On December 12th 2013, Instagram announced the introduction of a direct messaging feature they labelled Instagram Direct. This added feature allows users to send private text, photos and videos to individuals or a group of up to 15 people (Figure 1).

Figure 1


This new addition has added a fresh way for businesses to market and connect with their clients on Instagram. This article seeks to give a few ideas and examples on how businesses and brands can leverage Instagram Direct for marketing purposes.

What are some of the ways Instagram Direct can help a business/brand connect with its followers?

Let them feel special

Give your top fans/advocates/loyalist a bit of exclusivity with a preview or an inside look into your business. If you are a fashion label for example, it can be an exclusive preview of your next season’s collection. Instagram Direct gives your brand and business an opportunity to increase engagement by offering exclusive deals to people who follow you.

Grow relationships

You use Instagram Direct to nurture the relationship between your business and devoted customers/followers. To begin,

  • Identify your loyalists
  • Group them into intimate sets who share a common interest
  • Share photos/text/videos on and around themes which border on these interests

You can also build a community of loyalists by using the succinct approach Instagram Direct allows. Constantly and consistently engage with a select few of your followers by identifying something they are interested in. this can be general or related to your brand. Such followers can be transformed from showing little interest in your brand/business to becoming die-hard loyalists.


Increase interaction through Contests

You can massively increase the interaction and engagement your followers have with your brand by using Instagram Direct to run contests. Below are two examples of how two brands used this feature in different ways to promote their business.

Shortly after Instagram announced the new feature, Kourtney, Kim and Khloe Kardashian of reality TV fame got in on the action with a promotion tied to their Kardashian Collection fashion and jewelry line. The promotion was open to anyone following the “KardashianKollection” Instagram account. Fifteen lucky followers were sent, via Instagram Direct, a private “behind the scenes” photo from the line’s 2014 campaign shoot if they reposted the promotional message with the hashtag #KKDirect.

Gap was also one of the early adopters of Instagram Direct (Figure 2). They run a contest asking the first 15 commenters on a photo to send in pictures of their outfits to the company’s inbox. Gap was the only viewer of these photos. Once the selection process was completed, the retailer sent the winners a tablet case made of denim.

Figure 2


Generally speaking

Even though Instagram Direct limits you to 15 followers at a time, you can still use it for communicating with your masses. You can send the same message to every one of your followers, 15 people at a time. On Christmas Eve, Hyatt Hotels sent messages out to their followers. The image (Figure 3) contained their social media team wishing the hotel chain’s loyal followers’ happy holidays.
Figure 3

hyattinstagramdirect (2)
You can see your followers as a big group and share images of common interest. This can be tips, tricks, inspiration etc.  You can also send simple and general messages to a random few at any point in time.

Cautious marketing

You can send a photo or video to anyone when you use Instagram Direct. This is great news for business but there is also the danger to go overboard and start spamming. Your targets can choose to ignore, block and/or report you anytime. Therefore the first post you send with Instagram Direct is very critical. This is the make or break post – it is either your post is accepted or considered spam. If you send a post to someone who doesn’t follow you, your post will go to their requests queue. If someone accepts your request, your post will go to their direct posts the next time you share directly with them. Posts that stay in the requests queue for a while may become unavailable.


  • Posts your send with Instagram Direct won’t appear in feed, search or your profile.
  • Everyone that you’ve sent a photo or video to can see its likes or comments, even if they don’t follow each other.
  • Posts sent with Instagram Direct cannot be shared through Instagram to other sites like Facebook or Twitter.
  •  You cannot use hashtags in these shared posts also can’t tag people.

To send photos/videos with Instagram Direct:

  1. Take a new photo/video or upload a photo/video from your camera roll.
  2. Add optional effects, filters and a caption.
  3. Tap Direct. You’ll see some features appear in green when you’re using Instagram Direct.
  4. Tap the names of people you want to send the photo/video to (up to 15 people).
  5. Tap Send.

The people you’ve sent the post to will get a notification.

For the entrepreneur who owns a Smartphone, Instagram is great tool to include in online marketing. Instagram for iOS is available for download in Apple’s App Store, and Instagram for Android is available on Google Play.

Published by Esther Nyaadie

I am very passionate about cost effective ways of promoting business. I think the internet and social media has provided an equal platform for every form of business to do that. Find me on


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