The photo-sharing app Instagram recently made a significant move to expand its usability beyond smartphones with the roll-out of a browser-based web feed that allows users to flick through the photos of those they are following with a mouse, rather than just their thumb.
Users are able to engage in the content in the same way they do on their phone, leaving comments or ‘liking’ photos with the click of a button. However, photos can still only be uploaded through smartphones as Instagram wants to maintain the emphasis of producing content “on the go, in the real world, in realtime”.
What does this mean for marketers?
In short, it has increased the outreach potential of a very popular social network, encouraging brands that may not have already dabbled in it to give it a try. The web feed means users can view the images much larger, allowing for greater detail and for brands to create bigger and better stories with their photos, which should encourage more companies to embrace photo-sharing.
“As more businesses move to Instagram, we’ll see an increase of ‘warm and fuzzy’ social interaction and participation with corporations/brands, smarter omni-channel marketing and ultimately, less sales orientated content,” explained Sarah Turner, digital engagement consultant at ContentPlus.
Does this update trump profile pages?
One could argue that Instagram’s first foray into browser-based content towards the end of last year was far more significant than the introduction of web feeds. It brought user profiles to the web, allowing anyone to access Instagram pages through direct URLs.
This meant those without Instagram accounts, due to not owning an Android or iOS device, could now view photos, expanding the potential reach of marketers exponentially. The web feed, however, is still restricted to Instagram users and it is not possible, at present, to create an account without the app downloaded on a mobile device. This means the improved browsing experience is limited to Instagram’s user base and not the wider internet population.
How brands can make the most of Instagram
In some senses, Instagram is the Twitter of image sharing and, as such, it is best utilised when providing intimate access to what’s behind the scenes of companies, not just photos of stock or very blatant promotions.
The collages created through images uploaded on Instagram should engage users by offering them something different that they can’t get elsewhere. Burberry, for example, posted photos of its models getting haircuts for the launch of a new range. At the same time, it uploads dramatic shots of scenes around London to reinforce its image as a trendy, cosmopolitan brand.
Involving followers in content creation is also a key tool of engagement on Instagram as it gets them to do much of the leg-work by creating swathes of content that, in turn, increases the reach of a campaign. Giorgio Armani, for example, ran a ‘Frames of Life’ drive, which asked people to upload photos of themselves wearing sunglasses with the hashtag #framesoflife.
Companies that feel they may not have the image necessary for an Instagram profile need not worry either, the retro-style filters can give even the most mundane of operations a sheen of cool. Just ask McKay Flooring.