Using new Instagram Direct to build brand ambassadors

GAP messages participants in its first Instagram Direct promotion. The brand was the first to announce use of the feature in brand outreaching.

GAP messages participants in its first Instagram Direct promotion. The brand was the first to announce use of the feature in brand outreaching.

Earlier this month, Instagram announced Instagram Direct - a new feature for the photo-sharing app that reaches more than 150 million users around the globe. 

Instagram has been a revelation for many - a way for visual thinkers to express themselves and for creatives to share their passions, but it has also been a powerful tool for brands. While it's led to countless photos of mundane meals (check out this hilarious feed when you're done...) and an insane rise in selfies, it has also empowered every-day people to be citizen reporters, reviewers and minor celebrities. Looking at my Instagram feed, you'll see a visual depiction of important family milestones, trips, conferences, favorite foods, bad hair days and beautiful sunrises. Nothing can take me back to a moment like a photo. 

The new Instagram Direct feature allows brands and users to share photos and comments privately with a group of up to 15. Here are a few ideas on how to utilize this new feature:

  1. Hold an Instagram Direct Photo Contest. 
    Have you tried to launch an online promotion before and had lower than expected participation? Awkward... By limiting your audience to 15, you can give an air of exclusivity and focus on a deeper connection with your core followers. GAP launched an Instagram Direct Photo Contest last week - a move that made it the first brand to publicly launch an initiative. Participants were asked to share a photo of what they were wearing that day and winners won a tech case from the fashion line. Small brands can learn from the success of this interaction and early adoption by encouraging their audience to share a photo with their product, attending their event or connecting with their mission - and then rewarding them for their enthusiasm. Talk about a quick way to build brand ambassadors.
  2. Beta-Testing. 
    Considering the launch of a new product or service? Offer it up to 15 (or fewer) loyal followers for testing. Let them share their experiences - good, bad and ugly - in the group forum and in private. They'll feel empowered and valued and proud to be a part of making your brand experience an even better one. 
  3. Customer Service.
    Search and hashtags make it easier than ever to monitor your brand reputation in real time, heading off potential crises before they spiral out of control. While customer service often cannot be entirely handled through social media, channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have become a standard tool for customer-centric brands to ensure happy clients. Instagram Direct offers brands a more private way to help clients experience product/service difficulties, and if handled appropriately, can be one more method to build brand loyalty.
  4. Providing a personal connection.
    Your followers are multi-faceted and your brand should be as well. Your mission statement isn't likely just about the widgets you make and sell, but probably references a loftier goal - possibly an ambitious goal or just inspirational claptrap. Either way, use that as your jumping off point for more personal content. If your mission is people-centric, show your people. Share pix of your office party (before you break out the nog) or of your company community service day. Show the people behind the products. Share success stories and human interest highlights. Use this visual platform to drive retention and referrals, to inspire and to start conversation.


Danni Eickenhorst is a Board Member of SMCSTL. She is a social media & marketing strategist and owner of Blank Page Marketing Consulting. Follow her @STLDanni on Twitter.


Danni Eickenhorst

Growing up, I was easily the most intense and passionate kid in my small town. If I wasn’t walking the streets with a mason jar to raise funds for the MDA telethon or a family in need, I was advocating for a 5K or some other cause that tugged my heartstrings – that I was sure I could impact. Back then, I wasn’t necessarily tactful or overtly strategic – but I was successful in winning the hearts and minds of the people around me and getting them involved in making a difference too. I like to think that its that same bright-eyed optimism that’s gotten me to where I am today – the unwavering belief that if I can share the story that I believe in, others will get on board and help further the cause. Today, I am a marketing consultant specializing in digital and social strategy for non-profits, the public sector and small businesses. I’ve been fortunate in my career to play an active role in making the St. Louis region a better place to live through my work with Great Rivers Greenway, Bike St. Louis, The Trestle, The Salvation Army, United Way of Greater St. Louis and others. For the highlights, look below for my portfolio of work. I also serve as a board member for Social Media Club of St. Louis. In this capacity, I am presently overseeing the launch of a new event specifically targeted to help non-profits utilize social and digital media to develop brand ambassadors, and to help them reach and exceed their fundraising goals. Today, you will still find me mobilizing people for the causes I care most about – but I’ve retired my mason jar, and mastered the digital sphere. Instead of standing on a soapbox, I’m coordinating major media attention. Instead of holding lemonade stands to raise funds, I’m writing powerful content and working with some of the best minds in the region to see that change is realized. You know the saying… “The more things change…”