Instagram loves brands and brands love Instagram. Period.
Instagram has evolved from being just another social media platform to a serious place for discovering new brands and keeping up with the latest trends. Speculations about Instagram developing a stand-alone eCommerce app have been thriving for a while now and while that never materialized, it launched an in-app checkout feature in March this year, to allow shoppers to checkout without leaving the app. In what seemed to be a move to make Instagram a brand discovery platform, the company launched “@shop”, a page that curates posts from various emerging online merchants to help them sell products. Just like how there are different exhibitor stalls in a conference, there are different “posts” each from a different brand. It mainly features fashion, beauty, and home brands. This marks its tentative steps into the eCommerce domain. According to Business of Fashion, @shop’s content is meant to serve women in their 20s and 30s, and for now, the account will spotlight one brand a day while also telling the story behind each business. With the onset of the direct to consumer (DTC) revolution, Instagram has helped a lot of brands like Glossier, Warby Parker, etc. scale at breakneck speed.
The heart of the DTC revolution is to foster a sense of belonging among shoppers towards these new-age digitally native brands and Instagram has come in handy to do just that. With warm posts, brands directly replying to comments and queries from customers, asking for honest opinions about existing products and ideas for new products, a lot of DTC brands have smartly used Instagram in building and expanding their customer base.
When I was scrolling through Instagram, I came across three Instagram trends that brands follow to effectively manage their Instagram feed to increase engagement rates.
GoPro’s page is a Disneyland for anyone seeking or lured by inspiration and aspirational content. They use it to tell stories from the product’s perspective. The pictures and videos are taken by their customers using GoPro’s cameras. The brand’s objective with its Instagram is to use that content to drive consideration for how you could use their camera in your life, which ultimately drives sales for them. This Instagram trend was a big hit, that they have about 15.6 Million followers.
Who wouldn’t fall for good humor? Yes, this company has taken advantage of the fact that this generation loves trending Instagram memes. They are excellent at engaging men through their feed. Chubbies embraces diversity and authenticity in their content creation. The brand has grown around the idea of treating their customers like friends. They use humor on their Instagram account to engage their target audience of 18-40-year-old men and use real customers as models in Instagram marketing campaigns. This relatable approach to content has helped Chubbies grow to 3.5 million subscribers without any use of traditional media to spread the brand’s message.
Lorna Jane is an Australian activewear company. If you spend just a few seconds scrolling through the Instagram handle, you’ll quickly be able to name the target Lorna Jane buyer: a young, sporty, twenty- or thirty-something woman maintaining an active lifestyle. Lorna Jane does an awesome job answering important branding questions with its Instagram content. The images posted by Lorna Jane shows the brand’s accessories and clothing in a very colorful, playful, and inspirational way, which shows the brand’s essence.
The commonality among these brands is that they all use content that is quirky and is in keeping with the times and relatable to the shopper persona.
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Discovering new brands
It would be remiss if I didn’t mention Thingtesting in the context of Instagram trends. Jenny, a Venture Capitalist started off this page exclusively dedicated for reviewing products she was passionate about. She gives an honest review of both, the product and a VC’s take on the product. It has become an extremely interactive handle with many followers requesting Jenny to review specific products for them. What started off as a hobby has now become a full-time serious thing with about 25K followers.
Interestingly, @shop was launched by Instagram just a day after thingtesting decided to go full-time, coincidence?
Brands have been playing very smart about using Instagram as a marketing channel, in terms of the visual aspects, the way they package their products, the popup shops they put up or retail store locations they choose and the interiors of these stores in general, represent their brand story in a unique way that customers find them “instagrammable”, this would naturally pave way for the increase in consumer advocacy for that particular brand.
Brands don’t just stop with posting visually appealing content on their profile, they also try to make the most out of the features on Instagram by posting educational content regarding their products for their customers by sharing honest, detailed information about how their products are made, this helps customers gain trust and reinforce their brand. Pages of clothing brands often serve as lookbooks that promote new offerings and show off their products in a chic way to motivate customers to buy them. Direct interaction with customers by posting live videos and answering questions their followers may have helps with better customer engagement.
Brands, also put in constant effort to get to know their customers better by regular featuring of product Q&As and by keeping their feed fun and lively by asking customers for product feedback and ideas to improvise in the comment section, posting polls, tutorials, host giveaways for quiz winners, etc. to maintain a friendly relationship with the consumers, wherein the customers are made to feel important as they can voice out their opinions. This helps followers gain familiarity with the brand. Instagram stories also help drive traffic to their website when they link it to longer videos or articles hosted on their page, for customers who are interested to know more about the brand/product in-depth.
A lot of new emerging brands are focusing more on monetizing their Instagram handle more than their ecommerce site and this makes total sense because Instagram is the place where you get people to connect more with your brand story and your ideology.
With the influx of so many new niche brands, like allbirds, away, etc, each conveying their own story, targeting the same cohort of customers – predominantly millennials and Gen-Z – CACs have skyrocketed, making platforms like Facebook and Instagram prohibitively expensive.
Given the rising CACs, brands are turning to alternate online and offline channels like Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, TV, Radio, Podcasts, Out-of-Home and, Catalogs. Yet, we think Instagram will continue to grab a substantial share of marketing dollars and cannot be de-prioritized or dismissed as a place for brands to thrive on because it’s not just about the platform but also about the potential to tap the shopping instincts of over a billion users, 72% of whom are teens! and, create a cult-like following that brands like Glossier and Warby Parker have created over the years.
Having said these, we’d love to be proved wrong if there are any D2C brands out there that aren’t on Instagram or aren’t prioritizing it actively in their marketing efforts and are still seeing success on par with the well-known logos!
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