Instagram Creates Its Own Customer Journey with Checkout

Instagram Creates Its Own Customer Journey with Checkout

Social media

Instagram describes itself as a platform for people to “experience the pleasure of shopping versus the chore of buying.” It’s designed for people to browse for ideas and then shop as opposed to visiting with an express intent to buy and leave. On March 19, Instagram took one step closer to making itself a strong shopping destination by launching a checkout function.

Available on a limited basis, Instagram checkout makes it possible for Instagrammers to buy what they want on Instagram. As Instagram said in a blog post, “Checkout enhances the shopping experience by making the purchase simple, convenient and secure. People no longer have to navigate to the browser when they want to buy. And with their protected payment information in one place, they can shop their favorite brands without needing to log in and enter their information multiple times.”

Charter businesses participating in checkout include Burberry, Nike, and Revolve. In coming weeks, more businesses will participate, including Adidas, H&M, KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics, MAC Cosmetics, Michael Kors, NARS, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Uniqlo, and Warby Parker. (It’s interesting to note the number of upscale brands creating shoppable experiences on Instagram – a comment on how luxury brands have adapted to the times by becoming more accessible via digital.)

Checkout seems like a natural move for Instagram. As Vishal Shah, Instagram’s head of product, told The Wall Street Journal, “People were already shopping on Instagram. They were just having a hard time doing it.” The platform previously launched shoppable features such as product stickers in Stories. Vishal Shah  told Bloomberg, “Over time, as we are creating value for people, this could be a significant part of our business.”

The launch of checkout positions Instagram against Amazon as a platform for searching and shopping although Amazon clearly has an advantage with its scale. Enabling commerce on Instagram also makes it possible for businesses to create more integrated advertising experiences that connect the customer across the entire purchase journey, from awareness to conversion – with the entire journey occurring inside Instagram (instead of sending customers to an advertiser’s website to make an actual purchase). This is the kind of experience Amazon is creating – a self-contained customer journey where you can search and buy on one platform.

For more insight into how to create successful digital advertising on Instagram, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: Instagram

Instagram Explodes as an Influencer Outreach Platform

Instagram Explodes as an Influencer Outreach Platform

Marketing Social media

Influencer outreach is alive and well. Recently, Adweek reported on Instagram’s Ashley Yuki, Instagram’s interests products lead, who said that 69 percent of Instagram users come to the app to interact with celebrities, and 68 percent visit Instagram to interact with influencers.

Instagram’s Growing Presence

This is major news, given the growth Instagram has been enjoying. According to statistics portal Statista, the number of monthly active Instagram users exploded between January 2013 and June 2018, from 90 million to 1 billion. And as digital marketing agency Omnicore reports, as of September 2018, daily active Instagram users had reached 500 million. Other telling stats from Omnicore include:

  • Six in ten online adults have Instagram accounts.
  • 6 million Instagram users are from the United States.
  • 80 percent of Instagram users come from outside the United States.

When you do the math, one thing becomes clear: Instagram users represent a large market. It’s a market with an interest in celebrities. And that’s a powerful endorsement for the practice of influencer outreach.

Bad Press

The revelation is especially timely given the black eye influencer outreach suffered early in 2019. Twin documentaries about the disastrous Fyre Festival, Fyre Fraud, which aired on Hulu, and Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, on Netflix, discussed how influencer outreach was used to promote the festival as a cool, sexy event, only for the Fyre Festival to fall apart due to poor planning and unprofessional, unethical behavior. The strategic campaign ramping up to the event included spending millions on flying celebrity models down to the Bahamas so that the influencers could take pictures of themselves frolicking in paradise and post about the upcoming Fyre Festival. Additionally, on December 12, 2016, 63 influencers simultaneously posted an orange tile graphic to social media with the hashtag #FyreFest. That effort earned more than 300 million impressions in 24 hours.

The influencers were paid well for their troubles. Kendall Jenner, for example, earned a $250,000 fee, and no influencers brought in less than $20,000. But model Emily Ratajkowski was one of the only influencers to designate her post as an #ad, drawing criticisms that Fyre was misrepresented from the get-go. Post-festival, the backlash was fierce. Wired published a piece in May 2017—“Blame the Fyre Festival Fiasco on the Plague of Celebrity Influencers”—and The New York Times predicted “The Rise and (Maybe) Fall of Influencers.”

