5 Tips for Making Instagram Work for Your Brand

With more than 90 million active monthly users, 8,500 likes per minute and 40 million photo uploads per day, Instagram has quickly become a key player in the quest to help brands connect with their customers and fans. A recent study found 40% of the brands listed in Interbrand’s Top 100 Global Brands are already using Instagram as part of their social strategy.

Social apps like Instagram have made it easier than ever for people to capture snapshots of their lives and share these moments with their social networks. From a game day view of the field to a favorite spot in the city, a busy dog park to the perfect wedding cake, people are sharing life visually—and for brands, that means a whole new way to connect with the people talking about, using and sharing information about their product or service.

Using Instagram is easy, but integrating it into your overall social strategy requires a little more thought. We have put together five simple tips for making Instagram work for your brand.

1. Share your customers’ photos.
Sharing and acknowledging your customers’ photos creates an authentic, emotional connection between your customers and your brand. People are delighted when the brands and services they use value and share their passion.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, a Columbus, Ohio-based ice cream company, does a great job of celebrating its fans. Check out how Jeni’s is curating and sharing Instagram photos posted by customers enjoying its ice cream on the brand’s Pinterest page.

2. Give people a glimpse behind the scenes.
Behind every product or service there is a story to tell about purpose, passion and people. Your customers know what you sell, but they may not know the story behind how or why you do it.

Telling your brand story doesn’t need to come off like a self-promotional advertising pitch. When you give customers a peek behind the curtain by sharing behind-the-scenes photos, you extend an open invitation for others to become part of what you do and how you do it. This is also a great way to introduce the people who love your brand to the people who make your product or service possible.

The #Indy500orBust campaign is creating excitement leading up to race day in May by giving fans a behind-the-scenes peek at prep, practice, and teasers from their drivers. By creating a pre-race experience, Indy 500 has ignited an ongoing conversation and given race fans a reason to keep checking back. The campaign ensures that instead of just talking about race day on race day, fans will be talking, sharing and engaging in the months leading up to the event.

3. Share with the right frequency.
Determining how often your customers and potential customers want to hear from your brand is a critical part of keeping them engaged. Do your homework. Explore how your customers are already engaging and sharing, and develop a social strategy that allows your brand to organically join those conversations.

When and where are they taking photos? What kinds of things are they photographing? How are they sharing the images they capture? And who are they sharing them with? Using date range searches and labels allows you to explore what your customers are sharing during a particular event or at a specific time by filtering and sorting by keyword and category.

4. Focus on lifestyle instead of brand.
Homage is a Columbus-based t-shirt retailer. The brand professes to “turn back the clock with shout outs to eclectic moments and personalities in sports, music, politics and popular culture with t-shirts that tell stories of triumph, individualism and hustle.” Their product is undeniably great, but rather than focusing solely on what they make, Homage uses Instagram to share photos that embody the spirit and culture of the brand. (And, yes, they sprinkle in a few photos of their own shirts here and there, too.)

When you know your customers, you are better able to share images that support their lifestyles and pique their interests. For example, an animal rescue group might feature photos of adopted animals with their new families, while a bike shop could run a campaign asking fans to submit photos of their first bike. Photo sharing is a great way to create a visual persona for your brand. When people can see who you are and what you’re about, they want to be a part of it.

5.  Give a little bit of encouragement.
Photo contests and campaigns are great ways to encourage customers to snap and share photos. Benefit Cosmetics recently launched a contest rewarding fans for taking and sharing photos of their “glambulances” (bright pink SUVs) out and about in San Francisco. By simply hashtagging Instagram photos with #BeautyRescue, fans were eligible to win a Benefit prize pack.

In addition to hosting contests and campaigns, liking and commenting on customer images in Instagram is a simple way to make customers and fans feel valued and important. With just a small investment of time and energy you can grow your brand sentiment, increasing the likelihood that that the people you’re talking to will continue talking about you long after the campaign is over.

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