“Users want to consume beautiful, but honest picture content” Tobias Spörer in interview with Content WorldMittwoch, 20. April 2016

Tobias Spörer Elbkind Instagram

Tobias Spörer is the managing director of the Elbkind agency in Hamburg. With over 60 employees, Elbkind develops digital campaigns for customers such as Jägermeister, Techniker Krankenkasse, Mercedes-Benz and Rügenwalder Mühle.

In the run-up to the Content World conference, we spoke to Tobias Spörer about what makes Instagram so attractive for brands and which mistakes companies on the platform should avoid.


Mr. Spörer, lots of people say that Facebook is out and platforms like Instagram have overtaken the blue giant – what’s your opinion?

Tobias Spörer: “Facebook has already proven in the past that, despite all prophecies of doom, the network has the power to repeatedly reinvent itself – regardless of whether through purchasing other networks, or on its own platform. The constant change and continuous adjustment to fit current user behaviour, as well as their own corporate goals do the rest. Facebook wants to become the net within the net. Advertising earns Facebook its money. The blue giant operates quite successfully in this instance in comparison to its competitors.

With regards to the second point, Mark Zuckerberg recently showed at the F8, the annual Facebook developer conference, that market leadership should be further expanded in the future. Bots, business integration of FB Messenger, Instant Articles, as well as VR, 360° and live videos, as well as a variety of further innovations speak for the continuous, positive development of the platform.

I consider deducing platform development purely via use observation of a young generation to be the wrong way of thinking. A real life example: even though my nephews prefer to use Snapchat, they still use Facebook, just in a different way to their parents’ generation. How and if they will use Facebook in 5 years, if they are part of a wealthy target group and are thereby relevant for marketing, cannot be predicted today. We also need to take into consideration, in the course of demographic change, that the focus in the web cannot always be directed towards a young target group.

Moreover, Facebook shouldn’t be thought of as an isolated platform, rather much more as a company, as WhatsApp, MSQRD and Oculus, as well as Instagram belong to Facebook.”

Let’s talk specifically about Instagram: What do you see as the largest potential of this social network?

Tobias Spörer: “From a brand and agency perspective, clearly strong visual expression and the user habits of the platform. Good content currently produces a wide, organic reach and thereby strong user interaction. Furthermore, the innovative power of the platform repeatedly offers new potential, through sensible and innovative features and sidekick technologies.

The range of ever new possibilities is what makes Instagram exciting for users. This also particularly includes video features which are why we see Instagram as a moving picture platform. But also built-in basic mechanisms, like hashtag use, show that a lot of things work well and can be used for marketing.

Just like on other social media platforms, Instagram is about “real” content that shouldn’t have too much to do with high glossy advertising. Users want to consume beautiful, but honest picture content and not be beaten over the head with the advertising bat every second photo. The brand should be shown in new, unknown angles. That is the origin and clear strength of the platform.

Advertising value on Instagram should not be condemned. Ad performance speaks for itself and shows that brands with the right messages and content are in the right place. Partially better than on Facebook. The potential here is far from exhausted.”

Which brands on Instagram do you think have understood your opinion well and are already using it well on the platform?

Tobias Spörer: “Of course I have to highlight our customers first. Regardless of whether on a national or international level, Mercedes-Benz, shows how successful you can use your communication mix on Instagram. But we’ll talk more about that at the conference. 😉

Benchmark: The Instagram-portal of Mercedes-Benz

Benchmark: The Instagram-portal of Mercedes-Benz

There is a wide range of other brand profiles that I would personally highlight. The camera manufacturer GoPro  shows an optically impressive mix of user generated and brand-own content. Also the 160 photos simultaneously act as multipliers for National Geographic, offering plenty of content worth seeingNASA’s profile is an optical feast for the eyes. In the B2B segment, I particularly like Maersk Line and General Electric, who repeatedly manage to stage comparatively conservative topics in a great and tangible way.”

Which mistakes should brands try to avoid as much as possible if they want to make moves on Instagram?

Tobias Spörer: “We always say in our agency: ‘Cat content eats storytelling for breakfast.’. This means that there is a vast amount of information that bombards us. Communication should be able to manage to appeal to us in a few seconds and leave a lasting impression. What generally applies to communication, should definitely apply to content in a fast, digital world. Boring ‘advertising bla, bla, bla’ in an area where it is about voluntary interaction and dialogue never, or extremely seldom, works.

Over the decades of advertising breaks, users have developed a blindness and aversion that he can even support digitally with tools like ad-blockers. It is of particular importance to fullfil users’ expectations and wishes: truthful, appealing orchestration, focussed on products. Repeatedly reinvent the brand and give users insight. The biggest, repeated mistake of a company is to constantly use the same drone on its respective platform. But seriously: why should I like a poster motif on Instagram that I have already encountered 5 times in the underground on the way to work.”

One more question about influencer marketing: When is it sensible for a brand to consider working with Instagram influencers like Dagi Bee or Bibi?

Tobias Spörer: “Well, that clearly depends on the communication goals. From my point of view, blunt product placement on multipliers is nothing different to testimonial advertising on TV that we have known for decades. Success is definitely in the reach and performance of the web content. The credibility of this is first shown in the quality of the brand fit of the multipliers. That is the essence of sensible influencer cooperation.

Thousands of kids run to the next drugstore to buy Bibi’s new shower gel. That’s OK. YouTubers talk about there own illness stories as part of the health insurer, Techniker Krankenkasse’s, #wireinander (English: one another) campaign. Thumbs up for that too.

The vegetarian YouTube Star Joyce poses questions to the company Rügenwalder Mühle about their veggie products. Top! But the success story of a YouTuber or Instagramer holding up 25 products in front of the camera and everyone then running off to buy them like hot cakes? I haven’t heard of that one before. That is once again the good old advert break that everyone uses to go a grab a cold drink from the fridge.”


You have the opportunity at the Content World conference in Frankfurt (Main) to discuss Instagram and other new platforms with Tobias Spörer face-to-face.

What do you need to do so? An open mind and a conference ticket, that’s it!

Johannes Kahl
About the Author

Johannes F. Kahl ist Senior-Projektleiter bei Management Forum der Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt. Er ist u.a. verantwortlich für die Content World Konferenz und die Jahrestagung Digital Marketing. Nach einer Ausbildung bei der FAZ hat Johannes verschiedene Positionen im PR- und Marketing-Sektor inne gehabt.

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