Opinion

Brands need to earn the right to be on Instagram

Instagram logoIn this guest post, Kevin Walsh argues why brands should approach Instagram differently to other social media as the picture-sharing platform reaches five years old and the 400 million-user mark.

It may be hard to believe that Instagram has turned five years old, but potentially even harder to believe that advertising on the platform, especially in some APAC markets, is roughly only five weeks old.

That it’s taken three years to accelerate the monetisation of Instagram, demonstrates that Facebook knew Instagram needed to develop not only its own user base, but just as importantly, its positioning in the social media landscape.

It’s that positioning statement – to capture and share the world’s moments – which makes Instagram so much more than just a photo upload service. Equally it’s that positioning that puts a certain extra pressure on advertisers and this pressure can impact revenue opportunities.

Kevin Walsh

Kevin Walsh

With Instagram more so than with Twitter, WeChat and indeed Facebook itself, there’s a contextual credibility question that advertisers need to satisfy. A low-cost carrier can feel confident about sharing a 50 per cent off message on any of those platforms – do the same on Instagram and regardless of how pretty the image used is, the results won’t be.

Advertisers have to ask: do I have a right to be here? And some will hopefully recognise: do I have to be here right now? No.

Instagram may provide a younger, more affluent and discerning audience to would-be advertisers, but it’s those very characteristics that require a raised bar in terms of messaging and content creation.

Advertisers using Instagram as an advertising platform without having first built up a history of using Instagram for what it was first intended – to capture and share the world’s moments – will be seen through very quickly.

This may impact revenue opportunities for Instagram from the more direct response side of things, expecting similar success on Instagram to what they have come to see delivered on Facebook.

The flipside of that coin is an interesting one: those clients who have already embraced a content-fuelled communications approach should see Instagram as a fresh canvas, somewhere their content can cut through and they should respond with advertising dollars.

Instagram for branding and Facebook for direct response? It may not be as simple as that but Instagram’s monetisation will begin to change the way advertisers engage with Facebook.

We’re no longer talking about Facebook as a single advertising platform, but Facebook Inc. – a holding company with multiple assets that can engage an audience and generate revenue. As data moves across each platform, the targeting and retargeting opportunities between Instagram and Facebook alone will be phenomenal and provide a significant opportunity to drive revenue for Facebook Inc.

It’s not every day – not even every five years – that a platform with 400 million users becomes open for business. To maximise this opportunity, Instagram will need to guide advertisers on how to have credibility with the Instagram audience. Advertisers will need to appropriately define the role of Instagram within a communications strategy and we’ll all have to get used to the idea of dealing with Facebook Inc.

Carat in Australia with Philadelphia cream cheese were one of Instagram’s first partners who used the platform to successfully drive increased brand awareness and usage occasions for the “Philly Pourover” range by tapping into the #foodporn phenomena.

Carat Instagram Philadelphia

Nine ads were created that complemented rather than interrupted the average Instagram feed and in doing so provided the credibility for Philadelphia to be there in the first instance.

What makes Instagram so attractive is equally its biggest challenge for advertisers: cracking the content credibility question is the key to success.

Kevin Walsh is the chief digital officer of Carat Asia Pacific

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