How the Instagram Effect Impacts Brands
Sep 1

How the Instagram Effect Impacts Brands

Instagram has changed the way we share our lives with others. The photo-sharing social media platform allows us to edit the way we portray ourselves in real-time and give others validation with the sought-after double-tap.

Not all content on Instagram is created equal. Successful brands on Instagram have realized the importance of prioritizing the preferred aesthetic of the platform: authentic.

According to AdWeek, Instagram has influenced the idea of “what makes an effective marketing photo.”

This has become even more obvious as Instagram announced its latest update that supports the sharing of photos and videos in portrait and landscape format. Updates like this one allow for brands to strategize differently on how to best use the platform, while still demanding honesty and creativity. The Star Wars account was among the first to test the new feature, posting its latest “The Force Awakens” teaser in landscape format shortly after the announcement.

Instagram’s influence on brand photography can be seen clearly in how Wendy’s feed has changed over the last few months. The brand recently partnered with photographer Nathan Michael (who boasts an Instagram following almost as big as the brand’s) in order to create a more soulful and professional feed, according to Digiday.

Perhaps what is most interesting is that the “Instagram Effect” has essentially spilled over into other social media outlets as well. Taco Bell, for instance, uses the same style of professional-yet-honest photography across all of its platforms.

It’s not necessarily surprising that consumers respond to brands when they act less like brands, and more like their friends. A 2013 Nielsen study found that 84 percent of consumers find word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends to be most influential and trustworthy. Traditional advertising came second.

Instagram’s authenticity has been validated for some time due to its lack of a direct route to commerce. The platform demanded creativity in terms of the way brands advertise, leading to a rise in influencer marketing and the leveraging of user-generated content.

Both of these strategies adhere to the Instagram aesthetic of perceived authenticity. User-generated photos are a less-costly alternative to traditional advertising and recognize brand ambassadors, thereby encouraging others to share their brand-related content. Influencer marketing is regarded as genuine because influencers (examples include bloggers and industry experts) post more than just ad content, according to Social Times.

However, Instagram is working to create a more advertising-friendly environment. The platform announced in June that it would be testing direct-response formats (think “shop now” buttons), enhancing targeting options and making advertising more accessible to businesses of all sizes.

If you haven’t noticed yet, you haven’t been on Instagram much. The call-to-action buttons are appearing more frequently in all users’ feeds from brands of every caliber.

This doesn’t mean Instagram is abandoning its integrity. The slow, experimental rollout of the carousel ad unit featuring up to four switchable images with a call-to-action button is an example of Instagram continuing to demand creativity from brands.

The photo-sharing platform partnered with just a few select brands to test the advertising initiative before making it mainstream, attesting to its commitment to its users and their craving for authenticity.

While more brands may be able to advertise on Instagram soon, they’ll have to approach it with honesty -- just like any other Instagram user would.