5 Ways to Grow Your Exposure With Instagram

social media how toWondering if the rapidly growing Instagram photo sharing community could benefit your business?

As teens quickly migrate to Instagram, could their photo sharing addictions include your pictures?

Instagram was the smartphone photo sharing tool of choice long before its acquisition by Facebook and the release of an Android version. And it’s growing faster than ever.

What Is Instagram?

instagram

Instagram makes sharing pictures easy.

Instagram is a free application for iPhone or Android that lets people take photos, apply filters to change the look of the photos and then share them. Users can share them on Instagram while also choosing to share them to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare.

twitter tumblr foursquare facebook

Instagram photos (from left to right) on Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and Facebook.

Like most social networks, users can accrue followers who will see their photos. The use of hashtags is encouraged as a method of photo discovery.

Instagram is unusual in that users review their photos via the app only, not online. However, several websites, including Pinstagram, Webstagram and Statigram, provide that ability.

In the last year, photo sharing has become an increasingly popular method of social sharing.

Facebook has made photos a bigger part of their experience, Pinterest has exploded in part because of their simple photo-based interface and brands are seeing increased engagement from sharing visual updates online.

This represents a great opportunity for businesses to participate in this thriving community. Like all communities, however, you need to do it right to be accepted.

Here are 5 ways to grow your presence on Instagram.

#1: Discover how you are pictured as a company

Part of joining any community is listening first.

For many brands, there are already hundreds or even thousands of pictures of your products.

For example, as of this writing:

  • #BestBuy: 13,361 photos
  • #Sharpie: 69,402 photos
  • #Skittles: 68,924 photos
  • #Samsung*: 113,723 photos
  • #Jeep*: 127,464 photos

You can discover photos either in the Instagram app itself, under Explore > Hashtags or in one of the websites that provides an online version of Instagram, like Webstagram or Statigram.

sharpie

Webstagram search results for #Sharpie.

sharpie photos instagram

Several of the many #Sharpie photos on Instagram.

When you do this, you’ll learn at least two things about your brand. First, you’ll see which hashtags are the most popular for your brand.

For Jeep, #jeep has 124,000+ photos, while #jeepwrangler has 5,400 photos and #jeeplife has 3,400 photos.

For Sharpie, a marketing manager might be tempted to use #sharpiemarker as the hashtag, but a quick review shows the massive difference between #sharpie and #sharpiemarker in popularity.

Second, you’ll begin to see what kind of content your community already posts about your brand. This should give you a good sense of the type of content that will resonate with them.

Like most communities, blatant self-promotion is ineffective on Instagram. In fact, Instagram actively discourages it. This doesn’t mean you can’t show pictures of your product and your product in use. Just make them interesting so they can work for you.

#2: Create and promote your account

Instagram doesn’t have brand pages right now, but they’re not prohibited. Just sign up for an account. If you already have one, sign up for a second one for the brand using a different email address.

signup instagram

Signing up is quick and easy via the application.

Once you do that, it’s time to promote your content. The first step is taking good pictures and using the right hashtag for your brand, but you can go well beyond that.

Promote your account the way you promote your other channels. Just like you link to your Facebook and Twitter profiles, promote your Instagram profile.

Since Instagram is a mobile application, you can’t effectively link to your account on the web, but Webstagram and Statigram automatically compile each user’s content on a page that lets users follow that account from a web browser.

Webstagram even offers a free brand Follow button for you to customize.

follow button

Webstagram allows you to easily make a button to promote your Instagram account.

Here are screenshots of Burberry on both Webstagram and Statigram so you can compare.

burberry webstagram

Burberry shares a wide variety of pictures on Webstagram.

burberry statigram

Burberry on Statigram is more visual, but has fewer links than Webstagram.

#3: Use Instagram as your default photo app

Who has time for another social network, you may ask? That’s a reasonable question for businesses. But you already need to create content for your Twitter or Facebook account, and photo content should certainly be in the mix.

Since sharing Instagram photos on Facebook and Twitter is so easy, use Instagram as your camera app when you take pictures for your brand.

That way, you’ll be feeding Instagram while you’re feeding your other social channels. This is a way to dip your toe in the Instagram waters with very little commitment.

You can also Instagram to feed Flickr, Tumblr and/or Foursquare if you have those accounts. Just open the app, go to the Profile tab and click the gear in the upper right-hand corner. Scroll down to Sharing Settings and add whichever accounts you need.

instagram settings

Instagram's photo sharing settings allow you to feed Instagram to other social networks.

#4: Aggregate your content

Instagram has an API, so any programmer can easily pull Instagram pictures into other assets to aggregate them and display them any number of ways.

You might do this on a Facebook tab, as A&E did for Longmire, a new Western-themed drama they were working to promote.

longmire instagram

Longmire photo contest on Facebook pulled in Instagram photos.

Tiffany & Co. chose to put aggregate Instagram photos on a website. Since Tiffany is, above all else, about love (packaged in a really, really expensive blue box), they asked their followers to post a picture about love, calling the campaign “True Love in Pictures.”

Followers used the hashtag #TrueLovePictures and took photos inspired by the phrase, “It was true love when _________.”

The resulting pictures on the micro site are outstanding, as you can see in this screenshot, and they do a great job associating Tiffany with love—a nice and simple (but powerful) branding play.

love in pictures

Tiffany fans' Instagram photos are pulled in and ranked by popularity.

The site (quite cleverly) allows you to upload a photo right from your computer, apply a filter and participate without using the Instagram app.

They also include other love-inspired content and more information on their flagship New York store to complete the package.

#5: Host events or promotions for your community

Social promotions can be great ways to grow communities or increase brand awareness. Instagram is no exception. The Longmire photo contest and True Love Pictures are just two examples of brands running promotions on this platform.

Running a promotion can be as simple as asking your fans to use a specific hashtag to have their photos reviewed. (Don’t be too clever here, or fans may hijack your hashtag.) As with any promotion, cover your bases with official terms and conditions.

In fact, Instagram itself runs weekly promotions called the Weekend Hashtag Project. Statigram offers a Contest Toolkit.

Warby Parker, an eyeglass maker, hosted an Insta-Walk in New York City where they invited their fans to get together on a Sunday and take pictures together. I’m not sure how many folks attended, but they did generate 672 photos with their hashtag for the day—a strong showing for a brand with just under 12,000 followers around the world.

warby parker

Warby Parker brought their Instagram fans together in real life.

Get Started

Instagram is an unusual program. Part community, part camera and part content resource for your other communities. That enables you to use it in different ways and experiment a little bit.

In my view, it’s also less of a commitment than opening a branded Facebook page or starting a blog. You can easily open an account, take a few pictures and see where the adventure takes you.

For a lot of brands, the results may be surprisingly strong.

What do you think? Are you using Instagram? What tips do you have to share? Please leave your comments in the box below.

*Editor’s note: Samsung and Jeep are clients of the author of this post.

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About the Author, Jim Tobin

Jim Tobin is president of Ignite Social Media, the original social media agency™. He’s also the author of the 2008 book, “Social Media is a Cocktail Party.” Other posts by »




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