social media how toDo you want to use Instagram to add value to your brand?

Are you looking for innovative ways to get your customers (and employees) to post Instagram pictures?

Then keep reading because I’m going to show you four ways to bring your “A game” to Instagram and wow your fans.

Why Customer Instagram Pictures?

Instagram was the fastest-rising social media channel for brands in 2013.

You probably already know it’s an effective platform for branding and marketing your products and growing your community.

But what you may not know is that Instagram is a powerful tool to collect customer-created content you can reuse to your advantage.

#1: Enhance Your Online (and Offline) Store With Customer Photos

Visuals greatly impact the behavior of shoppers. Most brands just snap a photo of the product and share it across all social channels, which may work sometimes. But you can take it a step further by crowdsourcing photos on Instagram.

When customers see photos of other “regular” people using a product, they’re more likely to buy. Why? This kind of social proof is a powerful motivator. Visitors gain trust by seeing others use the products they are about to buy.

Let’s take the clothing industry, for example. The biggest mistake clothing brands make on Instagram is showing bland product photos—clothing worn by hired models, usually with a white background.

nastygal instagram content

Nasty Gal’s The Click gallery powered by olapic features selfies of fans wearing the brand’s clothes.

Nasty Gal clothing company saw an opportunity and started showcasing their fans’ Instagram pictures on their website via olapic. The company has had a 5% increase in overall conversions since implementing the olapic galleries.

#2: Make Instagram Fan Photos Into Stop-Motion Videos

Vine may have made stop-motion video easy to create and easy to consume, but Instagram video is winning the popularity contest. Your fans are using Instagram to take the photos you’re using, so it makes sense to share your videos there, where they’re most likely to see them.

Lexus reached a younger, tech-savvy audience by using its fans’ Instagram images to create this video.

Lexus took advantage of fan images for their aptly titled #LexusInstaFilm (shown above) where a group of 200 Instagrammers met on a racetrack to capture the brand’s new IS F model. Lexus pooled those photos and created a short video to share on Instagram and other social channels.

#3: Create Ads With Customer Instagram Submissions

In 2012, Instagram proposed changes to its terms of service that would allow it to sell your photos to brands for advertising purposes. There was uproar from the masses and Instagram quickly changed its tune.

Based on the uproar, you’d think Instagrammers wouldn’t want their images used in advertising at all. Who in their right mind would voluntarily send his or her own photos to brands so they can use them for advertising? A lot of people.

It’s all about choice and control. People are willing to give out their photos to be used as ads if the transaction between brands and fans is clear from the start. It helps if the fan gets something in return.

ben and jerry's instagram contest

Wouldn’t you love to see your name in lights and get some new followers to boot?

That’s what Ben & Jerry’s banked on with their Capture Euphoria campaign. The social-friendly ice cream company ran a simple hashtag campaign to gather earned content. Fans were invited to share their pictures using the #CaptureEuphoria hashtag, then the photos were voted on and the best won a prize.

This is where it gets interesting. What was the prize in question? Taking the winner’s Instagram photo and transforming it into a real-life ad (including print, billboards and bus-stop posters) that included the winner’s Instagram username.

#4: Recruit Employees

Attracting and retaining talent are challenging for any brand. Most companies don’t consider Instagram as a recruiting tool, but Levi’s had great success with this unique idea.

The key to a great Instagram feed that people want to follow is sharing expertly shot Instagram photos on a regular basis. Levi’s leveraged their popular feed to lead a model-scouting campaign.

iamlevis instagram campaign

Levi’s launched an Instagram campaign to seek new talent.

Levi’s used photo and video sharing as a way to gather applications. They cut out the middlemen and directly sourced candidates via Instagram selfies.

Levi’s told fans up front that anyone using #iamlevis in their pictures or captions was granting Levi’s permission to use their photos in campaigns. Applicants knowingly used the hashtag to notify the brand of their interest in the job.

To track applications, Levi’s recruiters ran hashtag searches to scan applicants.

You could easily apply this type of campaign to any brand need. For example, nonprofits could do the same to hire volunteers.

What ideas do you have?

The diverse ways to get customers and fans to create content is one of the reasons Instagram is such a rich and growing platform for social marketers. Marketers are sure to appreciate this earned media and the level of engagement with their audience.

Does your audience share what they like with you online? Then you may want to look into ways to leverage this on Instagram.

What’s even better is that most of the examples here cost little to nothing and are easily replicated by businesses of all sizes.

What about you? Have you ever worked with Instagram fans to implement a grassroots marketing campaign? We’d love to hear about your experiences and ideas. Please leave your thoughts and comments below!

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  • Adrienne

    Our nonprofit has seen pretty impressive results using Instagram to connect with cancer fighters. We’re running a pose-based meme campaign called #Ribboning. It’s similar to planking/owling but showing support for cancer fighters. We’ve always struggled with photo submission requests on FB and Twitter, it makes sense that as a photo sharing platform Instagram would work best, but I’ve been surprised at how quickly we’ve gained followers and how much higher the ratio of photo likes to followers is on Instagram versus Facebook. For the effort vs. output, Instagram has been the most effective platform we’ve invested in. We use Flickr as a photo mapping tool, but haven’t been able to get a lot of interaction there.

  • We allow customers to submit photos from their Instagram feed or Facebook feed as a competition entry. Allows you to ask them to get creative, plus also drives brand awareness & more entrants too 🙂

  • Good article. I would probably include some driving traffic strategies that would provide additional business benefits (e.g.: revenue, brand awareness, contact details…) E.g.: running a competition where you ask followers to send their Instagram pictures os a store launch or new product. If the promotion is well structured, not only you may have a lot of user content, but also additional business results…

  • treb072410

    Great article, it is very informative.. Thanks for sharing!

  • That’s great, Adrienne. Happy to hear the positive results for your nonnprofit!

  • That’s great @Gleamapp:disqus, care to share your brand name so I can check out the submissions? Always interested in Instagram contests.

  • Indeed, these methods can be used for various purposes, an important one being driving awareness. I’ve seen quite a few brands relying heavily on Instagram while launching a new store or product. On this article, I was focusing on the various, concrete kind of uses brands can do with user submitted content. The context where these submissions happen is up to the brand, of course!

  • You’re welcome @treb072410:disqus !

  • Hey @davoult:disqus, we run the platform that powers the contests. Happy to show you some examples offline.

  • Beth

    Good info, here! How do you recommend managing the people who may try and crash your photo campaign with inappropriate or spammy entires?

  • If they really are inappropriate or spammy by Instagram’s rules, you can start by reporting them.
    If you set up a stream where new Instagram entries appear, make sure you have a way of filtering out unwanted content. This can be done either as an “approve all but content can be deleted” rule, or on a case-by-case selection basis.

    In the Ben & Jerry’s example, the feed was set up to show every submission but the admin team could delete unwanted content afterwards. This didn’t prevent a bit of bad publicity when some jokers sent offensives photos, which was reported on Business Insider. After a while, the photos were removed from the feed if I remember correctly.

    I’d say, for a small to medium sized brand, authorizing entries on a case-by-case basis is the best way to go.