In 2012, Instagram was purchased for $1 billion by Facebook which is led by Mark Zuckerberg. Since then, it has evolved into a marketing tool for many businesses and many influencers have started to rake in serious money because of their ability to get their followers to buy products they recommend. Instagram has over half a billion active users uploading photos daily! Instagram is like an advanced form of window shopping.

A recent study commissioned by Takumi (a Japanese app that connects brands with Instagram influencers), revealed that among the various social media platforms, Instagram is the most effective. It used to be that influencers were big time celebrities, but a lot of niches are driven by non-celebrities, but wield great influence in a specific niche. They are referred to as micro-influencers.

If your business is targeting millennials, you absolutely must have an Instagram presence and you should be tapping Instagram influencers on your niche as they are very responsive to what is being shared in their feeds. 68% of 18 to 24 years old said in the survey that they are more likely to buy something after someone they follow on Instagram shared it. Data research by LendEdu verifies this trend. 52.9% of Millenials say that Instagram influences their online shopping the most. LendEDU

Perhaps one reason while Instagram is effective in influencing purchasing decision is that it is a very narcissistic social media platform. As such, when people go through their Instagram feed, they are receptive to brands promoting their products and services that will improve their lives.

Certain industries such as fashion, beauty, fitness and retail are doing well on the Instagram platform. Digital marketing budgets are set to rise in the short and long-term. This means that more marketing dollars will be flowing towards digital marketing and therefore into Instagram because of its effectivity. Instagram ads can be used to target a specific group. As such carefully crafted Instagram ads beat mass media advertising like TV or newspaper.

According to Liz Dunn, founder of CEO of Talmage Advisors, “Consumers trust the opinions of those in their social media group, including friends, bloggers, and celebrities, more than messages they are getting directly from brands. As a result, retailers and brands are trying to cultivate relationships with influencers to gain consumer attention.”

As Instagram and other social media platforms become more saturated, it is important that influencer marketing remains authentic or else there will be consumer cynicism and this could lead to the demise of influencer marketing. Consumer trust is based on authenticity and honesty and brands and influencers that fail to be real and honest will become irrelevant.

An earlier research done by consulting giant, McKinsey, showed that at the point of purchase, recommendations played a critical role and a secondary influence was through social media because it created initial awareness of the product.

Travel is another area where Instagram is making significant influence. People are driven to visit places of travel influencers promote or share in their Instagram feed. Real estate agents are taking amazing photos of the properties they are selling to influence property hunters to buy them. With Instagram installed in the smartphones, it is easy to get updated on property listings just by following Instagram active real estate agents.

Simon Atterbury, head of Kristall Spaces, said, “With today’s ever-growing social media platforms, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Good photography must not only showcase a nice property but capture the lifestyle and essence of the property’s destination. Creativity is key.”

Artists are also benefiting from having social influence on Instagram. For example, Gordon Stevenson is known as Baron Von Fancy to his 30,000 plus thousand Instagram followers. Stevenson said, “Being accessible has been very helpful to me. Every image I post of my art is instantly seen by a wide audience, and people who like the work often repost and spread it even further- this gets the conversation going and leads to sales.” He adds that very often corporate emails that inquire about purchasing his work came from views from his Instagram account.Purchasing Decisions

Another reason why Instagram is such a powerful medium of advertising is because human beings are visual creatures. Instagram leverages this very well by focusing on one picture at a time. The different photo effects and edits can enhance an ordinary picture dramatically. Carefully crafted creative photos can evoke emotions that can trigger people to buy or even donate to a cause.

Instagram recently introduced Instagram Stories. These are photos and videos that last for only a day and they can be enhanced with filters and drawings. Brands are coming up with creative ways to use it to drive sales. For example, some brands are leveraging it to deliver offers and coupons that direct followers to a landing page where they can redeem the one day special offer. First time followers can be given compelling exclusive discounts to encourage them to try out the product. Brand building can also be developed by giving behind the scenes stories of the operations.

Instagram as a social tool are used by marketers to drive contests which can increase foot traffic to the actual brick and mortar stores as well as boost engagement and brand awareness because of the awesome prizes that different brands can offer.

The ease of use of Instagram’s platform allows people to search for specific content quickly and share it to their network. This allows many posts to become viral and this boosts sales even further.

As such, user-generated content is marketing gold for businesses because users can feel more connected to the brand and at the same time is very authentic which boosts trust even further.

Brands can also project specific personalities on Instagram which can boost engagement. For example, they can be playful and funny. This can attach customers to the brand and build loyalty over the long term.

Instagram continues to innovate especially with its analytics and functionality to both businesses and consumers. Thus we can be fairly sure that it will keep its dominance in the near future as more people embrace the platform to shop.