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Amex Hands Over Instagram POV To Cardmembers

Part of Instagram’s rapid rise and enduring appeal is that it has a different tone from most of the social networks that preceded it. While Facebook and Twitter are filled with rants, links, and crushingly boring personal minutiae, Instagram has always enjoyed a more inspirational vibe -- a sharing of positive moments and glimpses that elevate rather than record, boast or prattle. And although it seems obvious once you say it, Instagram also benefits from the unique quality of the phone camera. It is about a personal point of view. It is quite literally the user’s eye view of things.

For Amex, that has been a key insight driving its Instagram takeover programs. For the next two weeks, the charge card brand is giving each of six cardmembers a day of the Amex feed. They are the sole voice or POV during that day, posting images and comments highlighting their day. The group includes a fashion designer, a full-time dad and company owner, a famous chef and others who will bring to life a day that usually includes experiences that Amex helps make possible.

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“This is unique for us,” says Mona Hamouly, VP, Social Media Communications, American Express. “This is the first time we invited card members to take over any of our social properties.” In the past the Instagram feed has enjoyed fabricated takeovers by “CF Frost,” the traditional faux persona used on Amex cards in advertising for decades.

But this time, the company had to choose and manage real people sharing their experiences. “We gave them free reign to go out and tell their Amex story throughout,” she says.

The takeover model is rooted in feedback that Amex gets from its own users. "When we monitor our social channels, the thing that cardmembers say to us is "hey, I bought this pair of shoes because of Amex," she says. The Instagram program aims to share with members some of the benefits of membership they may not already know or recall.

One of the learnings from earlier campaigns was that committing the entire brand to an uninterrupted takeover can be impractical. In the original CF Frost takeover, Amex’s entire Instagram channel was solely dedicated to the posts for two weeks. "That is challenging because we are a huge corporation and we want to make sure we can serve a mix of content." This time out the six takeover days are scattered over two weeks to allow for more traditional corporate postings throughout.    

The participating members were given only the broadest instructions about maintaining the overall look and feel of the brand. But Hamouly says that all of them already had a strong affinity to the brand and so reflect that identity in their posts. The members take all of the pictures themselves and submit them to Amex for posting. In order not to bombard followers, they aim for about 6 images during the takeover day and across 12 hours.

Facebook and Twitter are used to alert fans on other networks of new postings and directing them to Instagram, but Amex is keeping the actual member posts only on Instagram itself. “We see them as distinct. We have a chart of right content for each [social channel], she says.” Facebook and Twitter see more offers from Amex in addition to brand awareness. Vine also gets more offers, and LinkedIn is "a nice recruitment play for us" that often speaks to the culture of the company.

Instagram, however, is not heavy on offers, but more about branding via illustrating experience. For instance, Amex has not used the takeover technique on any other channel. “It is specific to Instagram,” she says. “It lends itself to seeing things through the lens of particular personalities.”  

There is something to that point about personality and point of view as it relates specifically to mobile. Social media has always been about sharing experiences and perspectives. But they were desk-bound on the whole. Mobility energizes point of view with immediacy, placement, and even the enthusiasm and excitement that comes only in the moment. Advertisers are forever looking to “leverage” or find new ways to interrupt mobile moments and spending too little time considering how they can collaborate with users and the way they really do use their smartphones. As a medium, user-generated mobile content, for now at least,  tends to be upbeat -- a sharing of highlights, a recording of the little joys of everyday experience. The “selfie,” if anything mobile’s one true killer app, is the perfect emblem of this tendency. How many selfies have you seen with people frowning?          

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