Using Instagram for Social Media Marketing

Jason A Howie
Jason A. Howie Director of Marketing, Gold Mobile

Posted on September 3rd 2012

Using Instagram for Social Media Marketing

9 Points on Integrating Instagram within a Marketing Strategy

Not too long ago a reader asked me how to use Instagram hashtags within a social strategy. Well even before she asked me that question I was thinking of a bigger question: In which ways can a marketer use Instagram in social media marketing?

Here are 9 key points in marketing with Instagram. Since marketing is not holistic for any company, product, or situation, I encourage you to read these points and comment below if you want to expand on any ideas raised, or especially if you disagree. I am open to anyone’s thoughts and questions and will always respond quickly, with a value of One Billion dollars and 80 million users Instagram can’t be ignored.

Nine Points on Marketing with Instagram:

1: Don’t rely just on Instagram

When forming your social media strategy Instagram is a great mobile marketing tool, but it is not the only tool. By design Instagram works best in conjunction with other sites. Especially visual friendly content sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook, as these sites also offer the best viral impact for sharing and discussing photos.

2: Involve your Community

As with any social media campaign not only should you reply on your own pictures, you should reach out liking and commenting on their photos too, especially if they mention your product or brand. As we have seen before customer service through social media can be a great way to retain a customer who is having a problem.

Create contests, scavenger hunts, and other promotions that encourage your community to display your brand on their photo feed and on their other connected social media networks.

3: Let Your Community See Behind the Curtain

Often examples of companies and people doing great jobs marketing with Instagram have a few things in common. They’re active, they post interesting pictures, they engage their base, and they show people the world beyond the faces at the counter.

Personally my favorite examples of this are:

  • @BarackObama which shows many pictures not only of President Obama at political rallies, but also more to my point the faces of the volunteers that make campaigns like his possible.
  • @Starbucks is also a great example and has been referenced by many marketers for their use of Instagram. Often their pictures range from their brand to the fields in which the coffee beans are grown.

 4: Let Your Employees be Involved

As with any social media strategy your immediately accessible and most loyal brand evangelists are your employees. One great way to develop legitimate activity on your social media profiles quickly is to encourage your employees to participate. But don’t just encourage them to follow your company and like your images, encourage them to submit their photos too. This ties back into seeing behind the curtain, what is a greater way to let your community see behind the curtain than to have your employees submit their photos. Set clear guidelines on proper decorum, but work to make sure that the guidelines are not so restrictive that they stifle clever and creative contributions.

5: Popular Hashtags on Instagram are Dead
Personal Marketing with Instagram
There I said it, someone had to say it. While hashtags are far from dead or falling from use in the internet, Instagram’s popularity is out pacing people’s ability to monitor these tags from within the app. Even with third-party monitoring tools these tags and their photos have a very short half-life before they’re replaced by another photo. If you’re a regular visitor to my site aptsonic.com you know that every month I update a post on the top 15 popular Instagram hashtags. This page is set up so that readers can easily copy and paste the hashtags into their Instagram captions. However from my own use of these tags I’ve noticed where photos that previously would have received 20 likes receive only 5 to 10. Therefore the use of generic popular hashtags on Instagram by companies and brands isn’t necessary. I’m not saying to not use hashtag your brand photos but instead use photo and promotion specific tags rather than cluttering your comment area with hashtags.

Individuals looking to promote themselves should and still use these tags as I do, but they should also focus on Instagram group hashtags and contest tags to gain greater recognition.

6: Create Your Own Hashtag and Engage People that Use it.

Creating, Using, Promoting, and Monitoring your own hashtag has some great benefits.

  • People can easily find photos related to you or your brand.
  • It is easier to determine who your fans are beyond the users that follow and like your photos.
  • It is easier to engage your community and for your brand to be shared when you encourage the use of your own hashtags. Did you know when a user likes a photo on Instagram it appears in their newsfeed on Facebook? And did you know if one of their friend’s clicks on that liked photo they immediately go to Instagram’s hosted picture and can see all of the comments and your hashtags? They can also share the photo from there as well, this is a great possibility for a viral effect.
  • ROI! Creating your own hashtag adds yet another dimension to which you can measure your impact against. While it does not show a direct ROI to sales it does show yet another measure to relative ROI for the number of users involved in a given campaign.

