Facebook has made a lot of savvy business decisions from its inception. Some have been controversial and well-documented in the press. Others less so. But year after year, they've made tremendous growth and show no signs of slowing. As a branding and marketing agency, however, it's becoming increasingly difficult to assess the value of advertising on Facebook as a way of tracking meaningful brand growth. The reasons for this are many, but perhaps the easist one to understand is the sheer size and scope of Facebook and its global user base. At some point, too big can become a problem, especially when trying to reach a Millennial audience that covets personal connection to brands. 

And that's why perhaps one of their best decisions will turn out to be their acquisition of Instagram. It will of course take time to recoup the $1 billion sticker price, but for brands looking to connect with Millennials, we're seeing a major shift to this image-sharing platform. The reason: authenticity.

The original intention of Instagram was to provide its users a way to share their stories in a visually compelling way. And out of the gate, only iPhone users had access to the app, cultivating a community of passionate users who valued orignality and the authenticity of beautiful images. As it evenutally expanded to include all smartphone users, the artistic integrity of the app remained. And now, of course, brands are slowly getting into the game. 

Instagram hasn't opened up its advertising platform to anyone and everyone, and time will only tell if doing so will de-value the app's effectiveness with reaching Millennials. But for now, some brands are using Instagram in smart, effective ways, and its important to understand the strategy behind it.

One of these brands is Patagonia, who's even gaining some notoriety for their posts. In a recent poll conducted by Huffington Post, Patagonia was listed consistently by Millennials as one of their favorite brands, and its Instagram presence was named as one of the major reasons why. According to the article, respondents said Patagonia's posts made them want to be outdoors and were often inspirational. Head on over to their actual Instagram account and you'll see that an actual product mention is rare. Instead, the feed is full of images from all over the world. Beautiful, awe-inspiring images that, subliminally, associate themselves with the Patagonia brand. 

This is what Millennials want. This is what Millennials respond to. Contrary to popular belief, Millennials aren't averse to marketing. They're open to marketing, with a big caveat: It must be marketing with which they can connect. It must be authentic, and that's what makes Instagram different from all other social platforms. It was founded in authenticity, and at least until now, remains true to that ethic. 

We've seen a lot of success on Instagram with our cilents, and with the increasing size and scope – and thus, broadened missions – of Facebook and Twitter, it's starting to separate itself as a key way to reach the Millennial group most of our clients seek. And in turn, a key way for our clients' brands to separate themselves from the herd. But as Patagonia has shown, success is about more than just being present. Strategy is still king, even on social media.

Curt Cuscino
HypeLife Brands

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