June 19, 2012

Insta-branding: How Brands Are Telling Their Story Through Instagram

We all know that a picture is worth 1,000 words, so if your brand had a chance to tell its story in photographs, exactly what words would it be saying? Instagram may have been designed for individuals to share their lives with their friends through photos, but because Instagram is one of the most popular social platforms today, companies are now utilizing the free photo app to share their stories through compelling images on the digital and social space.

How it works:

Instagram succeeds because of how simple it is. Just about anyone with a smartphone can snap a photo, choose a filter, and share it with friends on several different social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and more. There’s a lot of flexibility with this app when it comes to sharing. You can keep your profile private, limiting your photo reach to only your friends, or keep it public and reach potentially hundreds or thousands of people.

Why it’s great for brands:

Two words: Company culture. Sharing photos from the company itself adds another dimension to brand voice, and an effective one at that. This is your chance to get really creative with a broad range of consumers. Depending on the brand image you choose to portray, you can enhance it with images. Demonstrate new uses of different products, share a photo from the latest office celebration, share live images from a fun company event, and anything else you think will captivate an audience.

Best Practices:

Instagram is simple, but for fullest reach potential, the usage of the app still requires a bit of strategy for brands. Here are some best practice tips to further your brand’s social presence on this specialized platform:Starbucks Screenshot

Informative profile: Many times, people see profile handles (names) before the photos themselves. Make sure your handle is relevant to your actual name, if not simply your brand name itself. Set the profile photo as something explicitly relatable to the brand, like the logo. Finally, include the company homepage in the profile. It might also be good to include Twitter handles and a link to your brand page on Facebook to simultaneously drive traffic towards them as well.
Strategic hashtags: Instagram tells us to be specific, be relevant, and be observant. Simply put, it’s best to avoid generalized hashtags (like #iPhone and #instagram) and keep on the lookout for hashtags that are more popular than others. For instance, the #NYC tag has over six times as many photos as the #NewYorkCity tag.
Post for the people: Leave the personal interests for your own Instagram profile, because a brand’s priority lies in the attraction of other people. Post quality, interesting photos that people want to see. Consider a trial-and-error posting process by recognizing the types of photos that generate the most buzz (more likes and comments).
Photo: Screenshot of @Starbuck’s Instagram profilephoto

Business Models:

Here are a few examples of brands that are doing Instagram right:

@Sharpie: Sharpie does a great job in creating a solid brand identity. Their photos are rarely of their products; instead, they’re photos of what their products can do. Sharpie’s page is full of fun drawings, creative crafts and unique uses.WFM
@WholeFoodsMarket: A foodie’s favorite account, for sure. Whole Foods Market does a great job displaying company culture, plus food from worldly and local distributors that followers very clearly appreciate (just take a look at the likes and comments on their food posts!). Also, WFM has recently hosted an Instagram contest for Earth Month (April), boosting the number of followers and establishing an iconic hashtag.
@Celtics: This team has an extremely loyal following, and no matter what happens on the court, they don’t disappoint in the socialsphere. This account posts photos of moments that won’t always be caught on ESPN.
@Bergdorfs: This couture mecca consistently posts filtered fashion from the office, the runway, the store and more. Their 72,000 (and counting!) followers have a feed that won’t ever run dry!
Photo: Screenshot of a @WholeFoodsMarket Instagram with hundreds of likes


What are some of your favorite companies to follow on Instagram?

— Jaime Cheng