Instagram to Insta-Brand EngagementYeah, a picture’s worth a thousand words. But if you Instagram that ish, it’s worth a huge audience and some serious consumer engagement.

While it seems like only last year that Instagram was the exclusive domain of teens and young adults posting selfies and sunsets, the photo-sharing platform is now the 7th most popular mobile app and 5th leading social media site in the US. And with an audience of 200 million users, it’s no surprise that big brands are all over it; currently, 43 percent of the Top 100 brands post daily on the platform.

The best part? It’s actually effective.

According to a recent report from Olapic and L2, Instagram is the “best media acquisition of the last five years” (purchased two years ago by Facebook) due to explosive growth and high engagement rates. Here’s a fun stat to chew on: engagement rates on Instagram are 15 times higher than those on Facebook.

When it comes to mobile—which, as you know, is the future of everything—Instagram is a force to be reckoned with. Around 40.5 million monthly active users engage with Instagram, compared to 37.3 million who use Twitter. And it’s only expected to rise from there.

So why is it that compelling?

Visual content is essential to attracting audience attention these days. It just so happens that Instagram is great place to display not only company products, but the essence of a brand as well. Whether you want to inspire an audience to help others, or offer sneak peeks of new products, Instagram allows an organization to present itself in a lively and appealing way. And transparency doesn’t get any better than that.

Marketers must negotiate the thin line between content that is entertaining and relevant but not overly promotional and salesy. To best leverage Instagram for your marketing efforts, try these best practices:

What to Post

Successful brands often share features on customers, employees, new and old products, behind-the-scenes images, inspirational quotes, ideas for consumers, and more. Basically, the sky’s the limit. Instead of simply posting product pictures of its many delicious flavors of Chobani Greek yogurt, the company’s marketing team inspires followers to use Chobani products in healthy recipes like smoothies and peach pancakes.

Brands typically post five or six pieces of content to Instagram a week. Know what your audience likes and what will get attention. Using a buyer persona, you can leverage vital information to help determine what gets them engaged. Once you have ideas, consider organizing them in an editorial calendar.


In response to Vine’s 6.5-second videos, Instagram last year unveiled a 15-second video function that also has editing and filtering capabilities. The apparel retailer H&M does a great job of this, posting clips from events, such as runway shows, as well as behind the scenes footage—exclusive content consumers wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.


Instagram hashtags, similar to Twitter’s, are a great way to expand your audience and get discovered by new users. While you can create unique hashtags to encourage engagement with followers, you should typically stick to popular and relevant tags. Hopping on the trending hashtag bandwagon is another great way to raise your profile. No doubt there are a few April Fool’s tags circulating out there right now.

Photo contests

Many brands, such as Sony, often encourage followers to engage by creating photo contests. Followers post a picture with a specific theme, captioned with a unique hashtag specifically created for the contest.

Discount codes and Promos

If you’re a major retailer, reward followers for viewing your content by offering discount codes in photo captions. What better way to move consumers to make a purchase than by showing a little love and appreciation?

Display Your Creativity

My favorite creative brand on Instagram right now is Starbucks. From decorated cups to fun designs on lattes, to pictures made with coffee beans, I actually look forward to seeing what they’re going to create and post—and that’s no coincidence. Don’t be afraid to push the limits and have fun with your content. After all, there’s no work without a little play (unless you want to be a dull boy or girl).

For more great ideas on how to best utilize Instagram for social media marketing, be sure to check out Instagram’s business blog.

Image from Viral Heat.