In 2012, when this article was first written, Instagram was still catching on in the realm of brand usage. Different brands were beginning to experiment with unique ways to produce photos that worked best to showcase their product or service. Today, the service remains very relevant, although a lot has changed in ways brands can benefit from its use.
The original article’s emphasis on justifying significant involvement with Instagram through a solid follower base is still valid. As well, the best practices discussed in the original article are still applicable to today’s Instagram community, but you also need to consider the following changes:
- Hashtags – Although hashtags had been introduced to Instgram in January of 2011, it is really with their increasing use in Twitter and recent introduction to Facebook that hashtags have become critical to branding via Instagram. When a user clicks on a hashtag, images with that tag included in the caption will appear on the screen. As with keywords, using relevant hashtags will quickly put you on the radar of prospective customers.
- Location, Location, Location – With the ability to geotag your photos, you can tap into a local audience. Users may be interested in brands that are in their area. By tying your photos to a location, you can use your account to run specials or feature new items, thus drawing in local users who may not already follow you. For this to function properly, you need to ensure that your business is present in the FourSquare database, which Instagram ties into.
- Video – In July of 2013, Instagram rolled out an update introducing video to the wildly popular app. To rival Twitter’s Vine, Instagram allows for a 15-second video (more than twice the length of Vine), with editing and filtering capabilities. Brands are jumping on this new feature, telling mini-stories with product spotlights, behind-the-scenes peeks, demos, and how-to’s. In August, Instagram began to accept pre-existing content, letting brands repurpose an existing video ad they might already have on YouTube. Creative, fun videos are still the most compelling and the most effective for attracting new followers.
As Instagram has matured, apps to manage and integrate it have begun to appear. For brands and businesses using Instagram, one of the most relevant is Statigram, which provides metrics on Instagram account performance. With 4 million members and 40% of the Fortune 1000 brands signed up, the app is certainly worth looking into.
Statigram will not only track the growth of your followers, but also their level of engagement, with reporting by time period and stats on post popularity, the best time to post, etc. This data can help you decide what type of posts draw the most attention, followers, and likes, allowing for future planning. Statigram also provides a toolkit for putting together contests to increase user engagement.
For example, this graph shows some of the typical numbers tracked by Statigram.
Source: May 2012 – 40 New Stats Added from http://statigr.am/about.php
Here’s another screenshot illustrating the increase in “likes” over time in an actual Instagram account:
To use Statigram, just sign in with your Instagram account and give the site the access it needs to produce the metrics. The app is now also accessible via Hootsuite.
Here is the original article, which covers four tips — all still highly relevant — for increasing Instagram followers.
Few apps have caused as much of a marketing buzz in the last 12 months as Instagram. Proving that the simplest ideas are usually the best, Instagram is nothing more complex than a photo sharing tool. It incorporates a couple of photo-specific features such as filters to make images appear sharper or brighter, plus a few added extras which can make pics retro cool with sepia-style effects.
Since its inception in October 2010, Instagram gathered fans apace, reaching the cool 10 million mark in less than 18 months of operation. Couple this with Facebook’s audacious $1 billion acquisition bid and it’s easy to see why it is the most-talked-about photo sharing platform of the year.
Just as with Twitter a few years ago, being savvy about your social media marketing means you can ride the wave of Instagram’s popularity while it’s still at its peak. Anyone in your organization with an iPhone can get involved, and with easy posting of images to Facebook and Twitter, there is no excuse not to experiment.
Using Instagram is quick and simple, with none of the jargon associated with Twitter and none of the richness of options of Facebook. Take a picture, upload. But just like Facebook and Twitter, there is little point dedicating time to maintaining an Instagram account unless it can be justified by a respectable follower count. As with Facebook likes and Twitter follows, Instagram fans are a barometer by which you can expand your brand’s reach. Building followers means increasing brand penetration and audience exposure. Here’s how you can go about it:
1. Slowly But Surely
You probably don’t update your company blog five or six times a day. Ditto with your Facebook page and Google + Business page. The same “slowly but surely” approach can be applied to your Instagram updates. Drip feeding great photos is a better approach than uploading a batch of six or seven all at once and then not posting anything for two weeks, because you have used all of your best material.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
When updating your own Facebook page or sending pics to friends via email or SMS, there is no harm in including ones that are slightly blurry, of random objects, or have a few heads chopped off. While powerful and of a similar quality, using an iPhone camera is slightly different to using a traditional camera. Take time to familiarize yourself with the phone’s settings, such as how to turn the flash on and off so that you can do it in an instant and not miss a great shot.
Being comfortable with how the camera works and taking time to appreciate how to get the best out of it will make your pictures demonstrably better and free you up to be creative with your shots – a surefire way of creating buzz.
3. Pursue Popularity
Keep an eye on what kinds of images make the “popular” list and which ones elicit the most likes and comments. They may be of interesting angles, use quirky filters, show interesting perspectives or pop with bright colors. Keep a note of which ones stand out and which techniques, angles and tools have been used – can you introduce any of these elements to your own images? Set yourself a challenge – if you sell bottles of wine for example, how can you snap your bottle from a fresh new angle? What ways — other than standard label-facing shots — can you use to make your brand stand out?
4. Make Friends
One of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to gaining Twitter followers or Pinterest follows is simply to follow other users. This same tried-and-tested technique can be applied to Instagram. Try actively seeking out those behind shots that align with your industry, as well as accounts from brands in other industries that your own target market may feasibly also like.