A lot has changed since we first wrote about Instagram in March of 2011. There have been three iPhone releases, at least one royal baby was born, YouTube live-streamed Felix Baumgartner’s insane jump from the edge of space, and half of the BLASTmedia team got engaged and/or married (seriously).
Instagram’s following also grew from two million registered users to 200 million monthly active users during that time. Direct messaging, web profiles, video, and advertising were all introduced to the social media platform—oh yeah, and not least of all, Instagram was acquired by Facebook in September 2012 for one billion dollars.
Fast-forward a little over a year from the acquisition to late 2013 and 65% of the world’s top 100 brands, as determined by Interbrand’s Best Global Brands reports, were active on Instagram.
But, but, but… Instagram is still pretty much mobile only. And you can’t include click-able links in Instagram posts. I can’t afford the advertising… And who cares about “engagement” anyway?
Well, sir or ma’am, let us explain the benefits of Instagram marketing.
1. Instagram is social (media). You can’t put a price tag on community, and engagement is important, even if you can’t always attach a number to it (although we’ll get to ROI later, promise). Instagram is building its own case as the place to be. Second only to Facebook in terms of average time spent per visit, the user demographic is solidly the under-25 group that marketers love and that Facebook is increasingly losing.
Like any good relationship, Instagram provides brands with an opportunity to give and take. It’s as much what you’re saying about yourself as what others are saying about you. And luckily, Instagram users are often seeking to inspire envy among their followers. As a result, Instagram’s user-generated content is typically better and cooler. What makes the user look good can make the brand look extra good. This is not the space where customer service headaches and product deficiencies are aired. Plus, hashtag searches make this content easier to find, engage with, and leverage.
2. Instagram is experiential. According to Business Insider, 60% of social media activity now occurs on mobile devices. In that respect, Instagram’s mobile focus is not a flaw; it’s a huge advantage. Marketing News quotes Kimberly Litt, public affairs manager at American Express, in their May 2014 issue: “People want to share things that they’re doing and seeing with people in their network.” If that involves a brand experience—hello, restaurants, airlines, museums, concert venues, car companies, tourism councils, travel accessories, portable sound systems, mobile anything!—so be it.
3. Instagram is universal. An image is worth a thousand words—and those words aren’t in any particular language. Kim Kardashian can’t tweet in Korean (an assumption, admittedly) but certain things don’t require translation:
Jim Squires, Instagram’s director of market operations, is banking on the transcendence of the #selfie: “We’re very focused on growth and plan to grow it to one billion users. That’s what we’re doing.”
4. Instagram pays off. There aren’t click-able links in posts, but you can include one click-able link in your profile and Instagram is directly driving traffic and sales through that one link. And in fact, sales driven by Instagram averaged $65.00/order, more than Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube, according to data from 37 million social media visits to Shopify stores.
Admittedly, the volume of traffic is not competitive with other social sites, but marketers can safely assume that users are searching for brands and products they discover on Instagram.
5. Instagram is pure… for now. The ads are expensive, but unlike Facebook, every single post is published on every single one of your followers’ feeds. Yes, you have to cut through the clutter with truly compelling content, but for now, you don’t have to pay to play. For now.
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