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'Overthinking is the death of Instagram' – The secrets of an effective social campaign, according to Instagram director

On Instagram, you’re just one in a billion – and vying for attention in that kind of crowd is no easy task.

There are, however, ways to try and maximize your brand’s reach, according to Eva Chen, Instagram director of fashion partnerships.

“One of the points I often make is that you have to remember that as a brand, your content is next to people as well,” Chen said at Yahoo Finance’s All Market Summit: Generational Opportunities in New York City on Thursday. “You’re next to someone’s sister who just had a baby, your college roommate who’s on vacation in Mexico City – your content as a brand is surrounded by a lot of other people,” she said.

“So creating content as a brand that feels personal, I think it’s very important,” she added. “On the fashion side, I always tell brands, don’t just post your lookbook image please ... It’s boring. Show the behind-the-scenes. Show the hairstylist blowing with a fan trying to get the hair perfect. That’s just so much more compelling.”

The goal is to bring a personal touch, said Chen, who before her role at Facebook-owned (FB) Instagram served as editor-in-chief of Conde Nast’s Lucky Magazine. On her personal Instagram page – where posts alternate between high-fashion photos, action shots and a tasteful sprinkling of photos of dogs and her kids – her follower count hovers north of 1 million. She garnered most of these even before joining the social media giant.

“I just tend not to overthink what I’m posting,” Chen said, adding that “experimentation is critical” when it comes to coming up with a social media strategy. “I have a friend who literally will take 20 minutes to post one Instagram story. Stories go away in 24 hours.”

“When I think from the brand perspective, and even from the personal perspective, I think overthinking is the death of Instagram,” she said.

Instagram director of fashion partnerships Eva Chen participates in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at Union West on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)


In Instagram’s seven-year history as part of the Facebook ecosystem, it’s grown into one of its parent company’s most lucrative forces for individuals, brands and advertisers to distribute content and grow followings.

Instagram hit 1 billion monthly active users last June, making it around half the size of core Facebook. About three million advertisers use at least one of Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, another Facebook property. Five hundred million individuals use Instagram Stories – the ephemeral, disappearing posts – every single day. And as a standalone company, Instagram’s value has been estimated at more than $100 billion.

Over the course of the past year, the image-sharing platform has continually pushed forth new monetization efforts, including a check-out feature launched in March to let users purchase items directly on the social media app. And it’s become an incubator for a crop of “influencers,” or users with significant followings typically posting on a specific topic or theme, to make money by leveraging their own clout.

But the popularity of the platform – as well as its focus on likes and follower counts to quantify engagement – has also become, in some cases, a breeding ground for self-esteem issues and unhealthy competition. An oft-cited 2017 U.K. study by the Royal Society for Public Health pegged it as the most damaging social media platform to young people’s mental health.

In an effort to pivot away from this, Instagram began testing a like-less system in Canada in May, which hides the number of public likes on photo and video posts. The platform later expanded this test to other geographies including Australia, Brazil, and Japan in July.

“The thinking behind hiding it or making it not the first thing we see is really just to free up expression and creativity. It might not be as relevant for those of you guys in the room who are working at large brands that get tens of thousands of likes,” Chen said. “But put yourself in the shoes of a 15-year-old who spent like an hour, you know, thinking about what you wanted to post. And then when she doesn't get the number of likes, she might take it down or feel self-conscious.”

“So Instagram really wants to be the safest platform and friendliest platform and kindness platform out there,” Chen said. “And this is just one step that we're testing to see, you know, what the response is. And so far it's been very positive.”

Watch the complete interview here:

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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