At SXSW 2012 Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s founder, had this to say, “We have a visual platform and advertisers like visual mediums. They like TV and magazines, but attention is moving online and they want to switch.”
Systrom’s app, Instagram, is currently an iPhone-only mobile social network focused on photo sharing. Despite being iPhone only, the app recently reached 27 million registered users, almost twice the number of Foursquare users in half the time. With an audience of this size engaging with visual media, Instagram is becoming a great new way for brands to engage with fans beyond the status update and shifting branded photography from magazines and newspapers to Instagram and Tumblr.
Let’s take a look at how brands can use Instagram to build stronger ties with the growing mobile photo sharing community.
Understand the Instagram Culture
Instagram isn’t a service for storing photos and adding filters, but a service for starting conversations and inspiring others.
Instagram makes use of popular social media tools like hashtags and geotagging to make it easy to organize photos and get more context around a shot. In many ways, Instagram is similar to Twitter. Popular users include celebrities and photographers who take great photos that no other users could capture. The appreciation for talent on Instagram has created a new set of influential photographers.
Instagram’s hashtag support has paved the way for brands to extend Twitter campaigns to the Instagram community and tap into the Always on Web. Nike’s #makeitcount campaign supports user photo submissions on Twitter, Instagram, and Yfrog, all united by the hashtag.
The Instagram community itself unites around the #instagramhub hashtag, which the community uses to set up photo challenges and highlight great work. Participating in challenges and hashtag trends on Instagram can be a great way to increase your brand’s visibility on the service.
Provide Behind the Scenes Footage
Photos are great because they reveal moments that most people can’t participate in.
Brands have acknowledged this and use Instagram as a tool to provide behind the scenes photos related to their industry.
Burberry used Instagram to provide behind the scenes photos from London Fashion Week. General Electric ran its “Ways GE Works” campaign through Instagram,posting photos of the wide range of technologies GE creates from jet engines to solar panels.
Digital PR has been focused on “blogger outreach,” but tools like Instagram make “photographer outreach” more important than ever.
Photographer outreach primarily comes in two forms:
• Crowdsourced Outreach: Verizon Wireless’s new Facebook Page is an example of crowdsourced photographer outreach. Verizon uses beautiful photos taken from Verizon phones as their Timeline cover photo and gives the original photographer credit on the Page. Other brands, including sports teams like the New York Giants, are using tools like
• Influencer Outreach: Using services like Klout and PeerIndex, brands can find influential photographers online and invite them to special events or “photo walks.” Audi used Klout to find influential photographers to cover the launch of the A8, and NASA invited a select group of photographers to cover the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.
TNS’s Mobile Life 2011 project found that 38% of mobile social media users were uploading photos in 2011. This number should only increase in 2012 now that more Americans own smartphones than feature phones, Instagram is coming to Android, and digital culture continues moving to visual media as a form of communication.
Simeon Spearman, 03.12.2012