You can now add up to five links to your Instagram profile, something Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg remarked was “probably one of the most requested features we’ve had.” But while creators celebrated the news, headlines were being published questioning the future viability of the so-called “link in bio” startups, namely Linktree. Though it’s understandable to think it spells disaster when a Big Tech firm moves into a lane similar to that of a startup, not everyone is ready to write off these services.
Two notable companies in this space aren’t ready to throw in the towel yet and say they’re ahead of the game when it comes to dealing with Meta.
Startups With Much at Stake
Instagram has historically been reluctant to allow outside links — only allowing a singular link at the top of a user’s bio. Creators were forced to develop a workaround and thus the “link in bio” revolution was born. Multiple startups emerged including Link in Bio, Linktree, Koji, Hype, Carrd, Bio.fm, and TapBio. Some raised incredible amounts of funding and became valued at over $1 billion.
Wait a second: You’re just pointing followers to a link in your profile and then directing them to your YouTube channel, e-commerce site, Discord server, etc.? This seems pretty simplistic. Can’t you just do this manually without subscribing to a link in bio service? Yes, though it’s likely not an effective strategy and there are advantages to using these platforms, namely they’re mobile-friendly.
The majority of creator content is likely generated from a mobile device. Being able to update one’s link in bio from a phone or tablet would make this easier.
Linktree, Koji and their compatriots are more than one-trick ponies. They’ve expanded their offerings to include adjacent services creators may need, an app store, and more. Hear more about how creators, communities and brands are using these services in this interview I conducted with Linktree’s Music Lead Sammy Kaufmann for “The Created Economy” podcast.
It’s prudent for link in bio startups to remain multiple steps ahead of Big Tech platforms because to do otherwise risks obliteration. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Snapchat may generate network effects, but creators are increasingly tired of “renting” their followers — they want to own the relationship. Linktree et al offer an opportunity to build a community independent of a social network.
Linktree and Koji Clap Back at Instagram
The day after Instagram announced its profile link update, Linktree’s CEO Alex Zaccaria responded on LinkedIn, saying the platform was “more than just a list of links.” He calls the company an “integral part of any creator, business, or brand’s marketing stack — and our roots remain in empowering users to direct attention and drive conversion across the channels that matter most to them.”
Zaccaria goes on to describe ways Linktree unifies a creator’s digital ecosystem, including being platform-agnostic, providing accessible analytics, unlimited links and a marketplace.
Koji CEO Dmitry Shapiro, who I’ve interviewed multiple times for “The Created Economy,” tells me he agrees with Zaccaria. “Overall, this move by [Instagram] is a ‘duh’ moment and was always expected. It is good for creators!” he says. But is he fearful of Instagram’s encroachment?
Koji never cared about the link in bio (although our homepage led with it for some time), as creators thought they needed a link in bio.
Our data clearly shows that linking DIRECTLY to the monetization/engagement app (Koji mini-app) rather that to a link in bio, and then to a mini app, dramatically raises conversion! #duh Each click is a 90%+ drop off.
Now that Insta creators can link directly to individual mini apps, their conversion is going to go through the roof!
We changed our homepage messaging 3 quarters ago (used to lead with link in bio, and now leads with the mini apps themselves).
This is great for Koji 🙂
However, even with the confidence Zaccaria and Shapiro exude right now, there has to be some concern that if Instagram — and other social media giants — decide to put more effort into developing creator tools, it could threaten their existence, or even force some market consolidation.
That said, Linktree, Koji and other link in bio companies have remained resilient over the past couple of years and hopefully they’ll continue to innovate and introduce new tools to address creator needs. If anything, we know that these startups are more than their classification of being a “link in bio” — they can provide value in the marketing stack for creators, influencers and brands.