Instagram has been the hot social network of 2015. Now reaching more than 400 million users, the image-based platform has exploded, driven, at least in part, by the migration of users away from traditional platforms like Twitter and Facebook. And one aspect that's truly exciting for brands looking to reach this new audience of visually-inspired users? On Instagram there's no algorithm to filter the content. Whomever followers your brand will be shown all the content you post, or, at least, there's a much higher likelihood they'll see it than they would on Facebook.
Enthusiasm for marketing on Instagram recently hit fever-pitch with the introduction of Instagram's new ad options, and the opening of the platform's ad offerings to all users. The combination of great reach potential and engaging ad options has many brands keen to jump on-board the Instagram ad train - but, of course, with an influx of advertising comes the risk that users could be turned off, and could turn away as a result.
In an effort to ensure this doesn't happen, Instagram's been working to ensure advertisers understand what resonates and works best on the platform, in order to keep Instagram ads relevant and within the expectations of what users are used to seeing in their feeds. This is a tough balance, and there are, inevitably, going to be some poor quality Instagram ads come through, but through increased education, and by highlighting examples of great Instagram ad content, the platform's hoping to minimize the user impact, while also boosting monetization and revenue opportunities.
In line with this, Instagram has released a new blog post which highlights how some brands are using the platform for their holiday season campaigns, with J.Crew, Macy's and Tieks highlighted as examples. And those are great brands to use in this context - each of them has been active on Instagram for some time, they know what resonates best and what people respond to on the platform. As a result, their Instagram ads are very 'on point', and demonstrate the right way to do Instagram ad content.
Here's how they do it:
An Instagram Catalogue
Honestly, J.Crew's Instagram feed is really good looking - have a look at the consistency and tone of their images here, how the same color palette and feel is reflected in each post.
Their holiday season campaign is no different - using the same style and theme as their wider Instagram presence, J.Crew have re-created an online gift-guide on the platform. As described by Instagram:
"Brands are using Instagram as their shop window-as a lookbook where they can promote their gift ideas. In holiday seasons past, J.Crew shared their gift guide online. So this year, they took the natural next step and shared their gift guide with a captivated audience on Instagram."
This is an interesting approach - many brands are already creating great images and content for their offline promotions, why not use those same images, tailored to the Instagram platform? As you can see, J.Crew's using Instagram's 'Shop Now' buttons to boost conversions, and the images, as noted, are in theme with their wider Instagram presence. That focus on quality, and consistency, is important on the platform, as it'll align with what people expect, not only in regards to what they see on Instagram more generally, but also from your brand, which can help boost awareness and affiliation.
Tis' the Season
Macy's is the second example highlighted by Instagram, and their approach is somewhat different, focusing instead on inspiring the spirit of the season, as opposed to showcasing their products.
Macy's launched their annual 'Believe' campaign in early November, which sees them partnering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Through Instagram, Macy's is running a single-day, high reach campaign that will showcase three videos which invite viewers to 'embrace the magic of the season' with the brand.
Going early with Christmas campaigning is a clever retail tactic - as soon as people see the decorations, they start spending money, and the earlier they start buying presents, the higher the likelihood they'll spend more as they get caught up in the festive cheer. This is the element Macy's is aiming for with their campaign, to evoke the spirit of the season and stimulate shopping activity.
Interestingly, Macy's regularly uses video content on the platform, with an increasing amount of their Instagram posts including an animated or motion element.
The use of video, or animated content is highlighted by Instagram again in their third example, using shoe retailer Tieks and their campaign to demonstrate the power of cinemagraphs (hover over the image to press play).
A video posted by Tieks by Gavrieli (@tieks) on Nov 19, 2015 at 5:30pm PST
It looks good, doesn't it? Not only is it a competition post, which will generate interest in itself, but Tieks has also underlined the importance of providing high quality content in any Instagram promotion, and in placing emphasis on attention to detail. That same focus is highlighted in the rest of Tieks' Instagram presence, with similar colors and tones threaded through each image.
Instagram also notes that many small businesses, like Tieks, are taking part in this weekend's Small Business Saturday promotion by using the hashtag #shopsmall, which should also boost their Christmas marketing efforts.
These are some great examples of Instagram content done right - and as noted, that's a big focus for the platform, they're very keen to highlight what works in an effort to boost the quality of Instagram ads, which is better for both users and advertisers across the board. And while not everyone has the budgets or artistic abilities of these brands, these examples do offer some great food for thought for your own branded Instagram content - it doesn't necessarily take a platform expert to come up with a campaign like this, but it does take some thinking, some consideration of how users experience Instagram content and what they expect to see.
You can see how each of these images fits into the experience, and how they reflect an image quality that resonates with the Instagram audience. Finding your own visual communications process is key - it may take some time and experimentation, but getting it right can produce great results.