So Instagram overtook Twitter last week in the number of active users. Not completely surprising in truth, but an achievement none-the-less. Considerable recognition exists that visual messages can be more effective than text so it can be seen in some light as par for the course. However, Twitter has become a staple not only in how we share our personal hilarity, but in how news is spread and organisations communicate with their clients. So what are the effects of this development on how businesses interact with the public in the digital sphere?
Social Media. It’s turning out to be the defining phenomenon of a generation. With MySpace, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, SnapChat and, more recently, Ello all changing the way we interact, it is no surprise that a major part of the modern business marketing campaign is online. And in this packed field, Instagram has just surpassed Twitter in the ‘monthly active user’ count: 300 million to 284 million.
With Twitter we found the ability to quickly link a message with related messages, people and topics. We were connecting at speeds too quick to keep up with, and information was losing value thanks to the sheer volume of it. But through this, indeed in spite of it, companies were discovering that this act of connecting their product or service with a previously unreachable target audience through effective tagging was actually sharpening the information’s impact.
Four years on and we had Instagram. No longer confined to sifting through messages and status updates on other platforms, users were able to upload and view a constant stream of photos. This movement away from text-based sharing was facilitated by a growing disenchantment with reading other people’s opinions and sifting through endless amounts of information. The problem for businesses was figuring out how to engage users who didn’t check in to their topic’s hashtag. Even worse, if you were selling a service rather than a product like shoes, what sort of image did you really have available to share?
The answer came in the form of old-school networking along with what I like to call ‘related imagery’. Rather than simply putting a photo up and tagging your brand, companies began to get creative and reach out to groups already popular. By associating a theme on Instagram with one of their key campaign messages, businesses were able to again contact a variety of audiences.
With ‘related imagery’, photos did not need to be of a certain product but could be of a relevant passion or, for example, a focus employee.
Recently, the Instagram blog for businesses highlighted a brilliant campaign by the Mercedes team using the hashtag #ThingsOrganizedNeatly:
Mercedes-Benz started developing its creative by looking at popular themes on Instagram to learn how it could participate with the community in a way that was relevant, authentic and, of course, visually stunning.
The visuals the company used are well worth having a look at through the above hyperlink.
Another ongoing spotlight in the commercial use of Instagram is to ensure accounts with other SocMed platforms, like Facebook, are integrated. This joint targeting of users helps to increase engagement with calls to action and click-throughs to sites.
So Instagram overtook Twitter last week. You may not use it yet, you may not think you need it, but the speed at which Instagram’s following has grown (it has doubled in 9 months) should certainly give you pause to reconsider.