In between the lo-fi selfies, the gratuitous food porn, and the #nofilter sunsets that often seem to define Instagram, smart brands are finding creative ways to distinguish themselves and gain targeted followings on this visual social powerhouse.
Brands including Nike, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, Oreo, and more are developing Instagram-centric strategies and promotions that tell their brand stories in a unique way—through image and (now) 15-second video.
MarketingProfs reports that 67 percent of top brands are using Instagram, reaching more than 100 million active monthly users. That’s a 500 percent increase in users since last year, according to research from Simply Measured. (You can see the full list of the top brands on Instagram here.)
So, what can we learn from these Instagram innovators? Here are the top 20 tips I’ve collected that provide both B2B and B2C brands with tactics for creating a strong Instagram presence:
Understand your brand story and how Instagram fits into your content marketing strategy:
“Find someone creative that understands your brand and the different ways to treat each social network individually.”—Hootsuite
“Your photos should reaffirm the feeling and lifestyle of your brand. Remember, a photo need not contain a logo to be effective at promoting a brand.”—Phashtag
“If you must roll out a product photo, give it a human touch by making it creative, funny, or awesome. Treat Instagram like your brand’s lifestyle magazine.”—Hootsuite
Engage your fans and target your audience:
“Try reaching out to some of the Instagrammers taking photos at your business. If there aren’t any photos on your location page yet, consider hosting a contest to get things started.”—Facebook
“If you can motivate your fans to submit photos of their own, like pictures of them using your product or just living your brand story, add them to your Instagram stream.”—Post Advertising
“You can also reward your loyal fans with contests and promo codes based on user-generated content.”—435 Digital
“Follow your target audience. Where are they? Find your competitors, and follow their followers. If it’s the correct audience, they’ll be interested in your posts and follow you back.”—Social Fulcrum
“Sharing your Instagram shots across your other social media channels is not only a great way to expose the fact that your company also has an Instagram account they should follow, but can help boost engagement with the fans and followers you already have on those channels.” —Postano
“Experience Instagram as a consumer. Sign up for a personal account to experience what the users engaging with your brand will experience, how they’ll consume content, what’s most compelling, and interaction with other users.”—HyperText
Mix media, add strategic messaging, and use #hashtags:
“Overgram and other apps allow you to add text to your Instagram photos. Add a hashtag, give credit for user-generated content, or just add creative copy that will resonate. But use it for good, not evil, and not on every photo.”—Post Advertising
“Include captions that show your humor & wit, or to add some context to your photo.”—Independent Fashion Bloggers
“Monitor your hashtags and the photos shared from your account for feedback from your audience. Respond to comments in a timely fashion, and always aim to add value to the conversation so your follower walks away feeling connected with and respected by your brand.”—Social Media Examiner
“Instead of using a spray-and-pray strategy for your hashtag, you should define a few hashtags and stick to them. This will help your followers to remember and identify them with your brand. Apart from the obvious ones, such as the name of your brand or your best-selling products, it is a great practice to create campaign-specific hashtags that resonate with your brand.”—Business Insider
Develop creative, platform-specific storytelling strategies, and measure results:
“People hunt for ‘how to’ do things. Six- or 15-second video format is a great length for that. Show me how a phone works, show me how to install a dishwasher, show me an item of clothing—and get on with it, please. The format works very well for both practical and engaging content.”—Jim Dowling, managing director of creative agency Cake, via The Guardian
“Give your followers something they can’t find anywhere else—something different from what you offer on Facebook and Twitter. Use Instagram to show off what you love about your business location and the surrounding community. Show your followers some behind-the-scenes shots to help them know and love your business. Show the pride you have in your brand.”—435 Digital
“Show your followers what happens behind the scenes that makes your business work. If you’re a marketing company with traditional cubicles and office space, post occasional pictures of the goings-on at work. If you’re a restaurant, show ingredients being delivered the morning of a big event. Let your audience in on how you do what it is you do, and you have powerful content marketing that can help cement your bond with them, above and beyond a purchase.”—Content Marketing Institute
“Use tools to manage your account. Instagram’s interface, whether on mobile or Web, doesn’t offer the best options for brands to effectively engage with their community. There’s Statigr, Instagrid, Webstagram, Nitrogram, Simply Measured, and many other helpful tools for making the most of your Instagram community.”—Social Media Examiner
“Instagram Video lets you bring static moments to life. Think about the types of photos you may already be posting and how you can use video to add depth in a way that is consistent with your overall brand and messaging.”—Instagram for Business Blog
To sum up, a terrific quote:
“The most important thing is to stop focusing on the delivery method—be it Instagram, Vine, or other apps—and talk more about what they’re being used to watch.
When Pixar released their first short film using their revolutionary computer-generated animation techniques, people kept asking what software they were using. Their success has never been down to the software, it was all about the storytellers. And so it is with short form shareable video. It may democratize the making process, but creativity is still a meritocracy.'”—Chris Baylis, executive director at Tribal DDB London via The Guardian
What do you think? Have any tips or best practices to share? Please add to the comments below.
A version of this article first appeared on Cursive Content.