Weekly Stories

Speaker Q&A: Amy Cole, Instagram

Reported by Grace Howard on Apr 19, 2016 5:30:16 PM

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Ahead of her appearance at our London Summit next month, we caught up with Instagram's Head of Brand Development, EMEA to discover the impact the pioneering platform has had on brands and consumers alike.

You have a very varied career and academic history, having studied Mechanical Engineering before moving on to study at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Could you tell us about how you ended up working for Instagram?

I definitely haven't had a traditional career path - I've worked in different roles and different sectors. But what has been consistent is that I've always worked in areas that I'm passionate about and interested in. I love learning and I'm very curious. That naturally means I tend to discover new things. I was an early user of Instagram. I kept encouraging all of my friends to use it! When I first met the then very small Instagram team, I felt an immediate connection. They were a great group of people all working on something that they were passionate about and that we all thought was important – helping people capture and share the things and moments that matter to them.

It’s hard to remember life before Instagram. Besides the obvious, what do you think has made the social media platform the success that it is?

People and brands have always looked for ways to express themselves and connect with others. There have been two key trends that have impacted how we do this. Firstly, the rise in mobile – now so many people have a smartphone in their hands. This shift to mobile has changed the way we communicate. Today in the UK, 1 in every 4 minutes people spend on a mobile is spent on Instagram or Facebook. Secondly, the shift from text to visual communications. Instead of emails and texts, we post photos and videos. We send stickers and emojis. Images can convey so much more than words. We can use images to convey emotion and tell stories. Images transcend language barriers. Instagram gives people the platform and creative tools to tell their visual stories and communicating with this visual language has connected a global community of over 400m people on Instagram.

The Instagram community connect around their passions and interests. This means they're in a unique mindset and are open to discovery and inspiration.I think one of the most powerful things about Instagram is how you can immediately connect with things that are happening anywhere in the world - whether that's seeing what happens behind the scenes at Paris fashion week when you're sitting in London - or getting inspiration from an illustrator in Japan, when you're an up and coming artist living in Moscow.

How could fashion brands improve their Instagram strategies?

The first thing I have to say is fashion brands are killing it on Instagram. The fashion industry was one of the first to really embrace Instagram and has always been a core part of our community. Instagram is a place to be visually inspired. The best brands on Instagram are authentic. They use Instagram to tell the story behind the brand or the personality of the designer. The other tip is to be consistent. What is your visual brand identity? What's your style, your colour palette, your look and feel? Is it recognisable as you? People are exposed to so many brand messages via so many touch-points, that you need to continually reinforce your brand and story. This is especially true on Instagram.

But don't just be on Instagram because it's there. Use it to drive real business results. Instagram can be the place where people discover and get inspired by your brands, the place where you can connect with your consumers and also where you can drive sales. Many people only think about Instagram as a branding platform, but there are loads of brands and businesses that are really putting Instagram to work. The final advice I would give to brands is to be creative and have some fun. From video, to slow-mo, to cinemagraphs, to illustrations, there are loads of ways to tell your visual stories on Instagram. The Instagram community is incredibly creative. I'd encourage brands to continue to be inspired by the community and by each other.

Some argue that we’ve reached ‘peak’ social media; others think it will continue to dominate our time spent online. Do you think social media will continue to evolve – if so, how?

The way that people communicate is always evolving. The shift from desktop to mobile. The shift from text to image. As communications evolve, social media will evolve. People will always want to find ways to connect with others and share the things that matter to them. What's important is that social platforms continue to evolve too. We're always innovating. Over the last year we've created more tools to help people express themselves via video, including hyperlapse and boomerang. In the last six months, the time that people spend watching videos on Instagram has increased by more than 40%. Recently we announced that we're extending the length of videos to up to 60 seconds. Now the community has more creative flexibility to capture and share the things that matter to them.

Hear more from Amy at our London Summit on May 17-18. Book your tickets here.

Reported by Grace Howard

Image Source: Instagram

Topics: London Summit, social media, Weekly Stories

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