Instagram debuts direct messaging: What brand managers should know

The photo-sharing service’s new feature—Instagram Direct—enables users to send private messages. Here’s what you need to know.

On Thursday, Instagram unveiled a new feature for its popular mobile app: Instagram Direct. You can read all about it on the Instagram blog.

For many users, this will simply be a more efficient way to share photos with specific friends.

For brand managers, this new feature opens doors and presents opportunities.

Off the top, a challenge for brands will be the ability to segment their Instagram communities and create “groups” or lists of fans/customers broken up by geography, interests, etc. For most of the ideas you see below, this will be crucial. Right now, we don’t have many tools to help us do that—just elbow grease.

I have a few ideas on how brands can use Instagram’s new functionality:

Specify photos for certain segments of your audience

This is the no-brainer. Let’s say you’re a food manufacturer and you want to share photos of a new product—but you want to share it only with certain bloggers and other key people and not your entire Instagram community. With Instagram Direct, you can do that. It sounds as though it limits to 15 the number of people you can include. Now, that will require a little legwork on your end, you’ll have to find these influencers/bloggers within your Instagram community, but chances are good that you already have a list of people with those properties.

Send new product pics to your very biggest fans

Let’s say you’re Threadless and you have a spanking new T-shirt design you want to share only with your biggest fans. In essence, you want to give them a sneak peek before you go live with it the following week. With Instagram Direct, you can send a picture of the T-shirt to that audience only (asking them not to share it publicly, of course, but knowing it could go live). Again, the trick is curating the list on Instagram, and until Instagram gives brands better tools to do that, this will continue to be challenging. But you’re playing on that exclusivity factor, which we know many fans value.

Live Instagram an event, but only for key media

I admit that this idea is a bit out there, but what about live-Instagramming an event just for this audience? You can do that now with Instagram Direct. You set it up by sending a short note to a short list of media/influencers in advance, telling them you’ll be live-Instagramming the event on a specific day/time and to follow along for the latest photos. It’s a great way to give this key audience exclusive content—which they’ll use (ideally) in articles, blog posts, and other media-sharing activities in the following days.

Create an Ultra-Insiders Club within the Insiders Club

OK, so this one’s a little further out there. What if you created a club specifically made up of your insider’s insiders—your super fans? These would probably be fans you handpick, but those who work in social media know who their super fans are, right?

You have Twitter lists (and many of those people use Instagram). Just cherry-pick 10 of those folks to start an uber-insiders club. Remember, fans love exclusivity. Why not give it to them through Instagram Direct? You’d promise to share behind-the-scenes footage and photos—stuff fans will not get anywhere else.

Those are a few initial thoughts. What about you? What brand-specific ideas do you see for Instagram Direct?

(Image via)

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