How Brands Can Use the Platform of Instagram and Optimize Their Marketing

December 4, 2014

This ‘gram’ weighs in tonnes

I am still amazed at the never fading brilliance of ‘seeing is believing’. Be it a fancy toy you wanted for your eighth birthday, the home theatre system your father desired or the sari your mother spotted in a collection book – we all want to see a visual in a catalogue and then move towards making the decision. You always choose that family vacation after seeing only one breathtaking photo from the tourism brochure.

Behold, the product catalogue in the digital age, that practically showcases almost everything and let’s you know what you need to have an awesome life – the Facebook-owned app called Instagram, which serves up 512×512 visuals with a filter and skilfully devised hash tagged captions.

Which designer was she wearing on the red carpet? What’s going on backstage at Britney Spears’ concert? What’s your favourite celebrity up to on shoot? Where’s the music release of U2 happening? When you should be heading to Burberry’s latest collection preview? How to know who’s next on The Ellen Show? What’s new on the menu of this brilliant café downtown?

All your answers can be found on Instagram – ‘the worlds most popular mobile social media application’. For marketers today, the relevance of visual storytelling on digital media cannot be further amplified. The penetration of Facebook and Instagram in our personal space through mobile phones, have made it possible for brands to reach customers at any given time.

What is Instagram?

How Brands Can Use the Platform of Instagram and Optimize Their Marketing image Screen shot 2012 08 10 at 12.03.13 PM.pngInstagram is a free photo sharing application that allows users to take a photo, apply a filter from a palette of photo-enhancing effects, and then share it instantly across various social media platforms that tie in with the application such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare. With users having access to the Internet at the tip of their fingers on the mobiles, makes this mobile-only app more desirable and lots of fun. Almost 6 billion active mobile subscribers are flocking to Instagram everyday to share their life and get a scoop on what’s happening with others.

Did you know?

“As of 2014, 16 billion photos have been uploaded on Instagram”

“In 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for $ 1 Billion.”

“More than 85% of posts contain hash tags, with #instagood and #love being among the most popular ones.”

Hash tag phenomena (#explainthis)

With so many beautiful pictures, captions become more challenging but interesting. You can tag friends, brands, celebrities and anyone in Brazil, who you might be following. Hash tags make it easier for you to search for pictures related to a theme, location, feeling, brand or even historic events. Recently, brands have been using hash tags to engage with customers making it more fun to be part of a community. For example, lululemon athletica asked users to share pictures of working out and being active with the hash tag #thesweatlife. The result was a beautiful mood board of 68,000 images, higher brand awareness and engagement. The Hershel Supply Co tags all their products with #HerschelSupply but their consumer oriented campaign with the hash tag #WellTravelled did exceedingly well where people were encouraged to post pictures of their journeys.

If you’re not able to place a product on Instagram, you could put in lifestyle shots that define the personality of your brand and create a unique hash tag around the same to keep users hooked on. #keepitlite by Native Shoes features several pictures with beautiful bold colours and strange pretty things and almost nothing to do with the product. Check Kate Spade NY using #popofcolor quite often and posts of great sunrises and morning shots tagged with #wakeuppics by NH Hotels.

Get ‘em people talking!

Like how we follow newsmakers and opinion leaders in our lives, Instagram too has a pool of creative and very active influencers who have a devoted following. They’ve gathered this fan base over a period by generating visually appealing and engaging content to keep users hooked on. Small and medium business can exchange products with influencers to gain exposure to their fan base.

Christopher Bastin, creative director of Gant, runs rippedbackpocket on Instagram, is a collection of style reporting, vintage furniture and beautiful food. The Instagram account of professional surfer and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Anastasia Ashley boasts 544,000 followers. It is influencers like her that brands should be tapping into to reach to a whole new target market. Indian fashionista.

Canadian Tourism recently partnered with Instagram influencers across the world to promote the beauty of their country in various parts of the world. Top notch photographers were taken on Instagram FAM Trips to Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Yukon for days to explore, capture and share on social media. The strategy here is to find people whose personalities resonate with that of your brand. As partners you can trust them to create authentic and meaningful content to further your cause among their followers.

Through contests and product trials by influencers, brands in India are chasing the style diva, the food blogger, the tech guru, the adventurer and the political instigator to propagate products on Instagram to their followers.

InstaBrand your brand

Not only have international brands like Gucci, Burberry, Starbucks and Red Bull, but news channels like CNN, innovators like GE and celebrity talk show hosts like The Ellen DeGeneres Show have taken to this platform to keep visually bombarding users with content. International brands have created profile for their India market such as Vogue, Lancôme, Reebok and L’Oreal. Indian brands such as India Circus, Tanishq, Kingfisher World and fashion designers like Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Tarun Tahiliani have flocked to the app to post first look of celebrities they dress for gala evenings.

Brands that are doing wonders on Instagram globally are the ones that don’t just post products but lifestyle and artsy imagery that caters to a demographic. TopShop is one such brand that shares images of food, concerts and events that cater to their female demographic.

When the brand becomes a person with similar interest, the bond is further strengthened, even if this person exists only virtually.

How Brands Can Use the Platform of Instagram and Optimize Their Marketing image Instagram Filter Examples Final.jpg

When you browse through Adidas Originals on Instagram, you will see celebrities, musicians, journalists, photographers and sportsmen wearing the brand. Wearing brand then becomes the best way for consumers to emulate their idols. The conversion from follower to buy is only natural. The brand is now showing activity – rock-climbing, running and cycling. If the visual storytelling has triggered a positive response, you’ll be looking at Adidas Originals the next you go gear shopping.

