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5 Instagram Tactics for Brands

  |  September 14, 2011   |  Comments

Starbucks is using Instagram to engage with fans. Here's how your brand can do the same.

If your passion in life (or of course at work) is to leave as many footprints as possible in the social media sphere, you may already be an Instagram user (oops, sorry Android, Symbian, Windows, and BB users). And you'll be happy to know Klout recently announced adding Instagram into its measurement radar, so Instagram does matter for your social influence.

It may not sound as professional as being a contributor on ClickZ, but I must admit I'm totally addicted to Instagram lately (please follow me @rudileung). To the extent, I've even converted my wife, friends, and clients to jump on Instagram too. I'm so happy to learn I'm not alone. Learning from the official Instagram blog, there are over 7 million Instagram users and growth is solid. After launching on App Store for 10 months, Instagram is not yet a worldwide phenomenon (unlike Angry Birds, it is iOS exclusive). Nevertheless, this is not stopping opportunists in the marketing and advertising community flocking to it.

No surprise these early adopters are those brands/publishers/individuals that have been active in other social media platforms. Besides news networks such as ABC, National Geographic, NPR, and NBC, fashion brands such as Burberry, Club Monaco, Gucci, KateSpadeNY, Levi's, and Marc Jacobs are already sharing photos religiously. Another brand you won't miss is social media's favorite Starbucks. Oh yeah, Justin Beiber too.

Is Instagram just another photo sharing platform? Founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger don't think so. They believe Instagram is a storytelling service and it helps people to discover the world around them.

What does it mean to marketers? It means you shouldn't just upload your formal press photos or even print ads to your brand's Instagram account. Each Instagram picture should act a bit like a postcard. It tells a nice little story through a picture, a picture that can earn a smile (in Instagram's currency, a "Like") in a split second. If you are considering Instagram as just an additional social media channel for you to synchronize content, you better think twice. Let me put it this way: don't simply synchronize content between different social media channels. Your followers already on various social channels deserve to see slightly different content from you. So how can a brand leverage its presence on Instagram? Below are five basic tactics to begin with.

  1. Sneak peeks. As a brand, think deeply about who would bother to follow you on your Facebook page, Twitter (Weibo) account, and now Instagram. Are they the ones who are most loyal? Do they deserve something more unique or even exclusive? Bring them through your eyes to witness the most behind-the-scene stories. Professional photography is not required.
  2. Popular hashtags. Not every brand is as popular as Starbucks when it comes to social media. So no surprise that those Instagram pictures hashtagged with your brand name are mostly uploaded by yourself or your colleagues. Besides hashtagging your own brand, try to come up with a list of hashtags that are already used by most Instagram users. These keywords should also be relevant to your brand or marketing campaign so you'll have a better chance to be discovered by using them.
  3. Increase visibility. Initiate a campaign by inviting users to hashtag your brand as the mechanic to enter a sweepstake. It's not only a good way to crowdsource Instagram photos for your brand, but will also help to increase brand visibility. Volume does matter and user-generated content works well in this case.
  4. Campaign extension. If your brand has done a successful campaign in other social media channels, the campaign title's hashtag is also a good way to extend the conversation on Instagram. @Burberry has done a good job to migrate its "Art Of The Trench" campaign to Instagram. In fact, most pictures under #artofthetrench were not uploaded by the brand but other users. This summer, the #5more campaign by @Starbucks is also worth checking out.
  5. Geotag photos. If Instagram is about discovering stories around you, geotagging would be a good way to connect with others around you. If your brand has a defined location or more than one location, geotag photos to create location footprints for your brand. In fact, users are very likely to tap their tagged locations to explore other photos and user profiles.

With more third-party apps written based on API availability, Instagram has demonstrated numerous possibilities as a fun and creative social media platform that marketers can leverage on. The platform is still young but worth exploring. Especially if you are keen to unleash the potential of social media marketing, this is definitely a great new platform with much unexplored potential.

This column was first published Aug. 31, 2011 on ClickZ.Asia.



Rudi Leung

Rudi Leung is general manager, director of digital and social at Tribal DDB/ DDB Group Hong Kong and Guangzhou. He was formerly director of communication planning at AGENDA, an interactive agency network under the WPP/Wunderman group in Asia. He is also an exco member of Hong Kong Association of Interactive Marketing. Rudi previously held roles as VP of Carat Media Services, creative ambassador of Yahoo HK Media Services, and creative director of TBWA\Tequila\HK. In addition to his extensive experience as a creative director and copywriter in numerous leading 4As ad agencies including Ogilvy & Mather, Leo Burnett, and Bates, he has gained wide exposure in advertising for numerous MNC and local advertisers in the last 18 years. Besides advertising, Rudi is a part-time lecturer of HKU Space since 2007. In his leisure, Rudi is an active blogger and columnist of ClickZ, e-Zone, HK Economic Journal, and MetroPop Weekly. He holds an MBA from Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from UC Berkeley Extension, and Bachelor of Arts in Music from Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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