Ever since Snapchat released World Lenses in April 2017, live augmented reality (AR) filters have skyrocketed in popularity. Facebook, and subsequently Instagram (which is owned by Facebook), were fast on Snapchat’s heels: they introduced Camera Effects, later called Spark AR, which allowed beta users to create their own immersive AR experiences and share them with their followers.
In August 2019, Facebook and Instagram opened Spark AR to all businesses. That means that any business can now create its own custom AR filter that followers can use on Instagram Stories.
Before we get into the significance of this and how it can help grow your business, let’s backtrack a bit:
What are AR filters?
Augmented reality filters superimpose graphics and virtual effects onto a live video. They can give you puppy ears, draw rainbows on your forehead, give you sunglasses, add balloons or hearts in the background — and that’s just the beginning.
The idea is to create an interactive experience for your followers that they can then record and post to their Stories.
If the filter isn’t promotional or branded, it can appear under the “Browse Effects” section when selecting a filter for recording an Instagram Story. Otherwise, followers can find it by visiting your profile page and tapping the smiley face icon:
How can AR filters help your business?
AR filters are a fun way to increase brand awareness and engage with your audience. They can introduce new followers to your business and help existing followers get to know you better and interact with you more.
Your custom filter can incorporate interactive elements that allow the user to engage with your business in some way. A branded custom filter could incorporate your logo and/or brand name as well.
For example, Ray-Ban, the sunglasses company, offers a “Reindeerize” filter that is both entertaining and allows the user to try on one of their products.
If your business sells apparel or eyewear, this could be an extremely useful tool for your followers.
Your custom filter doesn’t have to be promotional — it could also be just for fun. Or, it could support a social cause, like this one from artist Ines Longevial (@ineslongevial):
The feature is still fairly new, so not all brands have taken advantage of it yet. That puts those companies that are introducing custom filters a step ahead of the competition.
How to produce your own custom AR filter
Have a good idea for an original AR filter that’s fun and consistent with your brand?
The good news is, you don’t necessarily need to outsource an expensive developer to create your own filter. You can design one using Spark AR Studios.
It might take some exploration and fiddling around, but Spark AR is fairly simple for a layperson to use. The program includes some templates for common VR concepts, such as placing an object in the real world, makeup enhancements, face decoration, or changing the background. You can learn how to get the most out of the program by taking the tutorials in Spark AR’s Learning Center.
1. Brainstorm ideas for an AR filter that suits your brand and will engage followers.
2. Download Spark AR Studios, and take some tutorials to learn how to use it.
3. Design an AR filter using the program.
4. Upload it to your Instagram profile and let your followers know it’s there!