Instagram is most definitely its own beast. Businesses thinking they can parlay a Pinterest strategy into Instagram will be sorely mistaken, thanks to strikingly different user engagement styles on the two platforms.
Without clear “transactional” support, Instagram is proving to be much more about brand building and brand allegiance. If your company doesn't hold the term "brand" highly, simply stay off Instagram for now -- there are other platforms more worth your transactional-based time. However, for the brand-conscience, recent metrics show Instagram might be a worthwhile marketing tool.
According to comScore, Instagram surpassed Twitter in daily mobile users during August 2012 -- 7.3 million daily users on Instragram mobile versus 6.9 million for Twitter. While not monstrous numbers, they show the critical mass Instagram is gaining.
Also consider: In September, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Instagram had 100 million users. That points to two important facts. First, Instragram is adding users at a rate of around 10 million per month (since it had 80 million in July). Second, and quite important, the math shows 7.3% of Instagram's user base is active on a DAILY basis. On MOBILE. Surely this is an enormously good sign.
So, you might not be on Instagram yet. But how can you be thankful for Instagram come Thanksgiving time next year?
1. Make your C-Level “real.” Consumers are increasingly distrusting of the faceless corporation, and much more attracted to (and, in times of trouble, tolerant of) companies with a more human face.
Use Instagram to show the real, human side of your company’s executive suite. This is a lesson the normally digitally savvy Obama campaign could have employed with the recently viral photo of the President with U.S. Olympian McKayla Maroney.
McKayla capitalized on the photo in her Instragram feed, receiving more than 100,000 likes on the photo. Obama used the photo on Facebook, but not Instragram.
Just be careful of the lesson in #2…
2. Make line employees “real.” Same story, different people. Sure, #1 and #2 could have been combined. However, it’s very different humanizing line employees -- with whom everyday consumers can probably already relate.
Showcasing the humanness of a $30,000 staffer tends to be about making sure the scenario is on-brand. For a multi-$100,000 CEO, it’s about ensuring the CEO doesn’t look out-of-touch.
3. Crowdsource marketing photography. Let’s be clear. I don’t mean print ad photography. Resolution alone probably won’t make Instagram photos conducive to standard print ads.
However, your business likely needs photography for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, digital banners and, of course, Instagram. Your customers can help you fill this seemingly neverending need.
Just be careful of how you showcase and use the photos. Ben & Jerry’s is in the middle of an Instagram campaign called Capture Euphoria. Problem is, the company has photos auto-streaming based on hash-tags. Without a human approval-filter on the photos, some quite inappropriate content is making its way through.
4. Invigorate employees. Instagram feeds don’t have to be public. Consider making a private feed that your company only allows current employees to access. Use the feed to share motivational messages, successes, highlight employees, and generally motivate your team.
Of course, make sure you don’t mind any of the content making it out into the general community -- because it will. Quickly.
However, if the content is done right, the leaked photos only help to strengthen your brand positioning.
5. Another PR arm. Create a feed specifically for bloggers. Use the feed for visual teasers, early announcements, product photography, etc. for the ever-expanding blogger audience.
Speak to the bloggers on a platform that is unique, that bloggers can embrace while mobile, that impacts them visually. Bloggers need photos just like you (See #3), so you’ll be helping them feed the beast as well.
Bonus tip: Expect to change your strategy in the next six to 12 months. The Facebook purchase of Instagram will undoubtedly mean a turn to monetization. With monetization will come different marketing opportunities.
Just be thankful these new marketing opportunities will most definitely be complementary to the brand-marketing groundwork you have already laid.
You can also be thankful you’ve already secured your brand’s handle (aka name) on Instagram. Hint, hint.