When it comes to social media, I have to admit that I think I have a reddit and Instagram addiction. But, despite being a fanatic, you might also call me a “lurker” (and to explain exactly what this means Wikipedia has a rather surprisingly extensive definition of what a lurker is).
With a 16-month-old at home, my days of sitting down to watch the news, ads, or TV in general are long gone. Therefore, browsing reddit, “the front page of the internet,” or a curated list of topics, brands, and influencers of my choosing on Instagram is what keeps me in the know these days.
So, as a big Instagram fanatic and long-time Instagram user, I am excited to be able to share that Great Lakes GrowthWorks recently joined the growing and increasingly more global Instagram world – @glgrowthworks. And, this Instagram initiation from a professional sense sparked new thoughts on the role this platform plays from a business versus personal perspective. This thinking led me to realize that, in my opinion, Instagram is really the one platform that gives organizations, brands, and influencers a more visual, accessible, and, in some cases, authentic personality and voice. And, despite what many new or novice Instagram users may think, Instagram is an essential branding and marketing tool today, one that is so much more than just where you go to see photos of your friends’ vacations, meals, or offspring.
With a current user base of over 400M around the world (more than the US population), Instagram delivers 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter, making it one of the most meaningful ways consumers are connecting with the world, and brands.
Phil Roos, our CEO, has been blogging about five dynamics shaping our world. He shared how these dynamics were the impetus for the start of our firm, Great Lakes GrowthWorks. Phil approached his blog by addressing these dynamics one by one, with the first dynamic, purpose, and more recently the second, global with local. He now has three remaining dynamics to explore: 1) emerging consumers 2) health, wellness, and the environment and 3) technology. Needless to say, these five dynamics are top of mind for our team each and every day. They impact our choices, our vision, our clients’ needs, and our client deliverables.
The more I thought about the major role that Instagram plays in the lives of consumers and individuals, the more I realized that Phil’s five dynamics are also a clear indication of why Instagram has become such a critical, influential tool for individuals to connect with the world and for businesses / brands to connect with consumers and a broader audience. Let me explain why, one by one, with each dynamic:
PURPOSE – All businesses are driven by a purpose. For some, that purpose involves having a positive impact on the world. Instagram has become a powerful tool for communicating an organization’s overall purpose as well as the specific details of a short-term purpose-driven initiative, like a fundraising campaign. One of my favorite (and one of the most successful) Instagram accounts, National Geographic (@natgeo), brings the world to your device. Driven by a purpose and mission rooted in adventure and exploration, @natgeo shares its beautiful daily discoveries with followers, thus enabling audiences to see all that this vibrant world has to offer and educating those followers along the way.
To showcase a short-term purpose-driven initiative, Instagram enabled TOMS to establish a deeper connection with followers by driving those followers to do good through the inspirational campaign #withoutshoes. Yesterday, May 10, was the annual #withoutshoes day, a day dedicated to improving the lives of children in the best way TOMS can, by providing them with shoes. Guided by the direction of the TOMS brand, Instagram users took photos of their bare feet and/or feet in TOMS shoes and tagged those photos #withoutshoes. Each tagged photo counted towards one shoe donation that TOMS would make towards its overall campaign goal of giving 100,000 new pairs of shoes to children in 10 countries. A generous offering indeed, but also a great way to get 100,000+ consumers engaging with your brand in a memorable, meaningful way.
GLOBAL AND LOCAL – When it comes to the idea of Global and Local coming together in a meaningful way with Instagram, two businesses come to mind. First, our neighbor here in Ann Arbor, Dear Golden @deargolden, a curated vintage shop that offers hand-selected vintage garments from the 1920s through the 1980s to consumers. This business is comprised of one store location here in Ann Arbor and an Etsy shop, yet has over 62,200 followers on Instagram. This is one example of how Instagram is successfully enabling a local brand with a beautiful and authentic presence to reach global audiences and achieve strong brand awareness, despite having a standalone location. Conversely, Shinola @shinola, a global brand and our neighbor in Detroit, uses Instagram to infuse and maintain a sense of locality by regularly featuring images and corresponding stories of its individual brand stores around the world, showcasing how the local “culture” is infused in each Shinola location.
EMERGING CONSUMERS – Everything about Instagram’s usage and success signals just how much consumer needs are evolving and that individuals and consumers are searching for opt-in, authentic conversations and connections with brands. Whether via influencers that brands have hired to represent their products or through the direct efforts of brands’ social media teams, the discussions, stories, and images on Instagram are different than those found in any other media outlet, and that is because brands have limited space and time to communicate a message and therefore that message really needs to be hidden, genuine, entertaining, or “Instagram-worthy” beautiful or audiences and consumers will sniff out the hard sell and unfollow your brand in a heartbeat.
HEALTH, WELLNESS, AND THE ENVIRONMENT – All of these topics are covered and discussed extensively on an hourly basis across all news and social media outlets. These topics are all extremely meaty with varying viewpoints and perspectives being offered by countless experts, enthusiasts, and casually involved individuals. Some might find it difficult, if not impossible, to imagine that Instagram could be a strong outlet for conversations on these matters. But, sometimes a picture is truly worth a thousand words in building awareness and inspiring change and action. The power of Instagram to further the conversation and fuel progress and empathy is exemplified by accounts like @everydayclimatechange that brings together the images from five photographers to document climate change in action in the world today. And, the power of Instagram to change our behaviors and help us live a healthier life is exhibited by countless Instagram feeds that make healthy living simple and achievable. The Huffington Post recently highlighted just a few of the feeds addressing health and wellness, you can check them out here.
TECHNOLOGY – Lastly, Instagram is in and of itself, a representation of how technology is accelerating opportunity for brands and consumers and enabling rapid changes in how consumers learn about new products and experiences. With Instagram there is also a tremendous amount of companion technology that is enhancing Instagram’s offering and enriching the user experience. One top of mind example of a complementary technology is it, a service that has drastically impacted brands’ abilities to drive awareness and commerce. Essentially, LIKEtoKNOW.it is to lifestyle products (home goods, clothing, shoes, accessories, etc.) what Shazam is to music. It is simple, yet revolutionary for Instagram’s ability to drive direct sales. First, you download the LIKEtoKNOW.it product. Once you do, as you read through your Instagram feed and come across an item in a photo that you like, tap the like button and you will automatically be sent an email listing mostly every item in that photo with a direct link on where to buy the product.
Instagram is a force with limitless possibility, I truly believe that. The above just scratches the surface on the endless reasons Instagram has become such a successful tool for brands to connect with consumers. However, I truly believe that these dynamics shaping our world unmistakably support the rise of Instagram in business. We hope you will continue to follow along with Phil as he explores these dynamics in further detail. But, in the meantime, we hope you will join our explorations on Instagram @glgrowthworks.