Social Engagements: Making Insta-worthy creative

The managing director of Facebook and Instagram Canada on how small budgets can make 'mobile-first' content work.

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You’re reading Social Engagements, a series examining how brands are using social media platforms and tech to engage audiences. We’ve talked with Snap’s global head of creative strategy and Twitter Canada’s head of business marketing. This week, we’re talking with
 Garrick Tiplady, MD of Facebook and Instagram Canada.

Online furniture retailer Article’s Instagram Story featuring its new outdoor collection is such a delicious feast for the eyes you might be tempted to lick your smartphone.

There are drone shots of beautiful people hanging out on even more beautiful outdoor sofas, loungers and chairs. There’s polls about leisure preferences and playlists, as well as puppies, plants, brunches and bicycles. What is essentially an online spring catalogue is all set in a very Insta-worthy locale, complete with a turquoise pool plunked in an otherworldly desert landscape.

Forget the heavy, shiny GT Headshot 2018print catalogues of your youth: these days the way to capture people’s fractured attention is via light, bright online photos and videos.

But, Garrick Tiplady, MD of Facebook and Instagram Canada, insists pricey pretty pictures are not required for a company looking to promote its brand and wares on the image-centric platform.

For David’s and Goliath’s

“There are [photography] tips and techniques… where you don’t need to spend an exorbitant amount of money on creative,” says Tiplady during an interview in Facebook’s colourful downtown Toronto office. “I think that’s where we’re seeing a lot of small businesses have big success because they are creating content that they know will resonate with people that use their products and services, and as long as you connect on that you can drive results.”

Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, which also owns Messenger and WhatsApp, reported an all-time high of USD$14.9 billion in advertising revenue, up 26%, for the first quarter of 2019. And COO Sheryl Sandberg also noted on a results conference call last week that for Q1, the top-100 advertisers contributed less than 20% of its total ad revenue, signaling that its advertising pool is more diverse in terms of ad spend and campaign size than it was in this period last year.

While long-time Canadian success stories, like Lululemon, have used Instagram to great effect in recent years, direct-to-consumer brands and young online-first companies like Article, which only started in 2011, can also clearly have great success on the platform, which itself only started in 2010.

In less than seven years, the online-only furniture company (with 364,000 Instagram followers and more than 2,200 posts) was named Canada’s fastest-growing company in 2018 and has seen its sales balloon by a “gobsmacking 56,581%” over last five years, according to Canadian Business. The team at Article credits Instagram with helping it rise to such stratospheric heights, with 36% of its transactions including Instagram in its path-to-purchase, according to a case study on Instagram’s corporate website.
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Still getting lots of likes despite many controversies
Of course, it hasn’t been all pretty pictures and success stories for Instagram’s parent company. Facebook has come under relentless critique since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke last year. Tiplady acknowledges there’s work to be done and says the company is investing in “giving people more control, keeping people’s information safe and keeping people safe.”

Despite the loud public outcry, Facebook’s platforms, including Instagram, continue to be popular around the world, as well as with Canadian brands from the giant (Vancouver’s Lululemon with 2.9 million followers) to the tiny (Halifax’s Weird Harbour Espresso Bar with 3,796 followers). While Tiplady would not provide many Canadian statistics, Facebook reports that globally there are now around 2.7 billion people using Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger each month, and more than 2.1 billion people using at least once every day. Today, Facebook has more than 24 million active users in Canada. Globally, Instagram boasts more than one billion monthly users. While that stat is not broken down by country, back in 2016 the social-networking platform said there were 8.5 million Canadian active users on Instagram each month, and that those users were checking the site an average of 11 times a day.

And a study commissioned by the company called “Instagram’s Impact on Canadian Business” found more than half (58%) of Instagrammers in Canada use the platform every day – this figure jumps to 72% among 16- to 25-year-olds. And the majority (59%) of Instagrammers surveyed in Canada said they were inspired by the photos and videos they see on Instagram, while 26% of those users say the platform helps them decide what they want to purchase.

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Creating new messages for a new medium

Brands looking to capture Instagrammers’ attention need to think beyond simply posting a cut-down version of an ad for another medium by making “mobile-first creative,” advises Tiplady.

“There is a difference between making a TV spot and putting it on Instagram versus creating content which is specific for mobile and that’s really the major conversations we have with our partners,” he says. “I would say our partners who see the best results are the ones who have a true business objective in mind and a test-and-learn mentality because that’s ultimately how we find new opportunities.”