Funocity Blog

Visual Storytelling on Instagram

Last week, Instagram revealed “carousel ads,” a unique opportunity for advertisers to share visual stories about their brands. Big brands such as Levi’s, Hollister and Taco Bell are a few of Instagram’s partners that have access to this advertising functionality. Smaller businesses will have to wait to reach the 300 million active users on this platform, many of whom are Millennials.

However, some of these businesses are not waiting but have already begun sharing their stories and brand identities on Instagram. These adventurous brands are winning hearts and minds of Instagram users organically. The carousel ads, however, will strengthen the functionality that Instagram-loving brands enjoy so much: visual storytelling.

“Carousel ads give brands more flexibility in telling their stories by allowing people who view their ads to swipe left to see additional images and link to a website of the brand’s choice,” writes the Instagram Business Blog.

The carousel slideshow-style ads are tapping into a massive marketing trend for 2015 which Michael Brenner, a strategist at Newscred, predictedwould only grow as the year goes on:

“Storytelling will topple other marketing silos, emerging as the ultimate audience-reaching tactic. Existing marketing silos will fall apart as content, data and technology emerge as the only way for brands to reach consumers through storytelling.”

Visual storytelling on social platforms is all about emotions. Tech-writer Om Malik has noted that Instagram is “built on emotion,” allowing users to capture beauty and serendipity while on the go. To truly master the art of telling stories on Instagram, smaller businesses will need the data-driven tools that clarify how to effectively reach their target audience’s emotional preferences and interests.

Gaining an understanding of Millennials and Generation Z (born in the mid 2000s to the present day) is of considerable value to advertisers. Members of these younger generations have flocked away from Facebook to the photo-sharing platform in pursuit of greater self-expression and personal storytelling.

In a recent study by Radius Global Marketing Research, it was found that Millennials are influenced more strongly by word-of-mouth than the Baby Boomer generation, whose members have proven to be more reliant on advertising.

Word-of-mouth on Instagram is like a form of ‘show-and-tell’ where numerous young users show off their purchases with friends. Their images tell stories about how brands fit in with their own sense of identity. Small businesses will be able to tap into this behavior and share the stories that celebrate the life of their brand identities, both from the perspective of internal employees and the external consumers who they impact.

There are three big benefits of advertising on Instagram that socially savvy small businesses will want to know about:

  1. Carousel ads will finally be able to link to websites outside of Instagram, a capability that was never previously allowed.
  2. Instagram’s advertising dashboard will include demographic information to help target previously unreached audiences based on age and sex, all while gathering real-time data on impressions, reach and engagement.
  3. Smaller brands can steer their budgets away from print ads that no longer prove effective to visual stories that capture more attention and facilitate word-of-mouth.

The third point about Instagram’s impact on print advertising is discussed on the LinkedIn blog of Gary Vaynerchuk, best-selling author and entrepreneur. He argues that Instagram is “the print industry’s worst nightmare,” because its ad product, and ones like it, will become far more efficient and worthy of ad dollars for companies than ordinarily preferred print ads.

For small to mid-sized businesses like ours that have already begun to steer our time and energy toward sharing on Instagram, the ethos of visual storytelling is understood well enough that Instagram should open up their advertising platform for us. Otherwise, how will we capture the attention of a generation that spends more time exchanging visual stories from their mobile devices than looking at advertisements in magazines?

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