Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 4.40.46 PMInstagram debuted today Instagram Direct, a new feature that lets users send private picture messages to each other. Just a few hours after Instagram founder Kevin Systrom unveiled the feature to a room of invited journalists in New York, fashion brand Michael Kors promised a special direct message for the first fifty people to post an image tagged #MKD.

Michael Kors, with more than 1,438,951 Instagram followers, was the first brand to advertise on the platform. Its first ad generated far more likes than the average photo that appeared on its followers’ feed, 230,000 likes versus 50,000. Ads attracted non-followers too; each one increased followers by an average of 54,000 in the first 18 hours of its running.

Instagram advertising, at least in the early days, seems to be promising. Instagram Direct can lead to even more success due to its private and personalized nature. Our 2013 Digital IQ Index: Fashion report shows emails from fashion brands to be a successful marketing tactic; emails have an open rate of more than 20%. With Instagram Direct, brands can send promotions and exclusive offers to their fans.

Of course, there would be backlash, as is common when a social media company takes a step in monetization. If Instagram continues to confine direct messaging to followers, however, the results can be much less intrusive than unsolicited images in feeds.

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