Over the past year, Instagram has spread like wildfire. According to Forbes, in the first seven months of 2012 alone, the photo sharing service saw an increase of 400%, going from 15 million users to 80 million users by July. In September, Instagram received more daily mobile traffic than Twitter.
What’s the big draw of a service that distorts photos and showcases people’s meals across the globe? The answer is that photos engage, appeal to people’s emotions, and create intimacy. From a branding perspective, photos allow businesses to showcase the personal side of their brands to their customers.
So how can your company engage with the 7.3 million people who use Instagram daily? Here are five suggestions to get the Instagram ball rolling.
1. Share Behind-the-Scenes Insight
Behind-the-scenes photos give your followers “exclusive” insight into how your company functions, who the people are behind the brand, and on. This helps your followers connect with your brand on a deeper level and feel a part of the team.
Example: American Express posted a creative and fun photo encouraging their fans to follow its Instagram account for behind-the-scenes photos from its social media team.
2. Run Contests
Instagram is a great platform to run competitions. Ask your followers to snap photos of something related to your business, or to come up with a creative caption for a photo you posted. Then, create a unique hashtag for followers to include with their photo or caption for trending purposes. The hashtag should have something to do with your brand or industry and should also include popular keywords for the potential to reach new customers.
Example: General Electric did a nice job of tying a contest to one of 2012′s biggest current event. Notice the use of a hashtag for followers to include with their photo submissions, as well as hashtags in the description to draw in potential new followers. The Olympics and monuments evoke strong emotions, so this was a great theme to align with their brand and their contest.
3. Promote Company Events
Is your company hosting or taking part in an upcoming charity event? Post pictures of the event on Instagram to bring awareness to the charities that are important to your business. This also shows your customers and potential new customers that you are active within the community. This appeals to your customers’ emotions and creates intimacy between your customers and your brand.
Example: Sephora posted a photo of a number of its employees participating in the Corporate Challenge Run, which supported the Larkin Street Youth Service. Not only did this photo show their employees giving back, but the description of their photo was a great tie-in to their business.
4. Use Holiday Themes
As we embark on the holiday season, Instagram offers your business a new way to spread holiday cheer. The holidays are a great time to tap into your customers’ emotions and to tie your brand to them. Post pictures of your company’s holiday party, or give holiday staples a branded twist – such as posting a Christmas ball with your company logo etched across it.
Example: Nordstrom carved its logo into a pumpkin this past Halloween. It was a creative way to wish customers a happy Halloween, while tying the holiday to the brand in an unobtrusive way.
5. Show Your Products in Action (And Have Fun Doing It)
Instagram marketing is not about pushing your products or service down your customers’ throats; it’s about being interesting. However, you can still subtly show your product or service in action and engage your customers in the process.
Example: Sharpie does a great job of this, with the majority of the company’s Instagram photos involving some sort of drawing created with its markers. Not only do these drawings subtly promote Sharpie products, but they feature drawings that customers sent in, which is a great form of engagement.
Don’t sit back and let your competitors be the only ones to engage with the 80 million potential customers Instagram has to offer. Get crackin’ and start snappin’.
Image: jungmoon (Creative Commons)