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Marketers and Consumers Alike Favor Instagram

Pictures speak louder than words when it comes to scoring a hit with social shoppers, according to fresh research from L2. The New York City-based think tank teamed up with visual marketing platform Olapic for the second annual “Intelligence Report: Instagram,” which weighs up the approach and performance of 250 brands across nine categories — including fashion, retail and sportswear — on the fastest growing social network in the U.S.

“As brands engage on a deeper, more visual level with their customers, consumer photos become an important part of the overall brand experience and how a company tells its story,” said Pau Sabria, CEO and co-founder of Olapic.

Enamored with 100 percent organic reach, marketers have dialed up efforts on Instagram (which was bought by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012) by 23 percent over the last five quarters. Retailers averaged 14 posts per week in the fourth quarter of 2014, while fashion brands posted around 11 times. Facebook posts, meanwhile, decreased from 11.1 to 8.8 per week in the same period, and L2 points to the social network’s pay-for-play ethos, which restricts the organic reach of content, as the reason why.

Recent data from the Pew Research Internet Project found that 53 percent of young adults — ages 18 to 29 — in the U.S. are now on Instagram, and total usage among the country’s adult population last year was up 9 percent from 2013. Furthermore, in December the photo-sharing app itself reported 300 million active users worldwide, a 50 percent increase from just nine months prior.

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To that end, a prestige brand’s primary Instagram account boasts an average of half a million fans. One-third of brands posting more than 20 times a week maintain above-average engagement, with product imagery and lifestyle stories reaping more likes and comments than other post types: 65 percent of the best-performing posts featured a product, while 43 percent depicted lifestyle and 29 percent included a celebrity or influencer.

While user-generated content has been found to improve conversion rates by up to 6.4% in such categories as apparel, only 18 percent of brands have an on-site gallery that crowd-sources content from their customers. Comparatively, platforms such as Like2Buy, which allow users to purchase items they see on their feeds, generate friction. Likewise, data suggests there is virtually no relationship between a consumer’s follower base (read: so-called influential fashion bloggers) and the ability of their Instagram photos to drive revenue.

“Marketers can’t afford to take a step back from the biggest social network in the world,” Claude de Jocas, L2’s intelligence group director, told Luxury Daily. “Instead they should think about which content types and activations work best on each platform, and optimize their strategies to generate the highest possible return on investment.”