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3 Ways Brands Can Use Instagram Direct

Beyoncé may have stolen Instagram’s new-release thunder with her midnight album release, but let’s face it – they had a good 15 hours of the spotlight. It was practically old news by then…  For those wondering what the heck Instagram was thinking with this new update, you can read the official release post. And no, it was not so more people can share questionable photos. That will probably still happen, however. If you haven’t had an opportunity to test out the new feature – here are some shots of how the process works. It’s very similar to a regular post and includes the comment feature, which means two-way private communication. Select the image, choose your filters, write your message – but instead of just submitting, you can choose to send it to followers or make it a direct message. Instagram Direct Message DM Screenshot 1 You can revisit your Instagram direct images by returning to your home feed and clicking the inbox in the top right corner. If you sent an image, select it and if your recipient has seen it, a green checkmark will appear on their profile icon. Instagram Direct Message DM Screenshot 2 There is a limit to how many people you can directly share an image with – 15. Also, if you’re inundated with unwanted pictures you do have options to hide, block, ignore or report the image or user. (Insert sigh of relief here.) Instagram Direct Message DM Screenshot 3 If you’re a community manager, then you should be excited about this new update. Here are three ways you can use it to improve engagement and grow your community base.

Accept Contest Submissions

There is no shortage of Instagram-run contests. Before the update, brands could have entrants tag the brand in an image, use a hashtag, or funnel them to another site. Without direct links in captions, the last option was a bit cumbersome and required more effort from participants. If you have ever managed a contest, you know it’s important to make participation as easy as possible. Now brands can just have people send them their image submissions. Unlike the Instagram direct message feature on Twitter, you don’t have to be following the user to receive the image. “Photos and videos that you receive from people you follow will appear immediately. If someone you’re not following sends you a photo or video on Instagram, it will go to your requests so you can decide if you want to view it.” Want to privately notify the winner of a contest? Send them an image that lets them know they won.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

Did someone say free content? Yes! Free content! Make the most of the Instagram direct feature by asking people to send you their pictures. Again, hashtags are great, but as much as you may try, people will make up their own hashtags about your brand with the hope that you will still see it. The direct message feature removes this barrier. I’m not saying the branded hashtag is dead – let’s not get crazy here – still make the most of them. It’s just easier now for:
  • Fashion brands to see how buyers are incorporating products in an #OOTD (outfit of the day) selfie.
  • Auto brands to experience the pride people have towards their cars.
  • Sports teams to connect with fans in real-time.
  • Etc.

Customer Service

I’m a big fan of customer service via social. If people are jumping to social to complain about a brand, then they should be able to find a solution there as well. In some situations, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, if I receive a package from DSW and the shoes are in less than a fabulous condition – I can show them the problem. Or, if my Time Warner Cable box refuses to give me the Internet access I pay for, I can send them a picture of the lights that are red, green or blinking on my wireless router. The list is endless, but the bottom line is that brands can now solve problems more effectively and in a private way. I don’t know many brands that enjoy arguing with customers in public – especially if there are pictures involved. Starting an awesome conversation because of an image is another story, however. Find me on Instagram and Twitter: @theevernovice.

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