The rise and rise of Instagram as a marketing tool

Nina Hendy
@ninahendy

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Instagram is proving to be a powerful tool in the world of business for those brave and patient enough to master the medium.

Facebook was the number one social media platform for businesses until recently, but is fighting off competition from Instagram after a gradual shift towards the picture-sharing platform.

Facebook might hold a larger audience share in Australia, but Instagram is giving some Australian brands a sales boost they’ve not been able to replicate on Facebook.

And while Instagram is notorious for keeping insights and behaviours of its users close to its chest, a recent Instagram conference in Sydney revealed the findings of a new study by Hoop Research in which 1500 Instagrammers were surveyed to find out how they use the platform and how they interact with brands.

Jessica Hodkinson of social media agency Rinsed attended the conference, and says it revealed that the most active demographic is 18-34, that 60 per cent of Australian Instagrammers are female and 40 per cent are male and 70 per cent of users are on the platform every day. It also found that only 25 per cent share video content, and that less than half (46 per cent) use hashtags.

Facebook will have to evolve if it’s ever going to take on the might of Instagram.

Just as is the case on Facebook, the primary interest of Instagram for Australian users is their friends, however the next biggest interest is products and services – meaning there’s plenty of opportunities for businesses and brands here.

“Interestingly 30 per cent of Australians using the platform revealed they would unfollow you if you weren’t inspiring, and 5 per cent have taken action after seeing a sponsored post which has resulted in a sale for that brand,” Hodkinson says.

Online fashion brand Showpo has been propelled along by the support of its 476,000 Facebook followers, but the support is even greater on Instagram, where it has 571,000 followers.

Chief executive Jane Lu says the tide turned when Facebook changed its algorithms, which saw the cost of reaching potential customers via ads rise. Reach for organic posts also dropped.

Interestingly 30 per cent of Australians using the platform revealed they would unfollow you if you weren’t inspiring…

But over on Instagram, ‘likes’ for product posts are higher at around 6000 for a product post and 8000 for a lifestyle post – far higher than Facebook has ever been for the brand.

International sales have also grown significantly on the back of the brand’s love affair with Instagram.

“Facebook will have to evolve if it’s ever going to take on the might of Instagram,” she says.

Mastering a platform like Instagram is often put in the too-hard basket, but it doesn’t have to be difficult, Lu says, who founded the fashion site in 2010.

“There’s no secret sauce. Ultimately, you need to understand how the platform works as a user. If you look at another Instagram page and see if it does well and compare it to yours, you’re half way there,” Lu says.

Nina Hendy

Nina Hendy is an Australian freelance business journalist and wordsmith who writes for BBC Australia, BRW, sections of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and affiliated mastheads, SmartCompany, Private Media and Edge titles.

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