Tag Archive: Instagram

Is Instagram Really The King Of Social Engagement?

Managing a company’s social media footprint is challenging. Even as the landscape sees more consolidation (e.g. WhatsApp), it also sees more diversity and fragmentation. It seems that for every acquisition and merger, 10 new social platforms/networks launch to take their place.

As marketers we’re wired to want to be first, fast, innovative, different, unique and game changing. But, as protectors of a company’s brand and accountable for the success of a company’s efforts in social media, we often need to temper our enthusiasm for being first, with being right. This isn’t an easy balance to maintain. The internal and external pressures are enormous. Nearly every social marketing and content leader I know is inundated with questions from internal stakeholders asking why they aren’t doing X like Y brand or how come they aren’t on Z platform. We need only to look at the number of brands looking to mirror Oreo’s “real time marketing” approach to know, headlines and internal stakeholder questions, drive actions.

There’s nothing like a provocative headline to stir up a high volume of emails from internal and external stakeholders. My inbox the past few days, has been filled up with people wanting my take on Nate Elliott’s latest report, proclaiming, “Instagram Is The King Of Social Engagement.”

Interactions With Brands' Posts - Per Forrester

That’s quite a headline. It’s almost enough to make you drop everything you’re doing in social media and transition all of your dollars and investment to Instagram.

Almost.

At the heart of a great enterprise social media strategy is the ability to answer one simple question, “why?” Yes, a 1 word question. You need to be able to answer why you’re investing in something or why you’re not. The ability to answer why, comes from having a the right filters in place to guide your social strategy.

Before I continue, it’s critical to understand that a solid social strategy can not be created via paint by numbers, nor is it something you can copy and paste from another organization. If twitter works for your organization, great. If Yelp! is critical for your organization, fantastic. What works for us at Walgreens, may not work for your company. We’re also well aware that works great for Red Bull, may not be applicable to us.

When we think about where we need to invest our time, effort, resources and dollars, we ask ourselves 3 simple questions:

  1. Does it have the potential to scale. The operative word is “potential.” Not every social platform scales immediately. And not every social platform that scales immediately has the potential to sustain that scale.
  2. Is it at the perfect intersection of our brand and our customers. It seems simple, but you have to be very honest and critical. “Perfect” is a high bar.
  3. Does the platform allow us to create content that’s:
  • Linked: Discoverable, Connected, Aggregated, Tracked
  • Liquid: Everywhere, All The Time, On Demand, Screen Agnostic, Scalable And Right Sized
  • Loved: Sought Out, Share-Worthy, Memorable

There are certainly other variables we consider, but they’re ancillary to the 3 key questions we ask first.

Being this back to the powerful proclamation that “Instagram Is The King Of Social Engagement”, we didn’t over-react, because we have a great handle on “why.” When I read the headline and accompanying research, I’m perplexed as to why this is news. After all, the law of the web has always been that you can generate high engagement on low volumes. Is that truly any different than knowing that it’s wet when it rains? It’s simply not news.

As I read the original Forrester blog post and then the onslaught of media coverage around that headline, 3 thoughts came to mind:

  1. The base for Instagram brand followers is small. This immediately skews the data. The average brand has under 1,000 Instagram followers, so getting 40 people (4%) to “like” a photo is fairly easy. With FB and twitter, brands often have 100s of 1000s of followers or in our case, millions. With a larger base, the engagement rate always goes down.
  2. “Engagement” has and continues to be a nebulous descriptor. While yes, you can double-tap to like a photo, you can’t click thru to anything in Instagram. If you try to include a link, Instagram converts it to plain-text. If you’re a business that’s not in the business of branding, but rather in the business of direct response, omni-channel retailing, conversions, etc., is liking a photo a valuable engagement? I can’t answer that for you, but it’s a question to ask yourself.
  3. As scale increases, mature ad products become important. For every person who complains about Facebook cutting organic reach to 2%, remember you can pay to reach the other 98%. Also, with Facebook’s advanced targeting, you could choose to pay to reach only a certain audience group. Twitter, YouTube and other social platforms also offer this level of maturity in their ad products. At present ads on Instagram run a brand nearly $1,000,000 a month and similar to when Apple launched iAd, Instagram must approved your ad creative. While these are still early days for Instagram, the data is very clear: advertising on Instagram doesn’t scale efficiently.

The above 3 thoughts, for us, are pretty big. Instagram could be big, it might not be. It might be great for your business, it might not. It might now be right, now, but could be ready in 6 months. Only you have the answer to “why.” But, in a world where page views are monetized, it looks like Forrester and other publications are generating a lot better return on covering this story than most present day efforts by brands in Instagram.

Quick Thoughts On Facebook’s Acquisition Of Instagram

Not that you could dodge this news, but Facebook purchased Instagram today for One BILLION dollars. Yes, One BILLION. There’s plenty of speculation as to why Facebook purchased Instagram. From engineering resources to capitalizing on the fact that photos create great “stories,” there’s plenty of potential reasons. I’m sure there’s not 1 single reason and yes I do happen to think that one of the reasons was to stop Google from purchasing them.

