Heads up! Instagram is a relatively new tool and there is a lot to learn! So brace yourself for a bit of a long haul in this blog.
Launched in October 2010 purely as an iPhone app, Instagram has really grown snapping up 50 million users with 1 billion photos uploaded as of July 17th 2012 (digital stats). With the Facebook acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion, the level of interest in the site has piqued up several levels. The launch of the Android app (Instagram) has also added to the hoopla. Instagram’s reach will expand further with the availability of the Android app.
All this interest in Instagram bodes well for the site. But, is it a favorable platform for marketers?
Here are some tips on growing your brand presence (and deriving business) on Instagram:
- Pictorial stories: Instagram is the best online space to tell your brand’s story in pictures. People pay more attention to photos compared to textual content. Today, with people always in a hurry, it’s better to tell your stories with photos which users can quickly skim through. Engage customers through captivating photos related to your brand. This makes them feel as a part of your brand/company. The feeling of belonging certainly contributes to their brand affinity. Ex: Brisk
- Event marketing: What better way to market an event than through photos on a site that is all about visuals? Marketing events through photos can give a feel of your event visually. Ex: Red Bull
- Use keywords and hashtags: When posting photos on Instagram, caption them so that they are easy to find for people who are looking for your business. Make sure that your caption includes keywords relevant to what you do. Instagram also gives you the option of placing tags in photo captions denoted by the “#” symbol or hashtags. If your Instagram account is public, your photo tags will make them appear on public tag pages. This makes it easier for other social networks and search engines to find them. You can also place popular, appropriate hashtags in your captions which will make them even easier to find. Ex: Starbucks
- Focus on the community: The Instagram user base is minuscule compared to bigwigs like Facebook. Nevertheless, Instagram users are dedicated photo enthusiasts. Knowing that this community is into capturing great moments, don’t upload photos that are only about self-promotion. Post photos that are in line with other tastes and preferences of your fans. Ex: Sharpie
- Post regularly & don’t repeat posts: Though Instagram users spend considerable time on the app, they do not repeatedly check what is posted. It is good to post photos regularly so that your brand’s visibility chances are higher. It is also advisable to not repeat posts. Users will get irked seeing repeated posts when they are looking for unique and refreshing content.
- Be yourself: To be a hit on Instagram, your brand needs to adopt a two-sided strategy. One side has to focus on showcasing your products/services. The other side has to showcase your brand’s unique personality. Adopting this kind of strategy allows users to not only get a glimpse of your product spread but a feel of your brand’s exclusive personality. Ex: Annie’s Homegrown
- Interact: Interact with your Instagram community. Comment and like photos. Interacting with your user base is one of the best ways to increase engagement. Ex: Red Bull
- Open up: Give your fans a sneak peek into your typical work day. By doing this, you can give users a unique personal experience. People always appreciate an exclusive photo or tidbit about their favorite brands that everyone doesn’t know about. Ex: Threadless
- Connect: Connect your Twitter and Instagram accounts for easy syndication of images posted on Instagram. It also helps drive traffic as you are building your Instagram account. Ex: The Boston Celtics
- The app and beyond: You can use the Instagram API and pull photos onto a display or a Facebook page. This gives you more scope to distribute your content on different networks.
- Product unveiling: Use Instagram to unveil new products with special sneak previews! The fashion and automobile industries are already using Instagram to showcase new products. You can upload jumbled photos of new products and ask your community to unravel the picture puzzle. However, posting links may appear a little different because the links in image captions are not clickable. But, the links do show up and are clickable in tweets and on Facebook. Ex: Audi
- Product promotion: Product promotion: You can also promote your existing products through regular contests and quizzes and give away products as prizes. Ex: NH Hotels
- Creative crowdsourcing: Instagram is a great source for gathering content generated by your fans. You can use fans’ content for your advertising. People appreciate it a lot when their contribution is recognized and used in a brand’s advertisement. However, do check with your legal counsel before beginning such a program. Ex: Warby Parker
- Production process: Give your fans access to your production process by uploading images. Doing this shows that your brand is transparent and open in functioning. Ex: Threadless
- Product feedback: You can get product feedback on Instagram by uploading photos of your products. You can also post photos of a developed but not yet released interface. This can give you great customer feedback on ways to improve your product.
- Product usage: Demonstrate different ways to use your products through a series of images. You can grab the interest of existing customers and also get new customers. You can also ask your fans to upload photos showing new and creative ways of using your products! Ex: Puma
- Product development assist: Ask for your fans’ help in product development. Agreed, that you cannot divulge confidential details about a product in development. But, you can always ask a generic question on what features people would like to see in a particular type of product. Or, you can hold a contest and ask them to suggest names for an unnamed product! You can also benefit from the interest generated by these pre-release contests and questions.
Do keep an eye on this space for the second bonanza we have in store for you, Instagram – Visual marketing promotion for businesses (Part 2) on the best practices for brands!