Instagram's Marne Levine on the importance of Asia

SMBs and video are top priorities for Instagram's COO.

Marne Levine. (Image via Campaign Asia).
Marne Levine. (Image via Campaign Asia).

SINGAPORE: Advertisers in Asia-Pacific are at the forefront of using Facebook and Instagram effectively together, both tactically and strategically, while Australia is among the top five countries for advertiser adoption.

Marne Levine, Instagram’s COO, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the company’s vision is to drive more value for small and medium businesses in the region.

"I’m really pleased that businesses are seeing value in our advertising products," said Levine. "We have 1.5 million businesses that have downloaded our business tools. That’s a lot in a short time and many of these businesses are in Asia-Pacific."

Launched in May, Instagram Business Tools lets businesses create special profiles that allow customers to contact them directly. This new revenue driver has seen more than 1.5 million businesses convert to a business profile.

Businesses in APAC are leading globally when it comes to using Facebook and Instagram in tandem. This has helped to drive lower cost-per-app installs, lift brand awareness among a young, mobile-using audience, and drive branded video content in ads on a massive scale. Levine cited multiple examples to underscore the point. Online grocery platform HappyFresh used Instagram, Facebook, and Audience Network to reach 3.6 million targeted people in Kuala Lumpur and achieved a 30% lower cost per install. Meanwhile Happily Unmarried, an Indian SMB operating in the gifts and home accessories space, ran a placements-optimized campaign across the social networks and saw a three-fold increase in website traffic and a 14-fold jump in product shipment.

Instagram launched its advertising platform globally in September 2015, with Procter & Gamble, Air New Zealand, Adidas, Sony, and Canon among the first brands to take it up. In the past six months, the number of advertisers has more than doubled to 500,000. The U.S., Brazil, U.K., Australia, and Canada are spearheading this growth. Asia-Pacific is a priority region for the photo-sharing app, with a large number of its community members in these markets, Levine pointed out. Of its 500 million global users, 80 percent are outside the United States.

Within APAC, Indonesia leads with 22 million users, followed by Japan and Australia with 12 million and 7 million, respectively. The top five advertiser verticals in the region are ecommerce, technology, FMCG, retail, and entertainment and gaming.

According to Levine, small businesses are doing a stellar job using Instagram’s insights tools to better understand their audiences.

"There’s a unique opportunity for small businesses whether they exist or are just a concept," she said. "People come to Instagram to connect around share passions and interests."

More than 50% of Instagrammers follow a business and 60% say they have learned about a product or service on the app. Three-quarters say they take action after seeing a post, sponsored or organic, like visiting a website, searching, shopping, or telling a friend.

Levine recounted an example from Australia where a mum-to-be designed her own rocking chair and posted the idea on Instagram. One user spotted the post, made an enquiry, and placed an order.

"She essentially had her first production even before she even wanted to have a business," Levine said. Another Australian brand, Mighty Good Undies, an eco-friendly underwear company, changed its strategy after it discovered more than half its users were in the U.S.

"We are able to give these SMBs insights to see how the things they’re doing are performing and turn a strong post into an advertising opportunity," Levine said.

Levine, who has been at the helm for almost two years, is also excited about video, which is "exploding" on the platform.

"Consumption has increased by 150%, and so we are creating more tools and will continue to innovate there," she said. In the past few months, the platform has added video to its carousel ad format and more recently introduced Stories, openly encroaching on Snapchat’s territory.

"People in the region are really excited about social media, and they want new ways to share their visual stories," Levine said. "We are excited at how vibrant the community here is." 

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