Should your next promotion be on Instagram?

Instagram is going places. Shouldn’t you be using it for your next brand promotion? 

The benefits of Instagram are endless. You can use it to post, view and share just about anything. From gorgeous product placement that tugs on the wallet strings, to teaser shots of exciting new product launches for enticing early adopters, the photo sharing platform is a marketer’s dream – if you know where the opportunities lie.

There’s way more to Instagram than its celebrity hangout status. Sure, it fuels newspaper column inches with freely available images and stories that seemingly come straight out of thin air. It gave birth to the Kardashians, it feeds brand Beckham and it brings us daily inspiration for our otherwise uneventful and monochrome lives. Joke. Instagram is a visual feast for the senses and more and more of us are getting on board.

Its mesmerising pictorial pull means this social media network commands serious kudos. As serious marketers know, Instagram influences consumer behaviour, making it an established channel for customer acquisition whilst also engaging existing customers to support retention programmes.

It’s our view that brands seeking their next engaging campaign could do a lot worse than to look to a competition or promotion on social media as their next big piece of marketing activity.


Instagram’s user base has doubled over the past two years. It’s been reported that it is now hovering around the 1 billion mark, making it Facebook’s fourth billion-user platform. Astonishingly, the service has grown from just 30 million monthly active users about five years ago, when Facebook announced it was acquiring the app, to 700 million monthly active users as of April 2017. And it’s destined to keep soaring in popularity in the same way that Facebook was adopted across the generations over time.

Instagram’s growing appeal is reflected in our latest research into consumer habits. Sodexo’s ‘The Consumer Promotions: What Shoppers Think in 2017’ survey revealed that while Instagram used to be the playground for the fashionistas and cool hunters of London, it’s now firmly rooted as a social media platform for the nation.

In 2016, London led the way as the platform of choice for entering competitions (15.21% said they had used it for this purpose). But this year, it was Yorkshire and Humberside who emerged as leaders, with 19.81% saying they enter competitions via Instagram.


Influencer marketing is a buzz word that’s flitting about the internet like a bad dose of dodgy content about artificial intelligence. Gone are the days when you’d feature an entire campaign around a celebrity. Influencers, as they’re now known, command a more powerful channel for marketers based on the amount of followers they have on social media.

It’s a marketing movement that’s gaining in popularity for brands who want to move away from traditional advertising which can have high initial costs at the outset. In 2017, Amazon recruited influencers with its “social influencer” program. ASOS went one step further and launched individual Instagram accounts for its influencers like @asos_ashley and @asos_megan.

Mike Heller, founder and CEO of Talent Resources, in an interview with Fortune senior editor Anne VanderMey, said, "The brand has to align with the influencer’s lifestyle. We’ve turned down millions of dollars on products that just aren’t aligned with the talent and their lifestyle.” He adds, “It has to be authentic."


I mean, who hasn’t heard of the Instagram Brand Ambassador as a job title? Well actually, we hadn’t until this year. Not that long ago, Hemsley + Hemsley were brought on board to be Heathrow Airport’s Instagram Food Ambassadors. According to their press release, one in seven UK travellers has chosen a holiday destination based solely on food seen on Instagram. We only wish this was us. Nespresso with George Clooney at Lake Garda, anyone?

Meanwhile, as part of this, they made a YouTube film explaining to customers how they can take better #Foodstagram posts when travelling.  Hemsley says, “If your last post was a close up, how about zooming out next time? Develop a look and feel and uniquely roll with it.” Sounds a trifling obvious to us, but we’re going with it.

These words of wisdom may fall short for some, but nobody said Instagram was perfect. By hiring Instagram Ambassadors, Heathrow created PR and engaging content faster than an Air Bus lands on the runway at Terminal 5. They were also able to fuel their YouTube channel and bring their social media feed to life. It won’t have been cheap, but it is certainly one way to get noticed. Now pass us that travel brochure.


