Are you using Instagram yet? You probably are at least on a personal level – it’s been about for the best part of 6 years already, and, for my money at least, is one of the most interesting and engaging social media platforms.
Of course, part of Instagram’s popularity – it’s up to 400 million active monthly users, you know – is down to the fact that it is a solely visual social network. To be honest, when it launched in 2006, it was always going to be a resounding success – there wasn’t really anything else like it.
How is Instagram different
Indeed, it has to be said that out of the line up of usual suspects – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ – Instagram is undoubtedly the ‘hip’ one. There’s a coolness to the platform that I suppose stems from the fact that it’s all about showcasing amateur art in the form of photography.
Users of Instagram do not post up pictures of what they did over the weekend, like they do on Facebook. Nor do they offer any form of written mini-blog, as is the case with the likes of Tumblr and Twitter. And, perhaps least of all would you describe Instagram as a “professional network” as you would LinkedIn.
No, Instagram is about engaging and connecting with your audience through the visual medium of photography – and short videos as the site has evolved.
And when I say “photography”, I mean photography. That is to say that I do not mean pictures, snaps, or anything similar that suggests the fickle. Now, this doesn’t mean that Instagram is lacking in all sense of fun and frivolity, for there is much photography that finds a happy home on Instagram precisely because of its wit and satire. But what it does mean is that there is an underlying seriousness behind the content that is posted on Instagram, and indeed the driving ethos that drives the Instagram community.
Marketing on Instagram
This of course presents a pretty large challenge for the online marketer. For, if there’s one thing that the ‘hip’ crowd on Instagram cannot abide is “in yer face” promotional posts. Some brands of course try this, but they really do stick out like a sore thumb on an Instagram news feed – and not in a good way.
No, those brands that are successful on Instagram play by the rules of the platform. They produce great photography, first and foremost, and although the odd direct marketing message finds its way into the post, they do so with wit, originality and a coolness that is germane to the ethos, the audience and the network as a whole.
So, how do you go about standing out on a platform such as this, whilst still playing within the “rules” and not angering an otherwise happy community by being too “in yer face” with marketing? Well, I’ve got three super cool tips that will help you get there. I hope you enjoy them, and please let us know if you have any others in the comments section below.
Three ways to start getting noticed on Instagram
1. Use hashtags
In the building where I used to work in Cornwall, UK, I became very friendly with the chaps working in the next door office. They had created the Social Dining Network – a social network in its absolute infancy that brought people together over great food at local dining establishments. It’s a great idea, and am happy to say that I’m still a member.
However, try as I might, I could not get through to the owners how important hashtagging was for all of their social networks, but especially their Instagram account. Indeed, even to this day, they still insist on only including their own hashtag #socialdiningnetwork when posting to Instagram. It’s infuriating because I genuinely believe that they could have grown to twice the size they are now if only they included a few more popular hashtags in their posts.
And I’m talking really simple things here like #Cornwall, #food, #foodporn or #instafood. These are hashtags that have massive exposure – but who the hell has heard of #socialdiningnetwork? But that’s the hashtag that they want to be associated with, and, I’m sorry, boys, but your business growth is suffering as a result.
Hashtags are the only way to search on Instagram. Users follow hashtags, and, if you want your images to be discovered, then you have to use them. There will no doubt already be a whole bunch of hashtags that are popular that surround your industry, and you can start piggy-backing these right off the bat. And then, once you’ve built up a following as a meaningful contributor to one or more of these hashtags, then you will naturally find your brand’s hashtag being used by others, and your exposure and thusly your business will grow. Please – do this for me!!
2. Host a photography competition
As I went at lengths to explain in my introduction, Instagram is all about photography, not simply pictures. And so, it makes great sense to utilise the platform for the very purpose that it was built, and encourage some creativity from your followers by organising a photography competition.
Now, you obviously want to tie this into your brand, and you will of course want to create a theme for the photography. So, my recommendation is to encourage entrants to take photographs that use your product in some way or another. This way, you are also engendering a culture of user-generated content that will become associated with your site – something which, in marketing terms, is priceless.
Take #Oreo, for example. The famous marketing team behind everyone’s favourite cookie have created the #PlayWithOreo hashtag, which fans of the biscuit use when uploading Instagram pics using the product in unique and fun ways. Although this isn’t based on a competition, it is nonetheless a great example of what user-generated content can do to a profile. Here are a couple of recent examples.
3. Become a curator
You should be posting regularly to Instagram – that’s a given for any platform that you want to get noticed on. But, if you really want to grow your audience, then turn your Instagram account into something that fans of your industry won’t be able to miss – and you can do this by becoming a content curator as well as creator.
Whatever your industry – food, makeup, dogs, words, marketing – there is a hugely targeted following that you will be able to tap into, provided that you are constantly good for delivering the very best images to this dedicated group. Indeed, some of the best influencers on Instagram use the trick of curation to build a super-targeted following. By doing so, these marketers are essentially branding themselves as experts in their field, and make their accounts unmissable by the masses.
For a great example, check out Instagram’s very own Instagram page – @Instagram – probably the most important account that any marketer can follow on Instagram, and made up entirely of curated content showcasing the very best photographs as produced by Instagram users all around the globe. Genius.
Got any more hot Instagram tips? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.