Instagram Stories and the dangers of time-sensitive social channelsby
Back in August, Instagram introduced "Stories", a secondary feed of content that only remains visible for 24 hours after being posted. Borrowing a very similar model to Snapchat, it was a bold expansion designed to open the platform for users’ everyday photos and videos.
Now the feature is being added to Instagram’s explore tab too, the difference being that this tab exists to show posts from profiles people haven’t yet decided to follow. The explore tab is one of the key advantages that Instagram has over its younger competitor. On Snapchat, you can add someone via their phone number, user name, or QR code. But there’s no way to browse popular accounts and sample them first.
For brands, the opportunity to put their mark on the explore tab and be seen by a portion of Instagram’s 100 million daily users is too big to pass up. But although the audience is larger, the window of opportunity is far smaller. Time-sensitive posts push brands into a far more reactive environment in order to stay relevant. Brands must be able to respond to users, Instagram trends and industry events within a matter of hours.
Opportunity presents risk
As a brand, it takes a lot to be able to respond confidently to breaking news and real-time posts. It’s harder than it looks to be spontaneous when you can’t risk breaking the rules of your brand. This sort of dynamic marketing can only be achieved with great planning.
Social media is a fast-paced, unstructured swell of trends that filters across the media landscape as posts are shared and adapted by users. So whilst we are more connected than ever, there’s far more chance of inconsistency or error in communicating your brand and its value.
With so much room for a brand to be hijacked by more strategic competitors or confused consumers, there’s no room to haphazardly jump to be a part of the latest trend. Take the recent election race. It was incredibly tempting for brands to capitalise on what was being said, but when Windsor/Essex County Humane Society published an ad on Twitter and Facebook that referenced lewd comments made by Trump, it backfired as it appeared to make light of what could be criminal offences.
Whilst certainly a worst case scenario, this example shows that without sense checking the message you’re distributing, miscommunication can easily occur. And when it does the risks far outweigh the return on successfully joining the conversation.
Rules for reactive teams
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Marketers cannot treat Instagram Stories as an ‘add-on’ to their current campaign. Whilst it can be difficult to plan for the unexpected, they need to carefully consider the audience there and adapt their communications strategy. With the right foundations in place then they should be able achieve moment marketing without worrying about damaging their brand.
Marketers cannot treat Instagram Stories as an ‘add-on’ to their current campaign.
Creating successful brand guidelines starts with communication and collaboration. In the past, a company’s branding was represented solely by their logo and tagline. But, today, the goal of successful branding goes beyond visual aesthetics to align with all of the company’s assets, channels and the entire brand experience.
To establish the kind of foundations that real-time marketing requires, brand guidelines need to be managed carefully and across the whole business. A single version of the truth then enables the brand to adapt their marketing content quickly to the events happening around them and puts the marketing department in control.
Achieving global scale
However, global marketing departments must be able to give individual and local marketing teams the freedom to colour, it just has to be within the lines. Sending pre-packaged, brand approved messages across the globe won’t cut it when brands are expected to be able to tailor their content to local events, cultures and behaviours.
Having an approved bank of digital assets easily accessible means that marketing can be confident that their teams across the world always have a starting point which is on brand. With this admin out of the way, time is freed up for marketing to experiment with communications and stretch creativity by looking for real-time opportunities.
Where brands might have previously sat on the sidelines, only venturing to engage known brand advocates, features like Explore within Instagram Stories mean they will now be found more easily by people who are not necessarily fans of their brand. The benefits of the kind of digital collaboration outlined above means that your teams, wherever they are based, are armed with the appropriate content to speak to the ‘everyman’, adapting and pivoting to the constantly changing media landscape.