When Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion earlier this year, many wondered whether the mobile photo app was worth the price it commanded. But in the month that followed, Instagram exploded from a niche iOS photo-sharing social app to a platform on both iOS and Android devices that boasts over 100 million users. As the community grows and the application gains mainstream popularity, businesses are increasingly recognizing Instagram’s unique and creative visual features as a powerful asset to their social media marketing efforts.
Here are some tips to creating valuable content to help gain visibility and engage with fans on Instagram.
Remember: Visual Interest is Everything
There are countless services out there right now that allow users to store and share their images. What sets Instagram apart – and what has made it so popular – are the features that turn everyday snapshots into unique, interesting, and even artistic photography. On Instagram, the image doesn’t supplement the content; the image is the content. Users are largely interested in content with high aesthetic appeal. Don’t be afraid to play with lighting or perspective, or to make liberal use of the (appropriate) photo filters. Uninteresting content need not apply.
Get Creative With Hashtags
Instagram uses a hashtag system much like Twitter’s to categorize content; pound signs followed by keywords are added to a photo’s caption to describe the content or subject matter and make it easier for users to find. These hashtags are great tools that offer a number of benefits that are worth taking advantage of. They can be used to get your photos noticed by people looking for related content, such as images from a specific event or conference. They can group your brand’s content into subcategories with unique hashtags (#abcwarehouse to group photos of your company’s warehouse, for instance). Hashtags can also be used to promote specific marketing campaigns and promotions.
Get Your Other Social Networks Involved
As with most other social networks, Instagram does not operate in a social media vacuum. By sharing your photos on other networks, you both provide exposure for your Instagram marketing efforts and provide your other social media accounts with ready-made, interesting content. Through the mobile interface, it’s simple to share photos directly to your Facebook and Twitter accounts – though at this time, sharing to Facebook Pages is only available through iOS, and not Android. While Pinterest may seem like an ideal platform for sharing Instagram photos, there is currently no option to do this within the app. However, several services, such as Gramfeed and Pingram, make pinning your Instagram photos a simple process.
Social media is all about engaging and interacting with your followers, and allowing your fans to directly contribute to your content is a great way to do just that. Recently, Taco Bell invited fans to share pictures of their meals from the restaurant with the hashtag “#DoritosLocosTacos”. The brand then aggregated user-uploaded photos with this hashtag on Instagram and turned them into what has turned out to be a successful television commercial. Even if your marketing budget doesn’t support a national TV campaign, you can still take advantage of crowdsourcing through Instagram. Simply highlighting user submitted photos (another great opportunity to use a custom hashtag) on your own account, website, blog, or other social media sites gives you fresh, interesting content, and gives your followers an opportunity to feel valued and involved.
Show Off Products
Like any social media marketing, using Instagram as a tool to share purely promotional content is a recipe for failure. However, it can still be a great way to feature your products in interesting and eye-catching ways. Use creative photo techniques and filters to debut new releases, highlight best-sellers, or show action shots of your products in use.
Give Behind-The-Scenes Peeks
The filters and settings available on Instagram photos often create a very laidback, intimate, and friendly atmosphere on the social network that make it a perfect opportunity to show the personal and behind-the-scenes aspects of your company. Give your followers the chance to see what goes into making your company run; give photo tours of your office or warehouse, document various departments hard at work, or highlight your employees at both work and play.
Have you made Instagram part of your online marketing efforts? Why – or why not? Tell us about it in the comments!