Taking the 'Insta' out of Instagram 06 May 2016

With over 400 million users, photo-sharing network Instagram is a force to be reckoned with. In fact, it’s the fastest growing social media channel since Facebook, adding over 100 million users in the last 12 months.

As a marketing channel for brands, Instagram delivers. It has the highest engagement rates of all social channels, providing 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more than Twitter.

But brands are worried by the firm’s plans to take the ‘Insta’ out of Instagram, in a bid to streamline social content. 

Instagram is launching an algorithm that controls what posts users see and in what order. Instead of showing posts chronologically, it’ll now prioritise the most relevant and popular content first.

 

Users are drowning in content

The switch is designed to ensure that users see more of what they care about and less of what they don’t. Instagram says there’s too much content to get through, with users missing on average 70 per cent of their feeds.

In an official blog post, Instagram notes: "The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post."

Many voices have joined in the debate—users, influencers, marketers and a whole host of others have voiced their concerns about the impacts these changes will have.

The question is: Do algorithmic feeds make a better user experience or do they allow social platforms to better serve advertisers?

 
A wake-up call for brands that aren’t taking social media seriously

For brands, especially those that rely on the app to reach their customers for free, the change isn’t so good.

In 2012, Facebook rolled out a similar change so posts from brand pages were only seen by a fraction of followers. The firm later said organic posts only reached 16 per cent of a page’s fans, and encouraged brands to pay for sponsored posts instead. 

Many fear the same pay-to-play approach will become necessary on Instagram to ensure content get enough screen time.

For brands, resistance is futile. Rather than trying to resist the changes, it’s time for firms to rethink their Instagram strategies and take advantage of the switch.

This will mean a greater focus on delivering what your target market really wants – high quality, relevant content.


Not just a platform for consumer brands

Even if you’re not selling a product or targeting millennials, Instagram is a highly useful channel, yet many B2B businesses dismiss Instagram as not being relevant. But there are huge opportunities to promote your brand values and to shine a light on what your company stands for.

Put simply, Instagram is a channel where building and maintaining brand awareness comes before lead generation. It’s about connecting with your audiences, and moving away from self-centred, sales focussed content.

How? The key to leveraging Instagram is not to think of it as a marketing platform at all.

Instead, you want to think of Instagram as a way to tell your brand’s story, as part of a larger marketing strategy. It’s less about selling the benefits of your products and services, and more about establishing deeper connections with people. 

Think of Instagram is a way to catch your customer when they’re not in ‘work mode’. When they’re browsing at leisure, they're not going to be clicking links or interested in being ‘sold to’. This is the perfect opportunity to interject some of your brand values that wouldn’t look out of place amongst the B2Cs, friends or co-workers they also follow on Instagram.

FedEx do this perfectly. Their Instagram feed is full of beautifully composed photos, many of which feature their easily recognisable FedEx trucks and planes. The sentiment here is that FedEx vehicles are always moving, always delivering. And for a business who rely on deliveries being on time, it’s a great impression. 

Companies like WeWorkMaersk Line and MailChimp have also shown that if you focus on your niche, you can build a strong relationship with the people that matter to you, even if you’re never going to be competing with consumer brands or celebrities.


Align your content to your brand message

Want to create content but don’t know what to focus on?

Try concentrating on a single message that’s aligned with your brand identity, and run with it. Focussing on a single message can help strengthen your brand, reinforce your values and set you apart from your competitors.

Real-estate investment firm CBRE do this really well. They post stunning photos from their real estate projects across the globe, with captions that tell their benefit to society. Apart from being a visual feast, the content captures the essence of the firm’s brand message with clarity and confidence.


Take advantage of the micro-targeting abilities of social networks

Instagrams’s owner, Facebook, allows brands to target people with astounding depth and variety.

Want to target fans of QI who live in Manchester and own a dog?

How about people who own a smartphone or tablet, who are lookalikes for your most valuable customers? Or customers who have visited your website, just watched a finance video on Facebook and own their own home?

Brands have been slow to realise that social networks allow you to match content to targeted, highly relevant groups you couldn’t reach before. The potential returns are massive.

Regardless of your brand’s social marketing strategy, the onus is, and always will be on engaging audiences with issues that matter to them. Good content will always rise to the top – something an algorithm can’t change.

 

Kieran Haddock, Marketing Assistant

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