Instagram. A mobile app bought by Facebook in 2012 for $1billion, now worth an estimated $100 billion. The photo sharing service that millennials are giving, on average, 30 minutes of their days to. It is powerful and last year it was listed in Kantar Millward Brown’s top 100 BrandZ, for the first time.
After the Grammy Awards a few weeks ago, the winner of ‘Best Rap Album’ Cardi B, deleted her Instagram.
She came back of course, welcomed by her 40million followers (that’s greater than the entire population of Canada fyi). To Cardi B, Instagram hasn’t just been a place to share photos. The rise of the artist has been one of the most remarkable and skyrocketing journeys to the top of the charts. At just 26, Cardi has broken two Guinness World Records and received Seven Grammy Nominations. Whilst she’s undoubtedly very hard-working, the reason she’s relevant to this topic is because she owes a significant chunk of that success to the fame she generated through her Instagram account.
So what, I hear you ask, is the unique, beautiful and inspiring content she’s creating to cultivate this following…
Her feed and stories are a far cry from Instagram’s early “influencers”. They are a presentation of honesty. They aren’t stylised, edited, artistic. They’re rough and ready. Behind the scenes at its most unedited. Her presentation is all about authenticity. Long video stories taken straight out the shower, memes, photos of long messages. She’s a far cry from the earlier Instagram ‘influencers’ and adopters.
Cardi B isn’t the only person doing this, but she’s a very clear demonstration of how popular Instagram content is changing. And while this evolution from heavy filters and professional designs has had a massive impact on who is personally doing well on the site, I’m still being fed content from brands that has the personality of a brick.
Despite the growing evidence that being authentic and having a constant presence is much more impactful than a curated and carefully selected feed, brands, ever protective of their reputation and “strategy” are being v. slow on the uptake, and missing an opportunity in the process.
“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity” – Steve Jobs
Not all brands, it has to be said. Asos have seen great growth on Instagram, by focusing on being both always on and native. A flick through their Instagram stories and you’ll see how they use the same fonts, tagging features, gifs etc that are available to all people. This means that as users move swiftly through their Instagram stories, the content from Asos doesn’t contrast to that of their friends. It doesn’t feel like something which has been presented to them from a ‘brand’, and therefore the drop off rate is reduced.
Dollar Shave Club are also going for it where personality is concerned, having launched with a bold, playful tone of voice.
No-one likes to feel they’re being sold to and this is the case in social media, just as in life. People haven’t gone on to that space to shop. They’ve gone for a different kind of entertainment, so you need to think carefully about what consumers are there to enjoy and how your brand’s content can be a part of this experience, not an opposition to it.
For brands, ‘authenticity’ always presents a challenge. With many stakeholders and long sign-off processes, politics can get in the way of being reactive. Also, with months of strategy and planning gone into your brand presentation, anything which feels thrown together and less polished can be hard to support and get senior marketeers to trust.
AirBnB have tackled this by using user-generated content. Ie photos people have taken and shared of their Airbnb and trip experience.
If you’re working for a large brand, you can start by considering Instagram in isolation, keeping in mind the sort of content your creative is going to be surrounded by. Instagram has become a powerful place for inspiration. How can you inspire here? Visually, what approach will your take to enhance potential customers personal attachment to the brand? This isn’t the place for reformatting your key visual.
If you’re working for a smaller brand it shouldn’t be such a challenge to create more authentic, native feeling content. If your product is visual ie clothes, great. If not, what would you be interested in which your product relates to?
“Reality TV became so fake that people wanted real reality… not from someone who’s a multimillionaire, from somebody they feel they can almost touch.” – YesJulz
In a world which used to be about in-authentic presentation, the demand for reality can only be a good thing. Here’s hoping brands jump aboard.