7: Geo-Tag Instagram Photos

The geo-tagging feature on Instagram was great even before the 3.0 update because on upload it gave the user the ability to transfer that location information to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Foursquare all at the same time. After 3.0 users can still geo-tag and upload their content but now the Instagram app also incorporates a photo map on user’s profiles displaying where the photo was taken.

Geo-tagging involves your communities on another level on multiple platforms at once. Using it can help you promote your event or your participation at an event in a great way. Beyond that restaurants, retailers, and any other brand can promote their location and their products in use using and promoting geo-tagged Instagram photos.

  • For example a restaurant can by ensuring Foursquare lists their business could encourage patrons to post Instagram shots that are linked to Foursquare. This also notifies their patron’s friends of the restaurant and of their food presentation.
    • Photographer Monica Lo (@lobese on Twitter and Instagram) does a great job of incorporating her client's food presentations with their Foursquare locations.
  • In another example a company could make a scavenger hunt out of geo-tagging for contests and other promotions.

Instagram Comment Distribution by Time8: Find the Perfect Timing

SimplyMeasured has a fantastic study into engagement with Instagram showing which tags, filters, and times have the greatest correlation to comments on photos. From their work we can derive that the best time to post pictures for engagement is between 5-6pm.

The article is definitely worth a read:

SimplyMeasured: Instagram Analytics Tips

9: Finally Play with your Photos

  • Encourage you staff to take photos with their iPhone’s, Galaxy S 3’s, DSLRs, and even with their Polaroid cameras. Youtube and internet star Meekakitty has created some great examples of this.
  • Use editing/enhancement tools
    • Picstitch, Photoshop Express, Picfx, Diptic, Lenslight, and Slow Shutter are all great tools. Feel free to recommend other tools in the comments which you like to use.
  • Don’t be afraid of creativity and experimentation
  • Don’t always work with the square box. 4:3 photos with white filling the empty spaces on the sides will match Instagram’s photo feed and look strikingly different from other photos.
  • Text only Instagram photos using an app like Textgram while arguably weird looking to long term users, is just that, weird. Used correctly and sparingly these will stand out to a brand’s followers and can develop help develop engagement.
 
Jason A Howie

Jason A. Howie

Director of Marketing, Gold Mobile

An unabashed marketing geek, Jason has a love for both the analytical trends and the creative possibilities in social media marketing. Combining his personal interests with his professional Jason completed his MBA in Marketing and works at Gold Mobile. Jason loves networking with industry experts on LinkedIn.

Jason's blogs generally focus on his knowledge and interest in visual content marketing in both web and social media especially focused on the growth of the mobile and tablet space.

See Full Profile >

Comments

Sammy Mac
Posted on September 4th 2012 at 3:03PM

At my current job, we already share pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google + and our landing page, so why should we invest time into a photo bubble like Instagram? Do users honestly want another photo sharing site? I feel as if the hashtag issue shows over saturation and a need for me to hold off on Instagram. Thoughts?

Jason A Howie
Posted on September 4th 2012 at 4:14PM

Sam,

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! You've asked me some very poigant questions and I'm hoping my answers do them justice.

Why should we invest time into a photo bubble like Instagram?

  • With the sites you're already using Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr especially I can't see a reason why you couldn't add a mobile platform like instagram into your marketing strategy. Like with my first point above, Instagram is not the end all solution but it is a great mobile tool to round off the corners to your existing platforms. 

Instagram's Advantages:

  • Easily shared to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare
  • Helps add another dimension to Facebook updates for your community to interact with
  • Likes on Instagram translate to Likes on people's news feed meaning increased exposure
  • Wide third party native and web app support
  • Another dimension to visual based content marketing
  • Facebook's large investment mean regular app updates, tighter Facebook integration, and new features are still coming which will likely mean that this bubble will keep growing

Do users honestly want another photo sharing site?