On the Rebound

FTC crackdowns, however, have subsequently had a positive impact on the credibility of influencer outreach. In a survey of 287 U.S. marketers, Influencer Marketing Hub found a huge change in attitude following the Fyre Festival debacle: “Less than half of our group (132 people) admitted they hadn’t paid much mind to the Federal Trade Commission’s regulations [regarding transparency of paid endorsements or other “material connections”] before Fyre Fest. In the wake of the fallout, though, and with the FTC already cracking down before Fyre Fest imploded, every single one of them stated that maintaining compliance will be a top priority.”

The Power of Micro-Influencers

The bottom line? Influencer outreach isn’t going anywhere. We recommend that businesses take a serious look at influencer outreach as a way of building their brands. The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to pay celebrities to build excitement: many brands are now turning to micro-influencers to drum up awareness. Well-known locally but not necessarily nationally for fitness, lifestyle, and other interests, micro-influencers typically enjoy more than 1,000 but much less than 100,000 followers, and hold sway in specific cities or regions. Consider individuals like Brendan Lowry, a Philadelphia-based micro-influencer with about 30,000 Instagram followers: his feed bursts with photos of the city beside sponsored posts endorsing local companies. If you can connect with people like Lowry, who maintain a high profile in a specific market, you may not get as much reach nationally, but you can get significant reach in specific markets that are of interest to you.

Influencer outreach is still relevant. And by doing some smart, targeted research, companies can find influencers across different markets who will be most effective for their needs. For more insight, contact True Interactive.

 

 

 

 

 

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

Snapchat: The End Might Be Near

Social media

Unless Snapchat figures out a new game plan to create proprietary features and experiences, 2019 will be the end of the popular photo-sharing app. The stock of its parent company, Snap, is scaring away investors. Its user base has plateaued. Each time Snapchat introduces a new feature, Facebook and Instagram copy it. For instance, Instagram users can share permanent photos on their profiles as well as more temporary content on stories that disappear within 24 hours, a feature that was once unique to Snapchat. Instagram is also becoming more engaging for users with the option to share public comments, likes, as well as create polls in stories, all features that Snapchat lacks. With the launch of its latest feature IGTV, Instagram is on the rise for 2019.

Where does the rise of Instagram leave Snapchat? In a very difficult place. That said, Snapchat still has cards to play, such as monetizing its location data for advertisers and building up its content platform as a broadcast media for businesses such as the National Football League, which told Advertising Age that it doubled viewership of its highlights video to 2 million during the most recent season. Another ray of hope for Snapchat: Facebook keeps hurting its own brand, to the point where it is vulnerable to losing advertisers.

What Snapchat needs is a proprietary feature that makes it so lovable to advertisers that they remain loyal no matter what Instagram or Facebook do. To that end, its R&D center is looking for a solution, perhaps involving augmented reality, where Snapchat has succeeded.

But Snapchat needs to work fast before investors’ lack of faith in Snap and pressure from other platforms brings the fabled platform to an end.

How Instagram Can Win More IGTV Fans

How Instagram Can Win More IGTV Fans

Social media

Instagram’s IGTV feature is off to a slow start.

TechCrunch reported recently that IGTV, which allows people to upload lengthy videos in a mobile viewing format, has seen a noticeable decline in weekly installs since its June launch.

As TechCrunch noted, “IGTV risks becoming the next Google Plus — a ghost town inside an otherwise thriving product ecosystem.” TechCrunch speculates that the main reason IGTV is struggling to gain a foothold is that YouTube already owns the market for longer-form video. In addition, IGTV has yet to give us any truly breakthrough, viral content, as other social platforms have. There is no “Chewbacca Mom” of IGTV to help people grasp the potential appeal of the app.

Is IGTV in trouble? I don’t think so. If we’ve learned anything about Instagram, it’s that the app is resilient. And IGTV enjoys a huge advantage: a large built-in audience on Instagram, with one billion actively monthly users. But IGTV does need to take some steps to gain more traction. Here are three ways Instagram could do so:

  • Make IGTV more discoverable inside Instagram. Unless you use the IGTV standalone app, you may not even know IGTV exists. For several weeks, Instagram hid IGTV behind a small icon inside Instagram. It was too easy for users to ignore the icon on their screens. Recently Instagram has been making IGTV videos more visible via a more prominent notification call-out with a clickable “watch” button. A more noticeable call-out should help. When Facebook relaunched Marketplace in 2016, giving the feature more prominent real estate on mobile devices helped Marketplace gain traction.
  • Make it possible to livestream IGTV content. The only way to make IGTV videos is to record them on your mobile device and upload them. The process is easy, but people can do the same on YouTube. IGTV should differentiate by giving people the ability to record in the moment as Facebook does with Facebook Live. Doing so would create more opportunities for real-time engagement through viewer comments as happens with Facebook Live.
  • Promote big names and big moments. Instagram could help its own cause by collaborating with its more popular names (such as blogger and performer Baby Ariel) to build excitement for their content. People might be more likely to stop what they’re doing and make room for IGTV if they knew their favorite internet celebrity was going to post a new song or blogging episode at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday instead of discovering the content after the fact. Building excitement for forthcoming content would raise more awareness and get viewers primed to watch and comment on what they see. If you know that Universal Pictures is going to air an interview with Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson from the set of his latest movie, you just might set aside time to watch if you’re a Rock fan – even more so if you know the event would be livestreamed (see suggestion one above).

