Instagram recently announced that its community has grown to more than 600 million Instagrammers. And the last 100 million joined in just the past six months. To get an idea of what this means for readers of The SEM Post, I interviewed Luis Sanz, the Co-Founder and COO of Olapic.
Olapic is one of the leading visual marketing platforms for the curation, activation, and analysis of earned content. An official Instagram Partner as well as a Facebook Marketing Partner and Pinterest Marketing Developer Partner, Olapic works with hundreds of global brands to amplify marketing and e-commerce channels with images and videos from real people, creating more personalized and powerful brand experiences.
Based in Olapic’s New York headquarters, Sanz also serves as the company’s head of technology and product development. His deep technical background fueled the development of Olapic’s proprietary predictive algorithm, Photorank, which analyzes dozens of different aspects of an image to determine its likelihood to trigger a purchase.
Here are my questions and his answers.
Greg Jarboe: According to eMarketer, 74.2% of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees will use Instagram for marketing purposes in 2017 – more than the 66.2% that will be using Twitter. That’s a significant shift from this year. By eMarketer’s measure, 66.1% of marketers currently use Twitter, compared to the 53.2% who use Instagram. What do you think is behind this shift?
Luis Sanz: A game changer for all of social platforms was the ability to share photos and videos. In earlier days, platforms such as Facebook got a huge boost when they introduced the ability to post and share visual content. With Instagram exploding into the marketing and reaching a new milestone of 600 million users, and the fast rise of Snapchat, we see that visual platforms are higher performers. Twitter was late to the game and has not been able to really harness visual content well. Also, new features and functionality such as Instagram ‘Stories’, live video and ‘Shop Now’ capture how people can and want to interact with the platform and so this shift is not surprising.
Marketers are also finding visual platforms more powerful and are therefore looking to invest where people are more engaged. In addition to advertising and e-commerce features, brands are also starting to recognize the power of high-quality user-generated content and the influence it has on consumers. With the rising Millennial consumer, authenticity is key to building trust and brands are starting to take notice and adjust how they are addressing their customers.
Greg Jarboe: Olapic has long been partners with both Instagram and Facebook. What do you think is driving all the moves that Instagram has made in 2016 to become a social commerce powerhouse for brands?
Luis Sanz: As consumers continue to flock to its platform and share content, Instagram has recognized the marketing potential social content has for brands. The platform’s changes are being driven by a careful, but thorough, understanding of the needs of both its brands advertisers and consumer audiences. Instagram has taken note of the features that have excelled on other platforms — such as Facebook Live and Snapchat Stories — and worked to implement similar features to delight users and create robust, truly memorable experiences. It has also employed active listening, taking note of users’ continuous requests for shoppable content, to bring social commerce to the platform in a big way through its ‘Shop Now’ feature. By designing with both brands and consumers in mind, Instagram is now equipped with the tools needed to help retailers reach their most passionate fans and inspire sales.
Luis Sanz: With these features, Instagram is giving brands the assets they’ve wanted for quite some time and creating an environment where it’s as easy for users to shop as it is for retailers to show off their content.
With live video streaming, brands have the opportunity to get creative and share behind-the-scene moments with their fans or stream special events, fashion shows, or even store openings to create enthusiasm and inspire purchases. The Stories feature, meanwhile, creates additional opportunities for brands to share timely content, specifically photos or videos related to offerings. For example, a brand could upload a picture to their Story highlighting a sale that day, or a video of a newly-unveiled product.
‘Stories’ allow brands to keep closely connected with followers and inspires another form of interaction with users than just scrolling through a timeline. ‘Shop Now’, meanwhile, streamlines the shopping experience, making it easier for a brand to engage a customer with the ability to buy on-the-spot. Previously, a shopper would have to conduct a separate mobile search for a product that caught their eye, adding friction to the experience and potentially reducing the possibility of a sale. But, with the ‘Shop Now’ feature, consumers can quickly learn more about displayed products and are only a few taps away from purchase. Even the new Save for Later bookmarking feature takes a page out of the Pinterest playbook by allowing users to save photos and videos in a private tab so they can go back to make a purchase and not get lost in the stream.
From our experience, creating a frictionless path to purchase is a major factor in driving sales and we’ve seen this proven by the success with our shoppable Instagram feature, Tapshop.
Greg Jarboe: I read your blog post, “What shopping on Instagram means for social commerce.” Can you summarize your three specific reactions to Instagram’s announcement of new shopping functionality?
Luis Sanz: We’re thrilled to see Instagram embrace social commerce – it was a development we had been anticipating for a long time. But we also think it’s just the beginning. Right now, ‘Shop Now’ is limited to only a select number of brand partners; if Instagram truly wants to give customers a seamless shopping experience, they need to make it possible for shoppers to make purchases in-app for a more diverse variety of brands. And, of course, this new feature leaves the big question: how will Instagram monetize this feature? We’ve seen other social media sites monetize their most innovative features, like Facebook’s Instant Articles. Eventually, Instagram will have to take similar steps.
Greg Jarboe: Finally, what’s your reaction to Instagram’s latest announcement that its community has grown to more than 600 million Instagrammers. And the last 100 million of these joined in just the past six months.
Luis Sanz: Instagram is quickly becoming the social network of choice for many people, because of how easy it is for users to find and share visual experiences with others and humans are visual communicators by nature. Instagram also, is much more than a photo sharing app: it’s a community of passionate individuals who can now stream video, share photos directly with friends, and even shop. They have been exceeding good at executing on their roadmap and innovate very quickly as new uses and user habits become apparent which helps support and fuel their growth.
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