Dana Sullivan Kilroy is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience delivering compelling content. Her work has appeared in national, award-winning publications and sites, including: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Fast Company, Inc.
Instagram launched just under five years ago, and its growth since then has been astronomical. It currently has 300 million active monthly users, contributing 70 million new photos and 2.5 billion ‘likes’ a day, which has cemented Instagram's position among the elite of social media networks.It doesn’t stop there though. In even better news for brands, Instagram also has an engagement rate 58 times better than Facebook and 120 times better than Twitter. So users are not only plentiful, but also actively engaging with the platform – how can companies make the most of this? Check out what's happening with five of Instagram’s biggest accounts, Nike, Starbucks, Adidas Originals, NBA and Topshop and learn from the experts how to reach lofty heights.
#1 Tell a story through your photos
Understanding effective storytelling is crucial to unlocking the potential of Instagram. Boring, overly commercial posts are not well received, and it certainly isn’t the right platform to bombard users with dull product images. Instead, there needs to be a narrative, and one of the best storytelling brands out there is Starbucks. Its iconic coffee cups are present in many posts, but they are in a context that its customers can relate to, such as beside a Christmas tree, on a beach or in a sunny city square. It also encourages users to tell their own stories, using Starbucks as a background that becomes an everyday part of their lives.
#2 Be innovative; be interactive
These brands have not arrived at the top of the Instagram rankings just by uploading pretty pictures. Each of the top brands has done something innovative and, with Instagram champion Nike, that is its interactivity. Specifically, Nike’s PHOTOiD campaign proved immensely popular. It asked users to pick an Instagram image as a background, before designing their own shoe color scheme and then sharing the result with their friends. The competitive element – everyone wanted the best, most liked design – coupled with the fact that Nike had its own website landing page for the campaign with multi-platform social sharing buttons, drove mammoth engagement.
#3 Don’t forget about video!
While Instagram has made its name as a photo-sharing app, the importance of its video function should not be underestimated. The most important thing to consider when deciding whether a video or image is more appropriate, is target audience. For example, NBA stand out above its rivals like MLB and NFL because it understood that sports fans are far more likely to be interested in seeing videos of match highlights, training sessions and events than photos. At the time of writing, 25% of NBA’s most recent uploads were videos, compared to 8% of MLB and 0% of NFL content, illustrating a greater appreciation of target market.
#4 Think about what else your followers are interested in
That leads us nicely onto the next tip, which is to tailor content to customers’ other interests. It’s fine to post images specific to your niche, but these should be interspersed with lifestyle posts that appeal to a wider customer interest base. A great example of this is Topshop, which uploads a good combination of product images and others designed to appeal to its users’ hobbies outside of fashion, with images of beaches, music festivals and celebrity red carpet events dominating its feed.
#5 Run competitions
Another way in which Topshop engages with its audience, more actively this time, is through competitions. When Topshop was promoting last year’s prom range, it ran a competition for Instagram users to win their own fully customized dress. The post advertising the contest received 25,000 likes in the first hour alone, and the resulting winner gave Topshop a story that it could promote externally afterward. Brands can also streamline this process and host dynamic contests with companies like ShortStack, allowing them to use analytics features to more accurately track views, entries, shares and traffic.
#6 Be sure to get your personality across
Personality is an absolutely crucial element of successful Instagram marketing. When it comes to this platform, brands have complete control over how they want to be portrayed, without any of the technical or usability restraints of a corporate site. Adidas Originals is a great example of this and, such is the success of its Instagram account, the main Adidas channel rebranded according to its template. The persona that Adidas Originals wants to communicate permeates everything it posts, with the urban theme extending through the images of its products, its sports stars, its cityscapes and its music artists, with Rita Ora dominating the feed when she signed up to promote its lines.
#7 Get on board with user trends
Finally, brands need to capitalize on the resource most readily available to them: their users. Starbucks is a fantastic case for this, as it bases its own posts on the kinds of photos its users upload. If a particular trend, style or filter is proving popular, Starbucks will emulate them to appeal to its user base. Another more direct way that brands approach this is to ‘regram’ their most popular users’ photos, which not only engages them but also makes the Starbucks content even stronger.Dan Yeo is a Content & Online PR Manager at a leading digital marketing agency, Search Laboratory. He regularly blogs about PR and social media, and you can follow him on Twitter @DanYeo_
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