The Instagram Effect: Where Business and Passions Meet

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Not a single seat was empty at PlayStation East theater on Wednesday morning when Instagram Chief Operating Officer Marne Levine, Glossier Founder and CEO Emily Weiss and actress and businesswoman Sarah Jessica Parker took the stage to talk all things Instagram.

“The Instagram Effect: Where Business and Passions Meet” was moderated by ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis, and the conversation began with Levine talking about the current state of Instagram. Everyone knows Instagram is hot right now, but in case you are in need of more evidence to prove that Instagram is where it’s at, take a look at the numbers. According to Levine, Instagram has 800 million monthly active users. When it comes to Instagram Stories, which were launched in August 2016, there are already 500 million people using the feature on a daily basis to share their personal story.

For businesses and advertisers, Instagram is new place to be. Emily Weiss recognized this early, and her key insight has grown Glossier into a huge success in only three years. At its Glossier is a beauty company that seeks to build a strong, interactive relationship with its customers. Instagram was the perfect place to launch and build the brand of the company because it allowed for Weiss to hear from girls and women directly.

“Even when Glossier was just me and my cat in my apartment, I knew I wanted to design it to be a two-way street,” Weiss said. Weiss sought out to democratize and celebrate beauty, and this intent has not changed.

The company interacts and learns from followers on Instagram by putting out consistent content that gives people the opportunity to respond, offering their opinions, communicating their needs or maybe just expressing support. In one Instagram post leading up to the creation of a new face wash, the caption read “What’s your dream face wash? Who would play it in a movie?”

People answered, and Glossier took that seriously. Weiss said the company used the responses to help design the product both at the chemical and branding level.

When it comes to creating Instagram content, whether you’re a teenage girl in Ohio or a national company, all three women agree that the key is to be authentic and fresh.

According to Sarah Jessica Parker, it can be easy to fall into the trap of only thinking about the results, whether this be likes or profit. While these elements are important, they shouldn’t be the driving force behind creation of content because it can hinder originality.

“Try not to only focus on results because then you aren’t truly being authentic,” Parker said. “People and companies often try to mimic things that they have seen be successful. That’s not true authenticity.”

In addition to providing a platform where people and companies can provide insight into their whole self, Instagram also offers the potential to reach a mass audience. For small or new businesses with a limited marketing budget, this is game changing.

Levine said that two sisters who started a bakery in Mexico City used Instagram to put out content about their business and create demand for their goods before their store even opened. Major companies such as Lowes and Beats by Dre are also taking advantage of Instagram Stories to create short, immersive ads that are proving to be effective.

“Shorter, faster, be yourself. That’s the key,” Levine said.

Levine also talked about how Instagram allows users to turn their passions into a professional lifestyle. A woman in Los Angeles who designed letterheads and posted mock invitations on her account was able to start a career as a professional wedding planner when her followers asked her with help designing invites then learned about her talent and knack for all types of planning.

For both people and companies, Instagram is place of opportunity for storytelling and connecting with a wide audience. Looking forward, Instagram seeks to continue help people across the globe share their stories and allow brands to interact more personally and authentically with users.

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