In the quest for social proof, I’ve been asked more often lately to embed Instagram feeds into client websites. For those of you unfamiliar with Instagram (IG or Insta for short), it is an app that people can use to share photos and videos from smartphones. Users can add filters to photos or videos and organize them by hashtags. Because it’s visual, it’s easy for people to engage with. Instagram is owned by Facebook, in case anyone was wondering 😉
When you add photos and videos to your Instagram profile, these can be exported as a “feed” from Instagram and placed on your website. Whenever you post something to Instagram, it shows up in your feed on your website. How convenient! It’s like updating your website without, you know, updating your website.
More importantly for marketers, if you create a hashtag for your brand and other people use it when sharing photos or videos of them interacting with your product or service, there will be a stream of content you can choose from to add to your Instagram feed. This is referred to as User-Generated Content (UGC). It’s free content! What a dream!
Why Embed an Instagram Feed in Your Website?
If you do a search for “why embed an instagram feed in your website”, you’ll find a surprising lack of answers from marketing professionals. Actually, you’ll find a serious lack of answers – period. I did a search for this in Google and Bing and came across five articles. Five. 5. FIVE.
If that number doesn’t shock you, it should. There are hundreds of articles on HOW to embed an Instagram feed into a website but only five on WHY. Some of those articles on WHY are from software developers who have plugins that make it easy to embed Instagram feeds into websites. So, I did other searches for related topics, like “benefits of embedding instagram feeds into website”. A few more results came up, but honestly, when something’s a good idea, there are hundreds of articles that will tell you why that’s the case. The lack of articles espousing the benefits of adding an Instagram feed to one’s website is troubling.
What are the “Benefits” of Adding IG to a Website?
Here are some of the “benefits” these articles stated:
- Create a seamless experience between Instagram and your website
- Bring user-generated content from Instagram to your website
- Provide social proof
- Display your social media presence
- Encourage conversation
- Get involved in trends
- Increase your website’s visual appeal
- Increase brand awareness and reach
- Increase user engagement
- Link social to commerce
- Add real time content to your website
- Increase dwell time
Let’s Think Critically for a Moment
#1 Seamless Experience: First off, there’s no easy way to get people from Instagram to your website. You can’t embed clickable links into your posts. There are workarounds, but they are not easy for the average business owner to apply. Instagram seems to be doing its best to make itself a closed system. Anyway, to me, the “seamless experience” that a user should experience is that what they see from your business on IG or any other social platform can be found on your website. Not as an embed, but as your own business-generated content. It could be a blog post, photo gallery, or whatever, but the things you post on social media for your business should be easily found on your site. The consistency of content is what makes things seamless.
#2 Easy Way to Add UGC on Site: Adding UBC can be good, if there’s good user-generated content for you to use. What if your IG fans don’t use your hashtag? Then you have no UGC. You need to work to create this stuff. It doesn’t happen automatically. Adding IG to your website doesn’t make UGC magically appear.
#3 Providing Social Proof: Social proof only really comes from your users and it doesn’t happen automatically. The social proof you crave may not materialize. Adding IG to your website is not the END result. It’s only the beginning.
#4 Display Your Social Media Presence: The reason you want people on your website is NOT to show them you have a social media presence. You want website visitors so you can create leads. Yes, you should have a great social media presence, but it should be an outgrowth of your amazing website and business. Focusing on social media and neglecting your website is not a winning strategy.
#5 Encourage Conversation: The types of conversations you want to have with your website visitors should be answering their final questions before they choose to do business with you. Will an IG feed help with that? Perhaps, but I’m not convinced.
#6 Get Involved in Trends: There are trends that almost every business can be involved in. If you think your business can’t take advantage of trends, think of popular topics in your industry. Those are trends. Run a home inspection business? What are home renovation “stars” doing online? Fire pits? Cedar shingles? Whatever they’re talking about, you can use them as a springboard to talk about the topic on your own site and social media. As with previous items, this doesn’t happen automatically. You have to find out what’s trending, figure out how to capitalize on it, and then implement. It’s going to require some old-fashioned work. You don’t need to embed IG on your site for this. The content you produce should already be on your site before it winds up on any social media platform.
#7 Increase Your Website’s Visual Appeal: Yes, IG is all about the visuals. That doesn’t mean all the pictures on it are beautiful. Will adding an Insta feed to your website make your site more beautiful? Sometimes it’s not worth the clutter. If this is the reason you’re thinking of adding your Instagram feed to your website, then perhaps you should think about having a better looking website first.
