social media how toHave you noticed how more marketers are using images in their social media marketing?

Would you like to know how your business can use the popular sharing site Instagram?

In this article, I will show you five ways to use Instagram to enhance your marketing.

Why Instagram?

In the last few years, the use of Instagram by companies has skyrocketed. With millions of users, Instagram has become the perfect opportunity for brands to get quick messages and photos to their target audiences.

When Instagram started out, it was simply a way to post pictures with your fans and did not have a lot of marketing value.

However, in the last few years Instagram has proven to be an effective platform for marketers to reach a new audience in a way the audience wants to be marketed to: with visuals and short messages.

search for marketing

Search for "marketing" on Instagram.

When creating your marketing strategy, do not forget about this great—yet underutilized—platform.

Here are five ways that you can use Instagram to achieve your marketing goals.

#1: Use Instagram Profiles to Reach a Wider Audience

Users waited a long time for Instagram to have a web presence in addition to the mobile app. Even though Instagram is now available on both Android and iPhone devices, there are still many people who would like access to it on the web.

The launch of Instagram profiles in November 2012 gave marketers an opportunity to market on other devices besides mobile.

humbspot instagram profile

HubSpot's Instagram profile.

Instagram pictures provide a great collage and give your audience a better insight into your company. You can promote anything your company may be doing—from products/services to employees to customers to conferences.

Take advantage of the increased real estate you have with the Instagram web page to tell a story with the images. Have a healthy balance of fun images and business pictures.

Use your Instagram profile to make it easy for everyone to see your story. You may want to include pictures with calls to action to your website or pictures of employees working and give some information about what they do for the company. Think strategically about how your Instagram account looks once all of the pictures are put together on one page.

#2: Create Engagement With Contests

Instagram has become a popular platform to use for photo contests. Contests are easy to do on Instagram.

Companies can easily ask users to use a particular hashtag for the contest by tagging their pictures. It’s easy to search through pictures, ask other people to vote for their favorite pictures and pick a winner.


Instagram Search for #SonyLove.

Sony is a great example of a company that has used photo contests in a few of their campaigns. After the success of their #SonyX picture contest, they decided to try it again with #Sonylove.

For this contest, Sony asked people to first follow them on Instagram and then post pictures of anything that represents “love.” The pictures could be anything that represents love to you, like a person, product, place or anything. One person at random was chosen every day to win a $50 Sony Store gift card. Other winners would get some of the new Sony merchandise based on appropriateness to theme, originality, creativity and technique.

Sony’s contest is a great example of how to get more Instagram followers and increase your current Instagram followers’ engagement with your brand.

Just like any other social media platform, it’s important to regularly post engaging content. And also consider creating a contest to remind fans of why they should follow your brand. It’s a great way to influence engagement.

#3: Reward Followers With Promo Codes

When posting your pictures, think about something that will keep your audience’s attention and have them coming back for more. Reward your followers for looking at your pictures and reading the descriptions. For some companies, that’s a contest; for other companies, that may be including discounts or promo codes.


TopShop's Instagram mobile profile.

TopShop is a women’s clothing store with an Instagram following of over 473,000. They frequently post pictures of their clothes and accessories and even shoppers. They have kept their audience highly engaged by including promotional codes in some of their posts. This has kept their follower numbers high. Also, their comments and likes on each picture can reach the thousands.

Find out what your audience wants and use that to keep them engaged. Often, this is the way businesses will keep their followers on other social media platforms excited and engaged, but the same principles should be applied on Instagram.

Think about what you know about your audience, from their demographic information to what gets their attention, and consider that when putting together your editorial calendar for Instagram. Yes, it is helpful to have an editorial calendar to maintain consistent content.

Before adding promo codes to your campaign, think about whether they are relevant to your audience. If they are, find unique or creative ways to share them on Instagram. Not only will your followers appreciate the codes, but Instagram is also a creative way to give them away.

#4: Feature Your Customers

There’s nothing like seeing a friendly face on social media when you are looking at a company’s page. Customers are your brand’s greatest advocates and are a great way to tell your company’s story from the perspective of someone outside the company.

With hundreds or thousands of reviews available online about your company, products or services, it’s only fair to include some reviews of your own, right from your customers.

Use Instagram to take a quick picture of your customers and showcase a sneak peek into what the experience with your brand is like.

virgin america

Virgin America delighting their customers.

Virgin America airlines is the perfect example of a company that likes to show their brand experience through Instagram. They frequently post pictures of surprises they give to their customers, where their customers are going, snapshots of their customers with celebrities including the CEO of the Virgin Group Richard Branson and shout-outs to sponsors that make their brand experience even more memorable.

Fans who follow Virgin America on Instagram associate them with a brand experience unlike any other airline. By engaging with their fans and showing happy customers who could really be anyone, the company is able to achieve goals by utilizing Instagram.

When you post a picture, try to think how you can showcase your brand values while highlighting your customers’ experience.

Use Instagram to feature your customers to facilitate and improve the connection you have with your audience. In addition to making your customers happy, you will put a face to your brand—something that is valuable for your audience.

