Instagram for Brands

In case you didn’t already know this about me, I’m a HUGE Instagram fan – get the picture? It’s simple – take a picture of something awesome, upload it to your profile and get your friends and followers to show love to your pictures by double-tapping the image to “Like” it.  This same type of simple, instant gratification was the premise behind the Polaroid brand camera, No wonder Instagram has adopted the nostalgic camera tech as its logo inspiration.

Instagram has indeed captured the wonder of users like myself, and along the way, more than a few brands have noticed the hottest photo sharing app out there. The number of brands on Instagram is growing each day. If you have an Instagram account like most people do, by now, you probably already have thought something like, “can you see what someone likes on instagram?”

So the question is – can brands get real business value out of a photo sharing app that is not focused on link sharing or buying products or distributing specials to fans? The jury is still out, but there are some big brands testing the platform for spreading awareness and cultivating relationships with their biggest fans. Check it out.

What is Instagram? 
Instagram is a photo-sharing application that can be downloaded for iPhones, iPads and Android devices. Users can upload a photo from their phone or take one while using the app, and then apply a photo filter to it to make the image look weathered, faded, vintage or enhanced. Photos are confined to Instagram’s signature square shape.

Instagram isn’t like traditional social media platforms. Although users can follow friends as they would on most social networks, people use photographs and hashtags (like those found on Twitter) to share their content. Users and brands can search for topics through these hashtags.

While Instagram’s focus continues to be about the mobile experience, the app recently added the ability to view individual photos on the Web through a shareable link by searching a username. Users can see Instagram photos on the Web, but the Instagram website does not let users add or search any photos there. It only allows users to view, comment or like images. Unlike, many social networks, Instagram does not yet have Web-based, business-specific profiles with built-in visibility and engagement metrics or paid advertising options

Recently, the mobile photo editing and sharing app saw its user base explode from 15 to 80 million since Facebook acquired the company in April 2012. Demographics for the platform, can be found below.

By Gender By Age
68.2%   Female
31.8%   Male
23.5%  18 and younger
34.4%  18 – 25
30.7%  26 – 35
8.2%    36 – 45
2.1%    46 – 55
1.0%    55 and older

How are brands using Instagram?

Fifty-four percent of top brands use Instagram to share photos with their users. These include: Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Google, GE, McDonalds, Intel and Apple. Instagram combines two of the most powerful forces in the social technology market—mobile and photo sharing—to create a platform that truly offers a unique value proposition. Brands with a presence on Instagram can take advantage of the visual platform to engage with fans who are focusing their attention on the popular app.

By keeping its focus on photos, Instagram has carved out a unique space in the social media sphere that was previously crowded and coveted. The genius is in its simplicity. When so many social platforms continue to add more features and functionality, Instagram sticks with photos.

Both the way the platform works and the way most users approach the platform allow brands to employ visual storytelling that has more continuity and artistic value than other social networking platforms.

With the absence of advertising (or even clickable links in captions or comments), business uses for an Instagram profile begin and end with brand awareness. However, as shown in social media studies, a few images that portray a snapshot of the brand are more impactful than lines and lines of copy.

Integrating Instagram into Your Brand’s Social Media Strategy

While the platform is still relatively new, Instagram could provide brands the opportunity to:

  • Integrate visually compelling images into their current social media strategy.
  • Conduct photo campaigns and mobile contests on a visual social media platform.
  • Analyze how people are visually engaging and communicating with the brand by monitoring Instagram hashtags relevant to the company.
  • Use management tools to identify top-tier bloggers, reporters and other partners of interest with a high likelihood to use Instagram to show their company’s experience with great images.

Via mobile application, brands can create and manage an Instagram account to claim their company’s official username and watch how the brand’s account grows organically.  It’s best to pick a username that matches your company’s Twitter handle for hashtag and sharing purposes.

  • If the brand’s social media team sees positive results, for example how people are talking about and photographing the brand, they can begin to “like” particular posts from the brand page. When users see that the brand has taken the time to connect with them, they tend to follow the brand.
  • If the team feels the company’s broader social media community will like a particular photo from another Instagram user, they can reach out to the person directly through Instagram and ask for permission to re-use the image elsewhere.
  • If an Instagram user is posting a photo because they found something wrong with the brand’s product or service, the social media team can reach out to them directly and offer further assistance.

As the page continues to grow from there, any photo related to a foursquare or Facebook post could originate from or be shared to the brand’s Instagram page and be incorporated into its regular social media strategy to help drive traffic to the platform.

As Instagram continues to grow and incorporate any changes that arise from its acquisition by Facebook (like the recent announcement to not support the viewing of Instagram photos on Twitter), social media teams can continue to monitor how to best utilize and implement content and brand messaging onto the platform and integrate these ideas into their company’s social media strategy.

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