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June 16, 2014
Instagram: Instant Success?
 
Instagram, the photo and video-sharing app owned by Facebook, is the fastest-growing social network with 35 million monthly smartphone users spending 257 minutes per month. Forty percent of their traffic is in the United States, where 58% use the app every day. Seven in ten are women (18–44) with household incomes of $75,000 or more who are actively looking to be surprised, diverted, and delighted. Instagram, according to research by L2 Think Tank, registers 15 times the engagement and double the engaged user base of its parent, Facebook.
 
“Instagram resembles a modern day bazaar — one that I visit on my phone when I have a free moment.” Jenna Wortham wrote in The New York Times. “A huge part of the appeal is that the goods I’m perusing are sandwiched in my Instagram feed between my friends; selfies and pictures of snow covered spots where they’ve stopped during the day. Stumbling across an unexpected and gorgeous find … on a special app like Instagram brings with it the excitement of discovery not unlike the titillating thrill you get when coming across a rare find at a flea market.”
 
Casual shoppers and a broad variety of brands have embraced this 100% mobile marketplace. A survey by Teen Vogue found that Instagram is the number one platform that inspires product purchases. Instagram, according to a recent Shopify study, generates the second-highest order values among social networks and ranks fourth in sales conversion in spite of the fact that the platform has just created its first ad units and direct links to branded websites or eCommerce platforms are prohibited.
 
So what do Calvin Klein, Ben & Jerry’s, L’Oreal, Honda, Uhaul, Macy’s, Gap, Chanel, Michael Kors, Nordstrom, Target, Gucci, Victoria’s Secret, Harrods, and Louboutin plus 93% of prestige brands know that you don’t?
 
These four key tactics …
 
Intercept Behavior. Women have led the smartphone revolution. They clutch their phones as virtual controllers for busy lives. Instagram meets them in the course of their normal daily behavior and offers diversion, surprise, and entertainment in context. The app has become a guilty pleasure intertwined with friends, family, and workflow. Since 30% of women access social networks by smartphone each day, Instagram is perceived as an authentic collection of ideas and images in real time curated by trusted sources. There might not be a better synthesis of targeting, content, and channels.
 
Sell by Showing. Photos and 15-second videos are the coin of the realm. Instagram might be the absolute proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. Also, given its global reach, pictures often communicate fundamentals without a need for translation.
 
Both individuals and brands post. The average prestige brand posts six images a week and 72% post 15-second videos, usually one every two weeks. The photos get 1.5X the engagement. Producing high-quality short video is a gating factor that should disappear over time.
 
Facilitate Sharing. Comments, re-posts, and sharing to other social networks, especially Facebook (9 out of 10 shares) and Twitter are common. Instagram, like Twitter, is becoming a real-time companion to off-line events. During New York Fashion Week 100,000 fashion-related images were posted to Instagram by 33,000 unique users while the top fashion brands averaged about seven posts per day.
 
#InstagramDirect connects individuals to each other to share posts. Consumers can opt in to follow brands or celebrities and set push alerts about new content from favorite brands and friends. There seems to be a broad understanding that friends share interests, tastes, perspectives, and Instagram imagery.
 
Use Your Ecosystem. The smart guys import Instagram images and user-generated content into branded websites and Facebook pages. Instagram integration adds an element of real-time spontaneity that feels natural and comfortable to shoppers. 
 
Some brands have used widgets to drive conversions from user-generated photos. Brands like American Eagle Outfitters, Lancôme, Coach, and West Elm solicit images of their products and then post them as a supplement to staged catalog shots. In one study, images used this way increased conversion from 5–7% and boosted average order value by 2%.
 
If you’ve got something to tell or sell women, don’t ignore Instagram.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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