  • With 80 million users Instagram has 30 million users than Flickr's 51 million
  • In the Apple App Store and Google Play Store Instagram is ranked 1st where as Flickr is ranked 65th 
  • Users have choosen their end all photosharing site some time ago, and its Facebook not Flickr, Instagrams growth is because of its sharability on Facebook. Theres a better infographic out there but this is the first whose location I can remember Facebook vs. Flickr

Depending on your strategy the better question might be to ask why are you investing time and money into Flickr still? Ok I kid, I love flickr. I've had a pro account for over 6 years and update it regularly.

But to my point you shouldn't be thinking about Instagram as a photo sharing site because it's not. I'd compare it this way, Instagram is to a Photosharing site like what Twitter is to a Blog. With Instagram you're able to update and monitor on the go and because of that your community can connect with your company on a seemingly personal level.

Hashtag issue shows over saturation... Thoughts?

  • Well how do Twitter users handle the hashtag saturation? There are tools for it, Instagram and its community will adapt. Also to be fair I was talking about heavily trafficked tags like #photooftheday, I believe companies and brands should focus on more tightly focused hashtags. As with my answer to your first question I think we are just beginning to see the features that Facebook is integrating into Instagram. It would not surprise me at all to see the Explore button modified with a alogrithm by Facebook, where images or profiles that are more relevant to the user are shown first and more often. Also we'll probably see a tighter Facebook side integration with Instagram. For example if you were to like a brand on the site you are given the option to follow their instagram account as well.

I hope I have raised some points for you to explore and consider, please let me know you're thoughts.

howdojonesy
Posted on September 5th 2012 at 3:56PM

Interesting comment... "Instagram is to a Photosharing site like what Twitter is to a Blog"

I have a photographer friend who hates having to post his random photos to Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. Now he uses Instagram and lets the app do it for him. And, instead of trying to sell his work through Instragram he gets to show more quirky ideas he wouldn't normally show anyone. A bit like using a blog for photos.

Jason A Howie
Posted on September 5th 2012 at 10:02PM

With my own Instagram usage I post some pictures with the intention of sending them to the social sites, but other times I post ones that are only meant for the instagram community. Things only my IGers followers get to see. That way my content is varied between Facebook and Instagram.

timkau
Posted on September 6th 2012 at 12:39AM

I started Instagram in July, and many of the points in your article apply. Also, I love the shout-out to @lobese - she is a phenomenal food photographer and her love of food is obvious. She's definitely a great example of integrating her community via twitter and facebook via Instagram and I am a big fan. Thanks for this article.

Jason A Howie
Posted on September 6th 2012 at 12:49PM

Timkau,

Thank you for taking the time to comment, and I agree @lobese's photo's have definitely added resturants to my must eat at list.

-Jason

Eva_McCann
Posted on September 7th 2012 at 9:15AM

As a marketer who works mainly for B2B clients the question I ask myself is WHO needs to use Instagram? And Pinterest for that matter.

Most blogs & articles I read refer to B2C businesses but they rarely specify that. B2B is different, particularly when you don't have a physical product and they are SMEs (i.e. the whole involve other employees theory, which is great for large B2C companies, falls over).

I'd be grateful for your thoughts.

Jason A Howie
Posted on September 9th 2012 at 12:03AM

Eva,

What a difficult and interesting question to answer, thank you. I have some ideas on how to answer it but I do ask anyone that might be reading to contribute their thoughts as well to build a consensus.

Ultimately I think it depends on your strategy. Instagram isn't for everyone or applicable for every use, but that's for the marketer to decide between all of your available tools.

I don't like to generalize but I feel most marketers would agree blogging is a great tool for many B2B environments. One thing that I like to see in the blogs that I follow is variation of content. I find it more engaging to the people that read the page. Of course I'm not saying post meme's or embed a YouTube video that's circulating the office (Maybe I'm wrong, it depends), but if blogging shows the thought leadership of a company, Instagram and Pinterest can help show their creativity. Further integrating Instagram photos and not just stock photos you can show original content that is varied and helps pique the interest of your readers.

 

These are some areas which I think Instagram can work in a service B2B environment:

  • Branding

Developing a name, a brand, is a lot of what social media marketing is about. From large to small companies around the world are trying in different ways to define who they are and develop something that their loyal customers associate with. Think apple fanboys. Instagram and Pinterest can both help a business whether it's in a tangible or intangible business to develop a community.

