Social Media Channels

New social media channels always mean new potential opportunities for PR agencies. Last week, we saw the rise of Instagram Direct (retired since). It’s essentially the same Instagram experience we’ve come to know and love, but now with the option of sending private photos, videos and chat-like messages to specific users or groups of users (up to 15).

The new service has sparked conversation about whether Facebook took this move in retaliation to SnapChat’s rejection of its $3 billion offer, and whether Instagram Direct will prompt SnapChat to roll out more robust messaging capabilities in response.

While these are the hot topics for social media users, marketers and PR professionals have got their minds somewhere else. Right now, we’re wondering whether Instagram Direct could become an innovative new way to get in touch with customers, prospects and influencers.Here are three ways companies can use Instagram Direct for PR.

1. Pitching

The relationship between journalists and PR professionals is evolving. A recent study by Cision found that one in four journalists now prefer to be contacted via social media. This might open some doors for Instagram Direct, considering the 15 second restriction on shared videos. If you think about pitching a story to a reporter over the phone, 15 seconds is just about the length of time you should be able to succinctly articulate its main points. Ensuring your pitch cuts through email clutter and reaches the top of a reporter’s inbox is a never-ending challenge in PR – could video pitching through Instagram Direct be the solution? See our Media Relations expertise.

2. Exclusivity

Exclusivity is highly valued in the media industry. Instagram Direct could be a perfect platform for unique content, because you’re able to hand-pick a list of who receives your photos, videos and messages. This will allow brands to segment audiences, particularly when it comes to key influencers.

PR Daily suggested a couple ways of doing this – for instance, sending reporters a photo of a product in advance of the launch can give influencers a sneak peek without exposing the product to the brand’s entire community. Another idea was to live-Instagram an event, providing influencers with exclusive content they can use in articles or blog posts.

3. Contests

Successful social media strategies today often involve some sort of contest. We should expect to see this with Instagram Direct, as well. The Gap was the first to jump on this, just two hours after the service’s launch. The clothing retailer used Instagram Direct to private message the first 15 commenters on a photo they had posted, inviting them to participate in a contest for a limited edition Gap product.

Taking Social Media Promotion Above and Beyond

We already know that social media is a critical element to any successful PR or marketing program – leveraging these channels can attract customers and allows brands to share directly share information with stakeholders.

Instagram Direct does all this too, but I think it has the potential to take interaction a step further. By encouraging exclusive one-on-one conversations, it lets us go beyond merely “reaching” an audience, instead allowing brands to develop deep relationships with customers. And with relationship-building at the core of effective brand marketing and promotion, Instagram Direct might just become a key tactical platform.


This post was first published by Hanah Johnson on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.