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Creativity Marketing Transformation

3 Brands That Are Revolutionizing Instagram Marketing with Live

5 Minute Read

Last November, Instagram introduced a new feature that took marketers back to the pre-DVR era: it added live video to Instagram stories, allowing marketers to create and share videos with their followers (but only in real time).

In some ways, this felt like a bold move. After all, so much of the value of Instagram marketing (as with most social media marketing) value lies in shares and engagement over time, in fleshed-out profiles consumers can binge-view if they so choose, in generating more followers by proving your brand’s ability to generate (and respond to) comments. Even Snapchat waits until users are ready to view their disappearing pictures or video snippets.

For some, these moment-in-time marketing techniques can feel daunting. So much of our technology has been designed for on-demand use, reuse, and replay. If that sounds like you, the announcement likely gave you one of two feelings:

a) Dread. A fear of the impending adjustments you’d have to make to your 2017 marketing strategy to account for live-then-lost videos on Instagram, with no idea how to make the feature work to your advantage, or

b) Disinterest. You’ve already made your adjustments, and, with Facebook Live seeming to cover all your live-video bases, there’s no need to make any changes to your Instagram strategy just yet.

But three months in and counting, marketers for major brands have taken to this new feature boldly, and to great effect. So if you’ve been putting Instagram live video off for either of the reasons above, your audience is just now starting to wonder why.

Don’t freak out if you don’t understand how live can enhance your Insta persona. These three brands can teach you everything you need to know to start an Instagram marketing transformation.


1. Loft: Feel Like a Friend

One of the biggest advantages to brands with Instagram marketing is that their content appears exactly the same way as their audiences’ friends’ content. Their images appear in the same feed, their stories show up in the same scroll bar, and their usernames don’t look any different (that is, outside of the blue “verified” checkmark). That level of familiarity is a huge bonus for brands looking to tell stories and ingratiate themselves with their audiences. That’s why Instagram Stories and live video both have so much potential—they take all of the unapproachable photoshoot and Photoshop pressure away and leave us with quick, human glances behind the scenes.

Loft (@loft) does a great job of this by routinely updating its story and going live when its social media marketers are doing anything noteworthy at all. Because the account is run by the brand’s core demographic, the content is engaging, entertaining, and relatable—and it accomplishes something big: it brings digital experiences back into the retail realm.


2. J. Crew: Create FOMO By Streaming What’s Happening IRL

Many brands struggle with experiential and spatial marketing in the digital age—and while that’s a question for another time, there is something we can say about it here. Brands like Loft almost exclusively post stories or live content from inside their stores, which gets audiences closer to retail locations by simply picking up their phones. This creates a much-needed bridge between digital behavior and retail stores. The best news? Audiences don’t even have to travel for brands to reap the benefits.

But when it comes to capturing a moment, almost no one’s mastered the blend of casual and on-brand better than J. Crew (@jcrew). By uploading catalog-quality images to its stories and featuring Instagram-specific CTAs and sales, the brand is able to create a sense of fleeting urgency—a sense the brand can easily capitalize on through Instagram Live as well. And since readers are already drawn to the brand’s “in the moment” essence, J. Crew has carved itself a niche of at-the-ready audience members who are prepared to jump in on their Stories and live videos.

What’s more, thanks to Instagram’s new product tag and direct-link features, brands can go beyond the dated “Link in our bio” line and create mini links and pages specifically for posts and stories, which creates an insider feel that all audiences crave as part of the friendly, informal follower relationship fostered by Instagram and similar platforms.


3. Shopify: Generate Cross-Platform Promotional Opportunities

Most of us deal in written content like blog posts, but it’s much harder to get words viral than images or social media accounts. How do you direct traffic to your preferred platform from a social media account like Instagram without coming across as salesy? Instead of simply captioning all of your images with some obvious CTA like “Link in bio,” try teasing expanded content in an Instagram Story like Shopify (@shopify). Images with quick, bulleted captions generate actionable interest from Instagram that can direct traffic to a blog post or website. Instagram Stories automatically keep playing until a user clicks out, and it’s much easier to generate leads via an opt-out platform than an opt-in. Between the pop-up notifications when a user goes live, continuous Story play, and in-Story links, Instagram can serve as a compelling cross-promotional storytelling engine.

Instagram’s addition of live video offers the opportunity to livestream a podcast recording, product debut, or retail experience, all while fielding questions and comments from the audience. The creative potential of Instagram Live and Stories is far from tapped, but the platform already enjoys one of the largest active user bases of any social network.

Live and Let Live

Just as Instagram marketing is not a niche limited to brands that deal in images and lifestyle goods, the platform’s live feature holds more value to any brand than it appears to at first pass. Every brand has a story to tell that benefits from multimedia distribution and informal, behind-the-scenes access for loyal followers. And because users can head to their Explore tabs for a rundown of the best live videos happening at any given time, brands that invest in Instagram live are basically given free reach and viral marketing potential.

Whether you deal in goods or services, providing a live demo, tutorial, or Q&A is a free way to encourage interaction and create brand interest. Live content doesn’t require extensive production or creativity as long as it’s on brand and genuinely empathetic to its target audience. In fact, unlike many marketing campaigns, live video simply requires somebody to push a button while a brand or personality does whatever it does best.

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John Montesi is a content marketing specialist who has worked with major companies in Silicon Valley's B2B and SaaS sector. He has placed professional articles in major online industry publications and personal writing in literary journals. John is a technophilic Luddite who still giggles every time his Google Calendar syncs to his phone. He likes to explain complicated concepts with whimsy and ease and is an accidental SME on software, real estate, sports, art, music, cars, and lifestyle brands.

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