April 07, 2014

Instagram Insurgent Instagram, the photo and video-sharing app owned by Facebook, is the fastest growing social network with 35 million monthly smartphone users spending 257 minutes per month. Forty percent of their traffic is in the United States where 58 percent use the app every day. Seven in ten are women (18-44) with household incomes of $75,000 or more who are actively looking to be surprised, diverted and delighted. Instagram, according to research by L2 Think Tank, registers 15 times the engagement and double the engaged user base of its parent, Facebook. “Instagram resembles a modern day bazaar – one that I visit on my phone when I have a free moment.” Jenna Wortham wrote in The New York Times. “A huge part of the appeal is that the goods I’m perusing are sandwiched in my Instagram feed between my friends; selfies and pictures of snow covered spots where they’ve stopped during the day. Stumbling across an unexpected and gorgeous find … on a special app like Instagram brings with it the excitement of discovery not unlike the titillating thrill you get when coming across a rare find at a flea market.” Casual shoppers and a broad variety of brands have embraced this 100% mobile marketplace. A survey by Teen Vogue found that Instagram is the number one platform that inspires product purchases. Instagram, according to a recent Shopify study, generates the second highest order values among social networks and ranks fourth in sales conversion in spite of the fact that the platform has just created its first ad units and direct links to branded websites or eCommerce platforms are prohibited. So what do Calvin Klein, Ben & Jerry’s L’Oreal, Honda, Uhaul, Macy’s, Gap, Chanel, Michael Kors, Nordstrom, Target, Gucci, Victoria’s Secret, Harrods and Laboutin plus 93 percent of prestige brands know that you don’t? These 4 key tactics … Intercept Behavior. Women have led the smartphone revolution. They clutch their phones as virtual controllers for busy lives. Instagram meets them in the course of their normal daily behavior and offers diversion, surprise and entertainment in context. The app has become a guilty pleasure intertwined with friends, family and workflow. Since 30 percent of women access social networks by smartphone each day, Instagram is perceived as an authentic collection of ideas and images in real time curated by trusted sources. There might not be a better synthesis of targeting, content and channels. Sell by Showing. Photos and fifteen second videos are the coin of the realm. Instagram might be the absolute proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. Also given its global reach, pictures often communicate fundamentals without a need for translation. Both individuals and brands post. The average prestige brand posts 6 images a week and 72 percent post 15-second videos, usually one every two weeks. The photos get 1.5X the engagement. Producing high quality short video is a gating factor which should disappear over time. Facilitate Sharing. Comments, re-posts and sharing to other social networks, especially Facebook (9 out of 10 shares) and Twitter are common. Instagram, like Twitter, is becoming a real-time companion to off-line events. During New York Fashion Week 100,000 fashion-related images were posted to Instagram by 33,000 unique users while the top fashion brands averaged about 7 posts per day. #InstagramDirect connects individuals to each other to share posts. Consumers can opt-in to follow brands or celebrities and set push alerts about new content from favorite brands and friends. There seems to be a broad understanding that friends share interests, tastes, perspectives and Instagram imagery. Use Your Ecosystem. The smart guys import Instagram images and user-generated content into branded websites and Facebook pages. Instagram integration adds an element of real-time spontaneity that feels natural and comfortable to shoppers. Some brands have used widgets to drive conversions from user-generated photos. Brands like American Eagle Outfitters, Lancôme, Coach and West Elm solicit images of their products and then post them as a supplement to staged catalog shots. In one study images used this way increased conversion from 5-7 percent and boosted average order value by 2 percent. If you’ve got something to tell or sell women, don’t ignore Instagram.
Frankly Facing Facebook Face it! Facebook has led marketers down the primrose path. They taught us about and addicted us to free earned media. They encouraged us to spend money to attract and engage millions of followers. They ran us through the “like” gates. And now they have tightly restricted access to the audiences we created and extorted us by creating a pay-for-play platform. By steadily manipulating the Edgerank algorithm, Facebook has systematically reduced access to the fan bases we built. The latest estimates are that less than 2% of a brand’s fans actually see brand posts. And many marketers assume that brand reach will soon be zero. Today we have to pay to reach the audiences we attracted to the Facebook platform. Ironically, Facebook has evolved into an old media model where editorial (posts) is clearly different and separated from reach (advertising). Savvy marketers are now asking tougher questions about metrics and ROI. If we have to pay for what we used to get for free, what is the business impact of Facebook advertising and how does it move product or build brand loyalty? Engagement, which has been the ill-defined, but widely accepted payoff for several years, is falling out of favor as a useful metric. But there are few hard numbers to justify sustaining investments. The answers are elusive and Facebook’s doubtful and self-serving “research” does little to convince skeptical CFOs. Surprisingly, brand marketers’ response has been muted. Few are willing to buck the 800-pound gorilla in our midst. Many are reluctant to tell their bosses that this once high-flying platform, filled with the promise of free viral reach and added engagement value, has radically changed. New and bigger budgets are required to make it useful. One school of thought is betting on creativity. They argue that if a brand can come up with really cool content -- the stuff that everyone wants to see or know about --that even with 2% reach, fans will spread the word among themselves. These marketers are doubling down on video, gifs and games. They are working overtime to devise memes with wings. A second school is playing ball with Facebook. These brands are investing ad dollars for both desktop and mobile units. They are using the 200+ targeting channels, comparing brand databases with Facebook’s, running contests and promotions and experimenting with different units and page placements, in an attempt to regain access to fans and expand their reach or frequency among Facebook’s billion users. There are many cases of successful lead generation and awareness campaigns, though the ROI varies widely. A third segment is abandoning Facebook in favor of other emerging social networks. Competing against Facebook’s muscular marketplace positioning, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and others have increased sales efforts, created new packages, expressed a willingness to customize units and experiment cooperatively with brands to redirect dollars that might otherwise have gone to Zuckerberg & Company. Now that the stakes have changed and the ante is higher, brands are asking tougher measurement questions, demanding a greater connection between social media activity and business results and further degrading “engagement” as an indicator of communication value.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

The Typepad Team

Recent Comments