I know what you’re thinking: how can private accounts be of any use to me? After all, as marketers we want the world and its dog to see our efforts — and rightly so. But there are a couple of uses for private accounts that you may not have thought of.

1. Is this thing on?

Private accounts are great for testing whether or not things are going to display correctly or even work when they go live. There’s nothing worse than launching a new activity just to be greeted by hundreds of responses saying it doesn’t work — that’s not good for you or your brand.

Twitter pictures quizzes are becoming more popular, and I spotted this effort from Google this morning:

Although I criticised Twitter for this initially, as I was viewing on mobile, turns out it didn’t work on desktop either (they’ve now deleted the tweet).

They did, however, get it right a few days ago:

A picture showing the same screenshot as above, but this time the quiz works perfectly

Head to the tweet yourself and give it a go — it’s a brilliant use of Twitter’s four image feature. How can you use this in your efforts?

It’s important to test something like this because it’s difficult to immediately guess which part of your image Twitter is going to pick for the preview and which parts it’s going to hide. They automatically hone in on text and image, so you’ll no doubt have to do a bit of testing to figure out exactly how it’s going to look when it goes live — as Google discovered.

All you need to do on Twitter to make your account private is go to the settings menu and click ‘protect my tweets’. Pick an obscure username and don’t set any profile/header images and no-one will ever know.

2. Reward your influencers and brand ambassadors

We all like having access to information no-one else has, especially if we’re fans of a brand. Why not use a private Instagram account to reward your brand’s influencers and ambassadors ahead of a big launch?

That’s what Australian Rugby League club Canterbury Bulldogs did. The Bulldogs made their Instagram account private for a few hours to reveal their new kit to their existing followers as an “exclusive first look”.

The Bulldogs' Instagram profile

As their Marketing and Fan Engagement Manager Arna Hunt explains:

“In order to make it ‘exclusive’ to our followers we decided to make our Instagram account private — after an hour we switched back to the public settings.

“Firstly we wanted to see how many people are interested in our content but choose not to follow us.

“Secondly with the power of social media, we wanted to see how long it took for someone to screenshot the jersey and put it out on a public forum.”

(It took 43 minutes by the way)

A private Instagram or Twitter account, under a different name rather than following the Bulldogs’ example, can be a great way of releasing exclusive details in advance of a big reveal.

Identify fans or customers who you see as influential on social media, and invite them to follow your private account. Do the same with your biggest fans (regardless of their following), and together they’ll do a lot of your initial promotion for you. Don’t forget to give them hashtags to use too!

You could even reward them with extra merchandise/gifts as a thank you for sharing your content, strengthening their loyalty further.