Marketers Have Window On Instagram, Greater Usage Could Result In Filtered Brand Posts

It’s no long-term strategy, but the time for brands to connect with consumers on Instagram is now.
 
As new research shows, despite boasting record engagement levels and a cool factor not seen since Facebook’s early days, Instagram’s relative infancy means that marketers have yet to overrun the filtered-photo network.
 
“As users and marketers flock to Instagram, clutter will increase, and Instagram will likely begin filtering out brand posts in the name of relevance,” Forrester Research analyst Nate Elliott explains in a new report.
 
Elliott’s concerns have real precedent. Instagram parent Facebook is increasingly filtering brand posts on its flagship property, which has sent reach rates plummeting. “Recent studies report that the average branded Facebook post reaches just 6% of a brand’s fans,” according to Elliott. Unlike Facebook, however, Instagram doesn’t yet employ algorithms to determine what percentage of a brand’s followers will see their posts.
 
Therefore, he contends, “marketers must use Instagram now, before it changes the rules. And they must be ready to move on to another social site when Instagram’s phenomenal engagement rates disappear.”
 
Just how phenomenal are those engagement rates? Top brands’ Instagram posts are currently enjoying a per-follower engagement rate 58 times higher than their Facebook posts -- and 120 times higher than their Twitter posts, by Forrester’s calculation.
 
Further strengthening engagement levels, Elliott points to Instagram’s younger users, who appear more willing to interact with brands than older consumers. At least for the moment, the median age of an Instagram user is 27, compared to Facebook’s median age of 40.
 
Among other early engagers, Elliott applauds Ford and its “Mustang Monday” posts, which feature cherry shots of vintage models. Of particular note, “the company generates even greater engagement by reposting its followers’ images,” he says.
 
Indeed, customer photos of Ford Fiestas in national parks and Ford Escapes in front of the Northern Lights have helped the brand to an average Instagram engagement rate over 8%, according to Forrester.
 
Yet the window is closing for enterprising brands. “Clutter is coming,” Elliott warns.
 
More troubling, Instagram’s initial paid advertising efforts have not been well received by its community.
 
“If Instagram’s users don’t accept ads from brands they haven’t followed, the site will have only one ready-made revenue stream: Convincing brands to promote posts to their existing followers,” according to Elliot. “That could motivate Instagram to more aggressively reduce brands’ organic reach.”
 
For its findings, Forrester studied how often people like, share, and comment on the social posts of 50 top brands in the first quarter of the year.
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