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Chris Hall discusses what risks new time-sensitive social media could pose for brands.
2016 has been a whirlwind year for Instagram which has introduced a number of changes. These have included a new black and white design complete with new logo, a brand new algorithm which is supposed to show you more of what you want to see replacing their chronological model and, most controversially in August, Instagram Stories; a new feature that mimics Snapchat’s format with 24-hour disappearing videos.
In October of this year, Instagram expanded their Stories format to bring it to the Explore page. 100 million people follow the tab every day to find videos and photos from accounts they don’t yet, but could, follow. Now they will also be able to view stories, short vanishing videos from brands they may not have encountered before.
Instagram Stories – an exciting opportunity
The new update, of course, opens up an exciting marketing opportunity, with brands being able to reach thousands more potential customers on a daily basis. However, marketers must take a step back and be sure that while their content will be ad-hoc and time-sensitive, their planning cannot be. They cannot risk breaking the rules of their brand.
With great opportunity comes great risk
The development of live social platforms like Instagram Stories, Facebook Live and Snapchat Stories, has allowed brands to tap into particular locations and events, making themselves part of the narrative and viewable to huge audiences interested in any particular trending topic.
Innocent Drinks is an example of a brand that capitalises on live events and news for their marketing strategy. The brand’s Twitter feed, for example, has an incredibly informal tone that talks with instead of at its customers. They live tweeted during #GBBO (Great British Bake Off) this year; the witty, off-the-cuff commentary enabled the brand to reach far wider than their 260,000 followers.
Consumers no longer just want, but expect ‘in the moment marketing’, and want brands to be following live events as they are. Branding communication must be constant and relevant. However, ‘marketing on the fly’ is not as easy and spontaneous as it may seem.
Innocent Drinks likely prepares its seemingly ‘live’ content. In an interview, head of Digital & Communities for the brand, Joe McEwan, mentioned their “full library of content” that is incredibly useful for creating “a consistent social presence in international market…to help get them clued up on what has worked well for our brand and what hasn’t”.
It is important to remember that something posted in real time does not have to be created wholly in real time. Having a foundation of approved, digital assets allows brands to be spontaneous, while staying on brand. It allows them to colour, but within the guidelines.
If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail
If brands’ digital assets are prepared they can respond to breaking news and trending topics, without risking a marketing mishap. Instagram reached half a billion users this year – a large and very public stage for something to go wrong.
However, brands have made social media mistakes. In 2014, US brand American Apparel accidentally posted an image of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, an explosion which killed seven. The photo was hashtagged #smoke and #clouds, attempting to chime into the Fourth of July celebrations. The company removed the image, but it had already done the social media rounds. The brand was forced to apologise and blamed the faux pas on an employee who was born after the tragedy. This example, one of many others, shows how badly social media can fail when brands aren’t prepared.
Teams cannot prepare for the unexpected, but by establishing company guidelines, tone, personality and having a bank of pre-approved assets, they increase the likelihood of success from agile marketing. They can act freely in the moment, without the fear of not hitting the right mark.
This allows brands to go to market faster, while being consistent and authentic. It is important to remember that Instagram’s latest update will mean a brand’s output is being viewed by not only their followers, but by strangers and potential customers to the brand. Every disappearing story could be the first interaction a consumer ever has with the brand and this is why is it essential that plans are put in place for those conversations to be positive.
Think global, act local
This brings us to the next step; collaboration. Most brands do have prepared digital assets, but they are rarely all in the same place. They are often in local drives; some in the cloud, some in one team’s private folders. An organisation-wide Digital Asset Management (DAM) system allows local teams to tell their own stories, but through a global pre-approved package of messages and assets that can be applied to any situation. This not only limits risk, but also frees up time allowing marketers’ jobs to be more creative and less admin-based.
Brands should welcome the latest Instagram Stories update and see it as an opportunity to show their personality and messages off to a new world of users. However, in order to make the most of the new feature, companies should ensure they have the processes in place that will protect and promote their brand in an ever-changing media landscape.
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