IGTV’s biggest threat right now? YouTube already does everything IGTV can except give users an elegant way to upload content created in vertical mobile-only mode. But by building more excitement around IGTV and introducing a live experience, Instagram can succeed in the long term. For more insight into how to use IGTV to build your brand, contact True Interactive.

Image source: Embedsocial.com

How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

How Brands Are Responding to IGTV, Instagram’s Hot New Format for Visual Storytelling

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Sometimes businesses stay successful by defying expectations. A case in point: Instagram’s recently launched IGTV feature. At a time when goldfish have longer attention spans than human beings, Instagram wants its one billion monthly users to spend more time watching longer-form video.

What Is IGTV?

IGTV makes it possible for users (both businesses and people) to upload video content for up to one hour in length, a dramatic change from the one-minute ceiling that Instagram used to impose on video content posted in the main feed of an account. Instagram understands that even though we have short attention spans, people also reward compelling stories. And businesses are already jumping on the opportunity.

The Mobile-First Platform

As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced on June 20, IGTV is engineered for mobile phones. In other words, the format is optimized for uploading and watching content on a vertical full screen, the way people naturally watch content on their mobile phones. As Instagram noted on its own site, by 2021, mobile video will account for 78 percent of total mobile data traffic, but recording video on mobile phones remains a somewhat clumsy experience. By being mobile-first, IGTV wants to be the go-to resource.

How to Use IGTV

It’s easy to use IGTV. You simply tap on a television icon at the top of your screen and follow the prompts to start recording video. In addition, the icon leads you to content that others have created. You can view what’s popular, who you are following, or what Instagram suggests for you. The videos appear like Instagram stories, but the videos last much longer than stories do. Users cannot livestream on IGTV, though.

How Brands Are Using IGTV

IGTV is not an advertising format – for now. The time may come soon when businesses can create bumper ads or banner ads as they can on YouTube. Meanwhile, businesses are already creating content by setting up their own channels similar to the Snapchat approach. IGTV has been especially attractive to media/entertainment brands. The BBC is posting informational content such as an overview of plastics done with amusing Monty Python style graphics. Guns N’ Roses has been uploading scenes from the band’s concerts, such as soundchecks and an inside look at what it’s like for the band to take the stage before a concert. Shira Lazar, who hosts her own internet show, has been sharing you-are-there segments from her travels to events such as VidCon. The content ranges from organic to very slick. More examples include:

  • Health/nutritional/cooking brands and influencers such as Vital Proteins are posting instructional videos on workouts, recipes, and nutritional facts.
  • Make-up brands are showing how-to videos for their products. For example, Sephora shows skin care routines and how to apply certain products.
  • Clothing/Jewelry brands such as Kendra Scott and Red Dress Boutique are posting behind-the-scenes/sneak peaks of their new collections. Kendra Scott recently gave a behind-the-scenes tour of its new jewelry collection. Red Dress recently took viewers behind the scenes of a photo shoot for new arrivals.

It’s also not uncommon to see businesses posting content they had posted already on YouTube. But brands need to be careful: if your YouTube content is not optimized for mobile viewing, it may render poorly on IGTV.

Influencers on IGTV

IGTV has given influencers another channel to share their content. For example, I have noticed influencers are turning their online blog posts into “interviews” where they basically post a video that describes their blog post for that day. In fact, Instagram has called out IGTV’s potential for helping individual content creators become stars as they have done on YouTube.

“[W]e’ve learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals,” Instagram noted on its blog. Instagram indicated that IGTV will connect users with more individual content creators. But clearly, IGTV has quickly become a format for businesses based on my early experiences.

