What was once a haven of vibrant food pics, sepia selfies and heavily edited outfits of the day is now prime real estate for brands to swim their way through the social media landscapes. As “the kids” leave Facebook for simpler, single-service platforms like Vine and Instagram and branded content begins to trump traditional advertising, it makes sense for any brand to go where the crowds are going — right?
The latest brand to wade into the hipster waters of Instagram? The delightful Canadian candy, Smarties. The goal is to find a new platform for various campaigns, such as the upcoming #HowDoYouSmarties campaign.
Now that Instagram is owned by Facebook and has gone the way of sponsored posts, branded content litters the heavily filtered feeds — subscribers to vegan and fitspo Instagram accounts have to deal with the occasional McDonalds pic popping up, while a streetwise follower of fashion blogs will just happen to also see rural travel photos from Travel Alberta.
It gets you seen, there’s no doubt — but does everyone need it?
Why you might need it
You know who loves Instagram? Rich teenage girls. You know what else rich teenage girls love? Buying things.
About 83 per cent of upper-income teenagers in the US use Instagram, and though the gender statistics have balanced out a little, it still skews heavily female.
Those aren’t the only statistics that work in someone’s favour. Most of Instagram’s users are urban or suburban as opposed to rural, the overwhelming majority are under 29, and users in higher income brackets have grown drastically in the past year.
It certainly makes a good case for Instagram as the new platform for brands. And despite the bare-bones interface, it allows for a great deal of interaction. People, users, consumers, they like things to be easy and contain as few steps as possible. So if you want to do some sort of giveaway or contest, for users it’s as simple as taking a picture — or even re-posting yours — and adding a hash-tag. Nothing to send in, nothing else to qualify them for winning.
If you’re a retailer or a restaurant, it’s basically the epitome of native advertising. You’re creating the content to simply talk about how cool you are — and to keep people in the know of what’s going on. What’s in your store right now? What’s on sale?
But what works for Taco Bell might not work for TD. What drives business for ModCloth might not for Maclean’s magazine. Here’s why.
Why you might not
You know who’s not on Instagram? People in their 40s and 50s. Older people who make more than $70,000 per year. Okay, that’s not to say that they’re not on it at all — but they are among the lowest demographics of users. And it’s unlikely that Instagram can really do all that much to appeal to them. It’s not built around what older people want — reconnecting with old friends, creating full albums, long conversations.
So if that’s not your target audience, there’s not really much you can do to bring them there.
There’s a bigger problem — logistically, Instagram is a bit of a headache to operate compared to Facebook, Twitter and company. You can only post from mobile. You can’t embed URLs in the photo captions. You can’t schedule posts. Its desktop interface is next to useless.
It’s a decent amount of work, so basically, it had better at least be effective. You can’t just treat your Instagram posts the same way you treat your Facebook photo posts — there’s Facebook for that.
It’s better to say nothing than to have a platform to communicate and not use it properly. It’s like that old cliché goes, what’s a good plate with nothing on it? Take a look at NBCTV’s early fails with Instagram — there wasn’t really a point, nothing new brought to the table.
You have to think of social media the way you think of any campaign — what are your objectives on a small scale, and how do they relate to those on a large scale? This isn’t a “just because” kind of thing.
Basically, just because “the kids” are all doing it doesn’t mean you need to.