I’m obsessed with Instagram. And while I promise not to treat this blog post like some sort of editorial confessional, it’s important to me – really, it is! – that you understand why I’m hooked. It’s also worthwhile to note that I’m pretty neurotic, as far as creatives go. All of my iPhone apps are organized into folders, and then by frequency of use. Imagine the challenge this poses when a new platform is launched, or when a platform rolls out a companion app (like Instagram did with both Hyperlapse and Layout).
My favoritism for Instagram doesn’t mean that I don’t love other photo-focused experiential platforms like Snapchat and Vine. I’ve kept a close eye on them to watch for smart and subtle brand engagement opportunities. But still, I find myself totally and completely enamored with Instagram for five key reasons:
1. Low-Barrier Engagement: Instagram may be owned by Facebook, but its engagement functionality for brands and consumers alike is much less overwhelming. A simple double-tap gesture is all that it takes for a consumer to passively engage with someone they follow. While comments and private messages are also an option, they’re secondary. This is very important to keep in mind for larger Instagram campaigns from an executional and measurement perspective. Considering the means of engagement on Instagram, KPIs may be more challenging to establish.
2. Clean & Nonintrusive Advertising: I’m a big believer in balancing a social strategy to account for both organic and paid support. That said, the front-end product of the back-end targeting isn’t always pretty. As a consumer, I’m grateful for the speed in which Instagram has rolled out its ad platform. As a social strategist, I’m wildly impatient for them to roll out advertising capabilities more broadly, but completely respect their reasons for a slow and steady approach.
The end product of an Instagram ad works not only because of what seems to be some solid targeting (I’ve gone on to follow many of the brands whose advertisements have landed in my feed), but because of strong content. And that’s exactly why it makes sense to kick it off as an exclusive set of brands; it reemphasizes the importance of producing strong, original and unique content to capture and engage your social audience.
3. Challenging Creativity: Not totally dissimilar to the concept of challenging brands to create great content, is this idea that Instagram challenges overall creativity for the user, by making us reevaluate what makes a good photo, and what’s worth sharing. From the filters to various level adjustments, Instagram puts the user in the driver’s seat, and for brands, that means a lot of creative license. Instagram forces brands to think more creatively about campaigns and activations, and it’s a great platform for leveraging brand partnerships and influencer relationships.
While the ability to upload photos and videos to Instagram is useful in plotting out an editorial calendar, brands have an added pressure to be trendy and timely, while also being polished and strategic. Facebook and Twitter have become more static in strategy because of scheduling functionality, whereas Instagram – as well as Snapchat and Vine – is keeping users on their toes, forcing more “of the moment” content.
4. Logical Features: Unlike some channels, Instagram has rolled out two really solid companion apps that offer its users more creative freedom. Hyperlapse is a super cool time-lapse video tool, and Layout is an equally cool photo collage tool. Both apps allow you to publish to Instagram with the click of a button, without being pushed to include a branded third party hashtag like many others. In addition to its companion apps, almost all Instagram app updates are echo user feedback, including its most recent addition of new filters and emoji-laden hashtags.
5. Awareness & Discovery: I feel about my social channels like I feel about my job. I’ll only continue to love them if I can continue learning and discovering. One of the totally underrated features on Instagram is its discovery feature, built nicely into its search tab. The platform allows you to search intentionally for a handle or a hashtag, while also curating an always-updated selection of Instagram images based on who you already follow. For me, that means a lot of shameless food photography mixed with random brands and marketing thought leaders, but it also means endless new recipes, social exclusive coupons and interesting work-related tips. The discovery functionality is great for brands and marketers, because it opens doors for building smart relationships with potential influencers, and getting a sense of who your audience engages with, offering insight into content that you could be creating.