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Instagram: How to use live feeds in email campaigns

Expert advice from AVARI

Instagram is a mobile app that allows users to take photos, add creative filters, and share them with followers. Since its launch in 2010, the social network has grown to more than 300 million users. Instagrammers love to share photos of what they’re doing, eating, and wearing. The app has also become a leading channel for brands looking to snap their way into consumers’ hearts — and it’s getting picture-perfect results.

Why use Instagram to build your brand?

According to a 2014 Forrester Research report, the mobile photo-sharing site reigns supreme as the highest social network for engagement, with branded Instagram posts receiving a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%, compared to .07% on Facebook – that’s more than 58 times higher. And in addition to easy search capabilities via hashtags, which allow for increased discovery and scrolling for users, Instagram is slowly rolling out promising new features for advertisers, including calls to action and carousels with multiple images.

Yet with the clear advantages of engagement that Instagram offers, there are admittedly some downsides, namely the high barrier to entry: only brands that are willing to fork over a reported minimum of $200,000 a month have access to official advertising features. Therefore, most brands tend to pursue the unofficial route, using it in a way that most consumers would.

But if they do pay to play, there’s the fact that Instagram as a format is limiting in its storytelling capacity, which makes it difficult for advertisers to communicate deeper, more meaningful messages. While the focus on visuals and emotions is part of its appeal, this same format creates a challenge for advertising things such as events, long-form messaging, and promotions.

Strengthen both channels by leveraging Instagram in email

The followers that brands build up on Instagram may be substantial, but often it's not even close to the number of subscribers a mailing list can reach. With email, you have the ability to segment your list and deliver the right content to the right people. In contrast, with Instagram, every follower sees every picture you post, which makes it harder to target specific audiences.

Conversely, email lacks in many of the areas where Instagram thrives. Whereas Instagram filters have a profound visual impact, emails aren’t always backed by a budget that allows for impressive design. What’s more is that, by default, the user engagement is just not visible in an email the way it is in an app, which makes it a challenge to get users excited about your products or promotions. And of course, without real-time content, you’re sending static emails that are quickly out of date.

However, it doesn’t have to be either/or! Incorporate live Instagram feeds into your email using AVARI social content blocks and you can solve the above problems, giving you the best of both worlds. Your emails will contain beautiful Instagram imagery that’s relevant and up-to-the-minute, while reaching a much broader audience that might be missing out on your community fun.

Inspiration: Instagram feeds in email

Use Case 1: The “Let Me Eat It Now”

You are a restaurant owner making awesome food. You’ve built up a good email list and email your customers on a fairly regular basis with a coupon or a list of your new menu items. However, you wish you had more foot traffic from these emails. You are trying to think about how you could make them more enticing and it dawns on you – the food!

Use your Instagram account to post tasty food and drinks you make every day: a juicy burger, a fancy cocktail, you name it. Then insert this Instagram feed into your email campaign, so when people get that coupon, they also get a sneak peek of what you made this week. They'll see a live feed of deliciousness that will make them hungry for sure! This email marketing strategy can also apply to hospitality companies across the board. Showcase what they come for and enjoy!


Use Case 2: The “I Need A Holiday”

You own a travel company, and your job is to encourage more people to book holidays in your region. People generally visit for two reasons: beach holidays and hiking in the mountains. You have an awesome Instagram feed, where you post what is happening in these different areas, and it’s a great mix of different imagery.

You can easily filter the type of Instagram images that show up in the AVARI social content block of a particular email campaign by “segmenting” (or filtering) the feed with hashtags.

For the mountaineers, use an email campaign with a real-time Instagram block filtered by the hashtag #ToThePeak, so they see all your mountain shots. Do the same for your beach lovers, tagging these photos with #MyBeachHoliday.


Use Case 3: The “This College Is Awesome”

You are a college, and your goal is to increase admissions and/or donations. You want to show all the great times happening on campus right now. The best people to generate this content are the students themselves.

Run a campaign called #CampusLife. Get your students to post pictures to Instagram of all the fun they have on campus, from showing school spirit at the football game to volunteering with their sororities. Then pick and repost the best ones and add an AVARI Instagram block to your admissions/alumni emails, filtering for #CampusLife. The campaign will showcase the most recent, relevant content — exactly what your student and alumni email list wants to see.


Let Your Imagination Run Wild

With some very simple tools you can create amazing experiences for your audiences, by marrying Instagram with email. Now that new technology to make this possible has become widely accesible with AVARI, we're really looking forward to what the creatives at great brands and agencies come up with!

Excited for more? Check out our guide, "22 Uses for Embedded Social Feeds in Email" that'll show you how to bring your email marketing program to life with real-time Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and RSS streams. And if you're ready to start adding embedded social streams and predictive content to your Emma emails, sign up here!


Jake Stott is the Brand Relationship Manager at AVARI, where he specializes in helping brands boost their email marketing efforts. He’s British, loves marketing strategy and travel, has a pet ostrich, and is a sponsored Club Mate Athlete.