By Melanie Torres
I’d like to preface this blog by stating that I am quite fond of Instagram. Actually, let’s rephrase that, I’m somewhat borderline obsessed with it. It’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I look at before going to sleep. I find myself liking other users photos throughout the day and searching for brands, celebrities, fitness gurus and fashionistas to follow on a daily basis. There have been several online purchases made solely because I found a discount or special offer on IG. When I go to restaurants, hangout with friends or visit cool new places, my first thought is if the moment is “instagrammable”.
Now, to many people this obsession may seem a little far-fetched. Perhaps you’re already googling “Instagram-aholics Anonymous” groups to send me to. But the fact of the matter is, I’m not alone. In reality, there are more than 150 million active Instagram users as of September last year, 90% who fall within my age demographic (under 35)… and the momentum isn’t slowing down. To quote a recent New York Times article, “Instagram is already growing like one of the beans in the Jack and the Beanstalk tale. With a little nurturing, it could grow to the sky.” Facebook recognized the vast potential of IG when they purchased it for $1 Billion back in April 2012 and now, statistics are showing that Engagement on Instagram is 15 times that of Facebook’s, with users spending an average of 257 minutes per month. Not only that but it’s the social network that has seen the fastest growth, most engagement, and highest conversion from browser to shopper.
With those kinds of bragging rights it’s no wonder so many brands have adopted IG into their overall marketing strategy, with some like Starbucks and Nike dominating the platform and killing their retail competition in terms of follower count and engagement. Nike is currently one of the most popular brands on Instagram with 3,452,109 followers and over 22 million posts using the hashtag #Nike. Starbucks is also up there with 2,063,755 Instagram followers and over 9 million #starbucks posts. But it’s not just brands like these two that have truly embraced the potential buying power of Instagram users.
Roughly 91% of retail brands have flocked to Instagram and many have found that the visual photo-sharing translated directly into sales, even through the depths of economic depression. Each brand uses different tactics to become successful, but there are some commonalities that they share. For one, each of these brands pays close attention to what their fans are posting and takes time to feature fan photos and interact with fans who use their hashtag. They also are careful to post photos that have that “Instagram feel”. Meaning less product shots, and more beautiful scenery, people using their products and “real-life-in-the-moment” captures. To get a better idea of how to become successful brand on Instagram just look at some of these top brands and take notes.
Instagram has also been playing around with advertising, and the “first Instagram ad from Michael Kors received four times the usual number of likes compared to non-promoted posts.
That ad also reached a global audience of 6.15 million for Michael Kors, and the company received 33,000 new followers, 16 times more than usual.” Those are some real eye popping numbers for retailers and something that will become even more common as IG ads become more streamlined. Instagram itself is quite aware of the potential buying power of their users and in an effort to make themselves even more appealing to brands, have announced the launch of the “The Instagram Handbook for Brands” just last week. The book profiles 11 brands on Instagram that post incredibly engaging content and also features Instagram’s brand values and ten popular hashtags that highlight the collaborative creativity within the IG community. They also showcase brand spotlights, Instagram tips and API examples on their blog “Instagram for Business”.
So as you can see, Instagram is much more than a mobile app full of hipsters, selfies and pretty pictures. It’s a place where brands can truly connect and immerse themselves into the lives of their customers, and if it continues to grow at this pace it may soon become the world’s most powerful selling tool available. A pretty huge accomplishment for a social network that hasn’t even hit it’s 4th birthday.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go browse through Instagram now…