Brands are getting more personal... and weird
As a brand, if you are still using a pastel pallet, high-quality imagery/videography on your Instagram, you may need to start rethinking your social media marketing strategy. The age of the pretty grid may be coming to an end, and here’s why:
When the first big D2C brands hit the market (think Casper, Warby Parker, Harrys) they ushered in a totally new era of Instagram. Brand feeds were more colorful, relied on high-quality product imagery/videography, and were highly curated. This had a lasting effect for all brands to follow; if you were a manager running social media channels in this era, you were undoubtedly asked by your direct report when planning a social media content calendar: “what does the grid look like?”
Now, there are still brands that have highly curated feeds - and don’t get me wrong, they do certainly look good! But with that being said, social media platforms are now shifting, and with that shift, social media followers are engaging with a different kind of content: brand content that pulls behind the curtain of who is behind the team, what they believe in…and even really, really weird content (more on this in a bit). Gen-Z target audience brands are leading the charge here as well as brands adapting to TikTok early on in their social strategy.
A brave new world
A great example of these new social media marketing efforts is how brands take a stance on political and social issues. Before, most brands shied away from being too political, but in today’s day and age, consumers want to know where brands stand on these issues (and ultimately where their hard-earned money is going to). Starface - a beloved Gen Z skincare brand that offers fun star pimple patches - is leading the way in this regard, taking hard stances on political and social issues and what they support through social media messages. Here are just a few examples of well-documented social media strategies:
Scrolling through the comments you can see how fans and customers of the brand appreciate that a brand is highlighting these issues.
Now, I have mentioned brands getting weird, and let me explain what I mean. If you ever have scrolled TikTok - and if you were like me during the pandemic, that meant scrolling for hours - you most likely have come across videos with millions of views that are just silly, goofy, and weird. Duolingo - an app to learn new languages - definitely took notice of this and leaned into it, with their account exploding to 3.1 million followers. Their TikTok account is run by their owl mascot (user generated content of sorts!) and follows the mascot’s weird antics in the office while also jumping on trends. Here is a video of the owl twerking - which garnered 2.7 million views. However, my personal favorite is the account’s current obsession with Dua Lipa. In my 8 years working in social media, I have never been truly shocked by a brand’s content…until this post (I won’t describe it, just watch it, trust me). I am amazed this post was ever approved, but I applaud the Duolingo social team for taking a big swing and it paying off. The post has 31 million views, 5.3 million likes, 94.3k comments. Bravo. 👏
We chatted about taking stances, getting weird, but there is one last piece to the puzzle that just might be the final nail in the coffin for the pretty feed: video. Specifically, short-form, shot-on-your-phone video - the kind that made Vine (RIP) so great and TikTok one of the most downloaded and used social network apps. Instagram has taken notice, launching their own TikTok competitor called Reels, which has become a priority for their business goals. Don’t take my word for it, though, here’s the head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, explaining what Instagram is focusing on in 2022. TLDR: reels + video.
How to do short form videos
The issue we run into is that short-form video isn’t so pretty - a lot of time it’s UGC or the social media channel manager shooting face-to-camera. Scrolling a TikTok feed looks vastly different from scrolling an Instagram feed. For example, Crocs, who are crushing it on TikTok, work with a lot of great creators for content, but their covers in the grand scheme don’t make for a pretty feed…and that is okay! That is the point of TikTok! It’s real, authentic, fun. However, if Instagram is moving to more of a TikTok style, this format will follow and we will see brands having less beautiful imagery, and more raw, authentic moments/videos. Blueland, a cleaning supply company looking to end single-use plastics, is doing a great job balancing old-school Instagram imagery with this new short-form video format. I imagine we will see a lot more brands on Instagram follow…
So, in 2022, if you are planning your social media campaigns or thinking through what makes an effective social media strategy, I recommend getting real, authentic, and WEIRD!
By Brett Ambrose - Brett Ambrose is a social channels strategy and management specialist with 8+ years experience across the B2C and B2B landscape with brands like Ollie, Fincent and Pumpkin Petcare.