More than 90% of Instagram users are said to be under 35. Its user base, which is now more than 400 million worldwide, is larger than Twitter’s. EMarketer projects it will top 100 million people in the U.S. alone by 2018.
Austin-based nFusion recently published a marketer’s guide about how to get going on Instagram — but only if you’ve got a good reason to be there. We asked the agency’s managing director, Matt Huser, to elaborate on a few of its points and to name some names.
What makes Instagram different from good branding practices on other social media?
Matt Huser: The beauty and obvious aspect of Instagram is that it is visual -- which is the reason it's so compelling. By being visual, it weeds out a lot of the frivolous updates you get on Facebook and Twitter.
Also for that reason, Instagram lends itself to more lifestyle content, and people tend to follow the brands that reflect their lifestyles. So it’s the perfect platform for brands to increase their relevance and engagement with their audiences by aligning to their followers’ lifestyles, many times turning them into advocates.
The brands that utilize Instagram well post images that communicate their brand DNA and reveal some deeper truth or connection about the brand.
Instagram feeds that show behind-the-scenes images that their followers wouldn't normally be able to see through traditional media are most effective. Many fashion brands like Burberry and Rag and Bone do a good job of showing lifestyle images, not product images. Product may be included in the posted images, but it isn’t the focus.
Burberry focuses on images of London because London is such a foundational part of that brand, and a brand itself, which Burberry does well to align to. Rag and Bone shows people in action, mostly.
Because Instagram is visual, the marketers who participate are often more thoughtful. It forces marketers to have a strategy and to create content specifically for the channel. So it weeds out the brands that shouldn’t be on Instagram; there’s less noise than a Facebook or Twitter [post].
Is it as critical to be on
Instagram as it is to be on Facebook and Twitter?
Huser: I don’t think it’s critical for every brand to have a presence on social media. In fact, as the social channels get more diluted with paid messaging, some brands may find it more advantageous to not be on a platform.
And companies should have discrete strategies for each platform.
For example, Twitter is a great customer-service platform. Facebook is a good platform to keep consumers informed, while Instagram is a good platform to play to people’s passions … to connect with a lifestyle. Brands should stay true to their DNA and not force themselves into a channel that isn’t aligned to a strategy. That said, Instagram is the fastest-growing platform, so you can’t ignore it.
Can you name a few marketers who are doing a particularly good job?
Huser: The ones that I like align to my lifestyle.
Publishers like Rolling Stone show amazing photography, accompanied by a caption of the behind-the-scenes stories from the actual shoot. As a music buff, I love those stories.
Patagonia does a great job of presenting beautiful photography of people doing crazy things in spectacular places.
But the brands that I’d like to work with, that are currently doing a pretty good job, include Intel, which presents visuals of the amazing innovations that their products fuel.
Altra, the running shoe company, does a great job of making me wish I was outdoors running with their photography.
There is a hotel in Austin called the Hotel St. Cecilia that does a great job of presenting aspirational lifestyle images of scenes at their hotel (it is humbling to realize that I am not very cool). I tend to follow the smaller, upstart brands who are still very true to the DNA of who they are.
Heineken did an interesting stunt in 2014 around the U.S. Open, but I’m not sure they consistently show up well.
Netflix is currently running a promotion for someone to travel the world and post on their behalf, which could be interesting.
What Instagram blunders have you come across?
Huser: Not having a strategy. I don’t want to see images of your product. Work to align your brand with my lifestyle. A marketer’s content should have a purpose. Repurposed content on Instagram does not work.
If you do [have a strategy] and have compelling content, it could be your strongest media channel. Every follower will be an advocate.