Brands that are posting images of behind the scenes are also establishing a stronger connect with users. GE shares images of technicians working at the aviation facility, Tiffany’s & Co. is showcasing inside the jewellery workshop on their account and Levi’s has managed to do open casting call for models on the platform where users had to post pictures tagging #IAmLevis.

Bridging the communication gap by giving the users renewed sense of familiarity creates goodwill with high chances of conversion to buyers.

InstaBrand Mottos

Be true to you personality

Always showcase visuals that should exude the character of your brand. It can be colourful, elegant, rustic, friendly or even professional.

Share experiences

Show them what’s happening at the office, where are you partying, what’s coming up next season, things you’re up to. This makes you more relatable.

Be visually appealing

It’s all about grabbing the eyeballs and sensory excitement through visuals to make an impact.

Inspire action

All social media must result in some action. If not subscribe or follow, may be visiting the page, share with friends, re-post, or think of making a purchase when possible in the future.

Know your audience

You must know whom you’re catering to. Understanding of demographics and psychographics will help in knowing what will appeal to them.

Be consistent

So many brands vanish and fizzle out on socially media because of lack of investment in the medium. Hire people to manage these platforms, it will bring you great returns in time. Consistently post, make your presence felt, keep sharing value and creating meaning content.

Top Tips To Getting Started

Secure a branded username that’s easy to find and easy to tag

Fill out your profile in a crisp manner, less is more. Have your website link or Facebook page on the description.

Your profile image should be instantly recognizable. May be even the same as Twitter and Facebook so people join the dots quickly. If it’s the logo, then keep it that way.

Use hash tags in your posts that are original or the brand name itself. A lot of brands use the word ‘official’ to indicate authenticity of the account. Try that if it works for you.

Having website links in comments will be helpful.

Engage audiences with a current affair – be it an event or a product launch, keep it fresh and new. Giving them updates from an event they have no access to will excite them.

Go beyond your brand. Support a cause, help raise funds for a community endeavour, spread awareness on saving the planet or engage with non-profit organization to build good will for your brand.

Do not use stalk images or very staged imagery because the beauty of the app is in soft, spontaneously and more candid clicks. Users respond better to unadulterated approach and think you as more real.

When you run a campaign through Instagram, encourage responses which gives links to your platforms like the website paving a path to conversion or data collection.

For retailers, do upload products but provide the link or the path to getting the product for the user.

Stalk these brands now

Based on your interests, there are always brands you can follow on Instagram to keep yourself attuned to the latest happenings, product launches and anything the brand has to offer. These brands are doing really well no wonder the loyal following.

Sports: Nike, Adidas and NBA

Fashion: TopShop, The Free People, Burberry, Victoria’s Secrets

Food: Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, Red Bull

Automobiles: Lexus (check out the LexusInstaFilm)

Business: American Express, Sharpie and GE

Music: Billboards, VEVO and MTV

How to know what to upload?

Give the inside view: top shot of your desk at work, costume trials before a fashion show, what’s in the pantry today?

DIY stuff rocks: Show them how to make stuff. Through photo series or a short video – users love learning cool things.

Skies, stars and scenery: They love nature. Endless roads, vast landscapes, falling leaves and shimmering water – all of this works wonders.

Give them a bite: Be it a talk show that went popular, or a quote from a celebrity – upload a snapshot, quote or GIF like mockery. They can’t have enough of it.

Don’t forget seasons: Football or festive – you need to roll with the times. Putting up seasonal pictures and showing that you celebrate the same connects with users very well. Have your posts for Christmas ready!

Your product needs more than product: A pair of jeans hanging from the branch of a tree intrigues them a lot more than a shot of legs wearing the jeans. Place your products in interesting environments and click, click, click.

Aerial shots of whatever you’re eating: #foodporn is stuff you must do. Get them salivating and hungry for more. Share food anytime.

Contributing consumers: through competitions, get them to post and share their images and posts too. They feel connected and endorsed by a brand they love.

To filter or not to filter: Mayfair Filter does the best as per research on Instagram, but you must know what filter or effect works best for your brand and type of imagery.

Instagram is the most successful but yet emerging social media network. Visual storytelling on this platform and its connectivity to other social sites makes it a brilliant way for brands to spread the word across the Internet. It allows you to be organic, creative and of course unique to win affinity, engage audiences and create a conversion from followers to customers.

All this is good but what about results?

Keeping your brand active on Instagram can be a very time-consuming task. You may want to hire a dedicated social media manager to handle this for you, but you must know how to measure the return on your investment.

  1. Likes and comments on a post can indicate how well it is doing with your audience, a combination of the two is your total engagement on a post in specific time period
  2. Monitoring engagement per post shows what kind of content your audience reacts to and if your strategy is working
  3. When it comes to hash tags, the more creative the better as there are greater chances of being mentioned in posts by others. This also makes tracking and specific brand recognition possible
  4. It’s perfectly fine to use a hash tag as the base of your campaign. Measuring results will help in strategizing future campaigns
  5. Learn about your audience. Find out what brands like yours are doing in other countries and what their strategy is, you’re probably catering to the same demographic
  6. Post frequently but don’t overdo it. You will discover how much is too much over time
  7. Find partners on Instagram. Bloggers, other brands that are willing to cross-promote and individuals and tap into their audience
  8. Before ads flood Instagram, enjoy this organic growth of fan base, drive meaningful content and keep an eye on competitive development

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