March 13th was a black day for many of us who spend nearly all our waking hours on Instagram and Facebook. A technical glitch created a major outage and a sort of existential crisis for millions (yes, you read that right) of users. Just how large a following Instagram has was amply evident during this digital apocalypse.
If your brand has still not tapped into the possibilities of Instagram, it’s not too late yet. Move over Facebook and other social media platforms; Instagram is well on its way to becoming the ultimate marketing tool for brands looking to build a strong digital presence. Month on month, this photo and video sharing platform is leapfrogging its way into boardrooms and marketing meetings.
And quite rightly so. It offers a slew of exceptional advantages that make all the difference between a brand being #1 or #2. Throughout last year, the app made upgrades and modifications to its interface, and completely spoiled us with all the fun stuff.
Wonder what everyone’s favourite app has in store this year. We did a little snooping and this is what we believe users and brands can look forward to.
Going further with Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) is set to be one of the biggest Instagram trends of 2019. If you thought this is some futuristic stuff, you’d be surprised to know that you have already interacted with it through Instagram Stories. Those cute face filters, such as the puppy dog ears and nose? Those are actually AR filters. Who knew, right? Simply put, AR is superimposing virtual effects (computer generated images and videos) onto the real world through the camera.
There are over 400 million people using Instagram Stories daily! And that, dear brands, is a fantastic opportunity for you to jump on to the face filter bandwagon. Create your own custom AR filters for your customers to use using Facebook’s Spark AR Studio.
And how does this benefit you? In order for your customers to use the filters, they need to follow you on Instagram or at least visit your brand profile. Once they do that, it’s all up to you to keep them engaged. AR filters have all the makings of going viral. Question is how soon you are going to cash in.
Everybody likes a good story
Instagram might have started out as a place to post pretty pictures of food and cats, but it is a serious business tool today. With the numerous features it offers, it’s a space to engage with customers and to build a community of fans.
If you’ve been following Instagram’s progress, you’ll see how Stories has slowly and steadily grown in popularity over the last few years. Many users are now actively posting on Stories rather than their classic feed, which has become more secondary. To put it in digital parlance, the main feed is more like their home page – strategic, planned, etc. – where people can stop by to see what’s happening. However, Stories is more natural and shows their quirky, ‘human’ side.
Instagram’s been quick to catch up on this trend and most of its recent updates have been around Stories: polls, questions, emoji reactions, stickers, countdown, music, focus mode … the list goes on. This means brands will now find easier and better ways to communicate with their audience, taking customer engagement to a whole new level. You can use Story stickers to give some measure of involvement to customers during product decisions. Track their feedback, and tweak and change your offering until it satisfies the majority.
Today, nearly 62% of smartphone users are making purchases via their mobile devices on the go. If you are an ecommerce brand, Instagram is your gateway to more sales. With nifty features like shopping and product tagging, monetising your presence on Instagram has never been easier.
Whether it’s loyal followers who want to purchase your products or potential ones who discover you on Instagram, this platform is now a bona fide sales channel that you can no longer afford to ignore.
Its built-in shopping reminder – the tiny shopping bag icon that appears in the lower-left corner of your posts – is a quiet trigger of shopping opportunities.
Using Instagram product tagging allows you to capture more mobile users who are always on the go, and shopping while they do it. And as more customers realise just how easy and fun it is, the tribe of Instagram shoppers is only going to grow.
All that they need to do is click on your shoppable posts via the ‘Shop’ button that is conveniently located directly below your highlights/bio. Serious shoppers can browse through all your shoppable posts, making it really easy for you to appeal to their inner shopaholic.
Nearly 46% of people say they avoid purchasing from a brand if it means a disconnected mobile experience. Instagram product tagging takes care of that seamlessly. It sends your customers directly to your product pages – sitting snug within the Instagram app itself.
Get real with influencers
The influencer marketing industry is expected to touch $5-10 billion by 2020. And this has been largely due to Instagram. And even though most brands are gung-ho about influencer marketing, the regular folks are starting to see through the thin veneer of perfect Instagram posts, overly edited photographs and sponsored content.
Influencers are getting real now. They have come to realise that in order to retain their followers and also their brand deals, they will need to get more personal and authentic this year. You will see more influencers being open about their sponsored content, even explaining to their followers how much of their income comes from sponsored posts.
This will mean more genuine experiences for customers and far more deeper, meaningful and authentic relationships.
The trend sort of kicked off in 2018 itself, which saw the rise of a new kind of Instagram influencer focused on authenticity. The example of body positive Jenna Kutcher is perfect. She went from 166k to 700k+ followers in just a year, that too without paying for a single follower.
Watch out for IGTV
When IGTV was launched in June 2018, it was a bit of a damp squib. Which was quite surprising, as the vertical video format is easier to work with while creating content, and for users as well to watch on their phone. However, the good guys always win in the end. It was closer to the end of the year when some of the bigger brands and influencers started dabbling in IGTV. 2019, we believe, will see vertical video come into its own. More brands and public figures will publish long-form content and more users will start to check IGTV. Be ready for the shift, and start working on creating vertical videos soon.
Instagram has always been a visual medium. ‘Show, don’t tell’, has been the mantra all along. And now with its many new features and upgrades, Instagram will help you turn your feed into a fun and easy selling machine too.