Of course, not every marketing department can command the kind of budget that brings in the likes of Snoop Dogg by way of Adidas’s latest sneaker promotion. But Instagram are keen to keep the influencer front of mind, so they’re doing everything in their power to enable authentic conversations to continue. They’ve introduced a tagging tool in a bid to boost transparency around paid-for posts, and leading brands have embraced this – a sign that influencer marketing is well and truly here to stay.

We suggest the influencer tag is strongest amongst millennials, but research is telling us that growth is being driven by Instagram’s popularity with a slightly older demographic.

Instagram proved most popular among 25-34 year olds (3.33%) last year for sharing news of competitions and promotions. Yet in 2017, it was 35-44 year olds who said they used the platform the most to shout about these opportunities.


Whether it’s because paid-for influencers aren’t a natural fit with an individual brand or because of limited social media budgets, brands can still make big gains on Instagram. They just need strong content to do it. You don’t need us to tell you that social media is one of the biggest opportunities that companies across industries have to connect directly to customers. By being responsive and answering consumer’s questions quickly, you can become the kind of brand that customers recommend to others.

According to social media agency, Sprout Social, brand actions on social media that prompt customers to purchase are:

  • Being responsive: 48%
  • Offering promotions: 46%
  • Providing educational content: 42%
  • Sharing interesting visuals: 38%
  • Being funny: 36%

Simply put, if you attract new followers to your online feed, you have to reward them when they get there. A brand promotion or giveaway can be an excellent way to do that.


We might be biased but it’s our view that Instagram is the perfect platform for hosting a competition or promotion. You just need a well thought out hashtag and a clever campaign giveaway that ties in nicely with your brand proposition. Easier said than done of course, but if you add a hashtag and encourage users to follow and share your posts you can actively measure brand engagement and monitor consumer behaviour as they interact with your posts.

Sodexo’s research tells us that more and more people are entering competitions on social media in general. Instagram saw twice as many competition entrants in 2017 compared with the year before. Last year, nearly a quarter of respondents said they were competition winners, with 24.95% claiming to have been lucky.  

This year this more than doubled from 20% to 43%. The research is telling us that competitions are a great way for brands to engage with people socially. They’re quick and easy to enter and have the potential to get your brand in front of a huge audience – customer reach is a massive factor here. It’s also a key driver for acquisition and customer base growth. Give your entrants multiple entries for sharing the competition further and bingo. HQ is literally on to a winner.


Going beyond the hashtag there are a few other aspects to consider when setting out on an effective Instagram campaign. Sorry guys, terms and conditions still apply! A solid risk promotion strategy is always advised when it comes to offering multiple prizes, especially for high value promotions.

Here are a few top tips for managing a successful promotional social media campaign:

  • Prizes are all very well, but without a well-executed creative treatment, you could stand to get lost in social media noise. Enlist a great creative studio to bring your giveaway to life.
  • If you’ve got the budget, think video and make sure you mention the giveaway or promotion within it.
  • Prize fulfilment is key. A free microwave may not have the same pull as an all expenses holiday to the Maldives. But if you’re talking to students, it could still perform well.
  • Think of a great prize incentive but also consider its odds – if entrants feel there’s more chance of winning, they’ll be more likely to engage with your promotion. E.g. ‘we’re giving away 1 in 5 prizes’ may out-perform one solo prize.
  • Every promotion starts with an ask for likes, and getting people to follow the account.
  • Get people to tag three other friends to increase your follower count and boost engagement so that it’s more likely to turn up on other people’s Explore feeds.
  • Start conversations with your audience and encourage user-generated content in your feed.


The bottom line is, Instagram is a powerful tool for marketers everywhere.  

It’s not just for millennials and youth marketers. It’s not just for product launches. It’s not just for getting in on the latest trends – although AirBnB’s #WeAccept was a corker. It’s not just for influencers to humble brag, paid or otherwise. It’s certainly not just for reaching a massive audience of up to 700 million monthly users. And it’s not just about millionaire’s bacon. But it could be about your next promotion.

Instagram has the muscle to capture your customers’ imaginations and turn that engagement into something a million times more powerful that just words. Trust us, this is only the beginning…

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