I've always had a soft spot for Instagram, which stoked my love for disruption and innovation by founding on the day that Kodak
And because of its penchant for disrupting the visual content space, I want to see Instagram remain fresh. The new video advertising capabilities the service is unfurling and the solid user numbers they boast and continue to build upon are the kind of developments that make marketing departments rethink their entire communications plan. But these kinds of numbers also cause companies to spend and create recklessly without a strategy -- potentially overplaying their Instagram opportunity and turning their brand stale.
What's new with Instagram for brand marketing?
Two of the biggest items I took away from Instagram's latest advertising announcement:
1. Instagram is tightening the link between browsing and buying with a "click-to-buy" capability. The ability for advertisers and businesses to tie direct ROI from investment in content and social to ecommerce is the sort of lower-funnel activity that could change the game -- to actually sell by telling great stories.
2. Instagram's targeting ability is greatly enhanced, and Facebook's "Fort Knox" of personal data and infrastructure is powering its ad capabilities. Using Facebook's infrastructure for buying, managing and measuring is kind of like borrowing dad's Mercedes for the weekend -- but forever.
Now that there's more of a dollars-and-cents reason to invest in Instagram, brand marketers specifically are going to have to strive to deliver great content. Ultimately, great native Instagram content is the only thing that creates real engagement, and engagement happens to be that one last thing that can't be bought.
Brands doing great Instagram content
Typically, the first instinct of many marketers when it comes to their initial foray into paid media on a new platform is to feed it leftovers -- think lots of repackaged punchlines from glossy broadcast TV commercials, which fail to resonate on social spaces.
$137.8B U.S. ad spend for top 200 advertisers
On the other end of the spectrum, we've seen quite a few brands that simply open up their feed to user-generated content (via the all-powerful hashtag) and pray for the best. This solves for the problem of scarcity, but hoping for quality user-generated content simply because you have a lot of it is a gambler's folly.
What we've seen work best on Instagram are creative strategies that are built not only on the platform's uniqueness, but also on its ethos of authenticity and visual flair. Using a combination of innovation, crowdsourcing, curation and planning, here are three brands that totally "get" Instagram, creating content that is standing out:
Innovation: Airbnb's "Never a Stranger" campaign was one of the first to use Instagram's carousel capability. Users can also book a listing from Airbnb's Instagram feed via its like2b.uy integration, which will likely move to Instagram's click-to-buy capability when it launches. It's like Google Earth with fresh linens.
Crowdsourcing and curation: When Lenovo opened up its Instagram feed for its #ihackedlife campaign, it had already sourced several great videos from its own customers and fans. This helped Lenovo set an inclusive (but visually rich) look for the campaign overall. Sourcing the "life hacks" videos from existing Lenovo fans and customers allowed for authentic content, but careful curation kept it on brand. When #ihackedlife opened up the discussion via Instagram, it had a coherent look and feel, and it had momentum.
Planning: For Bacardi Limon, the trick was in thinking ahead. The brand was creating a pool-party video for TV to support its "Turn Up Your Summer" #Limonade program, but in the early stages decided to get more content for other platforms. With the cast and crew in place, the brand also shot several 15-second videos expressly for Instagram. The videos added some cheeky lifestyle commentary to the scene: "How to make a splash," "How to make the perfect summer cocktail," and my personal favorite, "Doing a lap at a pool party."
However you choose to leverage Instagram's new marketing capabilities, I recommend taking your time to really understand and soak in the sights that your favorite personalities and brands are exhibiting. Then, think about your brand's visual style and set an example your fans and customers can dig into. Involve your customers, curate to get the best content, plan ahead and push the envelope.