Instagram last week rolled out another feature that continues its competitive attack on Snapchat: disappearing video and photo messages.

Source: InstagramYes, the very idea that birthed Snapchat. Not too surprising considering other recent Snapchat-
inspired announcements
from Facebook, the parent company of Instagram.

This update, however, creates new opportunities for brand marketers and sales teams alike.

Disappearing photo and video messaging has been on Instagram since November, but operated in an interface separate from Instagram Direct (DM). Last week’s update feels more natural. The messages temporarily appear in a single DM thread alongside all other text, photos, etc., where two people (or more, in a group) can extend the conversation.

The feature has potential to be a powerful promotion or sales tool for several reasons. It’s relatively non-invasive. It’s fun. It allows for better, more creative pitching in just a few seconds. And, at least for now, it’s an opportunity not many brands are capitalizing on, which means less pressure on the consumer.

You can send these messages and start a dialogue with any user on the platform – you don’t have to be following them, nor do their profiles need to be public. By default, selecting multiple users at once will send individual messages, instead of starting a group message, and it looks like you can select an unlimited number of users (for now).

What separates this from Snapchat as a marketing/sales tactic? You can hyper-target audiences through Instagram’s hashtag search or by finding users who engage with similar brands.

In short, this feature allows brands to find who matters most and make them feel special through “personalized” outreach.

Used correctly, Instagram’s disappearing DM can be an extremely efficient, modern-day cold call. Minus the awkward hang-ups.

Here’s the caveat: just like a salesman knocking at your door, this has potential to irritate unsuspecting consumers. Don’t overwhelm them. Features like these are fun, but remember that nothing disappears on social media (anything can be screenshotted) and, worse, a social media misstep could quickly lead to a brand reputation crisis – just ask United or American Airlines. So make sure content is appropriate, high-quality and aligned with brand standards.

Most importantly: follow your social media plan. If you don’t have a strategy in place, build one.

I see opportunity to weave this feature into any marketing or sales campaign – especially if you’ve got members on your team that know their way around a CRM. While time consuming, I’d argue it’s one of the most targeted and organic social media marketing tactics available right now.

Here are just a few of the ways I could see different types of businesses using this feature:

Targeted Cross-Promotion for Content Marketing

If you’re about to “go live” on Instagram or Facebook and want certain people to see your stream, film a quick bit to tell people when they should log in to watch. This also would work if you’ve written a blog post that a certain audience would benefit from reading (just don’t forget to put the link in your bio).

In-Person Events

University recruiters sometimes host events at target high schools, where students engage through event hashtags. Higher ed institutions should reach out to prospective students where they already are, on Instagram, with information that drives them down the recruitment funnel. This would work for any brand that does event or experiential marketing.

Brick and Mortar

Concerts, festivals and other events of a certain size usually have both a hashtag and a high attendance. If you own a restaurant near the venue, users from that hashtag might want to know you’re around, especially if they’re from out of town. Send them a picture of your best dish or cocktail with your hours written out – you might even offer them a discount if they mention the message.

Influencers and Brand Ambassadors

Let’s say you’re an apparel brand coming out with a new seasonal line. You’re probably already following and engaging with top influencers, right? Send every one of them a picture of your best shirt and see if they’d be interested in receiving a free item in exchange for a little love on social. If one says yes, you just scored yourself an inexpensive human billboard.

Watch Instagram’s video for a quick “how-to” on the new feature.

Of course, these ideas are most effective when they supplement other, more traditional tactics. Think of disappearing photos and videos on Instagram Direct as a flexible way to extend or magnify other efforts.

In the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how brands of all types and industries can dominate this new feature. Or, give us a call if you’d like to talk about ways your organization can start using this new social feature and others to build, grow and protect your brand.