In case you weren't sure that Facebook is old news and that Instagram has swiftly taken its place, New York-based research firm, L2 has confirmed it in its most recent study. According to the digital innovation think tank, Instagram is luring brands away from its parent company, Facebook. As a result, Facebook Inc.’s billion-dollar acquisition of Instagram is now valued by some estimates at thirty-five times the initial price tag. While an estimated 3 million U.S. teens abandoned Facebook between 2011 and 2014, Instagram has taken the top spot as their most important social network. Enter: smart brands looking to advertise in slightly non-traditional places, such as Michael Kors, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs.
So, what exactly makes Instagram so desirable to advertisers? L2 says it is the social media platform's "proliferating and attractive user base, high engagement levels and e-commerce conducive format." According to Danielle Bailey, who is head of research at L2: “The speed with which prestige brands have flocked to Instagram has been surprising. As a visual medium, Instagram has been a natural fit."
Of the 249 brands that were utilized for L2's study, ninety-three percent have an Instagram account, up from 63 percent last July. Forty-three percent of brands post more than once per day and 72 percent are now producing Instagram videos. Interestingly, Instagram’s highly visual nature allows for easy transmission between cultures, which is important as sixty percent of its users live outside of the United States. In fact, Eastern European countries have the highest engagement levels, while Asia Pacific nations have the highest growth rates. Also, L2 noted that Instagram has unimpeded access to the Chinese market, a "rare and strange feat" for a social media platform.
As for individual brands themselves, Chanel, which only began actively posting on its official account this past October, currently generates the most hashtags, with Prada, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton and Gucci trailing behind. Michael Kors, which was one of the first brands to advertise on Instagram, is noteworthy, as it approaches the platform in a way that differs from most other brands. According to L2, Kors, as well as cosmetics brand, Lancome, share a propensity to leverage user-generated content, a trend that reportedly will become much more pronounced in the coming months. Bailey says: “The appeal of Instagram to brands is less about content sharing and more about using it as a means of capturing user-generated content that can be reused across a brand’s digital landscape, especially in influencing commerce."
What, exactly, does this look like? Well, L2 says that the images that Instagram users tag with #MKTimeless or #MKTokyo, for instance -- both Michael Kors created hashtags -- allow the brand to collection imagery from the consuming public from which it can find appropriate and compelling images. From there, the images can be placed on the brand’s website to provide organic examples of a product and streamline commerce, and the images with the highest engagement levels can be repurposed on social media and in targeted emails for even higher rates of engagement. (It is worth noting that all of these steps are subject to individual copyright concerns, which must be taken into account by brands in order to avoid legal ramifications).
No word in the L2 study, however, about Snapchat, which sources are saying is the latest app to romance the fashion industry. The recent Fall/Winter 2015 runway shows, in particular, shed light on the influence of Snapchat, with Michael Kors, Stella McCartney, and Valentino, among the brands that took advantage of the application’s ability to share fleeting glimpses of behind the scenes moments. Michael Kors worked with Snapchat’s “Stories” feature to launch Fashion Week-specific content — runway pictures, backstage shots and front-row pictures. Of the brand's decision to jump on the newest app, Lisa Pomerantz, senior vice president of global communications and marketing at Michael Kors, said: “We felt that Snapchat offered us a new approach, a different, more immediate sensibility."
For Kors, a so-called affordable luxury brand, the immediacy provided by Snapchat, Instagram and other related apps, may not be such a bad thing, but is it really what houses like Valentino and top tier luxury brands want? I'm not so sure.