Ashwini GangalPublished: 29 Jan 2019, 5:48 PM

"Instagram feed is a lot like hoardings, posters": Facebook's Ram Cobain

Facebook India's creative strategist made a presentation on the power of 'Stories' for business and brand growth, at our recently held event vdonxt asia.

Ram Cobain (actually Ram Jayaraman, fan of Kurt Cobain!), creative strategist, Facebook India, spoke about getting business done with Instagram and Stories, at vdonxt asia, our annual convention on the business of online video, last week.

Ram, who has spent 15 years in mainline advertising (JWT, Grey), before moving to Facebook, began by reiterating the purpose of Instagram - to bring people closer to the things they love, (as opposed to Facebook's more community-skewed mantra of facilitating meaningful connections).

"... and people love businesses," Ram said. 80 per cent of the people on Instagram follow a business, 60 per cent say they learn about products and services on the platform, and two of every three business profile visits are from non-followers.

"Instagram feed is a lot like hoardings, posters": Facebook's Ram Cobain

Ram Cobain

Ram then spoke about why people love Instagram Stories, outside of the obvious (they help people express themselves in creative and playful ways): "Your Instagram feed is like a carefully curated museum of perfect shots that are highlights of your life, but Stories are more like moments because they disappear in 24 hours... so the pressure to be perfect is off; it allows people to be authentic," he said, adding about the business implication of this, "... when content makers and brands (leverage) Stories, they get an authentic voice and great results."

"Instagram feed is a lot like hoardings, posters": Facebook's Ram Cobain

Screenshot of one of Ram's slides that gives us a sense of the size of Instagram's community

Over a billion Stories are told every day across "our family of apps" including Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp (Status) and Instagram.

"Stories are the next big consumer behaviour... and they're easy for brands and content makers to discover on the apps - they're right on top. The advent of the cell phone camera made 'Story-telling' mainstream. It's a format that meets the medium where it is - it (supports) a visual format that is fully vertical," Ram explained.

Making a case for Stories as a good platform for brands and content creators to ride on, Ram said, "People usually consume Stories with the volume turned on, and it's a full screen experience, so you have consumers' full engagement and attention. And with Facebook's science -targeting and measurement tools- it gets even better..." He cited examples of a couple of brands that have used the platform in recent times, Samsung Galaxy A and Swiggy.

From a creative standpoint, Ram gave a tip or two to brands and spoke about the art of making "feed-first campaigns", or campaigns designed specifically for Instagram's feed: Essentially, he recommends applying "hoarding sense" (or 'billboard logic') to maximise creatives on Instagram - it helps having a single, dramatic point of focus, yet being minimal about it. Add a bit of motion in places and you get thumb-stopping magic (watch the video embedded in this article for entertaining examples - Macbeth, Narcos promos). "The feed is quite different from TV and radio but it's a lot closer to hoardings and posters," he said.

Small screens and short attention spans don't have to spell doom for creativity and fun, he insisted. His case in point was HBO's Game of Thrones campaign in which fans of the show 'melted' a huge block of ice with their comments on Facebook Live. The big reveal was the premier date for the next season. The 2017 campaign got 1.7 billion impressions.

"Build ideas for the attention span of 70-20-10," he said, taking a leaf from the book of contemporary consumer psychologists. It means playing to consumers' mood-states and crafting/timing brand messages accordingly. The three main states are: 'on-the-go' (walking - while rushing from place to place), 'lean forward' (say, when one is seated in the backseat of a taxi) and 'lean back' (lounging in a comfortable position with time on your hands).

For an 'on-the-go' consumer (70), "immediate assets" are ideal, that is, creatives that get consumed with minimal effort - a static ad or short video. For consumers in a 'lean forward' state of mind (20), "interactive assets" work best - say, a message that doesn't play unless the person interacts with it in some way (swipe the screen, turn the phone, tap a button). For people in the 'lean back' state of mind (10), slightly more "immersive assets" work well - that could mean longer creatives or ideas that require more time, attention and psychological involvement from the target audience. The figures reflect percentages. Sadly, people spend the bulk (70 per cent) of their time in the most "rushed" of the three types of mind-states. Zee5 is using this formula to promote Rangbaaz on the platform.

"The mobile consumer does not differentiate between brand and DR (direct response)," Ram said in conclusion, underscoring that for brands on Instagram, everything is about "brand experience" and "brand performance" at the same time.