Instagram's new feature Photos of You -- which allows people to tag their photos with any Instagram user, including brands, moves beyond the simple @ reference that comes and goes as the picture fades into the depths of your friend’s photo feed. Photos of You now permanently links approved tags to your account. Although this feature has been available on Facebook for years, the introduction on Instagram, with its 100 million users -- including 60% of brands -- has many brand managers wondering how it will affect their businesses.
The move to include tagging on Instagram creates more connectivity between brands and consumers. The benefit for brands is now having access to the user-generated content from fans. Before tagging was available you could search #hashtags, but you could not search @references. Now you will be able to link user-generated content directly to your business account, creating a new stream of potentially powerful content based on the fact that 70% of people trust brand recommendations from their friends.
Benefits include not only the content collection and curation, but also the amplification of the content. When a brand is tagged in a photo alongside four other Instagram users, that photo now lives in 6 locations on the platform rather than just one. The content can also be shared to Facebook. Despite the fear that unfavorable brand photos will be tagged and shared, removing user-generated content is more harmful than not as today's consumers demand complete transparency from brands.
Instagram's tagging feature improves the platform, strengthening the Facebook empire -- but there is no doubt that brands started picking up on the value in Instagram before this feature was available. In a recent study of the top 100 brands, adoption on Instagram grew to 67%, from 57% in February. While tagging creates a more connected social platform for brands to leverage, brand buy-in came in great numbers after the $1 billion purchase from Facebook.
The Facebook Ad Network slowly but surely has given brands confidence in the fact that social media marketing might actually work. Although Instagram currently states they have no interest in monetizing the mobile platform, Facebook is clearly planning for it -- smart play as mobile ads continue to grow and are the best-performing ad placements on Facebook.
Instagram, as a purely photo-based social network (with no advertising available to grow your fan base), is not for every brand. You have to connect in a genuine way by having a clearly defined brand persona and visually appealing content you can use to tell your story, not just show off products. This is true for all brands -- especially those that are just launching and those implementing a relaunch or revitalization.
Fan growth on Instagram will be organic for the most part, so don’t expect to see impressive ROI numbers. Instead, brands should see the site as a support stream for other social channels to improve results in a comprehensive social strategy. Because social sites tend to work together to increase overall brand value, looking at one as a stand-alone platform doesn’t work.
Bottom line: If your brand can produce images worth sharing, Instagram is the place. Let's just hope you get tagged.