Instagram Is Now Giving Small Businesses a Dashboard Full of Data About Their Posts

Free tools could serve as gateway to paid ads

For years, small and medium-size businesses have had as little insight about their Instagram posts as the average user. But soon, they'll be able to see how photos and videos are performing beyond total likes and views.

Instagram is rolling out a number of new features meant to help businesses better understand what resonates with fans. With a new business dashboard built into the mobile app, brands and advertisers will be able to see impressions, reach and engagement—along with when users saw posts—compare those stats with prior weeks.

The goal is to help smaller businesses get organic insights while also priming them for advertising on the platform, Jim Squires, director of market operations at Instagram, said in an interview. The analytics tool itself is free; however, it could serve as a gateway drug for paid ads.

"The way I envision this is there are a lot of businesses on the platform that may be new to advertising, or not advertising yet, and this is a straightforward, easy way to start advertising on the platform," he said. 

As a result of the updates, businesses also will be able to turn organic posts that are performing well into actual ads. With the feature, brands can pick their target audiences or allow Instagram to do the targeting.

Instagram is also allowing brands to mark their profiles as businesses. Business Profiles will offer an extended business description along with information about how customers can get in touch.

The updates—several of which were rumored last week after one person noticed the new features in Instagram's coding—will begin in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S., with a global rollout planned for sometime after that.

There are now more than 200,000 businesses using Instagram for promoting products and services. According to Instagram, about half of users now follow a business on the platform and even more—around 60 percent—say they've learned about products on Instagram.

The app has been steadily adding features for businesses. Earlier this month it introduced video Carousel ads, and a week later it began letting retailers target users with ads based on items in their online shopping carts.