Social media has long been a central component to any marketers strategy, but in our ‘always on’ and ever changing consumer society, marketers need to tap into the unique features of each platform in order to reach customers in distinct and profitable ways. Instagram, a platform designed exclusively for sharing high quality images and video, is taking the advertising landscape by storm as marketers look for alternative ways to connect with consumers. Brands no longer need to spend millions to compete in the advertising game, opening up the market and allowing SMEs and independent companies to muscle in on the competition. The site currently boasts an impressive 300 million users worldwide, with 14 million in the UK alone. Its demographic is, somewhat unsurprisingly, a predominantly younger crowd with almost 90% of users under the age of 35.  Instagram attracts a primarily female user base and, since its acquisition by Facebook in 2013, profits improved from inclusivity with a 50/50 Android and iOS split. The stats speak for themselves; this is a platform that means business and as marketers become increasingly aware of the sheer power this site can offer to connect with consumers, its influence will only continue to grow.

The Current Landscape

Whilst Instagram has already been adopted by many brands as a key instrument in their marketing approach, there is still a long way to go for others. Creative and visual brands, in particular those in the travel and retail industries, gravitate towards Instagram due to the sites’ strong aesthetic appeal. The platform’s innate ability to help brands connect with its followers in relatable and approachable ways enables marketers to portray the brand as a living character and expose the lifestyle behind the brand. Mr Porter, an online retail brand owned by the renowned Net-a-porter, is leading the way with its innovative approach to Instagram by creating an online persona that drives sales and communicates the brand ethos through the platform. For brands like Mr Porter, Instagram is the most important channel, receiving up to 100 million impressions a year and is the key catalyst behind their online sales.

However, it can be hard to get right.

Earlier this year, global drinks company Diageo became the first in the industry to use Instagram for advertising the launch of a new flavour for its Cîroc brand. Despite proudly claiming that they ”understand how our consumers connect within the digital space”, Diageo has been criticised by some for misunderstanding Instagram’s target demographic: a massive proportion of its following is either under the legal drinking age or students, who are not renowned for being the most discerning of drinkers. So, regardless of the opportunities Instagram can provide, marketers should tread cautiously.

Enough of the small talk!

It is no longer enough to merely interact with your consumers via an occasional hashtag, nor does an impulsive ‘follow’ translate into a sale. In a world where social media users are bombarded with images by the second, brands need to think creatively in order to stand out amongst the noise.  An incredible 57% of users visit the site daily – that’s millions of scrollers, opportunistic browsers and potential customers, and a whole lot of untapped potential. If marketers want to stay at the forefront of consumers’ minds they must find new ways shorten the gap between social media and ecommerce.

After recently launching a shoppable YouTube ad, online fashion retailer will soon be the first to create and launch these shoppable technologies through Instagram and although this isn’t available yet, it will be one to watch as other brands follow suit.  

Introducing payable features to Instagram to convert visits to sales is another potential move for online digital marketers and big brands looking to capitalise on Instagram’s estimated $2.81 million advertising potential, which is set to outdo its more traditional counterparts such as Google and Twitter by 2017.

Where does Instagram stand?

Instagram is one of the most exciting marketing platforms to date, with huge opportunities for marketers from all corners of the world to take advantage of. As advertisers look to conquer the spawning world of social media, Instagram is clearly staking its claim as a go-to platform with deliverable results. Time will tell how it stands up to bigger rivals such as Facebook and Twitter, but the signs are promising, and Instagram seems poised to brush shoulders with the big boys of the social media marketing world.