#5: Get More Interest in Your Events

The goal of any event or trade show is to attract people to teach them about your product and service and hopefully turn them into customers. Instagram can help with that goal to give event attendees a visual and location for your event.

Most conferences have a hashtag that attendees can follow on Twitter and Instagram that can be used to show others everything that’s going on, whether it’s visual or in 140 characters.


Appirio at Dreamforce 2012.

At Dreamforce 2012, Appirio promoted their booth area to show the engaging visual work that they were doing and also give a booth location using the hashtag #df12.

Adding Instagram to your event marketing mix can help you reach more people, get more people to visit your booth and increase engagement with your audience. By following the hashtag of the conference, attendees are drawn to your Instagram shot and able to locate your booth quicker. At small or large conferences, this can come in handy to stand out from the crowd.

When thinking about your marketing strategy for an event, figure out your messaging and also use your booth number. Put your booth number on every piece of collateral you give out and make it easy to find online. This means when you are tweeting, posting on Facebook or using Instagram, you’ll make it as easy as possible for conference attendees to find the location of your booth (and possibly provide them with a visual to entice them even more).

Add Instagram to Your Marketing Tools

When you think about Instagram, you may think that only B2C companies can use it.

However, it has proven over the last year to be an extremely valuable tool for B2B companies as well.

Between using it at events, for promotions, and most importantly, to connect with your customers and prospects, it should be on your list of platforms to use.

Customers want a personal experience with a brand that is engaging and accessible. Instagram allows the brand to do this in real time while giving users a different experience than customers using other platforms.

To download Instagram, visit their web page and begin connecting with other people and companies in your industry. This is a great way to get examples of what you could do, and then adopt it yourself.

What do you think? What other ways can marketers use Instagram? Please leave your comments and questions in the box below.

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  • jasbanwait

    Is there any information on the demographics on who uses instagram? This would help answer the question of whether instagram is right for your business.. (womenswear in the US – YES etc..)

  • Interesting post Rachel! I have yet to try Instagram, but if it will be a powerful tool for podcasters like me to market my interviews then, it’s going to be worth a try. 

    Have an AWESOME Wednesday SME peeps!

    ~John Lee Dumas

  • Nice article, Rachel. It’s true that 2012 has been a prolific year for B2Bs on Instagram, and I think 2013 keep on the same trend.
    You are right: Instagram is great to give a sense of closeness with the brand to fans, especially by showing photos of customers. I’d advise brands do to this extensively but methodically and carefully: some customers do not want to get featured on a brand’s Instagram feed, as was showed during the Instagram ToS debacle in December. So be sure to get their approval first. This also goes for contests, another great strategy and practice on Instagram, which can be even better if your brand is clear with its intentions from the get go: be very open about what is going to happen to the user generated content gathered by the contest. For example, Ben & Jerry’s are using the photos on local ads in newspapers, and it’s going well so far because they have been very open about this intention from the get-go, it’s actually the reward of their contest.

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  • dannyrohrdanz

    The game changes when Instagram launches their advertising platform similar to Facebook’s Sponsored Stories. Should get interesting! 

  • Rachel Sprung

    Here is a Pew Report that should help!

  • Instagram is a great tool, especially for fashionable businesses. Some form of metric would be great in the future!

  • Sarah Bauer

    I love the Sony “Love” competition example because it shows how businesses don’t necessarily need super glamourous products or photographers on staff to build a following on photo sharing platforms. It’s about putting the creativity back in the hands of users! No business should feel left out! 

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • Becky Fox

    Awesome article! Thanks. Was looking for some tips on using Instagram for my fitness biz and definitely got them here! 😉

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  • Such an awesome post and great compelling reasons to put
    Instagram in the mix.  Makes my mind spin
    when just this week so many good reasons have been given to use Facebook,
    Twitter, Linkedin and even the new Myspace by great guest on SME.

  • Pew did a study back in Sep 2012 on demographics… there is a specific summary on instagram. Check here:

  • Jamesoh

    Wow great article and thanks for sharing. Will try it out in the near future.

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  • Dan Strang

    Great post and definitely true. We have found lots of brands approaching us to try and integrate Instagram into their events. For point #5 Eventstagram is It perfect solution.

  • Great post. I’ve never got into Instagram before but have just signed up. Social media is a New Year resolution and so far, I’m failing! I’ve got renewed enthusiasm now. Thanks.

  • Jenillustre

    Thanks for the SM tip. However, is there a way to make all those accounts easier to handle? What if you have Facebook, Twitter, Google plus already? Isn’t this quite redundant when you already have Pinterest too?

  • We have a variety of clients Instagram is ideal for-ski resorts, “old town” revival organizations, zoos, schools, restaurants, etc…It’s interesting to see clients’ reactions when you show them a picture really is worth a thousand words, or sales…

  • Cody Welter

    Thanks for the article Rachel, very insightful. I have a problem with Instagram that maybe you have an answer for. Just recently, I started managing our company’s Instagram. I understand the power of hashtags so I use as many as I can that are relevant to each picture. However, upon posting, I click a hashtag to see all other pictures using it, and our picture is never there. Our account is not set on “private” either, as others have suggested. I feel this is only hurting us because we are not hitting our potential audience…thoughts?

