Since Instagram was launched on Android last year, it has continued to explode in popularity.
According to Instagram’s official press page, there are 100 million monthly active users, 40 million photos per day, 8500 likes per second, and 1000 comments per second.
This flurry of activity shows that not only is Instagram one of the most popular social networks, engagement is also relatively easy, making it a great opportunity for companies that are willing to post regularly.
And because Instagram is relatively progressive when it comes to its API use, sites like Statigram allow companies to track Instgram metrics to gauge the success or failure of content.
Huge brands like Coca-Cola and major celebrities like Justin Bieber are using Instagram to connect with their fans and customers on a more personal level.
Just like the social networks that came before it, using Instagram as part of your overall online marketing initiatives helps you introduce new and existing products to your target market, build a sense of community with your customers, and gather more online exposure.
1. Facilitating Contests
DailyTekk states that contests on Instagram can give brands a large initial boost when it comes to establishing a generous follower base. However, the key comes to down to keeping these followers engaged in order to have a successful Instagram account. Many companies give away their own products on Instagram through contests that require users to post their own entries with a custom hashtag or mention the company’s username.
For instance, a tech company giving away their custom leather iPad cases could ask users to post Instagram photos of their existing cases and why they aren’t working for them. The entries would then use a custom hashtag, like #brandxcasegiveaway so it can be easily tracked and monitored.
Unlike some social networks, Instagram promotes the use of its platform for contests and even published a blog post about Instagram photo contest tips in 2012. Additionally, eConsultancy published a blog post with some great examples of successful Instagram business photo competitions, which included a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup decoration contest and one facilitated by pro skateboarder Tony Hawk.
While holding large contests to build up an initial user base has worked for many companies, running continuous smaller contests for company gift cards can also keep users engaged.
However, there is a fine line between just enough and over exposure. If users understand that there is ‘always’ a contest, they will be less apt to participate, as they know another one is just around the corner. What works best for one company may not with another. It usually depends on the user base engagement and size.
2. Regular Engagement Through A Photo A Day
Another popular company and blogger activity on Instagram is releasing “Photo a Day” calendars at the beginning of every month.
These are challenges for users to post one photo a day related to that day’s topic (examples below). The company can craft these topics related to their industry. This may work especially well for companies in a niche market, like fitness or clothing.
Several companies have also tied in free products or giveaways to photo a day challenges, such as the Country Outfitter example above. Think about it like this: if one post for a contest entry gives a company good exposure, think about what a whole month of posts could do.
As mentioned above, hashtags can be used to identify contest entries, but they are also good markers to help people searching for a particular topic.
For instance, if yoga apparel company Lululemon included the hashtag #yoga in their posts, then users that have been browsing the search results for that hashtag could find their post in a way that they might not have organically.
Top-hashtags.com posts a streaming feed of the most popular hashtags currently on Instagram (as does webstagram) and there are also regular hashtags that are popular, including #nofilter (for unfiltered photos), #foodporn (for food photos), and #flashbackfriday.
While hashtags can be a great way to reach more users, try not to go overboard. Use specific hashtags and don’t include #justinbieber, even though it may be one of the top hashtags. Much like on Twitter, this practice isn’t appreciated by users.
4. Cross Promotion
Linking a company’s Instagram account to its other social networks is one of the easiest and most beneficial things marketers can do when it comes to this social photo-sharing site.
ZOG Digital shared a great graph from a SlideShare presentation by SimplyMeasured about the popularity of interconnectivity to Instagram with other social networks. Many users link up Instagram with their other social networks, so any photos are automatically shared to Facebook and Twitter. Brands can do the same, which may lead to higher visibility and engagement.
This is a simple, one-step process that has obvious benefits, as shown above.
(graphic from ZOG Digital)
5. A Word on Personalization
Besides the obvious, that it is a photo-sharing application, Instagram also differentiates from other social networks in a major way: it provides a more personalized view into the daily lives and workings of some of the biggest brands and celebrities on the planet.
Photos can be inherently more personal than text, while also conveying so much in a single image. This unique experience is what businesses can capitalize on to genuinely connect with customers and show them what their brand is all about.
One thing that many business Instagrams allow their business to do is to have employees use iPods or their own smartphones to share photos of what happens during their workday.
For example, if Vogue stylists were allowed to share photos of photo shoots, runways, and even editorial magazines, think of how connected their fans will feel with the Vogue brand. They would get an inside look into their favorite magazine, thus deepening their passion for it.
Sharing photos of the employees during the workday or building products can also humanize brands and companies, leading to the feeling of a greater connection between employees, their companies, and online users.
Because Instagram is visually-driven, it’s important to keep it light-hearted and creatively minded (much like Pinterest). Users will be able to tell when a company isn’t being genuine, so it is important to craft a strategy that reflects true love and enthusiasm for the company and its products.