All that said, here’s a few quick thoughts:

  1. It’s not about photos as stories
  2. I think a big part of the acquisition is all the geo-location data they just received. Think about it. Nearly every Instagram photo contains some type of geo data. That geo data is built on foursquare’s platform.  This allows them to out foursquare…foursquare…without having to buy foursquare. Keep in mind, Facebook purchased Gowalla earlier this year.
  3. The open graph is all about you and your interests. Instagram is the visual expression of those interests. It’s the food you ate, the people you were with, the sunset you saw, the slope you boarded down and more. Consider Facebook’s “Timeline” format. Instagram allows you to fill in the gaps…with visuals. Awesome. Brilliant.
  4. Hipstamatic was a competing app that burst on the scene roughly the same time as Instagram. They chose a pay per download model. They chose the micro payment approach, where as, Instagram took the let’s build something awesome…give it away for free…create a huge following…then sell it for a BILLION dollars.
  5. Facebook has struggled to monetize the mobile experience. At fMC, they announced that as part of Facebook Premium advertisers could FINALLY extend their ad buys to the Facebook mobile experience. Having Instagram as part of the Facebook family will allow Facebook to monetize the mobile experience like never before.

I’ve said for the past 2 years, we’re going to see more and more consolidation in the social space. Social is such a young industry, but it’s growing up very quickly. Today’s acquisition announcement shows us that it’s growing up even faster than many of us thought it would.

Instagram Is Suffering From A Case Of Twitter

99 times out of 100 I agree with Gizmodo.  Their writing, insights and thought leadership are usually spot on.  But, in a recent article titled, “Cut It Out Instagram Cheaters!” they’re definitely not seeing the forest for the trees. Nearly 2 years ago I wrote the following regarding Twitter’s business model:

“The problem with Twitter remains it has never innovated. All of the innovation has come through acquisition (eg Summize) or by third party products (eg Tweetdeck). For a company focused on the real time web, they certainly are quite glacial in their innovation. I think people will become bored by Twitter. Well, many people are, as evident by the fact 60% of people who create an account post once and never come back. 1 Billion? I just don’t see it.”

Fast forward to today and I was spot on.

  1. Twitter acquired Tweetdeck and Atebits to improve the app based twitter experience
  2. While the number of new accounts has increased, my 60/40 ratio has held true and actually gotten worse for twitter
  3. Google+ launched and has already siphoned off a large portion of twitter’s base
Mat Honan, who wrote the Gizmodo piece does a GREAT job of outlining ALL of Instagram’s MANY shortfalls.  Among them:
Instagram does not have a web-upload option. It barely has a website. It’s entirely mobile, and photos can only be sought-out through the app. Sure, each photo generates its own URL, but you can only get that URL if the photo is posted on another service like Facebook.

Given the overall tone of this post, you’d think I wasn’t a fan of Instagram.  Quite the contrary, I LOVE Instagram. I’ve recommended Instagram to and/or helped signup no less than 50 people.  I even tried to pitch Instragram on partnering with us at Walgreens…they declined, indicated they were not doing partnerships, and referred me to their API documentation.  Bummer.

I think they’ve built a great mobile app.  But, that’s what it is right now…an app.  Not a platform.  Not a network.  An app.  So long as it remains just an app with an API, the innovation will come from other hungrier and more innovative developers.  For example:

Postagram: Let’s you create postcards out of your Instagram photos.

Blurb: Let’s you create keepsake books from your Instagram photos.

I think what Mat is really frustrated over though are the clones/competitors that are popping up and creating Instagram like tools that aren’t built on the Instagram API and not germain to the “Insta” nature of Instagram.  For example Daniel Box’s GREAT Photoshop Actionsthat let you recreate the Instagram experience without ever using their app.

This photo, for example was taken on a DSLR (Nikon D700) and then processed using Daniel’s Photoshop Action.  I chose the Earlybird filter.

I think this type of innovation is a good thing.  Remember, Smartphones are still less than 40% of the market and on top of that Instagram ONLY works on the iPhone.

As Mat says in his article, “There is obviously no right way to Instagram. You use it for what you use it for.”  So long as Instagram continues to take a snail’s speed approach to innovation, other developers will bring to market features that fill in the gaps Instagram is creating.  I’m actually bummed by it all.  I love Instagram.  As an avid photographer I can see so much potential.  It’s disheartening to see them act more like IBM and less like a startup.  Instagram by design is supposed to be social, yet how they use social media to improve the product is decidedly unsocial.

John’s 2nd Birthday

Technically, the birthday is Wednesday, June 15, 2011, but we decided to celebrate his birthday today.  Great day for the celebration.  In the morning it was roughly 60 degrees and overcast.  While that might not sound like perfect weather, it’s ideal for great photos.  The overcast sky means no harsh shadows or squinty eyes.  We headed over to the baseball field for some early morning photos and this one was easily of my favorites.

The rest of the day was filled with fun.  Great food, family and friends created a very memorable day.  John definitely enjoyed himself and that’s all that really matters.

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Digital dad to Cora and John. Love ironing, bourbon and BBQ; no necessarily in that order. Living life, like I stole it. I'm always up for a

spirited conversation. These are my thoughts and ramblings, not those of my employer.
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