#8 Increase Brand Awareness and Reach: Someone’s on your website. Right now. How are they not aware of your brand? How does having an IG feed improve that? As for increasing your reach, maybe a visitor to your site will follow you on IG. Assuming that’s the only thing they do, then yes, you’ll increase your brand’s reach. But wouldn’t it be better to have a website where visitors would become leads instead of just an IG follower? Gear your site to that instead.
#9 Increase User Engagement: If someone’s coming to your site to look at the pretty pictures your IG feed provides, you’d better be in the “pretty “business. Photography. Wedding caterer. Florist. Designer. Otherwise, the user engagement you want is for people to click a link to send you a message, or to buy something, or to call you, or to sign up for your email newsletter. If your website doesn’t engage and convert visitors already then adding IG may help, but it’s putting lipstick on a pig, from my perspective.
#10 Link Social to Commerce: I have no problem with people using social media to drive people to their e-commerce websites. That’s what it should do in my opinion. Outside of social proof (if you have it), is there any other way adding social to your site increases sales? I have seen no compelling arguments demonstrating that an IG feed on an e-commerce website helps increase sales. You want visitors to buy, so don’t distract them with a social feed unless that feed is brimming with positive social proof from happy customers.
#11 Add Real Time Content to Site: People don’t visit business or retail websites for fun. They have a purpose. Will adding real time content to your site help them fulfill their goals? If you’re promoting something on IG, it should already be on your website. If your IG feed has content that you’ve developed and your website doesn’t, you’re doing things backwards. Remember the “seamless experience” from point #1? The seamless experience between social and your site is that the information from social is ALSO on your site.
#12 Increase Dwell Time: There is a theory that the longer a person stays on a page, the more interesting and useful that page is. The theory states search engines use dwell time as part of their algorithms to determine how interesting, useful, and engaging that page is. Based on this, some people recommend trying to keep people on a page as long as possible to get better search engine rankings. Can embedding an IG feed help with this? Sure, but so can dozens of other things. Adding a short video on your site can increase dwell time as people take time to watch the video. Writing more useful content will help. 3000 words take more time to read than 300. Adding an Insta feed to your website will help too, but will it be the most beneficial thing for your business’ goals with a webpage? You want a top-ranking webpage so people will find you and contact you. Not just look at pictures.
Should You Embed an Instagram Feed In Your Website?
I strongly recommend people think about what they want their website to accomplish. When visitors come to your website, they are there to learn about you and your products or services. You want your website to facilitate an engagement that can lead to a sale. Either buying something directly, or calling or emailing to make an inquiry. Adding elements to your website like IG and other social media feeds may provide some benefit from a social proof perspective, but outside of that, I am not convinced there is a strong business case to add an Instagram feed to one’s website.
On the other hand, if you do NOT have a visually-appealing website that you update regularly and you are using Instagram as a way of showing your business is active without having to do anything to your website, that’s your choice. We’re all busy people and adding an IG feed can seem like a reasonable shortcut. Just understand that while you’re busy building your brand on social media, if you’re ignoring your own website while doing that then you run the risk of having no brand should you lose access to your social media presence.
My suggestion is to first invest in learning how to keep your site updated and then publicize those updates on social media. Post on IG and other social media platforms to drive people back to your visually appealing, engaging website. Building a strong online foundation means having a good business with a strong website, and a social media presence to help promote what you’ve already built.
What do you think? Did you embed your Instagram feed into your business’ website? Has it produced measurable results for you, or not? Whatever the outcome, I’d love to hear about it! Please leave me a message in the comments below. Thanks!
You’ve made some good points Mark.
I was going to raise the case of businesses that are all about the visual, or the “pretty” as you put it – anything to do with weddings, food, flowers, photography, clothing. You covered that in point #9 as being a valid use of your website including an IG feed.
Just a thought: if a business is all about the “pretty”, then their website should already be visually appealing. Adding an Instagram feed shouldn’t make it any prettier than it already is. If adding an Instagram feed makes one’s website more visually appealing and one is in a business that is all about being visually appealing, then one’s website needs help 😉
Thanks for the comment!
Thank you sooo much for writing about this! It’s a topic that just came up in my web developers group, and every person shook their head NO when asked, “should we be putting IG feeds on websites.” When trying to search for further proof and reasons why we should not so I could share it with my clients, I couldn’t find anything except your post…so again, thank you! You’re 100% correct that all the posts out there are about how to add a feed, why you SHOULD add a feed (which is not good practice, as you outlined, and tools to use to add the feed. You helped give me some good ammo when explaining to clients why it’s not needed. Many thanks!
Hi Stefani! I’m glad you found my ramblings useful! 🙂 I’ve never been convinced there’s a solid business case for embedding IG feeds, so I thought I’d write about it. Frankly, I’m shocked nobody else seems to have thought of the topic. Shocked. Anyways, onwards and upwards!