If all you want for Christmas is a gift that’s worthy of posting on the ’Gram, you’re not alone.
New research shows that for many this gift-giving season, what’s most important isn’t the gift they receive—it’s whether it looks cool on Instagram.
In the lead up to the holidays, Instagram marketing strategy is becoming more and more important to brands’ holiday marketing campaigns. Brands rely on social media to help users discover new products and services, making Instagram and its ilk critically important retail marketing tools for the holidays. Now, it turns out that an Instagram push could pay dividends even after the holidays, if brands can nudge users to share pictures of their gifts.
Instagram’s importance in the social media universe is no surprise. The platform boasts 500 million daily active users, while rival Snap is up to 173 million, according to CNBC. Instagrammers spend a lot of time on the platform, too: Users under age 25 spend 32 minutes a day on the app, while users over 25 spend more than 24 minutes a day, Recode reports.
You can bet those millions of users will spend plenty of time on Christmas Day on the app after the presents are unwrapped. And what better picture to post than an image, video, or Story of the holiday haul?
When it comes to wanting Instagram-worthy gifts, younger users are driving the trend. Sweety High’s “2017 Gen Z Holiday Gifting and Influencer Report” surveyed over 600 girls between ages 13 and 22 to find out what influenced their gift-giving and gift-receiving habits, Adweek reported.
Among the eyebrow-raising stats in the report: 58 percent of girls surveyed want gifts that are “Instagram-worthy.”
Does this mean having an Instagrammable gift is more important than actually liking the gift? Not necessarily. Given that this demographic has no memory of a world without social media and web-enabled devices, it’s not unusual that posting to social media would be a normal part of their routine. For these digital natives, sharing daily life tidbits is normal—including more personal aspects of life, like giving or receiving gifts.
For those who cringe at the idea of Instagram driving gift lists, take heart: According to the study, 88 percent of Gen Z girls also want their gifts to have a personal meaning, and 77 percent want presents that are useful, WGSN notes.
Of course, it’s not just younger consumers who see the connection between gifts and Instagram. Top publishers are offering curated lists of gift ideas aimed at—you guessed it—Instagram-obsessed consumers.
Buzzfeed’s “21 Things For Anyone Whose Aesthetic Is ‘Instagram AF’” includes quirky and whimsical gift ideas, like “a tube of Glossier Cloud Paint, for a subtle cheek tint that says, ‘100k followers here I come.’” GQ’s “21 Holiday Gifts Sure to Blow Up Your Instagram” promises to give the recipient “love, swag, and followers this Christmas.” On the list: Colorful Converse sneakers, velvet joggers and a “Sriracha To-Go” keychain.
So why is Instagram so important in this gift-giving process?
Like pictures of clouds from the airplane or hot dog legs on the beach, posting gifts on Instagram allows people to share the best imagery from the highlight reel of life. Although posting photos of gifts could be seen as bragging, the motivation to share is probably more complex (although showing off certainly may be part of the allure). In our social media-heavy world, sharing a pic of a great present offers a public thank you to the giver. It’s also a way for us to earn social affirmation from our peers and feel like we belong.
Consider the hashtag #BoyDidGood, for example. When people post photos of stellar gifts from the man in their life, the gesture is a shout-out to the significant other—while also providing a way to seek social affirmation about the relationship.
All of this sharing is great news for brands. When others talk about products and services, it provides valuable social proof about the brand. The trick is nudging people to share.
Now more than ever, brands need a strong Instagram marketing strategy to tap into this “pics of your gifts or you didn’t receive them” phenomenon.
Retailers this season are using many angles to tap into the Instagram frenzy. Light company Luminate has leaned into “hot on Instagram” messaging in its sponsored native ads on Facebook and Instagram. Give this unique gift, the brand is saying, and you’re giving the recipient something instantly Instagram-worthy.
Etsy’s holiday retail marketing approach has included directly appealing to brand followers to spread the world about products. In one post about a whimsical cat pin, the brand asks followers to tag a friend in the comments. The imagery is a winner—the cat pin is adorable—and by asking for interaction, the brand guarantees that many eyeballs will see the post. No doubt those users will envision themselves wearing the item and posting it themselves on social media.
Using micro-influencers is another technique to drive Instagram buzz for the holidays. Jewelry brand Lokai heavily emphasizes micro-influencer generated content. The company teams up with a “handful of talented Instagrammers passionate about Lokai for campaign-specific imagery, allowing us to maintain high quality content throughout the year.” It’s a nifty partnership. Lokai gets gorgeous images from Instagram creatives featuring its bracelets and necklaces, and the same images are blasted to the content creators’ thousands of followers. The strategy pays off by showing Lokai as a lifestyle brand, not just a bracelet maker. Each photo created by an influencer showcases Lokai bracelets in the wild, even if the images are highly curated.
Brands may also consider ways to encourage users to share pictures of their products post-unwrapping. However, brands should tread lightly. Asking for people to post with a certain hashtag shouldn’t feel like a callous grab for followers. Users who offer their content should feel like they’re receiving value in return, even if it’s as simple as an entry into a contest. Even better, brands can offer a more meaningful trade when they share their personal content. Disney, for example, will donate $5 this holiday season each time someone posts a picture of Mickey Mouse ears with the hashtag #ShareYourEars.
Instagram has changed any number of industries—from restaurants creating Instagram-worthy dishes, to art museums showcasing Instagram-ready exhibits. The holidays are changing too, as people devote more time to sharing their holiday experience (gifts included!) on social media apps.
Driven by their desire to share life’s daily moments with others, for these users the ultimate gift is one that earns the kudos of followers on their social platform of choice. For brands, the challenge is to build an Instagram marketing strategy that recognizes the power of social media to drive the actions of both gift givers and gift recipients.
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Featured image attribution: Ben White