Instagram has been perhaps the brightest of the rising stars in the last year for marketing. It’s almost entirely due to the widespread circulation of a Forrester survey that showed the photo sharing site had an average engagement rate of 120 times higher than Twitter. Now the year is at an end, brands have had nine months to invade and conquer, or die on the fields of mobile pictures and filters. How is Instagram looking for the coming year?
The Matter of Engagement
As mentioned above, that survey shows that Instagram has a huge amount of engagement. The number has been growing from year to year, as well, as more users use the platform and more people engage with each other.
Now, I’ve long been a naysayer about the corporate invasion on Instagram. I feel like there’s an ongoing trend of social networks appearing and growing, brands coming in to take advantage of the low-hanging fruit, and the platform and users working to shut it down. Some platforms nearly die out when brands invade, while others adopt a purely commercial outlook that drives users away and makes the platform less and less useful for businesses.
I feel like Instagram is currently on the rise for businesses, there’s no doubt about that. It’s going to see a massive influx of companies trying to use it for the next few years. From there, what happens depends on how Instagram – run by Facebook, king of making commercial decisions – deals with the business influx. They’re already expanding paid advertising – more on that later – and I can easily see a general user decline in engagement because of the presence of brands.
Right now, the biggest barrier to brands using the platform is the mobile requirement. The lack of API and any automation tools that don’t involve handing over a password makes it difficult to dig in as much as we would like. Still
Curating Content is Increasingly Important
More and more, the world of Internet marketing is about appeasing and appealing to your customers through a broad knowledge of your industry and their interests. You can’t just post about your own business and your own blog; you need to become a centralized source for industry information.
Instagram is incredibly good for content curation. It’s easy to share and like the photos you find interesting, and you think your users will find interesting. Instagram users getting attention from brands will typically be appreciative, though reciprocation from Instagram power users may not be guaranteed.
Brands that can successfully merge self-promotion and content curation in 2015 will be some of the biggest successes on Instagram. Brands that fail at curation, come across as second-rate sharers or content thieves will falter and fail.
Instagram’s Expanded Paid Advertising
Throughout 2014, brands found it difficult to operate on Instagram without many of the advertising tools they were used to. Now, as we dig into 2015, we’re finding that many of those tools are either present or coming on the horizon. With ad insights and an ad platform, Instagram may be a great place for paid ads.
Just imagine; the reach and engagement of Instagram combined with the intelligence and tracking of Facebook. Few can deny that Facebook has some of the most robust audience tracking and detailed targeting options of any ad platform online. Further, because Instagram is operated by Facebook, such enhancement can be integrated into the platform.
Toss Facebook’s Atlas into the mix and you have the beginnings of an insanely profitable ad network. Atlas can easily bring all of the Facebook data through to Instagram, and bring the data from both platforms to other sites around the web. Imagine the reach of Google’s Display Network with the targeting of Facebook, and the engagement of Instagram. If it all comes into play, 2015 could be the golden year for marketers.
Dropping Reach Forced Facebook Migrations
There’s a concept called information density that’s quickly coming into play for many businesses, particularly small businesses. The idea is that the Internet is packed full of so much content that it’s not a guarantee to get the attention of your users. People are becoming increasingly picky with how they spend their time online, because there’s so much content and so little time in the day. If it were possible to increase the hours in a day, you can bet that brands would do so.
Facebook in particular is suffering from information overload. Dozens of posts per hour scroll through a user’s news feed, and there’s no way they’re going to be engaging with all of them. Brands need to be the cream of the crop for even their paid positioning to make a serious impact. On Facebook, it just isn’t happening for many people, so those people leave.
Instagram is still a platform with high engagement, and it’s solely because of the image focus of the site. An image is easy to digest in seconds, and engagement through a like or a comment is equally easy. There’s no blog post investment, no video investment beyond the 16 or so seconds Instagram allows; it’s perfect for circumventing information density.
Instagram Video and Vine: Storytelling in Brief
In the last year, something interesting happened to video. Ever heard of 5SecondFilms? They are a comedy team producing stories told in five seconds on YouTube. They achieved pretty great success with their unique formula, and both Vine and Instagram decided to follow suit.
Vine in particular exploded in 2014, proving that you can tell a great story in six seconds. Instagram more than doubles that allotted amount of time, but still keeps it limited to an easily digestible length.
Brands that intelligently and amusingly use Instagram videos will see amazing success moving forward, though it’s entirely possible that Vine will be the bigger platform, and that Instagram should be limited to photos. Which platform is used will depend on two things; the brand in question, and what incentives Instagram applies to video.