Instagram: A customer care channel to consider?

27th Apr 2020

The rise of photo and video sharing social media platform Instagram has been pretty spectacular since its launch in 2010. Many questioned whether it had a place given so many other platforms allowed users to share images and video. But of course, Instagram did not stand still and has evolved to offer a whole host of features that allow its members and brands to communicate with one another. As of January 2020, a year in which the company will have its 10th birthday, it has more than 1 billion active users and 24 million users in the UK. Instagram has positioned itself as one of the reference tools for influencing, engaging in conversation and gaining visibility.

Brands have very quickly seized the opportunity to communicate with their customers through Instagram. It is a showcase for beautiful images of course, but has become a very powerful marketing tool. Many brands use it to build strong links with their target consumers through the platform’s influential personalities, each recognised for their talent as content creators with many thousands of followers.

Like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is increasingly becoming a new lever for brand communication in the eyes of consumers. Consumers increasingly use it as a way to express their views on brands and communicate with them, favouring its immediacy as they do with other digital channels over traditional methods such as the telephone, or even the brand website.

Rethinking the customer relationship strategy

In 2018, Instagram shopping was introduced and has revolutionised the way brands use social networking, allowing them to sell directly to their customers on the platform. This new sales channel is very important, especially for targeting millennials, who are adept at online shopping and the use of social networks. Instagram is now a commercial platform in the same way as any e-commerce site, with 90% of Instagram users following at least one brand.

It has become essential for brands to rethink their customer relationship strategy and integrate Instagram into their customer relationship and complaint channels. The showcase approach simply does not work any more - like all social media - Instagram is a conversation. If a user posts about a brand, or comments on content, that brand must be able to respond in a meaningful way, not simply ignore, or worse still, not even know it has happened! Although interactions with users are currently less developed on Instagram than on other channels, users engage quickly and expect brands to do the same.

According to a recent 'Customer Contact Radar' survey conducted by Survey Sampling International, 13% of consumers contact brands through Instagram, in the UK that means 3.1 million users are in contact with brands via this channel.

Given the growth of user-to-user exchanges on messaging service, Instagram Direct, it is conceivable that this channel will also be increasingly used to contact companies. Having developed Messenger for Business and WhatsApp Business Solution to facilitate the use of messaging in customer relations, Facebook which owns Instagram, could well adopt the same approach with Instagram.

Now is the time to act

Brands should not sit waiting for the arrival of Instagram Direct as your users will already be interacting with your brand on the platform. A brand’s inability to converse with its customers on Instagram will make it look ‘behind the times’ and push them to competitors. You can already use Instagram for much more than sales and branding.

Customer relations, social media and marketing teams should be working to centralise Instagram comment management alongside other digital channels such as Twitter and Facebook. This will allow them to be more responsive, consistent in terms of how queries are handled and the messaging used. One of the major benefits to the brand of this approach is getting a centralised understanding of sentiment towards the brand as well as insights into whether there are recurring problems with a product, service or store that need to be addressed, such as goods damaged on delivery.

There is no doubt that digital channels are fast becoming the preferred way for users to champion, complain and communicate with the brands they care about. Instagram has become increasingly important, but it is just the latest in a long line of developments in this field. Customers are deciding how they want to communicate with brands and it is the brands that respond to that demand that win loyalty and customer satisfaction over their competitors.

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