Embracing the Inspiration Platform: The Lowdown on Instagram
According to the latest earnings call, Instagram’s ad revenue will make up 5 percent of Facebook’s mobile ad revenue this year, and that share will increase to 14 percent in 2017. Thanks in part to a new advertising API, the projected revenue is expected to rocket to $2.8 billion by 2017 — leaving even giants like Twitter and Google in the rearview mirror in the U.S. market.
So what does that mean for advertisers? And why does it matter?
How ‘not to’ Instgram!
Unfortunately, with the growth of Instgram as a marketing tool, I am starting to see what we call stock-image-based marketing, which is lazy and, ultimately, ineffective. If you take a look at the data on many an Instagram campaign, you can see that eye-catching, engaging photography is the single most important factor in marketing optimization for any campaign on this platform. For example, check out what one of the first brands to embrace beautiful photography has managed to do. Ben and Jerry’s understood that featuring mouth-watering images of its famous ice cream could spread “ice cream euphoria” around the world. It has a strong commitment to its brand values and demonstrates this with its focus on building customer connections on a global scale.
Ben and Jerry’s is constantly “regramming” photos posted with related hashtags, as well as focusing on building brand awareness by promoting new and unique flavors through Instagram. Ben and Jerry’s has also proven Instagram ads’ effectiveness by strategically running them using images of its newest flavors or other enticing pictures. After just four ads, Ben and Jerry’s saw a 20 percent increase in followers.
You’ll hear people talk about the need for authentic, real-world photos to drive engagement and they’re right. You can’t keep doing what some brands are really guilty of here in the Middle East, by just slapping up any old marketing nonsense and hoping it will do. It won’t — the Instagram community is discerning and as its very name suggests, they go to Instagram to be inspired, delighted and entertained — “in an instant.” Shoddy shortcuts will not hold up when brands are competing against the likes of National Geographic and some of the world’s best photographers, humorists, fashion brands and the list goes on …Instagram users refuse to be bored to tears by dull promotional campaigns or posters — and they vote with likes and follows.
According to Laundry Service (a boutique social agency content), relevant images get 94 percent more views than content without. Tweets with images on Buffer receive 150 percent more retweets.
So what exactly is happening on Instagram and how can you take part?
Instagram advertisers will be able to use a full slate of Facebook targeting tools including the popular Custom Audiences feature. This will be a key drawing card. Why? Because ads will be hyper-targeted based on demographics: age, gender and interests pulled from Facebook. This gives advertisers a real advantage over organic posts because you can deliver hyper-bespoke, beautiful content to a precise target, which means that the effectiveness of your creative investment increases enormously. Further, you can retarget your contacts by uploading your customers’ email addresses, allowing more customized engagement.
What can advertisers expect?
For the smart brands out there that base creative work on data insights, the advertising on Instagram will have several different types of carousel ads with “Shop Now,” “Learn More” and “Sign Up” call-to-action buttons that link outside the app, which will be incredibly insightful. These CTAs for direct response actions that open an in-app browser mean that brands can fully integrate their social CRM strategy so it moves Instagram from an awareness-only touch point to the end-of-the-purchase-funnel tool.
The end-of-funnel formats have a really powerful API to track and measure what the value of a brand’s investment is. Robust measurement and tracking will provide advertisers transparency of the value of the investment on the platform against their key metrics, whether that’s awareness uplift, purchase intent or even actual sales the platform — which will allow for a really smart tracking system across the process and, ultimately, a powerful performance marketing matrix.
Only quality content need apply!
Now that Instagram is opening up its advertising suite, there is a lot of pent-up demand. The rollout of new features over the next several months means that by the end of 2015, Instagram will have a host of new ad products for advertisers, large and small.
But this is not the time for marketers to rest on their respective laurels. Sorry folks, but mediocre creative simply won’t work on Instagram. It needs to feel authentic, real but beautiful.
Innovation pays off — check out what Old Spice is doing.
Hats off to Wieden + Kennedy, which hacked the tagging function on Instagram to gamify the platform through a "Choose Your Own Adventure" social game for Old Spice, filled with robots, retro monsters and meta jokes.
Whatever you do, don’t publish stock photography — it’s a huge no-no on Instagram. It feels fake and is worse than spam. What all “Instasuccessful” brands do on the platform is to encourage truly authentic moment sharing.
The challenge for Instagram now is maintaining that same high standard for quality despite effectively shedding the training wheels — giving more advertisers more freedom instead of just guiding a few big-budget brands to glossy campaigns.