Should we really be Using Instagram Now?

InstagramLOGOForrester’s recent “Use Instagram Now” report presents a strong case for brands focusing on the platform where engagement rates are reportedly 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter.

So should advertisers be jumping ship from the tried-and-tested social networks and focus their creativity, budget and resource on Instagram from here on in?
From a numbers perspective this is in equal measures exciting and alarming for marketers who have spent the last few years building up a healthy presence on Facebook and Twitter. However, there are a couple of concerns around comparing engagement rates on social platforms.

Firstly, there is a low barrier to engagement on Instagram vs Facebook/Twitter – so naturally the numbers will look much stronger for Instagram. But is an “engagement” on Instagram comparable with one on Twitter or Facebook?

There are also more brands on Twitter and Facebook compared to Instagram. The poorer efforts will be pulling the average down but there will be some elite social brands on those platforms still driving strong engagement rates.

As more brands join Instagram (in a paid and organic capacity), the same will be true – we’ll see a lot of brands on Instagram and few making a real impact. Reported engagement rates will likely fall as something new and shiny becomes the industry’s latest obsession.

Whilst the numbers alone shouldn’t trigger a totally new social strategy, Instagram does offer a unique opportunity to brands – a chance to project their brand identity in a rich and emotive way, showcase visual product and drive endorsement. The important thing for brands is that this is a unique opportunity; Instagram isn’t like Facebook which isn’t like Twitter which isn’t like any of the younger social platforms and apps so there is an inherent danger in comparing them – they must all be used to their strengths.

Instagram will never allow a brand to be part of a hugely engaged conversation about the bearded winner of Eurovision (47,000 tweets per minute by the way) and the scale of Facebook is as yet unrivalled by another platform. And further to this, by combining the strengths of more than one platform a brand can end up with an even better campaign – e.g. by using Instagram as a competition mechanic integrated with Facebook app.

At the7stars, we encourage advertisers to develop a core social strategy with clear KPIs and content plans. Once this is in place, evaluating individual platforms becomes simpler: Where is our audience? What level of engagement can we expect? What outcome do we want (i.e. what is a valuable engagement)?

The process becomes exactly the same as for another media platform. Each platform has its own strength and weaknesses – you literally cannot compare them without answering the question of “what are we trying to do”. A brand must have a clear reason for being in social otherwise they are just advertising and will be disappointed with the engagement rates they see.

The great thing about testing new social platforms is that the potential engagement far outweighs any barriers to trial. If something doesn’t take off on an emerging platform, it will generally fail quietly and leave the advertiser with a wealth of learnings – it’s this fleetness of foot that puts social brands like Air BnB ahead of the pack.

Gabrielle Sillars is a digital media specialist at The7stars