Filter Marketing: How The Top Brands Use Instagram

Instagram offers a distinct platform for marketers to promote their products and services.

The photo sharing app, which went mainstream after Facebook purchased it for $1 billion earlier this year, boasts 80 million users, up from the 33 million users it had when it was acquired by Facebook.

Half of the users before the acquisition were under the age of 35, according to an Experian Hitwise survey. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, Instagram offers marketers a targeted demographic.

A study by Simply Measured found that the top brands on Instagram, such as MTV, Starbucks, and Burberry, are posting at least once a week. Sixty percent of the photos these brands post have filters applied, with Lo-Fi being the most popular, and Valencia garnering the most engagement.

Instagram is best used for telling visual stories, showing off pictures of a business or brand, and featuring photos of merchandise.

On the National Federation of Independent Business Blog, Michael Satterfield, the owner of an apparel brand, said he leverages the platform to post pictures of his every day life, as well as those of his products. The post says that Satterfield “insists that when people feel personally connected to a brand, they’re more likely to ‘follow’ your business on Twitter and Instagram and ‘friend’ you on Facebook.”

Studies have echoed this notion, that when the content is more human, and when companies show they are made up of everyday people, customers are more likely to feel like they can relate.

An effective way to tell a story on Instagram is through the use of collage, says Jessica McLaughlin of Sprout iInsights.

“If you’re trying to convey a message, sometimes one photo isn’t enough,” she says. “You can upload multiple photos to your Instagram app, even photos that were made with another app. Pulling a number of photos together into one collage can really help when you’re trying to convey a certain message.”

For example, a restaurant trying to communicate how to make signature menu items on Instagram may want to post step by step visual instructions. McLaughlin suggests tapping into apps like Frametastic and Picframe to follow through with this method.

Other ways to increase user engagement on Instagram are to host contests by having followers upload photos — asking customers to take and tag photos at any company event they’re attending, and sharing the photos on external social media sites, says Pamorama’s Pam Dyer.

Just like the other social sites, Instagram will help a company with its SEO and clout online. The best brands are tagging photos, adding in keywords, and taking advantage of the hashtag feature.

Saks Fifth Avenue ran a contest where users had to upload photos of their favorite in-store merchandise and post them with the hashtag #SeeUAtSaks for the chance to win $1,000. Business 2 Community’s Andy Parker writes that this was an effective campaign because it encouraged foot traffic in the store, the customers did the advertising for the brand, and the hashtag and descriptions customers wrote were posted to Twitter. All the while, the company gained points on Google’s search rankings.

With a little creativity and visual know-how, marketers can tap into a targeted demographic and show off their brand in a way that is unique to the platform.

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