From a strategy perspective, Instagram is one of the more misunderstood social platforms when it comes to outlining it’s role and business impact along the path to purchase.
Below is a breakdown of three Instagram use cases that outline various levers that can influence user behavior that can ultimately lead to awareness, advocacy and offline conversion.
Instagram’s numbers are impressive. 300 Million active users, 30 billion photos shared per day, 2.5 billion interactions per day as well as support for iOS, Android and web presence make it an ideal consumer engagement channel.
Instagram Session at F8
When crafting an Instagram brand strategy, I always start by mapping the objectives and goals of the brand against the various use cases and scenarios outlined below.
Depending on the desire of the brand marketer, it is possible to execute each of these as stand alone elements, but the greatest impact can be achieved by integrating multiple use cases.
Typically, I map Instagram strategic initiatives into three primary use cases: Brand Channel, Cooperative Content and Direct Response.
1 – COMMUNITY FIRST = BRAND CHANNEL – Some marketers desire to have a robust branded Instagram presence to round out their social channel ecosystem.
1.1 – Why have an Instagram brand channel? Over the past few years, Instagram marketing strategy has been approached in a very similar manner to other social platforms that came before it. This included extending the persona of the brand, fostering transparency and extending their visual storytelling efforts.
An Instragram brand channel can serve as a brand anchor on the platform, engagement driver and point of personification for the brand and connection with the Instagram community. But it is important to understand there are limitations to this approach if a brand has any desire beyond awareness and engagement.
1.2 – Can I extend organic reach through engagement? When I met with the Instagram team at F8, Instagram has what’s called a deterministic newsfeed. This means that all content that you post will be seen by your followers. The issue is that unlike Facebook’s previous algorithm that rewarded additional reach to your followers and beyond for interaction, Instagram engagement does not equal additional organic reach.
They reiterated that Instagram brand channels should NOT be treated as distribution platform for brands. Likes, follows and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of ReGram (Think ReTweet) functionality limits branded content sharing.
1.3 – What does it do for my business? It is important to understand the parameters and set client expectations accordingly about what to expect if a brand channel is the only use case that is realized. Understanding that organic reach is limited to existing audience, a brand channel strategy alone would simply garner awareness and engagement.
1.4 – Conclusion (Awareness & Engagement) – If your brand has a robust social strategy that includes visual storytelling and is primarily focused on awareness and engagement as core drivers and are okay without having additional reach through engagement then a branded channel is right for you
2 – INSPIRE CREATIVITY = COOPERATIVE CONTENT In a recent meeting with the Instagram team, they expressed that the true power of the platform is the creator community.
For those marketers looking to move beyond awareness and engagement, it is possible to foster intent while maintaining the authenticity and connection with Instagram’s community through curation based use cases.
For most product based businesses, they expressed the importance of driving behavior and using the content created by users tied to hashtags as a cross-platform advocacy play.
This is an example from Sephora, that takes user created content and aligns it with the products that created the look to create contextual alignment between the brand and consumer.
2.1 – CALL FOR COOPERATION – The call for cooperation is the key element to maximize a UGC curation strategy. The key is to specifiy the behavior that is expected, provide a relevant hashtag and actively deliver the call to action.
The call to action can manifest itself in many forms. It can be tied to promotional activations that drive a specific behavior, such as the ATT #BeTheFan promotion.
Or it can come in the form of leveraging influencers to drive the call to action to create content on behalf of the brand.
The call to action and galvanizing Instagram’s creator community is the first step in curating cooperative content.
2.2 – App Centric Approach – Many brands leverage Instagram primarily through the lens of the consumer and the native filters of the app. For marketers that are looking for more brand equity out of user created content and have a strong branded application install base, it is possible to create custom filters through the brands native app and tie the share into the Instagram share stream via an API.
Tiffany’s integrated custom black and white, peach and Tiffany blue into a native app experience and then curated the best images as a part of their True Love in Pictures campaign.
2.3 – Choose the Right Moments – It is important to have an asset management system that allows you to have a flexible workflow to review submissions, facilitate rights management and connect pathways to cross-platform publishing of the content.
One of my go-to partners in this regard has been Chute.
2.3 – Display for Impact – Once you have aligned with your community about a call to action, curated images or videos natively or through a 3rd party application and have worked through rights and asset management, it is now time to display the cooperatively created content for impact.
This is an example from WestElm that highlights professional and user created Instagram content into their product pages.
Here is an example from ThinkGeek that highlights consumers with products in action.
2.3 – What does this mean for my business? Associating user generated content with products has shown a direct correlation to sales lift according to a recent IPSOS study.
For brands that are focused on leveraging earned media to create advocacy and impact “intent” (middle of the purchase funnel) a cooperative content curation strategy may be the right choice.
2.6 – Conclusion – For certain brand marketers the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors and create a relationship with passionate fans to showcase their view of the brand as the core assets to fuel cross-platform branded experiences and display for impact.
3 – SIMPLICITY MATTERS = DIRECT RESPONSE – What we have seen over the past 6 months is a fundamental shift in social platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and now Instagram towards better supporting offline conversion through direct response ad types.
From an investor perspective, awareness and engagement are not always seen as the most viable way to invest dollars that drive tangible business impact. This is one of the primary reasons that Twitters CEO stepped down as they did not have a viable way to measure true impact of spend.
3.1 – Why Paid Advertising on Instagram? Instagram’s paid advertising offerings have evolved significantly over the past year and we as marketers are starting to see the influence that the Facebook acquisition has had on the platform.
Recent announcements highlighted advanced targeting will be coming soon to the Instagram ad products. In partnership with parent company Facebook, Instagram’s ad products will allow for greater specificity to deliver a contextually relevant message that may drive a direct response from the consumer.
3.2 – What does it do for my business? With improved targeting capabilities thanks to Facebook and now an option launching this fall to support direct response call to actions such as shop now, install now, sign up, learn more, we see an increased emphasis on driving a user to action. One element that has been missing from Instagram.
Also, the news that an Instagram ads API will be available this fall to support both small and large organizations is important news for those marketers that are not spending millions of dollars on the Facebook ad platform.
3.3 – Conclusion – Instagram’s ad products are continuing to evolve and the addition of direct response units is a very welcome addition. Initial signals are positive, but it will be important to see what changes a more comprehensive ad product suite will have on a platform that has prided itself on simplicity and community.
As you can see, there are various strategic use cases that can drive different outcomes depending on your objectives. Understanding when to activate one vs. the other, or multiple elements simultaneously is key to fully maximizing the highly creative and engaged Instagram audience.
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