In 2015 Instagram was the fastest growing social media and its success shows no sign of slowing down, with an anticipated 15% growth this year. The picture and video sharing social platform is the champion of digital inspiration, especially for younger markets: more than half of Instagram’s users are under 29 years old. With 400 million monthly users and 2.5 billion pictures liked each day, the network appeals to a large and very active audience. 49% of users check their feed daily and 73% of their audience use the platform at least once a week.
Even if most of the platform’s audience is young, one of its main strengths is that visuals appeal to every age range. Isn’t it true that a picture is worth a thousand words? In one picture you can convey not only a brand message, but also brand values and a particular lifestyle. In a world where product marketing has been taken over by content marketing and where brand image is key, using pictures offers a much more efficient medium.
Inspiration is the new advertisement
For a growing part of the population, going on the internet has become the first step in any buying process, either for inspiration or to get information and advice. Either way Instagram has become a strong tool to straighten your brand universe.
To engage on Instagram, creativity is key. The time where basic product shots were enough to create desire is long gone. Products need to be contextualized to catch the eyes of potential customers. Product composition and styling have become an art, and some of the tableaus staged by brands are closer to fine art than product shots. Indeed, you wouldn’t simply show a pair a sneakers on Instagram, but rather the complete look (other gear included) that might go with it. Starbucks, for example, doesn’t simply post coffee, instead they offer context: a cold winter day, a warm cup of your favourite Starbucks drink, a pair of mittens—a cozy experience presented in one meaningful image.
Inspiration is also fuelled by the trust you have in the publisher. An Instagram post around a product made by a brand to look like a publicity while the same post made by a popular Instagramers is a prescription. They will incorporate your product in the branded lifestyle they have created around themselves. This lifestyle is what their followers either identify with or aim for, and they will be more than willing to buy your product if they think it is the best way to be a part of this semi-exclusive tribe.
Inspiration is the first step in awareness of a product. A well designed Instagram post creates desire and can be a strong trigger for impulsive purchases. The next step is, of course, is the actual act of buying, and Instagram is already on top of this growing needs
From inspiration to selling
Social selling is developing fast, especially thanks to the growing amount of purchases made on smartphones. While it is not yet possible to buy directly from Instagram, third party solutions will recreate your Instagram page on their websites and turn each post into a shoppable look. Big companies like Nordstrom or Target are already using the platform by catching the costumer right at the moment when they fall in love with the product, improving the chance of purchase.
The new face of Instagram
Instagram has long been focused on amateur content, but over the past few years the visual social media as taken a growing part in the branding efforts of professional users. It has been a real help to small brands, especially in the fashion, lifestyle and travel sectors, offering a unique space to show off their creativity and originality, and reach potential new customers. Gradually big brands have started also using the medium to reach the highly active Instagram audience with quick, engaging content. It is no surprise that the previously mentioned sectors lead the trend, but some unexpected types of companies are also implementing clever strategies, proving that success on Instagram is not about sector but rather about content creativity and coherence.
Among the best unexpected brand use of Instagram are General Electric, who manage to show off their industrial expertise while contextualizing its daily use, ultimately making them more than just an electric energy provider. Another interesting account is that of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). It gathered a selection of the weirdest findings TSA agents had made at airport. Thanks to this account, TSA agents when from being seen as the annoying people bothering you at the airport security gates to humorous, engaging human beings. Their use of entertaining content ultimately improved their public image. Finally, more and more institutions are using Instagram to share impactful images to help generate instant reactions from the public.
This generalisation of the use of Instagram didn’t go unnoticed by social media executives. Instagram is now owned by Facebook and has its big sister as a role model for the future. They are well aware of the opportunities offered by the B to B part of their user base.
Unsurprisingly, Instagram announced several brand friendly measures last month, hinting at a shift toward a Facebook-like system of content visibility monetisation.
The first measure has been to extend Instagram’s video time limitation from 15 sec to 60 sec. With a 40% engagement growth with video content in the past 6 months, video as become as important as pictures on social media, allowing both brands and Instagrammers to create more interactive content.
The second and more controversial measure is the change in content delivery parameters. Historically, content on Instagram is published chronologically but since last month content is targeted to fit the interest of your followers without chronological restrictions. According to Instagram, users were missing 70% of the “good stuff”—meaning content they are potentially interested in—with the previous system.
If this choice seems user friendly, the associated disadvantage is the loss of influence of those who make Instagram what it is: influencers and small businesses without whom Instagram risks becoming a glorified promotion catalogue.
— by Valentine Boudias