Just a month ago the ephemeral messaging service Snapchat turned down a massive $3 billion cash offer from Facebook—a move that left many people surprised, perplexed, and in some cases, downright angry. To many, the unavoidable question was, how could something that’s free to use, that produced no product, lacked any sort of inventory, and had no prospects for monetization be evaluated a $3 billion. Furthermore, how could that same company subsequently refuse such a massive cash offering from one of the biggest companies in the world? Well a month down the road and there’s still no good answer, but one thing that we can say with some certainty is that with today’s introduction of Instagram Direct, Snapchat is probably kicking themselves for not accepting Facebook’s offer.
Now the company’s closest competitor, Instagram, who is backed by Facebook, has set its sights on the ephemeral messaging market, providing its already massive user base with a viable alternative to Snapchat. Much like Snapchat, Instagram Direct allows users to send photos and videos directly to their followers of choice, without the image being shared on their feed. Not only is Instagram’s latest update a “competitive move,” but it also affords users a brand new, hyper-focused means of marketing that has the ability to really strengthen the relationship between advertisers and consumers. While the ability to monetize Instagram direct is yet to be seen, and sources say that that is an unlikely avenue for the new feature, it will allow advertisers to connect one on one with followers and help facilitate new types of interaction between brands and their followers.
Less than 24 hours after its release, some brands are already finding new ways to tap into their following and further cultivate relationships with their fans. GAP for example, used the new service to run a contest in which users were asked to send photo messages directly to the clothing company in order to be entered into a contest. While Facebook has long had the ability to facilitate these types of marketing activities, Instagram Direct brings with it a much more personalized feel, where users and brands can interact one on one.
As days go by and more brands and advertisers adopt the new Instagram Direct technology, we’re sure to see a number of different marketing practices employed through the direct messaging service. If you are on Instagram Direct and using it as an advertising tool, let us know what’s working for you in the comments below—we’d love to hear some of your ideas!