The Kardashians hint at marketing potential for Instagram's messenger

Instagram Direct could help some brands boost their engagement

Kourtney Kardashian, in an Instagram photo posted for the Kardashian Kollection fashion line.
Kourtney Kardashian, in an Instagram photo posted for the Kardashian Kollection fashion line.

You might think of Instagram's new private messaging feature as a way to share certain photos with just your best friends. But Instagram -- and the Kardashians -- have other ideas about how the tool could be used to serve up promotional content.

On Thursday, the photo-sharing app announced "Instagram Direct" -- a way for people to send photos and videos only to selected recipients, even if they aren't connected to each other on the service. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom described it as a way to better share photos around common interests, or with a more intimate group of friends.

In addition, Instagram gave a lot of thought to how brands might want to use the tool, Systrom said during a meeting with the press in New York City. A good amount of that thinking stemmed from the company's larger, ongoing monetization efforts, he said.

At least one brand is already interested. Shortly after the feature's announcement, Kourtney, Kim and Khloe Kardashian of reality TV fame got in on the action with a promotion tied to their Kardashian Collection fashion and jewelry line. The promotion is open to anyone following the "KardashianKollection" Instagram account. Fifteen lucky followers will be sent, via Instagram Direct, a private "behind the scenes" photo from the line's 2014 campaign shoot if they repost the promotional message with the hashtag #KKDirect. Winners were announced Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern.

The idea, of course, is for more people to sign up for the brand's Instagram feed, which is filled with photos of high-heeled shoes, shiny bracelets and handbags. With more than 620,000 people following the feed already, the Kardashians' post has generated thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.

Instagram reveals look and feel of new advertising content
News Corp sees Instagram as threat in fight for consumer eyes

The speed at which the Kardashians capitalized on Instagram's new functionality is impressive. And it shows how important the tool might be for brands that want to attract more followers and deliver promotional content to specific people.

Systrom called out some similar types of applications during the event on Thursday. "Imagine you are a brand and you want to get submissions for a contest. Or you are a brand and you want to do a call to action to submit for a website collection," Systrom said. "You can actually say to all your followers, 'Hey, send us a photo.'"

It could work both ways. In the Kardashians' case, they're the ones sending the photo, but the goal is still to build brand engagement.

Facebook purchased Instagram last year for roughly US$1 billion, at a time when the app had little or no revenue to speak of. The company has been slow to roll out ads, with the first ones appearing only recently. Fashion designer Michael Kors is on board, in addition to Ben & Jerry's, Burberry and others. As of press time, those companies do not appear to be running any campaigns or promotions using Instagram Direct.

The tool does present some opportunities for brands to increase engagement, such as by offering exclusive deals to people who follow them. It's less clear, however, whether Instagram would be able to make money directly from its private messaging feature. Instagram's feed is well-suited to ads, which the company calls "sponsored" posts and videos, because the company can charge businesses to have them placed broadly across the site.

But it might be a pipe dream to think consumers will be receptive to promotional photos and videos appearing in their private inboxes, if they don't already interact with those brands.

"This is not necessarily a feature built for advertising," Brian Blau, an industry analyst with Gartner, said of Instagram's new tool. If businesses were to use it to send content to users who didn't ask for it, Instagram Direct could become more like a junk folder.

So Instagram Direct might bomb as a monetization tool, he said. "But you never know."

On Thursday, Instagram's Systrom did not say much about whether the company would be using the function as an advertising tool. "We're taking it very slowly," he said of Instagram's larger monetization efforts. "That's a good thing for a service producing ads."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

3 skills you need to drive better collaboration

A study published in The Harvard Business Review found the time spent in collaborative activities at work has increased by over 50 per cent in the past two decades. Larger projects; complicated problems; tighter timeframes: These require bigger teams with specialised skillsets and diverse backgrounds, often dispersed globally.

Jen Jackson

CEO, Everyday Massive

Better the bank you know?

In 2018, only 21 per cent of customers believed that banks in general had their customers best interests at heart and behave ethically. Only 26 per cent believed that banks will keep their promises; views cemented further following the Hayne Financial Services Royal Commission.

Carolyn Pitt

Head of account management, Hulsbosch

What 15 years of emotional intelligence told us about youth media audiences

Taking people on an emotional journey through content is the most critical part of being a publisher. Which is why emotion lies at the heart of VICE Media.

Stephanie Winkler

Head of insights, VICE Asia-Pacific

It's a pretty good idea. I think this integration is useful. Don't you agree?

Misty Stoll

Officeworks hops on voice interface bandwagon with Google Assistant integration

Read more

ok. so no RCS support? by the way, RCS is a lot bigger than 5G in terms of marketing and monetisation so y'all should be covering it.

DragoCubed

Optus goes for education with 5G network campaign

Read more

Many companies and individual merchants have shifted their major part of marketing to web marketing services Portland as it weighs fewer ...

Radiata Solutions

6 Ways to ramp up Social Media to Your Web Design

Read more

This is a unique experience! Will be interesting to talk to their managers.

Joyce Harris

​How Krispy Kreme revitalised its brand in a saturated market

Read more

I feel bad for them. It's a shame they are closed now. What do you think about it?

Lisa Deleon

Dick Smith stores set to all close by 30 April

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in