Instagram came onto the scene as the ultimate photo-sharing social platform. Users were blown away by how filters made their meals look so much more appealing. Suddenly, the selfie-ridden site became a powerhouse social media app that allowed users to share every moment of their lives. With an audience of over 100 million users sharing 40 million photos a day, it was only a matter of time before the photo sharing app took on a new purpose: ecommerce.
Here are some key elements from the evolution of Instagram
Just Starting Out
In the beginning, Instagram was the place to envy the midday Starbucks selection of your friend, and ogle over a very trendy OOTD – outfit of the day. It was, and still it, a place to share your day via photos. However, it didn’t take brands too long to notice that they could leverage the popularity of the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app for their marketing efforts.
Where it All Began
Instagram didn’t evolve into an advertorial, ecommerce-bound site overnight. The evolution was a slow one that started out with the creation of “closet shops” or “Instashops”. Consignment shops, small boutiques and even people just wanting to get rid of their stuff started posting images of items for sale. Depending on the account, users could comment on the items that they wanted, and the seller would contact them for shipping and payment information. Easy as pie. Instagram shops took off, fueled by creative and popular hashtags like #igshop, #instashop, and #igshopping. Soon enough, users could check out what their best friend had for lunch and buy a pair of shoes. Instagram developed an Etsy-like feel. Many of the instashops touted specialty and handmade items for sale.
The Next Step
In a decision met with dismay from loyal IG users, Facebook announced it would allow advertising on the site through Instagram Ads. However, Instagram implemented strict guidelines for the companies and ads they allow on the site. Additionally, the rollout of ads has been a slow process. Only select companies have been able to promote their brand on the platform. Some of the lucky few include Starbucks, Nike, Coca-Cola, Michael Kors (noted for launching the first ever Instagram ad), Apple and Target. These companies created their ads on the criteria that the images were the “beautiful, high-quality photos and videos” that users are used to seeing on the feed.
The implementation of Instagram advertisements is a huge step forward for marketers looking to expand their social media marketing. Although it’s unlikely that most companies will be able to score a coveted ad spot, the launch of ads inspired marketers to think about the app in a new way.
Marketing with Instagram
Brands that are successful with Instagram marketing follow a simple campaign strategy: add beautiful pictures of your products, choose a select number of hashtags that will become recognizable to your followers, add a link to the product page in the description, and wait for the conversions to happen. And happen they do. Other ways to market products on Instagram include sharing promo codes/sales and coupons, posting photos of customers with products to include their feedback and focusing on specific followers based on their location, as marketers can use this information for target research.
Being able to shop through social media broadens the horizons for eCommerce. Some companies offer services where you can purchase an item or reserve an item just by commenting on their photo on Instagram. Ceramcor uses a similar technique on their Instagram page. Instead of allowing customers to reserve products on their Instagram, they promote their brand with chances to win free products.
When companies join Instagram and make ordering their products easy, they are able to expand their marketing efforts and their clientele. They have the opportunity to take different measures to share information and attract people to their products. This is the growing trend of eCommerce on social media and I think it will only keep getting more popular and easier to purchase items through apps like Instagram. The Evolution of Instagram evolved from a place to share your life to a place to sell your products.
See also: Tips for Using Hashtags on Instagram