Launched on October 6, 2010, Instagram has quickly grown to be the most-popular mobile image-sharing application available. With more than 15 million users and 500 million photos uploaded since launch, Instagram shows no sign of slowing down.
Oh yeah… and they’re doing this all without an Android app.
These feats are impressive for a company with 100 employees, but Instagram has achieved them with one-tenth of that workforce, all while renting space in Twitter’s old building. Only, it’s not the whole office space… it’s just the conference room.
How is Instagram, essentially a simple image-sharing app, readying to take the crown of largest mobile-based app away from check in factory Foursquare? Content.
As brands are quick to jump into the Internet’s latest darling site, Pinterest, other brands are doubling down on Instagram, a place where they can actually create content as well as share.
How can these brands make the best out of the app and their efforts? Here are 10 ideas.
1. Focus on the Community
Instagram is tiny in comparison to Facebook and the people who are there are, for the most part, deeply invested in the photo sharing community that has been built around this application. Be cognizant of users’ feeds and don’t publish content that can be seen as too self-serving, but rather content that is in the spirit of the community.
2. Post Regularly
Users on Instagram spend a lot of time in the app, but don’t have time to constantly see what their friends are posting. In order to make sure your brand is being seen, it’s a good idea to post regularly (but not in excess).
3. Be Your Brand
Taking photos of products is a good (and perfectly fine) use of Instagram. However, Instagram gives brands a chance to showcase a different side of their image.
Brands seeing great success on Instagram are using a two-pronged content strategy that usually focuses on brand/product images, then images that showcase the brand personality.
One of the great features of Instagram is the ease of commenting and liking photos. Brands that are seeing increased fan interactions on their own images are interacting.
5. Go Behind the Scenes
Brands like Threadless are seeing increasing engagement numbers by simply giving their followers a look into the daily happenings of the brand. Users are always looking for that bit of info or content that isn’t always an “everyone knows” piece. You can use Instagram to take them into that experience.
Make sure to connect your Twitter account (and others) to your Instagram account. This can make for easy syndication of the images you post to Instagram and help drive traffic as you’re building your Instagram presence.
7. Go Beyond the App
Using the Instagram API means being able to pull and push information to the network. By using the API you can pull photos into a display page on a website or Facebook page. This gives you a chance to further promote the contest while giving users a chance to do the same by sending friends links to their photos on those non-Instagram sites.
8. A Little “Leak” Isn’t Always Bad
Using Instagram to showcase new products has been a great tool for brands in the fashion industry. Automakers like Audi are also pushing into this area of brand marketing on Instagram showcasing new models and concepts.
This interaction is a bit odd, though, because links displayed in Instagram image captions aren't clickable. However, links (including bit.ly links) inserted in image captions do show up in tweets and Facebook posts that originate from Instagram uploads.
9. Do a Little Promotion
Brands use their social properties to let users know that they will be asking for photos around a certain topic (example: #winter). Users then submit their photos to Instagram using the hashtag (or even the @BRANDNAME) to get their photos into the entry pool.
You can even use RSS to keep up with submissions by pointing an RSS reader to: http://instagr.am/tags/[hashtag name]/feed/recent.rss (the hashtag name here doesn’t have a #).
10. Crowdsource Creative
Using Instagram as a way to collect fan-created content for above-the-line advertising programs is definitely doable. Always be sure to cover legal issues with your in-house counsel before embarking, though. Giving a fan the chance to open a magazine, turn on the TV, or see a digital ad and say “that’s my Instagram photo” is a great way to show some love.
What’s Next for Instagram?
Look for Instagram to launch on Android soon, most likely before summer, followed soon after by Windows Phone. That increased availability will present some challenges for the company in terms of sheer volume of users and content, but if Instagram’s shown anything thus far, it’s that they like a challenge.