The Business of Instagram

Separating signal from noise

As we prepare to usher in 2016, we wanted to take a minute to reflect on our journey and where we can have the biggest impact in the new year.

Our story started in the trenches of Toronto’s tech community in 2012, close to a year after Kevin welcomed the first batch of developers looking to build new experiences. As Instagram celebrated its 5th birthday this year, we paused for a (very brief) moment to celebrate our 3rd.

In the early years, Candid remained a relative mystery in the Visual Marketing landscape, quietly competing alongside significantly larger players like Curalate, Olapic, BazaarVoice and LIKEtoKNOW.it, and gaining ground on the back of impressive technology, responsiveness and customer service.

Today, we are truly privileged to be working in almost every major market around the world as a recognized household name across a variety of use-cases relating to Content Marketing & Community Management on Instagram. There’s nothing quite like working shoulder to shoulder with the most loved brands in the world and sharing in their success.

This journey wouldn't have been possible without Mike, Kevin and key members of the Instagram/FB organization that genuinely and thoughtfully balanced community growth with a healthy, vibrant ecosystem of developers needed to scale the Business of Instagram around the globe.

We started this project because we believed in the creative and economic potential of the individual, operating outside of traditional corporate boundaries; and it’s with this perspective that we share our key learnings today with the countless individuals and small businesses looking to market themselves on Instagram.

Candid was always about “togetherness” and what’s possible with a unified effort, but from our vantage point today we see opposing forces and lots of confusion at work in the ecosystem… this is where we think we can help.

Without further ado, here’s our two cents on how to truly “win” on Instagram in 2016:

  • Don’t confuse “followers” and “audience”. They are not the same and this can be a dangerous and costly lesson. Though the writing’s been on the wall for some time, the unhealthy obsession with vanity metrics continues. Many still pour countless hours on improving vanity numbers like followers, likes and comments using increasingly sophisticated recipes (hacks) as if there is an enduring correlation with these metrics and your business goals — there isn't and your time and effort are too valuable for this. The primary mechanism for “distribution” on Instagram is the ad network -> it’s there that you’re equipped with powerful segmentation, targeting and re-targeting capabilities with precise click-through and attribution models. Attempts to game distribution and traffic through “influencers” are simply not sustainable. Ignore vanity metrics, they simply can’t be trusted. Though Instagram took great strides in 2015 to weed out bots and other bad actors, much work remains and this is likely to be a core focus in 2016 (given recent platform policy updates).
  • Content is king. This is where you want to double down (triple down, even). If there’s one thing every brand, big or small, is starved for it’s more fresh, authentic, on-brand content. We believe 2016 will be the year that brands learn the art of visual storytelling from photographers. A cost-effective and repeatable content supply chain is the foundation of success with social advertising, with community content (UGC) playing a pivotal role. Advances here are lasting and sure to improve your core business metrics. Invest in content and creative, you won’t be disappointed.
  • True community is priceless. It is earned, enduring and easily measured by the quality and diversity of content under branded hashtags. Unlike likes, comments or followers, authentic community content is impossible to fake. The most successful brands on Instagram enjoy organic communities of real customers (not paid actors) that genuinely love and support the product or service. True word of mouth marketing requires ditching dated emphasis on vanity metrics and automated growth and turning instead to emotional customer service experiences that delight. There’s no question that the best brands today are being built together with customers but this requires patience and commitment.

In summary, master ads for distribution, develop a great content strategy that produces the right blend of assets predictably and reliably, and nurture your community — together, this is the community inspired commerce playbook and it will pay off in spades in 2016.

That’s our holiday update.

Wishing you all happiness, flow and tranquillity as you hone your craft in 2016. We are back and accepting demo requests on Monday, Jan 4.