11 February 2016
Some people thought that Mark Zuckerburg was slightly unhinged when he reached into his deep pockets and spent $1bn (£629m) purchasing Instagram from its founders Kevin Systrom (@kevin) and Mike Krieger (@mikeyk) in 2012 given the (then) capability of the app.
Incidentally, at the time of purchase Instagram had only 13 employees – which at $77m a head probably makes it the most expensive business deal in history. Time has proven Zuckerberg made a smart move but is Instagram a useful tool for B2B marketers?
We all love to use Instagram with our friends and family but is there a way of introducing Instagram to your 2016 marketing strategy without raising too many eyebrows from senior management?
Before I give you a straight yes or no to that question, it’s important that you know the size of the opportunity in case your boss says; “Instagram… really?”
Instagram now has more than 400m active monthly users which accounts for nearly 20% of all internet users. It has a larger, faster growing audience than Twitter and its users are 1.8 times more engaged. It’s also been valued at $35 billion according to Forbes, making its purchase by Mr Zuckerburg a rather savvy one.
But what does that mean for you, the marketer, who’s trying to reach your audience?
Well… Instagram is a purely mobile application and because it surfaces one image at a time on a stream that is sorted in reverse chronological order, a user has to consume the image in front them before scrolling to the next one which naturally increases engagement rates (because there are no distractions). Industry reports on Instagram typically reference the average per-follower engagement rate is 4.21% on posts by top brands.
Who’s making it work?
There are already some fantastic examples of B2B brands successfully using Instagram to increase engagement and brand awareness. Microsoft treats its Instagram channel as an integral part of its editorial plan using every post as an opportunity to tell a story, walking its audience through exactly what is happening in the photo. This combination results in above-average engagement levels.
Intel’s Instagram account is also an example of best-practice and despite it having an audience that is only 1% the size of its Facebook followers, its organic Instagram posts receive between four and eight times more likes than its organic posts on Facebook. “HOW?” I hear you ask.
The company has a great way of showcasing their products in a subtle manner without rubbing followers up the wrong way. They do this by showing the products in everyday circumstances and providing ways to fix common problems by using their tech. This way, followers feel like they are gaining something from the profile and not just being sold to.
How can you make it work?
It’s probably worth mentioning here that people don’t sign up to Instagram to be sold to. They sign up because they want to see great pictures, so if you’re planning to market through Instagram its essential you deliver them.
With that in mind it comes down to following these three steps: 1) Post beautiful and engaging images. 2) Include a well thought-out description that gives context to what your audience is looking at, and 3) respond. A large proportion of brands fail to interact with their audience on their own posts, which is the reason you’re going to all this trouble in the first place – to create conversations.
If you want to go the extra mile… the Instagram advertising platform allows you to ‘engage your audience in a creative, high-quality environment and drive action’ (their words not mine), and is run from Facebook Business Manager meaning that any user who links their Instagram account to their Facebook page will automatically share the same interests and biographical information listed on their Facebook profile. Instagram ads also allow for an embedded call to action (CTA) button which means that you’ll actually be able to link to content hosted outside the app*.
Earlier on in this post I said that you would be using Instagram to increase audience engagement. But Instagram is way, way more powerful than a tool to flex your branding awareness muscles. Instagram is a channel that allows you to build stories, deliver beautiful images and generate a much more meaningful experience for your followers and ultimately your business; utilizing the advertising toolset to drive people to owned content or short-form videos** is key to sustained success.
But don’t get lazy! Instagrammers don’t suffer fools, there’s not enough space in their streams for second rate imagery and brands that broadcast.
Push the boundaries and aim high, and [plug alert] let us know if you need our help :)
*organic posts don’t have the ability to include a live URL
** As of 20th Jan 2016 Instagram has increased the video length to 1 minute making videos more like traditional advertising and less like shareable, social snippets.