It’s only a matter of time before competition heats up on Instagram

by | Aug 2, 2018 | Social Media Marketing Tips

Instagram LogoCheez Whiz… it’s kinda like cheese.

It’s the guilty pleasure that might pass for the real thing in a hotdog, but it’s probably not going to cut it at a dinner party to impress the in-laws.

For those who haven’t met this artery-blocking marvel, Cheez Whiz is the ultra-convenience Kraft product that once upon a time actually used to contain cheese. (If you want a history and marketing lesson about arguably one of the most American of all products check this out).

Using a Facebook (FB) page to run sponsored posts on Instagram (IG) is a bit like Cheez Whiz. It does a job and it probably won’t kill you. But for the real deal, IG should be treated as a standalone platform, and you’ll feel better for it.

Cheez Whiz

It might not be the perfect analogy, but the point I’m trying to make is that IG is not FB.

In light of FB’s recent share collapse – when they lost around 20% of their market cap – that’s probably a good thing for Zuckerberg and Co.

IG was purchased by FB in 2010 for $1 billion. This has been both a blessing and a curse.

Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition helped the photo sharing social platform grow from 30 million to 1 billion active users with no signs of slowing down.

I know what you are going to say…

Before you completely dismiss the idea of using IG as an individual ad platform, hear me out…

Just imagine for a second that FB didn’t own IG.

If there was another platform that offered 1 billion users, sophisticated ad options and no minimum budget spends you’d be all over it, right?

And think about this…

When I first started running FB ads, about 10 years ago, it only had 100m users. IG has 10 times that number right now.

Sure, only about a fifth of 50-65 year olds use IG (compared to three quarters who use FB). However, the total number of “silver surfers” is still in the millions and growing fast.

I expect IG to follow the same trend that occurred on FB: it skewed younger to start, but older users will continue to fuel the biggest growth.

And this potential is not to be scoffed at. Here’s why:

  • Unlike FB, IG users are increasing the amount of time they spend on the platform (500 million of them are daily active users).
  • IG activity has doubled in the last 2 years and a third of US internet users are now using the platform.
  • All sorts of businesses are jumping on the bandwagon and engagement with brands is 10x higher on IG than on FB.
  • Advertising was available for select brands in late 2013, but wasn’t rolled out to everyone until 2015, so it’s relatively new.

The above are four very good reasons to tap into the marketing potential that IG has to offer. However, the window of opportunity to leverage the relative lack of ad clutter is closing.

The last 6 months of 2017 saw a 28% growth in the number of ads appearing on IG. And with 25 million business listings but only 2 million monthly active advertisers, it’s only a matter of time before competition heats up and costs skyrocket.

Many businesses have historically leveraged
their FB assets to market on IG

Having the ability to run IG ads from your FB page and within the FB ads manager – harnessing the same killer audience targeting and conversion optimization – is super convenient and very powerful.

One advantage is that you can simply select IG as a placement and roll it into your FB ad campaigns.

The disadvantage is that you can simply select IG as a placement and roll it into your FB ad campaigns.

That’s right.

This functionality is a strength but it may also be a weakness.

It’s convenient like Cheez Whiz, but might just leave you feeling a little unsatisfied.

Again, IG is not FB.

Zuckerberg may own them both, and users may have the ability to post to them both simultaneously, but they have unique differences. And in light of recent troubles that FB has faced, it’s more important than ever to treat them like two separate platforms.

Like many people, I’ve moved much of my time from FB to IG in recent months, and I’ve seen first-hand how different these two platforms can be.

On IG, the image, video and ad specs are not always the same, but it’s the tone that can be especially unique too. It’s much more visual and there is no headline. That means your images really should be created especially for IG to get best results.

It’s impossible to talk about this platform without mentioning IG stories. These can be photos and graphics of up to 6 seconds long, or videos up to 15 seconds, that appear prominently above the newsfeed. They disappear after 24 hours and are fast becoming the social media format du jour, overtaking the traditional newsfeed.

And FB is really doubling down on stories. Even with their share value plummeting, they have steadfastly said they will continue to invest in stories, despite them offering less revenue than the newsfeed. They are clearly in it for the long run. And you can bet they will soon offer more advertising opportunities and greater real estate within stories. So, it’s more critical than ever to harness this type of content.

IG wants to destroy Snapchat (who they stole the story idea from) and have been largely successful. However, they also want to dominate video and take on YouTube. IGTV is their solution, allowing up to one-hour long videos (hello VSLs and webinars).

You’ll pay to play but there’s still some free lunch

Ultimately, like most things involving Facebook, the big opportunities will be via the ad platform.

Right now though, both IGTV and stories offer significant organic opportunities too. My advice is to get into it for the long-term scale that the ads will offer. But also experiment with organic posts to take advantage of some free reach and to learn the nuances of how people use the platform.

As marketers, we always want to bend platforms to our desired call to actions (CTAs) but we do need to understand how people actually use it to really get maximum results.

I understand the skepticism towards IG.

First, it means another platform to manage. But managing any engagement you’re seeing is a good problem to have.

Yes, users skew towards a much younger demographic. But don’t be fooled. More and more of the older demographic is discovering (and using) this platform every day.

IG could offer the perfect opportunity if you’re a budding marketer looking to show what you’ve got.

If you’re a business owner or marketing manager, maybe you’ve got someone who can spare an hour a day to see if they can learn a few things and prove themselves.

Or, I’ll make it even easier on you. Simply email me and we can scale this platform for you. AIM has media buyers already actively working in the platform. We can prove out IG for your business and then hand the campaigns back to you along with training for you to take it to the next level.

Suggested Next Steps

IG is hardly a new platform and some niche businesses are already exploring its full potential. However, those who are ignoring IG could be leaving leads and money on the table.

Here are 10 suggested steps that will help you get started and be ready to scale as your target audience continues to grow.

  1. Switch to a business account to get full access to analytics and other goodies.
  2. Run any ads from your IG account not your FB page.
  3. Create unique campaign or ad sets that only use the IG placement so you can track results and downstream ROI. It means you can also use specific creative designed for IG users and specs.
  4. First try to engage your growing list of fans. Use these same organic posts to attract a new audience. You’ll figure out the best creative and formats they respond to. Replicate the best performing organic posts into ads.
  5. Remember: images need to work as your headline, so include text.
  6. Be sure to include stories with a clear CTA, for example, subscribing to your email list. (Once you have 10k fans you will have the “swipe up” feature to make this easier).
  7. Make sure existing readers or new leads to your business know that you have an IG account.
  8. You can target ads to warm traffic (existing FB fans, email readers or website visitors) to build an engaged fan base to accelerate that learning.
  9. Upload up to 1-hour long videos for IGTV. These videos can be discovered by non-fans so there’s some opportunity even if you have a small fan base. When ad options inevitably roll out you’ll be well positioned to pounce.
  10. Promote IG stories to drive email signups. This allows them to last beyond 24 hours.

My gut feeling tells me that this is the beginning of an ongoing IG conversation that we’ll continue to have.

I’m really bullish on the outlook for this social platform and I look forward to your feedback, especially if you’re already active or are able to add additional focus to it.

If nothing else, I hope this encourages you to take a good look at your IG strategy as a standalone platform.