Instagram as I mentioned in the article can allow people to see your branding but also behind the curtain. Maybe if you're a design firm you can show the drafting side or the engineering side, or the finished design, or if you're a telecommunications company you can develop the lengths to which your work crews go to keeping businesses connected and operating.

With Pinterest you can share ideas with the people around you. Your Owners/CEO for example can develop their own personal branding, showing people their interests, tastes, what products they like, and what they find humorous.

  • Insurance and Banking can use Instagram and Pinterest

Insurance companies can develop branding and interest in themselves by showing how they help individuals and businesses recover from natural disasters. They can also use Pinterest to show ways people can prepare for a natural disaster or ways businesses can make their businesses and workplaces safer.

Banking companies can also create a connections with small and medium businesses by showing their connection to the community and to their success.

  • Conventions, symposium, and association Meetings

On LinkedIn someone asked me if I thought they could use Instagram in a trade fair or a convention. Absolutely. You could make a game or contest of it to encourage people to see more booths. Create and promote a hashtag for everyone to see each others photos from the same event, while at the same time promoting the event to their followers when they upload.

While these are kind of general ideas and may not apply to every case, I hope that I was able to give you something to work with. Or if not something we can discuss further.

 

Eva_McCann
Posted on September 11th 2012 at 1:41PM

Jason

Thank you for taking the time to reply with your thoughts and ideas. I will try some of it out and see if it'll translate for my clients. At this point I am trying to introduce occassional images on a B2B Facebook page which seem to be getting responses. But, as I said, they are difficult to come by as the business doesn't really lend itself to visual stuff. Or maybe I just don't see it.

Interesting though how you seemed surprised by my question. Time and again I read "how to" articles about Social Media tools and they are usually good tips but in most cases aimed at B2C without stating it. It's a bit like sports news here in the UK where they rarely state when it's about football, it's kind of assumed that people know.

Perhaps I just wanted to raise awareness for the many (Social Media) B2B marketers. Many B2B companies still don't want to play in the Social Media arena; they don't think it will achieve anything. Or, they know they ought to be there but just can't get themselves to join in, for the same reason. But I digress...

I will venture to Pinterest and maybe even Instagram and see what I can do on there for my clients. But I still hear the advice from a friendly lady who gave me my introduction into the Social Media world “Better concentrate on fewer channels and do them well. You don't have to be everywhere.”

Do you think that's still true?

Jason A Howie
Posted on September 22nd 2012 at 5:26PM

Eva,

I apologize for my delay in responding. I wasn't as surprised by your question as I was more interested in its challenge. I work for a company that is B2B as well and have been trying to incorporate a social media aspect to their internet branding. So when you asked your question, I asked myself how would I position my company and that is challenging.

While I agree most "how to" articles focus on B2C there are a plethora of articles on B2B. Granted the majority of these focus on Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn. Or other web 2.0 ideas like blogging, slidehare, and box.net. That doesn't mean however that it isn't possible to market B2B on Instagram it just means we need to think a little more out of the box.

“Better concentrate on fewer channels and do them well. You don't have to be everywhere.”

I whole heartedly agree with this for businesses, especially when in consideration of available resources. It is prudent however to focus on the social media sites that have the greatest impact on your target market.

I do believe as social media marketers that we should be always aware of new and upcoming platforms. Experimenting with different sites and always asking ourselves whats the appeal of this site to my target market, how can I reach them, and what is the ROI/ROT spent compared to the other sites.

Thank you for your questions, I hope I have done them some justice. If you feel like discussing this further maybe we can create our own joint blog post highlighting the pros and cons of various sites for B2B. If you're interested in the idea or have another idea feel free to message me here on SM2day.

Regards,

-Jason

Jason A Howie
Posted on September 22nd 2012 at 9:47PM

I was looking for an article on creating employee buy-in in regards to a social media strategy and stumbled on to this Q&A... It's a little short but it goes along with some of what I was saying. 

http://socialmediatoday.com/jenerationy/828191/dreamforce-session-cheat-sheet-implementing-executing-social-media-strategy-b2b-c#comment-69901

Ava
Posted on September 10th 2012 at 9:22PM

Fantastic tips!

