How You Can Use Instagram Direct to Reward Fans

While private communication might seem counterintuitive to a brand that’s building a public presence, tools like Instagram Direct aren’t without merit. Social media has provided marketers with dozens of platforms from which to broadcast their messages, but sometimes one-on-one conversations can prove more valuable. The trick is striking the right balance.

Launched last December, Instagram Direct enables users to send text, video, and photos privately rather than to their entire groups of followers. As a result, it’s a great tool for sharing exclusive content and reaching specific groups of fans. And as you’ll see, it’s also a great way to collect entries for contests and other user-generated content.

Here are some examples of how brands have successfully worked it into their social outreach strategies.

Collect Contest Submissions

Gap wasted no time making positive use of Instagram Direct. Less than two hours after its launch, the brand had already issued a challenge to fans. Gap asked the first 15 commenters on a photo to send in a photo of their outfits using Instagram Direct. The brand was the only viewer of these photos. As a reward for participating, Gap sent the winners a limited edition tablet case made out of denim.

More recently, Buffalo Wild Wings used Instagram Direct to capitalize on World Cup buzz. The restaurant chain kicked off its #Fannerisms campaign by posting a caricature of a football fan, encouraging customers to share their own. Buffalo Wild Wings then used Instagram Direct to notify winners of the contest with photos that showed instructions on how to redeem a gift card. As a result, the brand gained 1,600 new followers in three days.

Similarly, GoEnnounce used Instagram Direct to leverage the excitement of soon-to-be college students. The company asked high school seniors to take photos of their college acceptance letters and share them through Instagram Direct. This was was definitely an easy challenge, as most college-bound freshman are eager to voice their excitement. Participants received secret “Welcome to College” gifts. GoEnnounce engaged with more than 1,000 individuals within a 24-hour period as a result.

Offer Exclusive Content

What better way to reward loyal fans than with an exclusive look behind-the-scenes or sneak-peek of an upcoming product. The Kardashian’s fashion brand did just that by turning followers into insiders, giving them the opportunity to share breaking news about the brand with their followers.

In order to get people excited about its 2014 collection, Kardashian Kollection encouraged fans to repost its Instagram photo using the hashtag #KKDirect to their Instagram feeds. Winners received an exclusive photo, sent through Instagram Direct, that they could then share with the rest of their followers. The hashtag was used in more than 4,400 posts within 19 hours.

In a similar move, Michael Kors rewarded the first 50 people who posted a photo with the hashtag #MKDirect with a special message. Mystery is what sets this campaign apart from the Kardashians’. Although #KKDirect participants knew they’d be receiving an image to share, #MKDirect hopefuls had no idea what the reward would be. By scheduling delivery of the reward for the following day, the brand made sure that it’d get a lot of mentions beforehand.

Instagram Direct might not be the best platform for you to work out customer service issues or share important announcements with your community. However, if you’re trying drive engagement or reward fans — whether through a contest or exclusive perks — the tool can definitely help.

If you’re open to other forms of private communication, you might also be interested in Snapchat. Marketers have found creative ways to leverage the time-sensitive app that are similar to Instagram Direct campaigns. Additionally, you can read more about private conversations on social and where you can have them in an earlier article.