What Brands Should Do about IGTV

To capitalize on the value of IGTV, I suggest brands do the following:

  • If you are creating video content already on channels such as Snapchat and YouTube (or Instagram for short-form video), start using IGTV, especially if you want to connect with the mobile generation. The fact that Instagram now has one billion monthly users should be reason enough for IGTV to get your attention.
  • As noted, be careful about how you re-purpose video created on other channels. Re-purpose content that has been optimized for mobile viewing.
  • Use the launch of IGTV to examine your influencer strategy. As we have noted on our blog, influencer outreach is getting bigger as brands look for ways to circumvent their content being marginalized by Facebook algorithms. IGTV creates more outlets for influencers and brands to collaborate.
  • Learn from others. Do an audit on all the content exploding across IGTV. Don’t limit yourself to businesses in your own industry. Look for businesses that are already doing a great job posting long-form content that tells a visual story.

Finally, watch IGTV closely for opportunities to advertise. It’s only a matter of time before Instagram opens up the platform for advertising. First things first: get comfortable creating content on IGTV, and get ready to engage your audience. Contact True Interactive for more insight into how to use apps such as IGTV to create more engagement.

 

How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

How to Succeed with the Smarter Instagram Feed

Social media

Instagram recently made its algorithm smarter and explained to TechCrunch how the algorithm works. The headline: Instagram uses machine learning to make its feed more personal to its users. This change is good news for brands on Instagram that enjoy high levels of engagement and inspire passion. The news is bad for brands that rely on one-way messages.

By applying machine learning, the Instagram algorithm literally learns from the behavior of its users to serve up more relevant content on their feeds instead of sharing content in chronological order. If you tend to like posts about cats from the cat lovers in your Instagram universe, Instagram shares more cats. If you tend to like posts from country music star Chris Stapleton’s account, you’re going to get more Chris Stapleton posts higher up in your feed. Meanwhile, accounts you follow passively without liking very much appear lower in your feed.

Here’s how Josh Constine of TechCrunch summarized the three main factors that determine what appears more prominently in your Instagram feed:

“Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.

Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.

Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.”

This change is especially great news for media/entertainment brands, such as accounts that support musicians and movie releases, which tend to create stronger, more loyal fan followings than brands in other businesses. Selena Gomez, who enjoys 138 million followers, is going to become an even more dominant force. Media brands such as National Geographic, and sports brands such as FC Barcelona and the NBA, which also enjoy millions of followers, are also likely enjoying an uptick in popularity.

But you don’t have to be a sports or media brand to capitalize on Instagram’s algorithm. The key is to create engagement by posting great visual content and by getting fans involved with your page. It’s also important to post often, for as TechCrunch noted, Instagram is placing a higher priority on more timely content.

The algorithm change may also convince more brands to work through personal influencers with large followings given the increased focus on content from accounts where Instagram perceives a closer relationship with followers.

It’s absolutely a bad idea to post content just to keep the lights on. Instagram is pushing less interesting content out of the way in favor of brands and people who work harder to make Instagram more interesting, including the use of tools such as looping Boomerangs and engaging written calls to action to go with your visuals.

For more insight on how to succeed on Instagram, contact us. We’re here to help.

Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

Instagram Escapes the Techlash (So Far)

Social media

Somehow Instagram has remained unsullied by the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that has gripped social platforms lately.

YouTube keeps getting slammed for allowing brands’ ads to run on extremist channelsTwitter continues to wrestle with the challenge of balancing the need for free speech against the ugly reality of people using the platform to spread hate and harassment. And we all know what kind of a year Facebook has been having with Mark Zuckerberg needing to appear before Congress amid concerns about the privacy of its users’ data.

And Instagram? The platform keeps making headlines of a different sort, ranging from news about product updates such as Focus portrait mode to gossipy stories about the activities of the influencers and celebrities who live on Instagram. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that CEO Kevin Systrom will take articles accusing Tristan Thompson of using Instagram to cheat on Khloe Kardashian over the kind of news coverage his boss Mark Zuckerberg has been getting.

Against this backdrop, I’ve added my own perspective for Adweek Social Pro Daily. My article, “What Instagram Carousel Ads for Stories Mean to Brands,” discusses a recently released feature that makes it possible for consumers to purchase products through a carousel of branded video and product images. As I note in the article, Carousel Ads are not original to Instagram – Facebook launched them first – but Instagram is the perfect platform for the format because Carousel Ads are tailored for mobile users in the visual age. And in the United States, only Snapchat rivals Instagram for as the de rigueur platform for the mobile, visually savvy consumer.

The Carousel Ads for Stories format means more opportunities for brands to engage with consumers and rely on Instagram as an ecommerce platform. For more insight, check out my article and let us knowhow you’ve been using Instagram for digital marketing and commerce. We’re here to help.