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Instagram’s beautiful soul is winning the business

I'm a weirdo. I admit it. I’m one of those designers that gets frustrated when reading a magazine on a Saturday morning, while sitting on the sofa, because the graphic elements on the page are not perfectly aligned. Or because they’re using a terrible font. Yeah, it’s even worse with fonts.

What does that have to do with Instagram?

Well, when it comes to layout and design (and fonts), Instagram has always played by its own rules. Personally, I’ve always perceived it, in a bit of a romantic way I guess, as a refuge. A space away from all the crap you get on your Facebook feed, where you can go and look for beauty and inspiration. It’s where you can find the perfect brunch place for next Saturday, that amazing B&B for your next trip out west, inspiration to buy the trendiest pair of shoes to surprise your wife with. And it’s also a place where you can express your creative side and showcase your social traits and personality.

It’s a metaphoric shelter for creativity. Maybe I see it this way because, as a designer, I have a constant craving for beauty and creativity. And by its very nature, Instagram’s always been a place where the quality of content is generally better and more visually appealing than what you see on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or anywhere else.

Even those who wouldn’t typically class themselves as creative have embraced the clean design patterns, have learned how to take photographs, how to use space and filters effectively. As a platform that champions beauty, Instagram has directly or indirectly pushed its users to challenge their creative limits, but stick to its rules.

That’s why, in my mind, Instagram has always been a purer soul when compared to other social media channels. The content you’d share on Instagram, is very different to what you’d share on Facebook. The brands you follow are usually different. Even your followers are different. I admit that many of my Facebook friends haven’t made it to the tiny list of people I’ve allowed to follow me, or even into the much longer list of people I’m following myself. I’m simply not interested or visually attracted by the stuff they share.

Turning beauty into business

The one thing Instagram’s never been, though, is a place to buy things. Brands have always been present and we’ve seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of examples of ads and marketing campaigns with the aim of driving brand awareness, launching new products and generally, being present for their customer. I know this because we at Haygarth have created a number of campaigns to help our clients to do so ourselves.

Recently however, for better or worse (I’ll let you decide) Instagram has been slowly shedding its beauty-first, flawless skin and will soon transform from a place to share pretty pictures into a proper, competitive social and ecommerce platform.

Two key elements are revolutionising the way Instagram will work (and how brands will use it) in the very near future: Instagram Stories and the new shopping feature recently tested by the platform.

Instagram Stories

Snapchat floats around 170 million active users to date, and built its social success through the fad of posting live videos and in-the-moment photos so that friends (or fans) can see what you’re up to. Instagram’s introduction of its Snapchat-inspired Stories feature has added 200 million new users to the channel in one year. ONE YEAR. Just saying. And the very near arrival of 5G will help improve the quality (and increase the number) of Instagram stories and live features even more.

So what does that mean for brands?

Well, first of all, Stories on Instagram will help them amplify brand experiences and modify customer purchasing behaviours (brands with 10k followers or more are now able to utilise the link tool or swipe content to link to external pages). And as Instagram Stories are made up of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments, brands can take advantage of users’ FOMO by hitting them with the right message when their attention span is higher. Most importantly, they can take their communication to a more honest, personal and real level. And who doesn’t love that?

New shopping experiences

Instagram has recently been testing a new shopping experience that allows people to find, track and evaluate products from the brands they love. As a user you will be soon able to click on a 'cart' button which allows you to explore info about a certain product and link to a third-party website if you are ready to buy.

This will be a new milestone evolution in the way people utilise the app and will make the journey from exploring to buying seamless. By enabling the growth and effectiveness of ‘micro-moments’ – moments consumers realise they need something RIGHT NOW – brands can influence their customers and hit them with what they need as and when they are open to buying. Alongside Instagram’s recent restyling and updated algorithms that manage the flow of your timeline, these new elements have completely changed the app, and in some ways increased its appeal, even with the most purist of users.

What’s next for Instagram?

As a marketer, I fully believe the 800 million active users per month and 500 million active users per day represent a very big cake brands should be cutting themselves a slice of. (Even if, as a bit of a romantic user, I’m not too happy with these changes myself.)

I think, if not in 2018, then definitely over the next two years, Instagram will become a perfect combination (and compromise) between the amazing lifestyle inspiring social platform we all know and love and a very powerful tool for brands to reach more people. More importantly, it will help them get a deeper understanding of their customers, change the way they speak to them, allow more opportunities for consumers to buy their favourite products/services and as a result drive more sales.

The social network, owned by the big MZ, promises to continue its exponential growth in the next few years. So, now, before it’s too late, dear brands, go forth and fully own it. In a time where Twitter is not growing, Snapchat is failing to deliver and I’m not feeling great either, brands should really rethink the way they use Instagram and realise what a powerful platform they have in their hands – a winning combination that mixes inspiration with an opportunity to buy. In my view, it’s as simple as that.

Written by Diego Angelucci
Senior Digital Designer