Instagram was created to showcase appealing images of stuff and make people covet all those beautiful things. No wonder this ultimate Vanity Fair quickly transformed into the bustling marketplace. It’s only logical then that feature after feature the platform increases its shoppability.
For instance, thanks to the newly introduced native check-out feature, you no longer need to direct your customers outside the app into an e-commerce store or a platform like Shopify.
Now, this may sound counterintuitive: why would anyone want to limit their reach to the fan base? People use their “Close Friends” lists when they don’t want ALL followers to see the content. However, if you are a brand, close friends become “VIP members”!
“Close Friends” are the select crowd, be it your happiest customers and ardent supporters or any other demographic you will choose them to be. They can be the biggest spenders or people with the biggest following of their own (influencers). They can be hesitant buyers, who comment your posts with “Love this” and “I need that now!” but as yet haven’t decided to try your exclusive beauty product or pay for essay on your website (whichever your line is).
By creating the “Close Friends” list you can have your own focus group based on any desired characteristic of your customers. Then, promoting your exclusive stories to them, you can gather specific information via polls. Will devoted fans care about the new line of products you are developing?
Will the new color be popular with the younger audience? This is a great tool to gain deep insights into your customers’ needs and expectations that will help you, ultimately, to expand your reach and discover new niches.
You can also craft personalized messages and offers, encourage purchases with pinpoint precision, promote your partnership to influencers, or share exclusive advice and tips with your paying customers as opposed to all followers.
The only drawback is that you currently can only have one list so you will have to choose which way to use this feature.
I already mentioned that you can gather information via polls but it isn’t a one-way street. When your customers take part in the exclusive poll, they feel their opinion matters, and this creates engagement. Especially if they see that they are within the connoisseurs club – and this is how they will definitely interpret their being among your “Close Friends”. This is a subtle way to flatter your customers, which is always good for business. Making people feel good about themselves is what contemporary marketing is all about!
Also, when people feel they have a say in the shaping of your product, they invest emotionally, they feel a part of it. That means they are more likely to buy it when you finally roll out the final version.
Exclusivity also works well when coupled with anticipation. Tease some new products by creating a “Guess what it is” or “Gradual reveal” exclusive Stories and spice it up with a giveaway – hype is guaranteed!
Allowing your “Close Friends” circle a sneak peek behind the scene imparts the feeling of exclusivity even more than discounts and giveaways together. It might not increase your sales directly but helps in building brand loyalty and emotional investment.
A fleeting nature of a Story creates urgency all by itself. However, paired with the exclusivity, the appeal intensifies. Stories disappear after a day and with the “Close Friends” feature can be made visible only to a chosen number of your customers. That means you can post a promo code with something along the lines “Deal active the next 24 hours and only available for you!”
This creates urgency times two, but makes it seamlessly, without unnecessary neuroticizing your followers. It won’t come off as an attempt to manipulate and force your audience into buying something they don’t want. When you promote something to the limited number of chosen ones, it feels more like a genuine gift. (You do remember that you are working with the hand-picked group? – keep your offers relevant!)
Stories aren’t the only way to create urgency. Instagram Live is also a great tool to drop a coupon or two. Make them valid as long as your live broadcast lasts and it will whip up immediate sales. However, do announce your stream several days prior to ensure that intended audience won’t miss it.
The main appeal of this feature for brands is that you have absolute control over who will see the intended content. No one but you can see your “Close Friends” list. You can add or remove people from your list any time, but they cannot request to be added; neither do they know when you remove them from the list. All they can see is that happy green circle around your profile picture, letting them know that they are special and you have something to say only to them.