Today’s blog is from Casey Markee of Media Wyse
With Facebook recently completing their acquisition of Instagram for just around $1 billion and the fact that current Instagram users number around 80 million, it’s now impossible to overlook Instagram as a viable channel to promote your products and services.
In fact, many of the world’s biggest and most renowned brands are already using Instagram. Social media analytics company Simply Measured released a report in August that showed 40% of the world’s top 100 brands were already using the site to increase their brand awareness and further connect with the large consumer bases. In comparison, these same brands were using Pinterest at a 51% clip and Twitter and Facebook at around a 95%+ rate.
The above comparison is important to note since Instagram is projected to hit 100 million users by the end of 2012 after only two years in operation (a milestone that took Facebook four years and Twitter five years to reach).
For those that aren’t familiar with Instagram, Instagram is a free app for either iPhone or Android that allows users to take pictures, apply one of several custom filters to change the look of your photos, and then share these photos on one of several networks(Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Tumblr, & Flickr).
Like other social networks, Instragram allows you to connect with your friends and gain followers to your photos. You also use hashtags to generate traffic, likes and new followers to your photos and to drive brand awareness and comments. Because it’s a mobile-only app, sites like Webstagram have sprung up so you can track your Instagram activity from a browser.
Here’s the catch though: building a successful strategy around what is really a mobile-only, image-based platform is NOT easy. Big brands like Audi, Starbucks, Hermes and others are doing this successfully. But they also have a level of built-in engagement and brand awareness that many of you reading this won’t have. Nevertheless, Instagram, now that it is a fully integrated part of Facebook, cannot be ignored.
To that end, here are some general tips that you should review and implement on your own Instagram profiles and marketing efforts going forward.
- 1. Fully fill-out your Profile and Promote your Account. Instagram doesn’t have Brand Pages. If you have a personal Instagram account don’t hesitate to sign-up for a second account under your business name. Next, head over to Webstagram and set-up your Instagram brand account there. Not only is this going to make it easier to track your likes, comments, followers, and photos through a browser but they also have a free brand Follow Button that you can customize and add into your site and blog. Just like a Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus account, use the button to drive new followers and subscribers from the sites you control to your new Instagram account.
- 2. Make Instagram your default Camera. Pin the Instagram icon to your mobile phone’s home page and use it exclusively to take pictures. As we mentioned above, link your company Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Foursquare, Tumblr and Flickr accounts to your Instagram account so that all your photos are uploaded instantly to these networks. These will result in the generation of more likes, comments, ratings and shares accordingly.
- 3. Research your Brand and use Hashtags. Go into your Instagram app and click on the Explore > Search (Magnifying Glass) and enter keywords to pull up related hashtags. Find which hashtags are appropriate to your business and target your pictures accordingly. Next, use Webstagram and visit both the Popular and Search pages to do more hashtag research. Just as you would in Twitter, find trending popular topics and don’t be afraid to tag your photos around such topics as long as they ARE related to that topic. Remember, social media is fickle. You don’t want to spam the community by continually offering up photos that are not related to chosen hashtags.
- 4. Use Filters on your Photos. There is a direct correlation on Instagram between the use of filters on photos and the number of likes, shares and comments generated on your photos. Instagram currently offers 15+ filters that can add emphasis and visual effect to each of your photos. Filters like Lo-Fi and X-Pro andKelvin can noticeably increase engagement and add a professional flair to your otherwise ordinary photo creations. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the many different filters and to make use of editing tools within the app.
- 5. Promote your Content Socially. It’s important to note that just publishing a ton of photos on Instagram won’t drive engagement! You must instead commit to cross-promoting your Instagram content on the other major social platforms. A great way to do this is by running a contest and pulling in these other platforms. For example, now through the end of the year, Scotch Whiskey brand Label 5 is running a contest through their Facebook page and Instagram that rewards winners with free trips to New York City. To enter, users must like the Label 5 page, take a picture that represents the brand, and upload it to Instagram with the hashtags #Catchthe5 and #NYC. Winners will be announced on their Facebook page on December 20, 2012.
As with anything, Instagram is not for everyone. Specifically, the vast majority of companies using Instagram successfully are in the B2C (business-to-consumer) market. There isn’t one vertical per se that is dominating but the luxury market containing such brands as Hermes, Audi, Tiffany & Co. and Armani — among others, lead the list of top companies gaining huge engagement numbers on Instagram. This makes perfect sense considering that luxury products tend to translate very well on an image-sharing platform.
What does this mean for those of you reading this? If you are a B2C company or have clients operating in this industry, Instagram should be considered a target to add to your marketing outreach efforts. The more visually appealing your products and services, the more likely you can leverage Instagram to drive brand awareness, buzz, and new traffic to your Web site all in advance of the fast-approaching 2012 holiday shopping season.
What are you waiting for?! Get out your camera and get started!