InstagramIn recent years, Instagram has become a growing phenomenon for marketers. Instagram allows you to take pictures using your cell phone and add vintage frames and camera filters to them. You can then share the photos on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Instagram marketing gives you the ability to increase the value of your brand. It allows you to connect with customers and businesses on a more personal level.

Instagram’s humble beginnings

Instagram was launched in October 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. When it began, it was a simple way to post pictures and share them with your fans. At this stage of the game, it did not have a lot of marketing value.

Instagram as a marketing powerhouse

Since then, Instagram has grown and now has over 100 million active users. While support was originally available only for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, it now supports Android phones as well.

As of June 2013, Instagram has added a new feature which allows users to record and share videos up to 15 seconds. Now, Instagram has become a proven platform where marketers can reach a new audience using visuals and short messages.

Building your brand

Many loyal fans waited a long time for Instagram to build a web presence to go along with their mobile application for Android and iPhone. Now with the Instagram webpage, you are able to use the increased real estate to tell a story with images.

Using Geo-tags to connect

One great way to promote your business using Instagram marketing is to tag images using local Geo-tags. This allows other businesses that are local to you to find your products and services. Industry leaders like Salesforce have learned to use Geo-tags wisely.

Sharing staff photos

While you don’t want to be pushy when you use Instagram for marketing, there are many great opportunities for people to get to know your business better. One of these ways is to share staff photos. You can use photos of group activities like picnics, conferences, and other events to allow your audience to see what’s happening behind the scenes. It can also be a great way to introduce people to product launches without seeming pushy. Typically, you will want to show photos that demonstrate teamwork and promote your brand image.

Another big advantage to Instagram is that you don’t need high-end equipment like you would for some other forms of social media. Images taken on an iPhone, Android, or iPad will work well when sharing these photos with your fans.

Building great customer advocates

There’s nothing quite so valuable as a friendly face on your company’s website or social media page. Having a customer be your brand advocate can be a great way to share your company story from a person who actually uses your services or products.

Using Instagram, you can encourage your customers to share photographs of themselves along with a great review for your site. If you have a physical product, this can be a great opportunity to get a picture of the customer with the product they love. This allows you to show off your brand values, and at the same time highlight your customers’ experience with your product or service.

Rewarding your followers

Whenever you post pictures on Instagram, try to make sure it is something that will keep your audience’s attention and make them want to come back and see more. Make the pictures your reward to your followers by providing incredible pictures that evoke emotion and that have great descriptions.

For this section, it is very important to really get to know your customers and followers. Take the time to think about what you know about your audience on Instagram.

Macy’s does a great job of this by showing their followers behind-the-scenes pictures of events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, runway shows, and other events. They also combine merchandise pictures in an unobtrusive way.

Building engagement photo contest

Rewarding your followers with great pictures is only part of the puzzle. Supporting a photo contest can be another great way to build engagement. Some companies have asked users to provide a particular hashtag (#) for the contest so the pictures can easily be found. Then they review all of the pictures and select the best ones to win.

Sony has used this picture contest method to build a following on Instagram. They have found it to be a great way to get more Instagram followers and even improve engagement for existing followers.

Sharpie does a great job of using its Instagram account by allowing fans to submit Sharpie drawn pictures to their account.

Photos of products?

Those of us who have used Instagram have seen some companies only post typical images of their products. History has shown that this is not a good way to market using Instagram. Companies such as Burberry have used some good alternatives. Burberry posts incredible pictures of London (where the company is located). It also posts backstage pictures from their photo shoots. While it is true they might post a rare merchandise image, it does not overwhelm the account with boring pictures of their merchandise.

Another great idea comes from Intel. They make creative images of their company’s products and ideas. One example is using a Lego man with an Intel shirt rising up “above the bar”.

Virgin America asked people to tag their travel pics with the company so they can follow along on the trip. These images show the great times people are having on their vacation and make the airline look great in the process.

What is your return on investment?

Most businesses want to know the return on investment for time spent in social media marketing. Instagram is no exception. One thing you should remember is that Instagram marketing is about more than just numbers. It allows you to connect with your customers on a more personal level, and build your brand loyalty. Furthermore, there are SEO benefits due to the increased social signals. There are also Instagram analytics tools which will give you the ability to look at your marketing weak points, strengths, and level of engagement.

Conclusion

As you can see, Instagram offers some creative ways to help market your company. Please don’t make the mistake of simply providing pictures of your products and expect to have a rabid following. You’re going to need to get more creative to succeed on Instagram, but in the end it will all be worth it.