When my friends and I started using Instagram around 2012 it was almost exclusively used to post pictures depicting fun school events, vacations, and pets, basically Facebook without statuses. This general concept has evolved into something a whole lot different in the past two years. Posting a picture now involves obtaining the artsiest angle, editing it so that each hair is sharpened to the point of hyper-visibility, filtering it so that you look good but not so good that people think you filtered it, and then topping it off with the wittiest caption that will attract likes and assenting replies. Even Instagram etiquette has changed. In high school, when it was new, kids would post three or four photos in a row to cover an event. Today that is frowned upon, plus can you imagine all the work involved in perfecting each little masterpiece?
Not only have the processes and etiquette of Instagram changed but something else has crept in without us (or at least me) taking much notice – advertisements. Taking a look at my own Instagram account, I discovered that out of the 354 accounts that I follow 37 of them are the accounts of restaurants, clothing lines, bands, photographers, or some other type of business. Every time I scroll through my feed I am bombarded with images of clothing and food, or short video clips of new music and music videos. Since these are paired with the personal images of my friends and family, and I chose to follow these accounts of my own volition, I rarely even notice that these brands are advertising to me daily, if not hourly.
Here is an example from my own feed. Scrolling 11 photos in and I already have an advertisement for a swimsuit company I follow.
For me, I really see no problem with this advertising tactic. It seems to be pretty beneficial to both sides of the equation. The advertisers are essentially provided with a free advertising opportunity to customers who are either brand loyal or brand conscious and users are able to get the latest deals and offerings from brands and businesses that they actually care about.
One brand from Sweden has totally taken advantage of these new Instagram advertising opportunities. The department store partnered with ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors to create a promotion directly tailored to the store’s Instagram followers. They posted three videos that feature products offered at the store flashing by in stop motion. The goal is for the user to use the screenshot feature on their phones to capture a product, if they are successful then they receive a 50% discount. Pretty neat in my opinion, and for department store items? I would probably waste 5 minutes of my life suckered into their little promo. Plus, the only catch is that you have to repost the image and hashtag it to show the cashier at the store.
The results were wonderful. Not only did thousands of users post images of the items (free advertising anyone?) but they also tagged their friends and encouraged others to get involved. Very successful indeed.
So what do you think? Do you think companies exploit their followers by only viewing them as advertising bait? Or do you not care as long as there is a mutual benefit?
Nudd, T. (2014, September 9). You Get Half Off Products If You Can Screenshot Them in Retailer’s Fast-Moving Instagram Videos. Retrieved September 10, 2014.