Politicians are hardly known for being enthusiastic about new technology like Instagram. One only has to read the various views many hold on new business models such as Uber to see the “new world” holds more fear than opportunity for many. Yet a substantial portion of the 2016 presidential campaign is being fought on Instagram, with some candidates even prioritizing social media over “old media” due to the cost and reach advantages.
MSNBC reported that the last few days saw Republican front-runners Donald Trump and Jeb Bush head to Instagram to “needle each other,” bringing attack ads to Instagram and away from more traditional outlets, such as TV. Hillary Clinton is reported to be taking a more positive approach to Instagram that matches native Instagram user behavior by sharing “throwback photos,” giving an insight into her personality and past.
The reason for the shift is twofold. The first is due to attention; Instagram is extremely popular and growing, and due to the visual nature of the social media app, Instagram users pay a lot of attention to their “feeds.” The second is cost; a traditional media slot costs thousands of dollars, where Instagram video views can be bought for as little as two cents per view, according to Digiday.
Gary Vaynerchuk, one of Entrepreneur’s “25 Digital Marketing and Social Media Experts to Follow on Twitter,” has long touted new platforms, such as Instagram, due to the cost and attention advantages newer platforms have, on his Ask Gary Vee Show. However, the move of political debate onto the Instagram platform is a sign that this type of thinking, once unique to “new media” experts, is becoming mainstream with political candidates seeing Instagram as an essential part of a balanced campaign.
Gizmodo goes so far as to claim that Trump’s Instagram attack ads are the “future of American politics.” It’s possible, however, that Instagram, given that Instagram is owned by Facebook, will replicate the way ads are shown and rated based on user response. Overly promotional ads don’t work well on Facebook, whereas helpful, fun, or engaging content performs well. Instagram users are used to a much more curated experience than Facebook, where “liking” brands is much more common, so it would be realistic to expect Instagram ads that fit in with the native environment to perform well.
Regardless of what you think about their respective politics, it seems likely that Hillary Clinton’s native approach to Instagram will be more effective on the platform. Maybe, just as Facebook’s rating system works to drive advertisers to be more innovative, engaging, and interesting, Instagram will encourage politicians to share more positive messages. Perhaps more likely, Gizmodo is correct and we’ll just see politicians happy to spend more on less effective Instagram attack ads, just as they are on “old media.”
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]