“Don’t switch to a business profile.”
“There’s no difference in engagement between personal and business profiles.”
“Switch to a business profile so you get the analytics.”
Everywhere I looked, there was a different answer to the question of whether or not switching to a business profile on Instagram affected engagement. None of which seemed to be backed by data of any sort. And even I didn’t know the answer to this for sure. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I had suspected for a while that switching to a business profile on Instagram could affect engagement negatively, but with the only concrete evidence being my own account, I didn’t feel comfortable advising people on this matter one way or the other. And so for the past year or so, my answer has been “switching to a business profile on Instagram might negatively affect engagement”. I’m not sure if it’s the analyzer in me, or just my desire to have solid, evidence-based information, but I recently felt the need to assess 274 Instagram accounts to get to the bottom of this once and for all. The process was a bit painful, and very time consuming, but I’m glad I did it.
Over the month of March 2018, I looked at average engagement rates for 274 different, active Instagram accounts. This sample size provides a confidence level of 95%, with a margin of error of 6%. This means, for example, that if we find an overall average engagement rate of 5%, we can be 95% certain that the result is actually between 4.7% and 5.3%.
Half of the profiles analyzed were personal profiles, and the other half were business profiles. I calculated the average engagement rate – [(likes + comments)/number of followers] x 100 – for each Instagram account, based on the 9 most recent posts, excluding video posts (to ensure consistency in content type), and anything posted within the last 6 hours (to ensure the content had a fair shot of accumulating engagement).
I assessed the same amount of business profiles and personal profiles for each of the following categories: 0 – 1,000 followers, 1,000 – 10,000 followers, 10,000 – 100,000 followers, and 100,000+ followers. Engagement rates decrease significantly as the amount of followers increases, so it was crucial to ensure the same number of accounts was used for each type of profile. The number of accounts for the lower following categories was higher than those of the higher following categories, to mimic the actual population of Instagram accounts, as there are far more accounts with a low number of followers than with a high number of followers. This being said, the results to be taken most seriously are within each category, since the overall result can be easily skewed by the number of accounts from each category.
Furthermore, I chose to use the median result instead of average. Often on Instagram, we will see accounts that are substantially higher or lower in engagement than their counterparts of the same category. This can be due to artificial followers, artificial engagement, or an obsessed/highly engaged fan base, as is the case with celebrities.
Median Engagement Rate for Personal Profiles: 7.07%
Median Engagement Rate for Business Profiles: 6.73%
Accounts with 0 – 1,000 Followers
Median Engagement Rate for Personal Profiles: 12.73%
Median Engagement Rate for Business Profiles: 14.09%
Accounts with 1,000 – 10,000 Followers
Median Engagement Rate for Personal Profiles: 8.34%
Median Engagement Rate for Business Profiles: 6.49%
Accounts with 10,000 – 100,000 Followers
Median Engagement Rate for Personal Profiles: 4.94%
Median Engagement Rate for Business Profiles: 3.39%
Accounts with 100,000+ Followers
Median Engagement Rate for Personal Profiles: 3.19%
Median Engagement Rate for Business Profiles: 2.69%
The most noteworthy differences in engagement rates are seen in accounts with 1,000 – 100,000 followers, and so it makes sense that a lot of micro-influencers have been a bit bummed over the past year when their engagement rates went down after switching to business profiles. With these differences, it’s safe to say that having a business profile does make a difference to engagement.
Now, just because the engagement rate is down, it doesn’t mean that the audience is actually any less engaged. It’s very likely that Instagram is just showing the content to fewer people, and therefore reach is down, and as a result, engagement.
For example, if 5,000 people see your content, and 20% of the people who see your content like or comment on it, that means your total engagement will be 1,000. Let’s say you then switch to a business profile and your total engagement is now only 600. It’s best to check your reach under your analytics to see if it might just be a reach issue, or if it is an actual engagement issue. If your content reached 3,000 people, then your audience still feels just as great about your content as they did before, because 20% of the people who saw it are still engaging with it. However, if reach is still 5,000, then you may want to assess your content a little closer to figure out why your audience is no longer engaging with it as much as they used to.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that as your following gets higher, your engagement rate is going to drop. It just is. And there’s not a lot you can do about this. Sometimes, when someone sees a post with a ton of engagement, or a post from someone with a ton of followers, they don’t feel as compelled to actually interact with the content, because they feel that said person doesn’t need their engagement. Of course, there are many other reasons why engagement drops as someone’s following gets higher, this is just one example.
So, should you switch from a personal profile to a business profile? You really just have to ask yourself how valuable having insights, the ability to run ads, the ability to have Instagram shopping, and the extra contact options on your bio section truly are. If you really don’t need them, then it might be a better idea to stick to a personal profile for now. If they are important to you, then the switch probably outweighs the effect on engagement.
If you wish to reference this study, please do not plagiarize (it’s illegal), and remember to credit/backlink appropriately. Cheers!