Originally hailed for it’s gridded simplicity, over the last few years (and since it’s purchase by Facebook), Instagram has rolled out a series of updates securing it’s frontrunner status in the social media landscape. These features – first Instagram for Business, then Stories, Shops, Reels and now IGTV – have made Instagram a must-have tool for digital marketers.

As a visual-centric marketing solution, Instagram has been making waves in the B2B marketing space too. In fact, according to research by TrackMaven, B2B companies experience their largest engagement ratios on Instagram. All of this means that Instagram, in comparison to other big social media platforms, affords businesses the highest level of interaction with its audiences (and thus potential new business leads) – all without the need to shed huge sums of money. A big plus in our books!

With this in mind, we delve into Instagram’s latest developments and what they mean for businesses and marketers.

Instagram moves into e-commerce

Perhaps the most striking recent development for Instagram is it’s journey into e-commerce. With apps like Depop paving the way for mobile-first shopping, Instagram has recognised a smart way to translate brands’ campaigns into direct sales. Keeping to the recognisable scrollable feed and square panelled profiles, the shopping function is a natural extension of the Instagram experience that feels familiar to the everyday user. 

Through Shops’ user-friendly system of clickable products, businesses can both advertise and sell their product in one smooth motion. Spotted a killer jacket on a brands’ story or post? Simply click and you’ll be transported to the business’ online shop or, for those fully embracing Instagram’s holistic e-commerce model, a handy internal checkout. 

For marketers, Shops streamlines traditional e-commerce models, shortening the sales funnel and thereby reducing the number of customers lost along the way, drawing marketing and point-of-purchase closer than ever before. 

Instagram Stories can offer high engagement at low production cost 

Instagram stories, enabling users and advertisers to show snapshots of their day in a rolling slideshow format, are a powerful tool for marketers hoping to boost brand engagement. Interactive in their design, stories include a popular poll function, allowing viewers to select between two variable options. As well as functioning as a fun addition to content, along with text and drawing tools, polls are an excellent way to gain instant, audience feedback – insight that’s invaluable for crafting future campaigns.

Stories also thrive on their authentic, DIY feel – think behind-the-scenes-footage and Q&A’s with staff or influencers – lower production costs can still deliver excellent results. For marketers, Stories are a cost-efficient tool for building a sense of honesty.

Instagram delves into video with IGTV and reels

Instagram has also recently introduced Reels – an app feature that allows users to film or upload three to 15-second videos that they can edit, sound dub, or add effects to before sharing in their feed, Stories, or Instagram Explore tab. In part a bid to keep up with the surging popularity of TikTok in the entertainment sphere amongst Gen Z users, these shorter videos, designed with snappier content in mind, offer an incredible opportunity for brand building. Reels are designed to be easily editable within the app itself, making this a cost effective method for businesses to market themselves, keeping production fees to a minimum whilst ensuring potential reach remains high.

Alongside this shorter video format, Instagram has also introduced IGTV – a second app aimed at longer form, youtube style content. Designed with creators in mind, revenue is shared 50/50 between Instagram and the creators. While short-form video is geared towards lighter, entertaining content, longer-form formats are more suited to content that demonstrates thought-leadership. Many influencers have turned to IGTV for webinar type discussions and Q&A sessions, making this latest addition to the Instagram world perfect for creating brand awareness and offering customers an excellent sense of brand values.

Influencer marketing

Influencers have always been central to marketing on Instagram, yet recently, we’ve noticed a move away from big names to a new category of micro-influencers. In 2019, nearly 90% of sponsored Instagram feed posts received less than 1,000 likes, indicating brands were turning to influencers with much smaller followings. Where reality TV stars and other celebrities have gargantuan followings – Kim Kardashian, for instance, rakes in a whopping 385 million followers – brands have recently twigged that by going for a less pricey option, a smaller influencer, they can get more bang for their buck. Although a micro-influencer’s following may only be in the thousands, their audience is likely to be loyal and built out of a more specific, and therefore more targetable, demographic.

Adidas, for instance, recently embraced the effectiveness of micro-influencers, driving subscriptions to its grassroots football community by partnering with local team captains rather than unattainable top-tier players. 

Furthermore, to bolster the effectiveness of influencer marketing, Instagram have introduced a new branded content ad format, allowing brands to sponsor and therefore boost posts by influencers, promoting campaigns beyond the organic reach of the influencer.

The importance of image quality

The human brain is able to process images 60,000 times faster than words, a fact that is reflected in the increasing popularity of visual media. Instagram is a highly competitive place so ensuring that your images are of the highest quality will help your business fare well against competitors. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and remember how you scroll through your feed. Even though captions are great for building a brand voice, images are undoubtedly the first thing your audience sees. If the image is appealing, users are more likely to pause and read the caption, visit your profile and, from there, perhaps even visit your shop/website.

According to Facebook IQ’s #nofilter study, the top interest groups on Instagram are travel (pursued by 45% of users), music (44%), food and drink (43%), fashion (34%) and film (32%) – these are all industries that have a very visual appeal. If your industry doesn’t fall into these categories, this isn’t to say that you can’t translate your service or B2B client base into a visually suited campaign. It’s important for your focus to remain on keeping the image quality high and your content unique. Some brands have even altered their product to fit these trends. For instance, Beefeater recently ran a series of Beefeater pink – a development of their original drink, dyed pink to allow for more creative marketing. Genius!

Takeaways

With 80% of users globally following a business on instagram and, further to this, 87% of people taking action after seeing product information displayed on the platform, it’s clear that Instagram should be key to both B2C and B2B marketing strategies.

Instagram, after all, is all about compelling storytelling, where brands are rewarded for showcasing personality in their content. Whatever approach you decide to take, Instagram is undoubtedly a powerful tool for brand-building and organically creating new business leads.