Jason A Howie
Posted on September 11th 2012 at 12:45AM

Thank you Ava!

staceydonelan
Posted on September 24th 2012 at 7:37PM

Great post Jason!  I am a huge fan of Instagram and am wanting to integrate the platform into my Company's daily social media routine!

Jason A Howie
Posted on October 3rd 2012 at 12:46PM

Stacey, thank you for reading!

ThibautDavoult
Posted on October 3rd 2012 at 7:46AM

Great article! First and foremost I totally agree with the fact that popular hashtags are dead. A brand looking to generate attention on Instagram should definitely create their own and communicate around them, inviting their community to create content around these hashtags. There's a tremendous opportunity for brands on Instagram to include customers and potential customers in their online presence. This is why I find Instagram to be very interesting because it has true Social DNA coupled with the power of photos with everything that suggests: more emotional connections, more attachment and more engagement.

You truly nailed it with your 9 recommendations, that's real good stuff. I wish you'd mention more tools to concretely apply them, but maybe that's for a blogpost to come? Simply Measured released analytics, but there are dozens of other apps and websites that help marketing and social media managers deal with their Instagram accounts.

I'm working with the team building http://www.nitrogr.am : a web-based solution helping brands use Instagram for Social Media Marketing. I'd be honoured to have you try out Nitrogram as someone who's so much into Social Media.

All this to day: great article :)

Jason A Howie
Posted on October 3rd 2012 at 12:49PM

Thibaut,

Thank you for reading, and you're right I am working on an article of what tools a marketer can use with Instagram.

I'll take a look at your site, thanks for mentioning it.

Have a great day!

-Jason

ThibautDavoult
Posted on October 4th 2012 at 8:15AM

Glad to hear it!

If you need any help with Nitrogram, I'm here.

Anashwara Radhakrishnan
Posted on October 11th 2012 at 11:44AM

Good Read.

 

This will totally work as a strategy while pitching for new clients. Since we have a good no of smartphones users on Android and iOS, the number of smartphone users would be interested to pull off their Instagrammed pictures and use it for a social media win. 

Jason A Howie
Posted on October 12th 2012 at 1:45PM

Thanks for reading Anashwara!

 

Let me know how it works out for you!

ChrisSmith_UK
Posted on October 24th 2012 at 3:48PM

Hi Jason - a couple of things. Firstly, I have just started looking at Instagram to engage with some like-minded people, and promote my business at the same time, so thanks for the great hints and tips. My business is location-specific, so I think geo-Tagging my pictures sounds like a plan!

Secondly, it is great to see a Blogger take so much time over engaging with the people who comment on his posts.

Thanks

Chris

 

Jason A Howie
Posted on November 3rd 2012 at 1:27AM

Chris,

Thank you for taking the time to read and to write! I apologize for my delay in commenting back! I love geo-tagging photos, I see there being greater oppotunity there in the future for an enteprising sort of person.

And again thank you, I write blogs so that I can share my ideas but I love comments as they help me look at problems from another point of view and gain insights from others. Comments are most certainly the most helpful part of blogging.

-Jason

GillianWesleyNS
Posted on November 23rd 2012 at 12:12PM

We are just trying our first integrated social media campaign that uses Instagram. I wasn't sure how effective it would be but in this case it has been working well. It's been driving comments, likes and purchase inquiries, and bringing people back to the main website. You can check out our campaign as it develops: thelocaltravelerns.com/localwishlist Instagram/Twitter: #LocalWishlist Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/localtravelerns/shop-local-christmas-wish-list/

Jason A Howie
Posted on December 2nd 2012 at 5:31AM

Gillian,

That's fantastic work! Thnka you for sharing it with me. I hope you don't mind if I reference this in a follow up article?

 

-Jason

SwayamDas
Posted on December 23rd 2013 at 1:25PM

Using pictures to promote any particular Brand is the most awesome way to draw attention. I have seen people love this kind of idea :-)