Instagram finally rolled out private photo and video messaging last week, called “Instagram Direct.” Similar to Snapchat, Instagram Direct allows users to privately send photo or video messages through the application. This feature is not like a traditional inbox; users must start a conversation by sending a single video or photo. Users can send the video or photo to as many as 15 people at a time.

Instagram Direct also allows you to see if a message has been viewed, similar to Facebook. Once the photo has been sent, a conversation can begin on that photo between the two users. However, if a user wants to send an additional photo, he or she must start a new conversation.

Not only is this a great feature for individuals, Instagram Direct has the potential to be especially useful for brands. It allows brands the chance to provide sneak peeks to loyal followers, send coupons and encourage e-commerce. Below are six ways brands can use Instagram Direct for marketing purposes.

1. Sales/Coupons

Reward your top followers with an exclusive coupon. People must follow you to receive this direct message. This could be people who comment/like/repost your content frequently. Send a photo to select followers with a coupon code and a message that says, “Hey [insert name], this is just for you for being such a loyal follower!”

2. Sneak Peeks

Send a group of 15 followers a sneak peek into something new going on with your brand. This is great for new products or services. Ask the followers to repost the content with a special hashtag to increase the chances of it going viral.

3. Collect data

Customers can initiate the dialog as well. Perhaps a user wants to alert a brand about a product error. Now, users can send a photo of the problem and direct message it to the brand via Instagram. Then, the brand can discuss the issue with the user privately to solve the problem. It’s important to note that the brand must be following the user in order to initiate the dialog.

4. Host a contest

Post a public photo with instructions that the first 15 people to comment on that photo will receive a direct message from the brand with details on how to enter a secret contest. Then ask each of the 15 people (through Instagram Direct) to submit a photo to be entered to win a large prize. The person with the best photo is then awarded the prize. The brand can then repost these photos to various social channels for added content.

5. Target by type of followers

Send a special photo via direct message to 15 followers selected by certain demographics or locations. Ask for their feedback that can then be used for brand research. For example, you can ask followers in California what they think about your latest product launch in the state. This is great for qualitative market research purposes.

6. Post an item that you’re trying to sell

This could work for e-commerce or regular retail. Send a direct message to your fans with a photo of the product, and a link where to buy. If you’re having a sale, be sure to mention that!

Being so new, remember that it will take some time to determine the best ways for brands to engage with their followers via Instagram Direct. In the meantime, we encourage exploring different options to find out what works best for your brand.

How will you use Instagram Direct? Leave us a comment below and let us know!