This week Instagram announced they would expand paid advertising options for brands. Instagram will open its news feed to advertisers offering the opportunity to target by age, gender and interests – as on Facebook who owns the service. In addition Instagram will test a click to buy button. The New York Times article on the new advertising is here.
Though Instagram has run paid ads since November 2013, this will open the field up to many more potential advertisers leading to more clutter on the service. Many brands have run Instagram photo contests to engage customers for free. For example, Herschel Supply has encouraged fans to post pictures with the hashtags #WellTravelled and #CityLimitless. Now brands will have to pay for space to get noticed.
One question is what will the advertising do to Instagram’s young customer base? 90% of Instagram users are under 35 according to Business Insider. Teens are a fickle bunch and move among social media sites showing little loyalty to any one site. This is good news for new platforms, but difficult for developing strategy.
As a professor of social media the challenge is to teach students how to manage the ever changing landscape. Initially, it made sense for a brand to develop a social strategy on Facebook and Twitter because there was little clutter and the platforms were ‘free.’ Brands face a different social media space today. Most sites now support paid advertising and those placements are favored over organic traffic. Users who “like” a page on Facebook don’t even see most of the posts on their news feeds. Therefore brands must use paid media to reach targets.
To teach social media these days it doesn’t make sense to focus on specific platforms. Instead, faculty should teach the integrated marketing communications process including: targeting, goal setting, user behavior, content development, search engine marketing, engagement and measurement.
It’s a complicated cluttered mess out there and focusing the strategy on targets and goals makes it manageable.