Thursday, September 24, 2015

Insta Thoughts on Increased Popularity of Instagram

Instagram has reached 400 million monthly users, Adweek reports.

The social site which enables "instant" sharing of photos, as well as video, and of course text, has grown by 100 million users just this year.

It's easy to get all crazy excited about this, especially if you work in PR and have digital and social media as part of your job responsibilities.  But let me give some "instathoughts" about the news.


  • It's monthly users.  That means it takes a month to get 400 million people to use Instagram. That means people don't use it what could be called "regularly" in our hyper mediated world. They could use it daily, weekly, monthly. We don't have that data in this report. But the use is occasional.
  •  75% of those 400 million reside outside the US. That is fascinating if you work for an NGO or MNC and want to reach a global audience. But if you have a more domestic focus, you are talking about 100 million, or one-third of the U.S. population.
  • Instagram started as and still primarily is a photo sharing site. That means to engage those users--if you still want to, given the above--you need to think and act visually. Does the organization story you have and want to tell have a visual aspect? If yes, go for it. If not, maybe Instagram in spite of its growth is not right for you.
  • It's a social medium. Just because there are a lot of people on Instagram or any other social site doesn't mean they are patiently waiting for messaging from businesses and nonprofit organizations. They want to engage with friends and network with individuals mostly, and maybe, if the content is right and not too overtly a marketing message, they'll pay attention to a brand message. 
  • Sometimes less is more. People are still lured by large numbers, but the growth of Instagram in volume of users may not mean it's an easy targeting opportunity for brands. Consider networking in person. If you walk into a room of 20 people you may have more meaningful engagement than a room of 200, 2,000, or more. It's the paradox and tension of digital media and the nature of attention--more people means more chaos. Remember that in social the people are not just an audience, they are the participants and the messages as well. You have to find a way to be relevant, engaging and real. So, work to find niche audiences within Instagram.
All of the above is just some quick critical thinking about this news. There is still rich opportunity on Instagram, but it must be considered realistically and strategically.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nature Conservancy Shows Good Visual PR (But Caution About Ads)

The Nature Conservancy has a project that is a good example of employing visual PR, i.e. video, to reach audiences in a compelling and educational way.

Their video collection of Michigan preserves caught my eye recently. I have worked with various environmental organizations in the past and know that it can be a challenge to educate a mass public about what a preserve is, how they are arranged, and why people should care. This is one case where visual communication is compelling and I would imagine effective to show rather than merely tell in this case.

I was alerted to the video series in an online article on MLive, this one focusing on the video about the headwaters of the Grand River, which flows from near Jackson to Lake Michigan at Grand Haven, thus meandering through many MLive readership markets. So the Nature Conservancy has the videos and is doing the media relations to get the word out about them. Kudos for that.

I did notice one thing that provides a cautionary tale about PR pros using online video across sites and platforms. While the videos hosted on the Nature Conservancy site simply play from the beginning, on MLive I was served up a pre-roll ad before the video played. No huge problem there--MLive is a media company and like any business needs to make a profit. But this particular ad was advocating that tracking or shale oil drilling can be done safely. I will not get into the pros/cons of that particular issue. But the point is that such an ad may conflict with the Nature Conservancy's mission and brand, and they don't have control over which ads run as a preface to its own video.

What do do? Organizations can hope that viewers will make the distinction between ad message and their own content. Or they can restrict views of videos to proprietary sites without ads. Or media companies could start paying more attention to not just content but sentiment of ads and try to offer some compatibility, such as we have seen in print over the years with some human judgment about ad placement relative to editorial content.