It’s perhaps no coincidence that Instagram recently announced that, in common with their owners Facebook, they have taken steps to improve the safety of their user experience. Instagram’s ‘About This Account’ feature is designed to allow users to understand a number of important factors about other accounts. It’s an issue which is becoming increasingly important in a digital landscape where, if we believe all we read and hear, all accounts may not be as they seem.
But before business users disregard the new improvement as relevant only to consumers of social and political aspects of Instagram, take a moment to consider how the ‘About This Account’ feature might be useful to you and your business:
Creation date, Country and Name changes
When and where an account has been created and operated from is important for businesses, and you should be asking yourself a number of questions; How does the Instagram account creation date relate to the age of the company and other social media accounts – are they just late comers to digital marketing, or is this a fake account masquerading under a well-known brand? Instagram points out that genuine accounts have a long history with the company, in contrast with spam or nefarious accounts which tend to be created and deleted quickly. Similarly, does the country of creation tally with the origin of the company, and if not, why not? Understanding if a company is misrepresenting its location in public posts might prompt you to ask why, and delve a little deeper before solidifying new business relationships. Finally, has the account name ever changed? If it has, was that because of a business takeover, business failure, or a name changed forced by negative publicity? In checking all of these elements you can be more confident that accounts you are associating yourself with are legitimate potential customers, customers or associates.
The capacity for reputational damage by being associated (formally or informally) with fake, damaging or politically extreme accounts is well understood. There are numerous examples of the damage that can be done with an inadvertent ‘like’ or re-tweet of an attractive or seemingly innocuous post which hides a criminal or politically extreme organisation. In fact many such organisations rely on exactly that. The Shared Followers aspect of the ‘About This Account’ feature allows users to understand and view the public accounts that have the most shared followers (and therefore likely to have the most in common) with the account you are researching. As a continuation, you are able to compare the ‘shared followers’ element with checking the ‘Ads currently running’ feature to confirm if their followers are liking other brands, influencers and trends you would expect. If they don’t or the nature of the ads run by the account exhibit either worrying common trends, or a complete lack of alignment with the organisational goals, once again its worth digging a little deeper before you commit ‘likes’, time, money or other resource.
Ads currently running
The ‘Ads currently running’ section does exactly what it says on the tin. It allows users to view what ads an account is running, but more importantly it allows you to see how your competitors are positioning themselves and what messages they are focusing upon at any one time. This can help you to understand the competitive landscape, but also to spot any gaps in the market or tricks which are being missed, which may help to build or enhance your own strategy.
The recent change comes with a significant health warning. Instagram’s announcement suggests repeatedly that the ‘About This Account’ feature only works with accounts ‘reaching large audiences’, but it’s not immediately obvious what size that means. So those business users seeking to ally themselves with new influencers, for example, might struggle to get the kind of information that you would wish – not a reason to stop in itself, but you might need to get your ‘Sherlock Holmes on’ to try and find the information out by other means!
In summary, the drive for a safer internet is not just about fake news or online phishing scams. As the sophistication of the digital landscape grows rapidly, so will the number and variety of schemes seeking to part people’s hard won money from their hands. Whether it be using duplicity and crime for financial benefit, or to gain influence and power, business users should not kid themselves that they aren’t a target. Instagram’s ‘About this Account’ feature is not the silver bullet, but it is another important step and tool in empowering you to understand and operate safely and profitably in the digital landscape, whilst giving your business insight into legitimate key competitors advertising and campaigns.