When it comes to Instagram marketing many of us think of visual products such as clothing, watches and cars. We often think of influencers wearing clothes, watches or sitting in cars and tagging the company that paid them for the photo. Perhaps we think of Instagram models sharing their “super-secret can’t beat cure all key to clear skin, lushes hair and six pack abs green tea”. What many of us do not think of is creating a campaign within the stories feature and relying on media coverage of its creativity to drive traffic to our accounts. And almost nobody thinks of this being done by a library. Libraries are hardly seen as the peak of marketing innovation yet the campaign strategy I just detailed was pulled off in one of the most creative and effective campaigns I have ever seen on Instagram; and the best part the campaign was from New York Public Library (NYPL). Making its way to the Cannes Lions’ 2019 Titanium Lions shortlist, NYPL’s Insta Novels campaign exhibits one of the most creative and best uses of Instagram stories and accompanying feature memories.
Starting the campaign with Instagram stories, NYPL published Alice’s Adventures in wonderland accompanied with original illustrations. They followed up Alice’s adventures in wonderland with several other stories including Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. But stories disappear after 24 hours and they weren’t going to put in all that work for something so short lived, the stories were uploaded to memories, a permanent version of the stories feature which sit above the mean feed on an account page, creating a digital bookshelf right within Instagram. Whilst recent updates have made stories discoverable in on the Instagram discovery page these stories did not have the same in-app discoverability as feed posts. However, this did not limit the reach of the creative content – a fear many have and an excuse many use to avoid putting effort into story posts. Instead, the creative campaign from independent New York creative agency Mother picked up a lot of attention outside of the app being reported on by a wide selection of media outlets spanning TV, newspaper, blogs, social media and more. Although Instagram was the home of the content the actual marketing came from others reporting on the hugely creative solution to bringing classic literature into the 21st century.
But how useful was the campaign? Creativity and media attention aside the campaign produced some very impressive metrics. Generating 13000 new followers within the first 24 hours of the campaign, Insta Novels was a success out of the gate. However the main metric to measure is how many times one of NYPL’s Insta Novels was read; which according to a video on Mother’s website they had been over 300,000 Insta Novels read. The campaign which launched in August 2018 had acquired these reads by March 2019 (when the video was uploaded to YouTube) and more up to date numbers are likely significantly higher.
If the aim of the campaign was to bring classic literature into the digital world in the campaign was definitely a success. But as a feat of innovation the campaign is a fascinating case study not only because it came from a seemingly boring or outdated organisation in a library but because the campaign was centred around Instagram stories a commonly overlooked element of the platform.