If in 2012 Instagram was used by 54% of the top Interbrand 100 companies, this year the numbers increased considerably, as Instagram grew in popularity among businesses. A recent study by Simple Measured shows that Instagram attracted 67 percent of the top brands in the world, despite being acquired by Facebook, and also despite several copyright and privacy issues that attracted public and media criticism in the past.
But aside the “top dogs”, Instagram is used by many small businesses, and used well. Most brands on Instagram use the service to give a “human face” to their services, and many are savvy enough to use it creatively, to attract community, stimulate purchases, and eventually boost ROI.
The Human Face
For small businesses, putting a face behind a name is smart PR: Instagram is, after all, social media, albeit in its “mobile” form. The ability to share Instagram photo updates on social networks like Facebook and Twitter provides enhanced reach – but, of course, most services allow social media sharing. However, when Facebook acquired Instagram, Twitter released its own photo sharing service to counter competition. Now sharing Instagram on Twitter is limited to a link. And yet, Instagram die-hard users, and even those with less followers, are never discouraged.
“It gives an element of humanization to the company. Every company should have one,” told us Alexandra Jacopetti of Rocket Post. “Instagram showcases your company culture, the “fun-ness” of the company, and adds an element that can’t be matched on Facebook or Twitter.”
Melody Shirazi, owner & designer of ISOBELL, an Oakland based handmade jewelry brand, has been using Instagram successfully for over two years. She has a bit more than 300 followers, but seems to be happy with the platform:
“I use Instagram to promote my handmade jewelry line. I shoot behind the scenes photos, studio shots, publicity snip-its & inspiration from my surroundings,” she told us. And for companies that don’t use it yet, she had to add: “Download the app RIGHT NOW! It gives you the opportunity to create an intimate “behind the scenes” bond with your followers & fans. Instagram really grasps the importance of photography & how influential it is to creating a brand & identity.”
A die-hard Instagram user, Beyond Genetics Supplements was an early adopter for Instagram in the fitness industry. They use Instagram to showcase athlets like Paige Hathaway Joey Swoll and Ainsley Rodriguez,and to interact with their target customers:
“Sponsored athletes give workout advice, diet planning and share transformation stories with pictures. There are communities built around hashtags like #TrainHarderThanMe, to help lifters motivate each other, and #FlexYourHeart to spread a message of anti-bullying,” explained Josh Andrews, the company’s public relations director.
Another example from the fitness industry comes from Tower Paddle Boards, whose director of marketing Ashley Hannawacker shared a clear Instagram strategy with Everything PR:
“Our goal with Instagram is to grow the market for stand up paddle boarding. Through our posts and engagement, we hope to peak interest in the sport and be the brand that gets to introduce it to others first. If you take look at our Instagram, you will be able to see our strategy pretty clearly.”
Instagram Used to Boost ROI
Koyal Wholesale, which specializes in wedding and events supplies, is using Instagram for various purposes. Shreyans Parekh, Director of Marketing and Business Development, told us their company uses Instagram since 2011, and managed to engage a network of over 9000 brides, event planners, florists and caterers:
“Instagram has been a tremendous tool in generating buzz around our new product lines, trends in the industry and general daily motivational quotes. We encourage all brands to experiment with the platform because of it’s tremendous capability of generating word-of-mouth advertising buzz around your products and services in an instantaneous manner.”
Even less popular users like Alameda-based bakery Donsuemor consider Instagram a great tool to boost ROI:
“It’s a short, sweet, simple way to get awareness to your brand.”
Engagement Goes a Long Way
Like every social network, Instagram is based on human engagement, which proves to bring the best results. gorjana & griffin media coordinator Tiffany Higgins explained that, although the company is an accessories brand, only a small amount of the photos they post are of actual products. Instead, they use Instagram to share the gorjana & griffin lifestyle with their followers:
“The best piece of advice we could give to a new brand adopting Instagram, is take the time to like and comment on every single photo your brand is tagged in, and respond to all comments on your pictures. In the past two months we have gained over 2,000 new followers, simply by remaining active and engaged with our fans.”
“It’s one of the most effective ways to grow your business,” explained Kristin Lajeunesse, who owns Will Travel for Vegan Food. “My outreach nearly doubled within the first few months of using IG, and continues to grow. Food, animals, and clothing pics do well. And utilize those hashtags like no one’s business!”
Instagram is still in its infancy, despite its massive network of users. Perhaps the future will enable brands to advertise directly on the network, reaching far more users than their followers. But before the ads, brands have a real chance to boost awareness and ROI. Most of them opt for remaining active, and engaged, while those with financial power take the fast way. Which way is yours?