One line stood out on today’s announcement about Instagram Direct.
Photos and videos that you receive from people you follow will appear immediately. If someone you’re not following sends you a photo or video on Instagram, it will go to your requests so you can decide if you want to view it.
This is an open invitation for marketers to participate on Instagram in a more personal, direct way with Instagram users. Sure, the service is limited for you and I who can only send a direct message to up to 15 people at once but wouldn’t Instagram/Facebook open this up to the right partners to send to more people as targeted advertising? This is more subtle than the advertising program announced earlier this year. It’s an invitation to connect.
A couple of weeks ago I saw a full page Louis Vuitton advertisement in the New York Times with a QR code in the corner inviting me to install the LV app where I would gain access to exclusive content. It was the image in the advertisement that captured my attention and on a whim I installed the app which came bundled with links to behind the scenes footage from their Venice mini-site. It’s easy to imagine brands using Instagram Direct as an invitation to interact with a brand. What if the image above came via Instagram Direct with a discount code (not that LV would ever discount) and a link to the nearest LV shops?
Brands are trying to evolve their marketing methods to match the way people communicate today. We’ve moved from a broadcast world which was well suited to mass marketing, a single, highly produced message designed for maximum distribution. Think Super Bowl ad. Facebook and Twitter are experimenting with Sponsored posts/tweets that brands use to segment their audience and customize messages for each segment. Even Google Ad Sense is experimenting with new ad units that are designed for sharing.
Many view Instagram Direct as a copy of Snapchat’s point-to-point messaging feature but I think that misses the point. Instagram Direct messages are not ephemeral, they stick around . They are conversations hatched around an image. As you open and view images from brands, they enter into your social feed. Instagram Direct is an important step towards transforming your social feed into the likeness of a traditional magazine complete with large, glossy brand ads from companies that you have invited in to participate and an important way for Facebook to go after monetizing it’s increasingly mobile audience.