Once upon a time, Facebook was the be-all and end-all when it came to marketing for an Australian business. But there’s been a gradual shift towards Instagram, which is proving to be a far more valuable medium for those who use it religiously.
Online fashion brand and Smart50 finalist Showpo has been propelled along by the support of its 476,000 Facebook followers, but the support is even greater on Instagram, where it has around 600,000 followers.
Founder and chief executive Jane Lu says the tide turned when Facebook changed its algorithms, which saw the cost of reaching potential customers via ads rise. Reach for organic posts also dropped.
But over on Instagram, ‘likes’ for product posts are higher at around 6000 for a product post and 8000 for a lifestyle post – far higher than Facebook has ever been for the brand. International sales have also grown significantly on the back of the brand’s love affair with Instagram.
“Facebook will have to evolve if it’s ever going to take on the might of Instagram,” Lu says.
Showpo favours a mix of marketing – email marketing, YouTube, television ads and also SnapChat, used to give a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s work environment.
“After we started using SnapChat for marketing, all our competitors jumped on the bandwagon as well.”
Mastering a platform like Instagram is often put in the too-hard basket, but it doesn’t have to be difficult, Lu says, who founded the fashion site in 2010.
“There’s no secret sauce. Ultimately, you need to understand how the platform works as a user. If you look at another Instagram page and see if it does well and compare it to yours, you’re half way there. Just look at others on there you want to be like.”
The reason so many businesses don’t master a social media platform is that they don’t want to spend the time learning the ropes, and delegate.
Lu is careful about what she discloses, as she’s conscious she’s being watched by her competitors.
Meanwhile, an Instagram conference held this month in Sydney saw some interesting statistics released about the medium, which have been shared by Dave Goodfellow, social and digital lead at social agency, Rinsed.
Instagram keeps a lot of information close to its chest, but the company opened up and shared new insights about the platform, its users in Australia and their behaviours in a new study by Hoop Research, commissioned by Instagram, he says.
He learned that the primary interest of Instagram for Australian users is their friends, with 61% of respondents indicating they follow their friends. Surprisingly though, the next biggest interest seems to be products and services, with 48% of respondents saying they like hearing about them through the platform.
Comparatively, 40% are interested in photography, 39% in travel and 36% in food, which suggests that there is a real commercial opportunity for brands to market products and services through Instagram.
What’s not yet been revealed is how large the local Instagram community is. While the data presented today is a representative sample of Australians, it looks like we will need to continue waiting to find that out.
Goodfellow says that businesses need to think about how creative they want to be. “Instagram is more of a visual platform that allows you to share creative imagery and provoke instant reactions with the use of searchable hashtags. Facebook still holds a larger audience in Australia but I would say it is more of a news sharing platform and a customer service channel,” he says.
Sam Mutimer, founder of Melbourne’s Thinktank Social, agrees that Instagram has emerged as the platform of choice for many of her B2C clients, as its ideal for lead generation, brand awareness and building sales. The shift from Facebook has occurred over the past nine months, she says.
“Facebook can be quite limiting for things like trying to find out more information from people, such as filling out a questionnaire.”
One of her clients, Heatherly Design Bedheads experienced a spike in sales soon after putting greater effort into Instagram. “People tend to spend more time on Instagram because they find their niche there, and feel at home,” Mutimer says.
However, Instagram is populated mostly by people aged 18-28, while Facebook is favoured by people 28-plus, she says.
However, it’s not always that simple. As with all marketing approaches, you can’t just expect to put all your eggs in one basket and yield good results.
Chasing after a niche on Instagram is one thing, but most large companies need the larger reach of Facebook, according to the managing director of Social Star, Andrew Ford.
“In terms of ad availability, Facebook is the best social advertising channel there is. There are so many ways to cost effectively target people, where Instagram is extremely limited in advertising availability. If you have great content that’s visually focused, it’s fantastic, but for a lot of companies, this isn’t the case,” Ford says.
Whichever tool you choose for your business it’s no skin off Facebook’s nose, the social network owns Instagram.
Here’s what we now know about local Instagrammers:
- 18-34 is the most active age demographic in Australia
- 60% of Australian Instagrammers are female, 40% are male
- 70% of Australian Instagrammers use the platform every day
- Australian Instagrammers follow an average of 190 other profiles
- Australian Instagrammers have an average of 251 followers
- Only 24% of Australian Instagrammers are sharing video content
- Less than half (46%) of Australian Instagrammers use hashtags
- Australian Instagrammers share 7 posts per month on average (or 1 approximately every 4 days)
- 48% of Australian Instagrammers say that the platform is a “great way to hear about new products and services”
- 30% of Australian Instagrammers said that they would unfollow you if you weren’t inspiring
- 5% of Australian Instagrammers that have taken an action after seeing a sponsored post say they have bought something