26 February 2015
Alicia Tang & Diane Touré
This article was published in French in the blog Meta-Media, from France Télévisions (see original link) and translated with autorisation.
Last December, Instagram reached 300 million users. The popular photo and video sharing app, which will turn five next October, is a noticeable success – better than Twitter and its 284 million users. Instagram managed to reinvent communication through pictures. Photography is shared more than text, and it generates higher engagements across all metrics. Brands names and media organizations are considering Instagram – as they should.
Photos and social networks: a winning combination
According to a Track Social study, which examined 100 American brands that are active on Facebook, photos generated four times more ‘likes’ than any other type of posts in 2012.
According to Laurence Allard, semiologist and professor in Communication at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris, photos, still or animated, are Instagram’s strength. ‘Today, [an] image has a social dimension, more porosity. Young people socialize and discuss through images’, Allard said. Instagram’s simple interface can be described as a mash-up of the best of other social networks. The most significant example would be the launch of a video function right after Vine in 2013. We can also notice the surge of apps and plugins that are used with Instagram (Polabox, Hyperlapse or Theshow) which helped the app’s development.
Optimism and communities: the keys of success for brands and the media
The strength of Instagram — bought at $1 billion three years ago by Facebook — is also in its ergonomy, because the social network introduces positive socialisation. #follow4follow or #tagforlike are hashtags that ask for some kind of response, and are often used to encourage social interaction between users, as do mentions. [...]
And ultimately, the interaction between brand names and community members has a marketing value for companies: 20% of internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 have an Instagram account, so the social network is an opportunity for brands. For users, Instagram is a way to express themselves in an original and simple way.
As for brands, it is about reusing those codes and propose an exclusive visual, constructing an environment for the user. This picture marketing is creating two challenges: giving access to the behind-the-scenes of a company while showing the value and the culture. For Allard, it is a ‘performance and a demonstration of the ordinary’. The fact that brands are showing their ‘intimacy’ is creating a privileged relationship with customers, allowing more engagement, making content go viral in the short term and and attracting more fans in the long term.
The media is also using Instagram to tell stories about their newsrooms. Content is made of behind-the-scenes snapshots. [...] The New York Times chose segmentation and diversification: it opened eight Instagram accounts (events team, marketing department, food, or travel, etc.). Alexandra MacCallum, assistant managing editor for audience development at The Times highlighted the fact that the principal goal is to develop a loyal audience, and not create traffic on the website.
In France, Les Echos, Liberation as well as I>TELE were tempted to start using Instagram. With the coverage of the Republican March on January 11, the media preferred to take an intimate angle with the public – to create a more direct and personal link between journalists and internet users. ‘Today, you have to make the audience talk’, Allard said. Instagram is becoming this platform for exchange wanted by the readers.
Instagram: when users become more professional
One of the major challenges today for brands is to be visible on digital platforms. Users can become ambassadors for their own communities.
This is what caught the attention of notices Franck Jamet, cofounder of Tribegram Lab in 2014, specialist for branding on Instagram: ‘Instagram has become a mass media platform, generating more visibility than traditional medias’, he is saying.
Furthermore, the perception from the public, or clients, is a lot more positive than on any other platform: one instagramer with 100,000 followers can have between 4,000 and 10,000 interactions by photo (like or comment). In exchange of a fee (from hundreds to thousands of euros or barter payment), influent instagramers publish branded pics to their community.
It works, even with the obvious mention of the brand, because Instagram allows one to bet on authenticity: users are more receptive because the environment of the instagramer is respected. Photos don’t seem to come from marketing departments.
For Jamet, ‘to be an influent instagramer is now being a potential media, effective for brands’. It allows to ‘promote brands to his audience, enrich its photo library and share a social experience by using the strong link to its community, and create engagement’.
With Instagram, quality UGC become possible; the relationship between the Instagramer (influent or not) and brands is working. For example, Starbucks launched ‘#5more’, asking fans to illustrate what they would do with 5 more minutes every day.
What is the future of Instagram? Allard is imagining a rise in video, especially with the boom of mobile content. This way, animated photos for conversation will exist next to vintage photos.
BONUS: Advice from Franck Jamet