If you're not yet familiar (and in love with) Instagram, it's an app that adds instant artiness to your phone pictures, with fun filters and easy-to-use editing tools.
You have seen Instagrammed photos, even if you're not aware of it; they are those sepia-toned or diffused, square photos, with borders or cool effects, that your friends upload to Facebook and Twitter. There's a reason it feels like they are everywhere: in the three years since it launched, Instagram has notched up over 100 million active monthly users.
Brands have been quick to adopt Instagram as their photo service of choice because, although many users post to the Instagram site, it is also really easy to share images across social media sites. Sixty-seven percent of top brands are now using Instagram, which they see as a great platform for reaching new, younger, tech-aware audiences.
Here are a few examples of brands getting creative and really tapping into the Instagram potential:
Ford used Instagram to create a Europe-wide campaign based around the new Fiesta's stylish features, hosted on the official Ford Fiesta Facebook page. Each week, people were encouraged to submit photos tagged with #Fiestagram. The best photos were shown on live digital billboards across Europe, as well as in online galleries, and the very best won prizes including a brand new Ford Fiesta as the top prize.
More than 16,000 photos were submitted to the contest and Ford's Facebook community gained 120,000 new fans during the six-week campaign, with hundreds of thousands of visitors coming to the galleries to view the submissions. The campaign successfully raised awareness of the new Fiesta across the Instagram community, Ford's target demographic.
Nike's cool new NikeiD campaign to promote its customizable shoes lets Instagram users upload their favorite photo onto the PhotoiD site and choose a shoe to superimpose... which is then colored to fit the background image.
There's a design gallery on the website, so you can get inspiration based on what other people have created, then share your creativity with others. Of course, if you really love your design, you can always buy a pair of your customized shoes for yourself!
Red Bull has been an early adopter of many social media innovations and several of their campaigns have pushed the boundaries of marketing, blurring the line between brand awareness and entertainment.
On October14, 2012, skydiver Felix Baumgartner successfully jumped 127,900 feet from space and became the first person to break the sound barrier without vehicular power on his descent. His sponsor, Red Bull, created a 360 degree social media campaign around the event. Their use of Instagram captured people's imaginations, with their step-by-step portrayal of the preparation leading up to the feat.
Red Bull posted 3,800 pictures in the run up to the jump, giving fans an insider's view as it happened. Red Bull's creative use of Instagram has earned it over 750,000 followers.
Clothing company Free People has Instagram as a central feature of their website. The company uses the app to turn customers into models by asking them to post photos of themselves wearing their favorite Free People fashion. These are added to the website, so that customers can see how the product looks in real life, in a variety of styles.
People can add comments and likes, and build up a whole conversation around the looks that fans create. This is a great way to make customers part of your brand using images as inspiration.
Starbucks has always been a leader in generating brand conversations centered around the customer. The company encourages its fans, for example, to join in discussions about new products on the My Starbucks Idea forum, and celebrate successful customer contributions.
Starbucks' Instagram page captures aspects of their brand's ethos through some beautiful images, showing a creative, whimsical side to the brand. But what really sets it apart is the call to action at the top of their page: "Tag your coffee photos with #Starbucks!" Their customers are encouraged to take pictures showing how Starbucks fits into their daily lives, generating a vast photo record of fans' interaction with the brand.
These five companies are all using Instagram in different ways; in campaigns, as part of their website, to generate conversations, or to show a different side to their brand. The high level of customer interaction shows how popular using images can be with your fans. It also demonstrates that simple calls to action, such as asking fans to tag photos and upload their own images, can inspire people to come along on your brand's visual journey.
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Ekaterina Walter is a Partner and CMO at Branderati. She is a social media trailblazer and an author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller "Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg." A recognized business and marketing thought leader, she is a sought-after international speaker and a regular contributor to leading-edge print and online publications. Ekaterina has been consistently recognized by the industry and her peers for her innovative thinking, most recently receiving a Marketer of the Year honor (2013 SoMe Awards). She sits on a Board of Directors of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and is an active member of the Thunderbird Global Council at Thunderbird School of Global Management. You can follow her on Twitter: @Ekaterina.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT