Joshua Teixeira heads up the strategy discipline at Big Spaceship, helping shape engagements for active projects and prospective clients alike. Recent projects include work with clients like Crayola, Chobani, Google, Wrigley, General Electric, Urban Daddy, and Gilt Groupe.
When it comes to Facebook's $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, details are still coming into focus. In a public statement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Instagram will continue to grow independently -- but further details about how the platforms will eventually weave together have not been provided. Nevertheless, the Instagram/Facebook combo presents new challenges to and opportunities for marketers.
[More from Mashable: 5 Ways to Use Pinterest for Recruiting]
Instagram is a place we go to communicate visually, to give friends a glimpse into our daily life -- what we ate for lunch, which shoes we just bought, the view from the window at work. These posts not only fill our friends’ feeds with beautifully filtered photos, but also with artfully masked suggestions and influence.
As the popular photo platform gains steam, surpassing 30 million users, some companies are realizing that an artsy tilt-shift photo of the bag of chips you're eating could be actually worth something.
[More from Mashable: T-Mobile Spokeswoman Gets a New Look to Tout 4G]
Close to 1 billion members strong, Facebook has a powerful paid advertising program. And its support for brands has grown immensely in the past few months, with the rollout of Timeline for Brands and fan-based ads. Meanwhile, Instagram is emerging as a much smaller, but very powerful user-supported platform that brands are just beginning to embrace.
For brands, this acquisition is an opportunity to strengthen their digital ecosystems -- by leveraging both platforms as a way to tell their stories, creating a more cohesive consumer experience and encouraging deeper engagement. Integration of Instagram into a brand's Facebook communications has potential to create a more visual conversation via rich stories and conversations. The transparent personalities that brands have built thus far on Instagram could be fleshed out further by harnessing Facebook Timeline's layout power to represent a brand’s lifespan of brand personification.
While Instagram doesn't currently have an ad program, companies like Instagrid Network want to connect brands with Instagram users. By setting up programs that pay top Instagrammers to share photos of a brand's products, inviting guest photographers to curate a brand's feed, or promoting a certain hashtag, Instagrid is confident in its model to grow a brand's following and establish the brand among influencers.
As branded Instagram content begins to work its way into users feeds, the big question is whether people will mind (or notice). These paid endorsements will be unobtrusive, and will look exactly the same as every other photo populating your feed. As Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom says, “It doesn't feel like advertising when you open Instagram -- it feels like entertainment.”
The idea of branded entertainment on Instagram has been an extremely successful tool for brands that operate their own accounts, such as Warby Parker and Anthroplogie, and Instagrid’s programs could help their accounts grow. However, these accounts have a transparency to them that disappears with users being paid to post images on their accounts, on the behalf of brands. For brands, this “product placement” model risks driving users away from them or Instagram in general, due to a perceived drop in authenticity and artistic integrity of the community.
Both brands and users will be carefully monitoring what happens next. Facebook and Instagram need to maintain their independence and authenticity as separate platforms in order to be successful and not push users away. Marketing efforts need to be carefully designed with the end user in mind.
The prospect of Facebook using its dominant presence to barge into users' intimately curated Instagram communities has backlash potential. However, we see an opportunity for positive social benefits than can subtly improve the Instagram user experience and make it more dynamic -- such as in-app tagging, personal and community-sourced albums, or a unified desktop presence for Instagram photos.
While this partnership will undoubtedly attract many new users to join the Instagram community, for brands, it's important to keep in mind which channel is more relevant to the brand and its consumers. This acquisition can heighten the potential for success of branded content on Instagram, without affecting the artistic integrity of the platform.
While initially it may fall on Zuck to get this right, brands bear the real responsibility for developing the new Instagram and keeping the focus on user engagement. If they can do that, it will be a pretty picture indeed.
With Casey Roeder, strategist, Big Spaceship
This story originally published on Mashable here.