it shows up elsewhere on the web, you’re going to know where that user got their material.
At the same time, investing in Instagram privacy gives you more control over the kind of following you build. As most social media experts know, quality trumps quantity when it comes to building relationships with your customers.
If you can choose exactly who to add to your Instagram list based on their interests and background, you’re more likely to build genuine in-depth connections with your followers. You might even build stronger relationships with influencers and other brands that can help your organization to grow.
Remember, 40 billion photos are shared every day. If people have to jump through hoops to see your photos, they’re more likely to take your brand seriously.
How to Switch on Instagram Privacy
If all of those benefits seem too good to pass up, anyone can switch to a private Instagram account.
All you need to do is:
- Tap the profile icon on the bottom right corner of your screen
- Tap the menu icon in the top right corner of your screen
- Select the settings icon (the gear) and choose Privacy and Security
- Click on Account Privacy and tap the slider until it turns blue
- This will set your Instagram profile to private
Just remember that this route won’t be right for everyone. If you’re uncertain, you don’t run a meme account, or you don’t have millions of followers – read on to find out more about private accounts. You can always come back and switch your privacy settings on a little later.
The only people who can view private Instagram accounts are their followers – which means this can be a risky move for some brands.
Is a Private Instagram Profile Right for Everyone?
Ultimately, Instagram privacy is just one strategy that companies can use to develop their brand and following online.
While all the positive points mentioned above are worth considering – keep in mind that this plan won’t work for everyone. Notably, all of the companies known for successfully using private Instagram profiles already had a massive following before they made a switch. They were too big to fail, and they didn’t need to implement all of the standard growth strategies that most of us use each day, like #hashtags or hacking the Instagram Explore page.
Your chances of excelling with a private Instagram account also depend on the kind of content you share. For instance, meme accounts are often the most likely to go private. They can continue building their following with private accounts because they entice their users to share highly engaging content with their friends.
The same campaign that works for a meme company might not work as well for your Instagram account. If you’re mostly sharing pictures of your products, then some people might be tempted to share them. However, you won’t get nearly as much growth as you would if you simply stuck to traditional Instagram marketing campaigns.
Why a Private Instagram Profile Might Not Be for You
We’ve explored some of the reasons why Instagram privacy can be a good strategy for brands.
It’s only fair that we look at the reasons why a private account might not be a good idea too.
For instance, one of the main downsides to this plan is that you can’t have a “private” business account. You’d need to switch your account back to personal to make it private, which means you don’t get access to crucial features like:
- Instagram insights
- Promoted content
- Paid Ads
Other reasons to avoid a private Instagram profile include:
- You might turn off potential followers: While some customers might be tempted to follow you based on FOMO alone, others will just be annoyed by the fact that you’re hiding your content. You may harm your reputation, particularly if people join your community to discover that the content, you’re sharing isn’t what they expected.
- You won’t appear in searches: Even if you’re using trending hashtags and location tags, people won’t be able to find your content when it’s set to private. That means you won’t appear on public feeds or the Explore page. This can have a significant impact on your ability to attract new people to your page.
- You won’t be able to try different growth strategies: Once you’ve switched back to a personal profile, you won’t have the option to try different growth strategies and see which one works best. Lack of access to Instagram analytics means that you’re left with only one way to develop your profile. If that doesn’t work, you’re out of luck.
Should You Use a Private Instagram Account?
Just like many modern Instagram trends, using a private Instagram profile won’t be right for everyone.
For individual companies and meme brands, turning private might be a great short-term strategy. For instance, you could consider doing it when you’re launching a new product or service to build feelings of excitement.
You could also launch a separate private Instagram account that runs alongside your main business page. This account might share exclusive content for your VIP followers, affiliate, and people who join your referral campaigns.
However, most of the time, the average business will find that the best thing they can do to keep growing their Instagram strategy is to stay public. Social media is a great place to be discovered by new people and fans. It’s rarely a good idea to reduce your exposure to these communities.
Switching to a private Instagram account means hinging your chances of growth on a single strategy.
The good news?
There are still plenty of ways that you can grow your presence on Instagram without taking the privacy route. Most companies will find that the traditional marketing paths work much better for them.
Whether it’s launching promoted ads, investing in a social media marketing manager, or scheduling your posts to appear at the right time each day, there’s sure to be a campaign to suit you.