In the battle of the social media networks, Instagram’s latest salvo against the competition may be a powerful new marketing tool for brands. The new “regram” feature it's testing for the first time allows users to re-post content, and it could make the network a more dominant brand-discovery platform.
The move not only challenges Snapchat in the feature arms race, but it could encroach on Pinterest’s position as a king of brand content discovery. As a colleague has said, Pinterest is like a search engine for visual content, and brands will wisely continue to optimize for it. The brands we work with have long valued the “re-pin” feature on that network, which encourages users to share content by posting it to their boards.
As I’ve explained, the ability to re-post and share content gives brands exponentially more earned media value from visual content once it moves from Pinterest board to Pinterest board, and user to user. However, until now, Instagram didn’t have a way to take advantage of the network effect. The lack of a re-sharing function meant that once a brand’s content was posted -- by the brand, users or influencers -- it had a viral but very short shelf-life on the platform. What’s more, since only the followers of a brand could see the content it posted, it was hard for brands to find new customers.
Previously, if I liked something on Instagram, you would have no idea what content I liked. The new feature means I can surface brand content, make my endorsement clear and create a brand impression within my Instagram Stories. Stories typically have an ephemeral quality, so they are not going to challenge the stamina of Pinterest content just yet. However, this regram function is similar enough to a re-pin to make Instagram an attractive channel for brands to extend the lifetime value of visual content. Think of this new feature as a network multiplier that helps brands get wider traction for content, and gives them access to the audiences of their followers and potential new customers.
This is a big opportunity for brands to empower their followers and influencers with a channel to highlight brand content and get it in the hands of their networks. It will impact how companies work with influencers, making the connection between the brand, the influencer and the consumer more intuitive and seamless.
The feature will bring more marketer focus, budget and resources to Instagram. However, it further complicates the intricacies of how a brand manages and optimizes earned media strategy across a web of social channels. As recent news like the “fake followers” scandal has shown, it’s all too easy to get lost in the woods without the ability to track visual content and how it’s shared, reshared and moves between social media networks. Now it’s even more imperative that marketers track where their content goes, who engages with it and what value is created.
Brands should certainly test out the new regram functionality. I’d venture to guess that marketers will step up creating quality content for Instagram that begs to be shared, and refine their influencer content seeding strategies. This new feature will be embraced by Instagrammers and is likely just the first of many new “re-post, share and disseminate” features on the horizon. The platform feature wars have shown us that we’re clearly in a new “sharing economy” and marketers should not fall behind the innovation of platforms and users.
Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are top platforms for people to discover brand content, so this won’t be the last effort by Instagram to steal brand interest away from the competition. In the was between Instagram and Pinterest for user stickiness, marketer interest and dollars, it’s still more about fast and viral Instagram pops versus slow and steady Pinterest brand discovery. Marketers will win by recognizing the strengths of each channel and placing their bets on the sidelines of the battle of the social media networks.