For the first time in four years I’m not teaching social media marketing to MBAs at the University of Iowa over the summer (fear not — the class will be back this fall). When you teach a topic like social media you’re in a constant state of keeping things up to date.
While I’ve made a few tweaks here and there, I’m taking advantage of this short break to do a massive overhaul of the course content. In addition to the core content, the class also features concise modules about each social network called “social spotlights.” As I was researching one network in particular it became apparent that it’s one we could all stand to pay more attention to.
Based on buzz alone, most businesses assume that when it comes to social networks, they need to be on Facebook and Twitter. Look around right now — I bet you can find both logos sitting happily together on a website or advertisement somewhere near you.
While Facebook remains the 800-pound gorilla in the room with over a billion users, Twitter growth — especially among active users — has stalled. Snapchat is everyone’s favorite shiny new thing with a recently announced 150 million daily active users and a strong following among the coveted millennial demographic.
But what are you doing about Instagram?
Instagram by the Numbers
More than just a fun photo-sharing app for hipsters to capture their latte foam, Instagram has become a social force to be reckoned with. Consider the following. We were all blown away by Snapchat’s daily active user announcement. But this was dwarfed a week later when Instagram shared that they twice as much activity every day — 300 million daily active users. And those millennials? The latest Infinite Dial study from Edison Research shows a virtual dead heat between Instagram and Snapchat in use, ages 12–24.
Also on the rise — brand adoption. While 96% of fashion brands are active on Instagram, it’s also home to diverse brands like Ben and Jerry’s, General Electric, Maersk, and the Pope (yes, that Pope — follow him on Instagram @franciscus). By 2017, Simply Measured reports that 71% of all brand will be active on Instagram.
More than just planting a flag on the network, brands are seeing impressive interaction levels from fans as well. Forrester shows that engagement with brands is 10 times higher on Instagram than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter.
How Brands Engage
This tremendous growth comes during the 12 months where the network has changed the most. Over the past year Instagram rolled out a powerful new advertising engine based on the brand-friendly tools found in parent company Facebook’s ad offerings. Many thought advertising would kill the network’s popularity. In 2017, Instagram is projected to see $2.8 billion in revenue from advertising.
More recently, Instagram introduced another Facebook-like feature — an algorithm that decides what you see, from whom, and when. Many loved Instagram because it wasn’t Facebook. You could still see everything. Here too, users and tech media worried that network engagement would drop. The spike in daily active users tells a different story.
After Facebook, Social Fresh reports that Instagram is the top network where marketers will spend more in the coming year. And yet, too many small- and medium-sized businesses treat Instagram like a second-class social network. An afterthought. A place for the occasional cute photo or shot of the office. Too few have a documented Instagram strategy. A specific plan for capitalizing on the unique branding and engagement opportunities this network holds.
As I note in my book Get Scrappy, strategy starts with ‘why’ — why are you doing this? What’s your business objective for this network? Branding? Community building? Lead generation? By taking a moment and answering these simple questions about Instagram you’ll be on your way to developing a better plan for this social network that deserves more attention than it gets.