  • Rachel Sprung

    Hi Cody!

    I’m not 100% sure, but my guess would be 1 of 2 things. 1) There are so many people using certain hashtags, that the pictures that come up first are the most popular ones (based on likes). or 2) It takes awhile to sync.

  • Rachel Sprung

    Hi there!

    I think Instagram is more unique than some of the other social media platforms you mentioned.  For instance on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, there is mostly content (in addition to the occasional picture or video). Pinterest is all pictures, but they are usually categorized.  For users, Instagram gives a quick snapshot of all their followers that are often easier to digest (since they are in a visual format instead of just content).  I think certain people appreciate that summarized version more.  For example, I actually see every single picture of the people/companies I follow on Instagram, but I definitely don’t do that for the other platforms.  It’s just easier to scan and digest.

    Hope that helps!

  • Veronica Segovia

    I manage the online marketing efforts for a recruiting team at a software company. We recently launched an instagram profile to give candidates and employees a better experience. We encourage our employees to share the fun photos they take around the office and ask that they tag us. The great thing about instagram is its ability to upload to other social platforms. This allows you to share increase your reach as well. We’re looking forward to making use of contest to increase awareness of our employer brand on college campuses this spring when we go attend their career fairs and events. If you know anyone who is jobhunting, tell them to check out @vocuscareers on instagram.

  • Cody Welter

    Thanks Rachel, I’ll see if anything changes as we move forward.

  • One main question – How do you measure success beyond likes and comments? For a brand to commit resources to something like this, it’s important to show ROI beyond those basic engagement factors. If you could track web traffic, link clicks, etc. that would be different, but this is all based on awareness – which I think is great – but to convince an exec to add resources to Instagram, when you can’t show much of an ROI, it’s a tough sell.

  • Bobbie

    I love the way this article flows w new n exciting ways to build small or big businesses. Thanks!

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  • Cruisincal

    Still don’t see a way to upload pictures from my computer to Instagram. All of our photos are .jpg files from years of traveling and we don’t even have any smart phones, at least not yet.

  • Dara Khajavi

    Instagram is a fascinating social media platform. It is a very connected and groundbreaking application.  I was excited for the company when Facebook bought Instagram. I completely agree with your post, but I do not quite understand how Instagram makes money. There are no advertisements. Companies do not need to pay for profiles. Without an income, how can Instagram continue? Recently, Instagram said they would charge companies to use users’ pictures. However, Instagram users were really upset, and Instagram changed its mind. I am excited to see how Instagram will evolve to become profitable. 

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  • Thanks Rachel,
           Hopefully soon someone will do a comparison, Instagram Vs.Pinterest. I am a little confused on the differences, they seem very similar. I know both are highly popular!

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  • Like how this post gives solid ways for companies to use Instagram.  I think too much with social media, companies have it but don’t how to use social networks.  Kudos/good job 🙂

  • Rachel
    makes great notes about the benefits of tapping into the
    Instagram-as-marketing world. Followers want to see a more human side of
    business, and posting photos that engage participation and highlight
    their appreciation for their awesome customers gives businesses the
    ability to appeal to their audience on a more personal level. Plus,
    marketing through Instagram is virtually free. It’s a win/win!

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  • Steven Heath

    I do think Instagram is good for businesses

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  • Michelle

    I like the way you broke it down for me to understand, but I too don’t see how different it is from Pinterest.


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  • Affandy Senawi

    Very interesting article Rachel, well done! I am in the process of registering my company for Instagram and your post really pointed me in the right direction.

    However, I realized that there is little or no information on how many users (or admin) can be allocated per account. Unlike facebook, i can add as many admins/content creators as i want (at least i think so) but for instagram, are we limited to only one account holder? Maybe i should try getting a colleague to log in at the same time? Yup, i’ll try that. Let you know if anything good happens.

    Still crossing my fingers for desktop-posting capabilities, till then, have an awesome Wednesday!

  • Razan Ramadan

    A really nice and interesting article, thank u.
    And i’d be really thankful if u can give us some more tips on how to market for a phone application on instagram and how to attract people to follow and download a free app.

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  • geissingert

    Is there a way to have a photo contest with instagram? I was wondering if it could be done on a website or just facebook if this is possible.

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  • joana

    What do you think would be the best thing to do to promote an out of home media agency? its a billboard / led screens blabla agency

  • fariz

    nice article.. thanks

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  • Marisa Cuellar

    I don’t think many people realize how every single social media outlet can be used a tool for your business or organization. You just have to know how to use it and use it to your advantage and it can effectively work for you. I like how Jasbanwait below asked if there were any demographics on who used instagram. I never even thought you could look that up that way you can start adding and start following users based on what their likes are pertained to. Thanks for the post!

  • AlisaMeredith

    My thoughts exactly, Worob. I can see it for event-based or B2C businesses, but for B2B, it’s just tough. For now, Pinterest is the winner in marketing for them.

  • Priyanka G

    Can I reward users (via API) to post pictures with a certain hashtag on Instagram. Instagram states ‘

    Use the Instagram APIs to spam, incentivize, or harass users.’ does it clash with the policy then?