Manuela Twrsnick, Business Development Manager16th February 2018
The Future Looks Rainbow-Coloured
Mum Talk. Last weekend my Mum asked me about Instagram; Was I on it and what was it? Given I have 10k followers on the platform, work in social media and naturally read up on platform news regularly answering this would be easy, I thought! I said something along the lines of “it’s a mobile app that lets you interact with friends, mainly through sharing photos and videos, and follow brands that you like.” Her next question was harder to answer: “I can already do all of that on Facebook. How are they different?” So, how do you explain to your Mum the difference between Instagram and, say, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter or even Snapchat (which my Mum definitely doesn’t use)?
‘All Social Media Platforms are the same’. While we all joined the diverse social media platforms for different reasons once upon a time, to some they now seemingly fulfill the same purpose, often employing the same tools to vie for your precious engagement. Facebook was the first social networking service I joined. Since then it has introduced the News Feed, Facebook Messenger, the Like button, Live and so on. Twitter to me is a social news network, lately most known as President Trump’s social media megaphone. But like Facebook, Twitter too has started to invest heavily in video. WhatsApp, with its status updates and group functions reminds me a lot of Facebook Messenger these days - the only difference being that I know my contact’s number instead of their Facebook name in order to first connect. Snapchat’s USP has always been the brevity of the content that’s viewed. This is now ‘borrowed’ by Instagram pictures shared in DMs, and Instagram Stories is seemingly “nearly a complete clone of Snapchat Stories” according to blogger Elise Moreau. And so it goes on....
Why brands will focus on Instagram. The social network reached 800m active monthly users in September 2017. That’s double from September 2015. You might think: “But Facebook is so much bigger, why shouldn’t I focus on Facebook?”. That is true - Facebook saw over 2b monthly active users since Q2 2017. But Q4 2017 was the lowest quarter-over-quarter percentage daily user growth ever reported by Facebook. In fact, DAU numbers for the US & Canada decreased for the first time by 1m from Q3 2017 to Q4 2017. TechCrunch’s journalist Josh Constine sums it up nicely: “With the Snapchat threat largely neutralized via Instagram, Facebook’s biggest enemy is itself.”, referring to Facebook’s own shiny toy, Instagram. A study from Socialbakers recently found that “brands receive more engagement on Instagram compared to Facebook” so it’s no surprise brands can’t wait to get active on the platform; the fact that 71% of all US brands used Instagram in 2017 is just one case in point. This proportion is projected to reach 82% by 2018, according to eMarketer.
All the tools. Instagram has come a long way in the past years. Features such as the Picture Carousel, Videos, Live (with a friend), the Archive, or being able to follow hashtags has broadened the options for how the platform can be used by consumers and brands. Instagram is constantly widening the range of ad formats. But as a Millennial user I often don’t experience it as advertising in the traditional form. By nature of the platform, Instagram ads blend in well with other user-generated content. Sameer Kotian writes: “Instagram’s algorithms are extremely good at showing you what you like, even if what they’re showing you is advertising.” Birchbox and Revolve, the first fashion and beauty brands to test ‘Collection Ads’, hope to broaden their e-commerce market with Instagram in-app purchases. Snapchat’s fear is legitimate, explaining their fairly incomprehensible move to offer free ads on Snapchat and targeting brands who are already advertising on Instagram.
Focus on your network. To answer my Mum’s question on how the platforms differ, my answer lies in the audience. With all platforms becoming more and more alike, the biggest difference is less about tools and functionality, and more about the actual groups of people they attract and their user behaviour. Brands should therefore consider Instagram in terms of audience growth and engagement. All big brands will continuously be courted by platforms to come join them and spend ad money with them. But the biggest potential will always be where the users and communities naturally exist. So, if your brand had to put all eggs in one basket, I say put them in the rainbow-coloured one.