Just because it’s easy, let’s do it and just because it’s cheap, let’s plaster all over the media. We have seen this happening earlier with other digital channels and we can see this happening now with Instagram too. It’s quick to start and pause, so why to spend time in planning or thinking? When I see these poorly shot or awfully cropped pictures in a sponsored post, I cringe. When I see the messages so long that you need to zoom or a sponsored posts that only speak of X% discounts, I wonder why? I understand the general impulse of — “Instagram is popular, let’s do a campaign there”, but considering it’s a sponsored post and that too with such high frequency, I am assuming there is money being spent with some business objectives in mind. Then, why not spend some time in understanding the platform and engaging with your audience accordingly?
I have been fairly active on Instagram for long but of late my visits to Instagram is much more considering the time I have in hand these days. While my prime reason to visit Instagram frequently is following my interest feeds, the marketer in me can’t help but observe all the changes in the platform minutely. Keeping the negatives aside on narcissism, addictive etc. (I think, that is true for all social channels not just Instagram, if you don’t know where to draw the line between your real and virtual life and when to switch off), Instagram is a beautiful channel to connect and engage with your audience. But as is the case with any marketing channel, one needs to spend some time in understanding the uniqueness of this place. Yes, place would be the right term to use. When we visit a new place, it’s worthwhile to spend some time in getting familiar with the culture and uniqueness of that place, I think even digital channels require similar approach, the more we are clear about each channel’s traits, the better we will be at connecting with the audience there.
So, if Instagram would be a place, here’s what I think it’s unique traits would be:
- Beautiful: Instagram is indeed one of the most beautiful places on internet. Thanks to the filters, almost every picture uploaded by users is gorgeous. Now, we all know that filters were one of the prime reasons why Instagram became a rage amongst users especially the youngsters. At such a beautiful place where every post is picture perfect, what are the chances of a shoddy click or cluttered pic to be noticed by users especially when there is a “sponsored” tag below your post?
- Native language, visuals: Remember the old saying, a picture is worth a 1000 words? I think in today’s world, it would be apt to say an insta post is worth 1000 words. It’s a place where everyone communicates via visuals and with user’s attention span getting lesser and lesser, it’s all the more important that the picture speaks for itself. Hashtags help you in discoverability, text description might help in adding to the context, but in this age of swipe up and swipe down culture, the user only stops to read the supporting text if the visual storytelling is evocative enough. If I have to give you my example, from Japanese omelette to pointillism art, I can’t tell you the number of things that I have learnt there by just looking at pictures without even understanding a word written below 🙂
- Open: While there’s an option to have private accounts but the general behavior over there is public. It’s a place where people are open towards connecting with people with similar interests and passion. If you know the sensible usage of hashtags and have the right engaging content, it’s much simpler to reach the relevant audience here. Of course you need to spend sometime in understanding the hashtags and of course you need to understand if your target audience is available on Instagram or not.
- Inspiring: Instagram is lot more about interest feed than just social networking. It’s a place that inspires you to create more and brings out the artistic side of you. If you look at the top hashtags, things like food, style, design etc are always in that list and there are people who are sharing their amazing creations. Even if it’s a general family picture or holiday moment, the fact that users are spending so much time on filters in perfecting that photo also tells that apart from their happy life, they want to exhibit their photography skills too. It’s a platform where if you inspire your users the right way, you can get some beautiful user generated content for your brand. It’s a platform where if you allow the users to showcase their creativity, you can get them engaged truly.
- Helpful: So, not only you get ideas and inspirations, but like Youtube this place also has many helpful resources that could assist you in your creative aspirations. There are experts who share tips and influencers whose work you admire. I know almost all platforms are moving towards this form of engagement, but for a platform that’s only about visual communication, it’s all the more important that brands evaluate their marketing strategy instead of just offering discounts. Perhaps a smart influencer plug showcasing your product usage or your own posts giving ideas on things that can be done with your products will stimulate your users more. There are many examples for this, like apparel brands helping users on pairing of products that go well together or decor brands assisting users in choosing the furnishing depending upon your home colors. The moment you show the ‘what’ and ‘how’, chances of it clicking with the users get higher.
For each of these traits, there are brands that are already using the channel judiciously; maybe I will highlight those in second part of this post. For now, my only suggestion will be to think before you jump on to any channel as generalization definitely doesn’t work when it comes to digital marketing.