Instagram for Your Business

While most of us have directed our energy towards the Christmas holiday season, I'd like to take a quick look back at Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, Instagram saw more than 10 million photos with captions including Thanksgiving-related terms, according to Social Media Today. I'm sure that we will see that record broken again on Christmas and/or New Years.

Screen shot 2012-12-09 at 3.30.17 PM
Screen shot 2012-12-09 at 3.30.17 PM

Instagram was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in late 2010 and was eventually bought by Facebook in 2011. It was created as a way for users to easily and creatively share their photos, seemingly capitalizing on the instant news-feed stream of Twitter and the photo sharing aspect of Facebook, combining the two and adding some artsy aspects. (Get more Insta FAQ's here)

This past September, Instagram had 100 million users and surpassed Twitter in daily activity, according to Mashable.

With this many people using Instagram this frequently, how can you slip your company into the mix without looking like a total outsider?

First off, eliminate everything you know about other social platforms.  Instagram is not in the same category as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.  If you want your Instagram account to be successful for your brand, you're going to have to play by the Instagram "rules" and blend in.

Instagram capitalizes on one of the core aspects of social media: creatively sharing content that in some way is reflective of a user's personality.

I don't foresee an "Instagram for your business" option coming out anytime soon, though I wouldn't be surprised if it eventually gets to that point. Honestly, I hope it never does.  I think a business category on Instagram would only contribute to depleting the simplicity and the creativity of the platform and in turn discourage users.

That being said, I think there are very useful ways in which you can use Instagram for your business.  The end goal being to capitalize on company transparency and promote brand awareness.

My first piece of advice is to play around with Instagram and get accustomed to the tools and trends of the platform, i.e. short captions, hashtags, filters, location tagging, etc.

There is room for few words on Instagram.  In fact, in my personal opinion, the best Instagram photos are the ones that have very short or non-existent captions and instead let the photo tell the story. People love clever pictures.

Instagram hashtags work the same way Twitter hashtags work, however, remember that you are in a world of photography, not words.  Try and use hashtags of topics that would be trending as photographs, for example, #sunsets.

Once you've learned how the platform works, brainstorm some categories of photos that will work for you.  Here are some examples to help jumpstart your brainstorming sesh:

  • Artfully showcase your products, without being blatant. (Remember you're trying to "fit in" and be cool)
  • Take "behind the scene" photos.  Photos of your products being made, of a display being created, of products being packaged and shipped, etc.
  • If there's an aspect of your employees or your CEO having to do a lot of travel for your business, take photos of your adventures, be those adventures meetings in fancy hotels or photos of your beat up suitcase.
  • Showcase your employees.  Take photos of employees goofing around, of having after hours cocktails, working hard on a design project, etc.
  • Find something that represents your company and constantly take different photos of that.  Perhaps you are a coffee company and have unique portable coffee cups. Why not have your customers share Instagram photos of their coffee cups in different places?  Choose a photo and a customer to exhibit once a week.

Vanity Fair does a great job of using Instagram.  They show behind the scenes photos from Vanity Fair events, they display fashion in real life, usually on the magazine employees, they take photos of throw-back VF covers and they take photos of their staff.  Their photos have a real life personality that still very clearly exhibits their brand.  Check out these examples:

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If you're in one of the following industries, I think Instagram could be a very useful social media tool for you to capitazlie on: car dealerships (photos of cool cars), restaurants (photos of food and the behind the scene happenings), salons (photos of people's decked out nails, hair-do's, etc.).

The one thing I hope you take away from this is that Instagram is for creativity, and you cannot fake creativity.