Artificial intelligence (AI) enhances an online retailer’s ability to engage with customers, says Peter Thomas. The technology that is now redefining retail enables algorithms to make the same complex decisions a human could, sifting through the data, but much faster and at volume. It means the customer experience (CX) becomes more tailored and personalised; the customer journey more comfortable. When used well, the tech helps both retailer and consumer.
While Snapchat was once the exciting rising star of social media, use of the various platforms is changing and, unfortunately for Snapchat’s marketing and PR team, rumours abound in both industry and mainstream news that the app is in decline. But with millennials spending ever more time on their gadgets of choice, is there really a shift in consumer attitude and, if there is, what has caused it?
Social media influencers – the facts behind the fiction
These rumours are not simply the product of Silicone Valley whispers. We undertook a poll to find out more about the situation from the influencers’ perspective. A total of 689 social media influencers took part, all of whom had a reach of at least 6,000 people across their various chosen social media platforms.
The poll first asked the influencers about their use of apps, in order to find out where they are the most active. Comparing Snapchat to Instagram, an ever-rising star in the social media world, 73% of influencers said they preferred Instagram and, although 82% use Instagram more than Snapchat, more than half (55%) also stated that they use the story function of the Instagram app alone more than the whole of the Snapchat app altogether. More than a quarter of influencers (26%) have actually considered deleting Snapchat, or have already deleted the little yellow icon from their screen.
In order to understand more about how Instagram has got the social game so right, while Snapchat hasn’t, we asked the influencers to share the reasons behind their preference. The top five reasons for influencers to prefer Instagram were:
- Better functionality for sponsored content, eg. tagging in pictures and captions, swipe up functionality, bio links, etc.
- Ability to post longer form content
- Ability to post permanent/longer lasting content
- More detailed analytics
- Better suited to direct traffic and for generating commission
Finally, the influencers were asked to compare Instagram and Snapchat in terms of their content and posts, to which 68% said Instagram is ‘more aspirational’ than Snapchat and 81% agreed that it ‘warrants better engagement/interactions’.
How influencers work
Social media influencers have become the benchmark of social activity. Celebrities of the smartphone era, these accounts have accumulated thousands upon thousands of followers. Their subjects of expertise and content themes can cover almost anything, from parenting, fitness and food through to fashion, beauty and gaming. Due to the influence they have, brands often work with them to promote products and services via sponsored posts and gifting, and treat their social network channels as an advertising vehicle.
This is nothing new for many marketers; campaigns have been running with an influencer element for many years now, and they have become so effective that many brands focus their marketing efforts almost solely on social media audiences via these influencers. Tapping into these networks is a way for brands to connect with consumers. These influencers have relatively high levels of trust and admiration, whereby people are far more welcoming of recommendations and promotions than they would be when receiving promotions via other means.
Instagram’s success strategy
By recognising social media as a promotional channel and accepting this more commercially-centred use (even encouraging it with various adaptations and updates to make the platform ever more accommodating), Instagram has shown its aptitude when it comes to understanding user demand and moving with the times. To put it simply, it does what people want it to do.
Although these results spell doom and gloom for Snapchat from the influencers’ perspective, it also spells disaster from general users. Data marketers will not be surprised to hear that where influencers lead, followers – and, ultimately, their lucrative highly engaged consumers – will follow.
By catering to influencers far more closely and effectively, offering such functions as tagging and swiping, they are providing additional accountability for sponsored posts and better analytics. Brands can easily track influencer performance and influencers can check on their own content and feedback. Influencers, equally, can engage with followers, develop longer lasting content and build their own brands and profiles in a way that Snapchat simply cannot offer. The developers at Instagram noticed the influencer trend, one that no marketer could miss, but most importantly have not only allowed it, but embraced it.
Furthermore, thanks to the platform keeping its ear to the ground, the Instagram team has recognised and quickly addressed budding criticisms; namely that the app offers too perfect a view, too filtered and aspirational, so that it has become too far removed from reality. While many influencers and brands consider the aspirational tendency of accounts on Instagram to be a perfect advertising platform, the whole appeal of social media is the organic connection and engagement. If a lack of this ever threatened Instagram’s success, the implementation of the story feature has quickly overruled that. It presents instant, relatively raw, spontaneous content (albeit sometimes filtered), separate to the user’s profile, that lasts 24 hours and then disappears; very much like Snapchat, now you mention it…
The future of Snapchat
These developments have meant that, everything Snapchat can do, Instagram can do better. By following the age-old adage of simply tuning into its users, from the followers to the leaders, and understanding what is important to both groups, Instagram has gone from strength to strength. There is nothing more valuable than consumer insight; that much proves to be true time and time again, with Instagram’s rise and Snapchat’s ongoing fall yet another testament.
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