With brands floundering to re-position Facebook's ranking of importance in the social mix due to the new pay for play outlook more and more brands are turning to Instagram as a platform to solve all their ailments. Sure, Twitter will continue to play a part but digital marketeers are squirming uncomfortably with news stories hinting at Twitter Algorithm in the pipeline for 2015. A report from SocialBakers on Decemeber 17th found that Instagram is absolutely trouncing Twitter on engagement with the top 25 brands obtaining 3.24% more engagement on Instagram than through Twitter. Put into context that their average Twitter engagement is 0.07% it's a no brainer that brands would be looking at IG with renewed energy.
What Instagram offers is a more creative platform in a land with no quick fixes like self-serve mass advertising (yet) we'll see innovation and growth hacking come to the fore. No longer will brands get away with memes or boring posts with no imagery. Genuine connections are tougher won between people and a few brands here, success is gained by those who've dipped their toes to create meaningful photo-based content. Vector graphic based content won't play out as well here as on Facebook. Loyal Instagrammers (#IGers) are more akin to a community of amateur photogs who aren't afraid to rag on anyone for pedalling memes or stolen imagery.
Genuine photographic content need not be daunting. Brands have a really great opportunity to shine. Instagram can work great to make your mediocre food look completely irresistible, your humdrum make-up brand look dead sexy and your kinda boring brand seem genuine and interesting depending on how clever you are with your content strategy. For great examples see: MercedesBenz, Cornetto and our very own Glasnevin Museum (possibly the greatest and best cemetery museum on Instagram?).
Be under no illusion, considering Zuckerberg's ownership of Instagram, feed algorithm will come eventually to Instagram also. For now the one challenge with the platform is the lack of advertising capabilities available here in Europe, but maybe this is an opportunity in disguise. We're already seeing really creative usage of the platform from the likes of KLM, IKEA and Ted Baker who've broken the mould when it comes to consumer interactions on the platform and hacked Instagram creating very clever campaigns. The introduction of video on the platform has seen some nice local campaigns encouraging UGC is still in fledgling stages (Electric Picnic for one) over the past years but nothing to set the world alight yet.
Aside from advertising there are a few other hurdles for the platform to overcome from a digital marketing point of view. Measurement is one. Clients will always want a measured return on investment understandably, and beyond fan numbers and counting engagements, Instagram hasn't offered anything to measure the reach or delivery of their content to give the other two numbers context. The advertising solution which we've seen examples of in the US on a trial basis should in theory herald the introduction of these analytics though. Another personal bugbear is that despite being around for 4 years, it still seems crazy to me that usernames and hashtags are the only elements clickable within post copy with URLs ignored? Keeping conversation native to the platform and not allowing people to click out scuppers brands dependent on driving sales through their websites or media who use social for referrals on content. (Sure there's a link in the bio but the user journey isn't direct enough).
One exciting angle that Instagram seem to have down is experiential. Thanks to NY based start-up Instaprint were wheeled out by AIB at the Web Summit this year for their #backedbyAIB campaign which brought the platform to life in the form of printed take home souvenirs of the event. (Still a few kinks to be worked out there though in terms of moderation as a particularly NSFW was tagged at the event and promptly removed). That said I got chatting to the guy who headed up the project from Instaprint and their going rate, excluding travel, accommodation and materials for Instaprint at the Web Summit was $5k per day putting it out of the reach of many smaller brands for now.
So, there you have it from hacking the platform to eventual ad serving and experiential to boot, there's tons of potential for IG in 2015. It'll be interesting to see the platform evolve with the inevitable marketeers' shift in focus away from Facebook and Zuckerberg's interest to monetise the platform.
Seán Earley is Head of Creative Services at New/Slang part of PSG Communications in between craft beer fancying and ice cream obsessions he works with clients like HB Ice Cream, Bord Gais, Gala Retail and VFI. He also sits on the board of the Irish Internet Association.