Sunday 22 April 2018

Instagram: The Full Picture

I’ve mentioned previously in a Friday Five article that I’m a wannabe photographer. Thanks to mobile photo apps, like Instagram, I am able to shoot, edit and share images like never before. I’m able to take photos and within seconds, apply a fun filter and share with my social network. With a few clicks and taps on my smartphone, that photo of what I ate for dinner or the outfit I wore to work is sent to my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. The best part of all? Everyday moments look a whole lot more exciting with those impressive filters!

While Instagram is a fun and new way to document my day-to-day life, the possibilities and opportunities for brands are endless. Below find Edelman Digital tips, considerations and recommendations for brands looking to take their photos – and their followers social experience – to the next level.

How does Instagram work?

After downloading and opening the Instagram app, users will be prompted to create an Instagram profile, including a username and profile picture. Users can include a bio and website URL as well. There are five consistent buttons within the app – Feed, Popular, Share, News and Profile.

The Instagram Feed is where images are populated based on who you are following. Think of this as the Facebook Timeline or Twitter stream. Anytime someone you follow on Instagram uploads a new public photo, it will show up in your Feed. There’s an option to “like” the photo (a small heart icon), comment or tweet the photo. You can also directly click back to the user’s profile from the Feed stream.

By clicking Popular, images will generate that have a high number of likes, comments or shares.

The Share button is front and center of the Instagram app. Users have two options when sharing an image; they can either upload a photo already saved on their mobile device or shoot an image directly from the Instagram app. Once the photo is selected, users can select from sixteen different filter options in order to transform the colors, border, mood and tonality of the image. A few examples of Instagram filters include the “Nashville” filter which creates a vintage-looking image with a photo strip border, the “Earlybird” filter which creates a faded color cast image with a white border, and the “Lomo-fi” filter which creates a high contrast image with vignettes and a soft focus. All of the filters can be viewed with the respective edited image below.

Think of the News button similar to Facebook notifications or Twitter interactions. This is where users can see when other Instagram users start following their account or like and comment on their photo when they are under the “You” tab within the News section. Users also are able to see news from the users they are following under the “Following” tab. The “Following” tab is very similar to the Twitter activity function; users can see when a user they follow likes a photo or begins following another Instagram user.

The last button on the lower right hand side of the application is the Profile. This where users can view or edit their own profile.  The Profile button is also the place to view all of the photos you’ve uploaded to Instagram to date and all other Instagram user photos you’ve liked.

The Profile section is also where users can find other Instagram users from the app by clicking “Search Instagram” and typing in a name, username or tag (similar to Twitter’s hashtag). Another way to find Instagram users is by clicking “Find friends” under the same section and importing users from your device’s contact list, Facebook friend list or Twitter following list. Instagram also populated suggested users that are similar to you or close to your location. Below are two examples of brand Instagram profiles; both Starbucks* and Kate Spade New York are active brands on the mobile photo app.

What is the future of Instagram?

In an interview with TechCrunch, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said,

By no means do we think of Instagram as just a photo-sharing service. It’s something that a lot of people lump us into, but we’d like to think of ourselves as a storytelling service. It’s the way you go out in the world and tell a story about your life, and it’s a new entertainment platform. You can open it up and see a story about what your friends are doing, but also [that] ABC World News is posting photos of someone in Japan reporting on the nuclear crisis. It’s really moving to see those things coming together through images.

A story-telling service, says Systrom. What exactly does this mean? The purpose of Instagram is to do more than just upload photos, but for each account to tell a story. Rather just spread a message through text, Instagram users have the opportunity to document life and connect with others on a deeper and more emotional level.

What are the implications and best practices for brands?

Brands have an opportunity to connect with their audience in a new way in real time.  Amy Cole, a member of Instagram’s business operations team, explains in an Ad Age interview that there are roughly 200 brands and organizations using the app to date. A few examples include Starbucks, with over 202,000 followers and Burberry with 151,000 followers. News organizations including The Today Show and NPR have also jumped on Instagram utilizing mobile photography as an additional way of telling the news.

Commonly, brands use Instagram to capture things their audience might not typically see. Giving your followers “backstage access” allows them to feel more connected to specific individuals within a company and the brand overall. Another way brands are using Instagram is to host contests and events. Levi’s* is hosting an open casting call on Instagram where prospective models can send their photo using the #IamLevis hashtag. Starbucks also hosted the #5More campaign asking followers to submit images sharing what they would do if they had five more minutes in the day. All images were generated to the Starbucks website. This is a key way to show appreciation for your fans and followers and in turn, obtain submissions for a larger project.

While many lifestyle and fashion brands are popular on Instagram, other types of brands can still be strategic and successful when tapping into their target Instagram audience. Take note from General Electric*, with over 34,000 Instagram followers. The company using Instagram to show their commitment to energy and transportation; they often post photos of engines and turbines. While this might not be interesting to the everyday consumer, enthusiasts are given the chance to see the inner workings of the giant global brand.

With every Instagram upload, users have the option to share the image on several different social media platforms. Previously, if you shared your Instagram image to Facebook, a thumbnail and link would show up on your profile. Instagram’s latest update allows you to seamlessly share images to your Facebook timeline in full size (example below). This provides a huge opportunity for brands given that Facebook has over 800 million users. Facebook users can re-share an Instagram photo that they see on a brand Facebook page which in turn, increases Instagram’s visibility and reach outside of the actual application.

Instagram is an easy and effective way to tell a brand’s story so honing in on what the brand’s point-of-view and perspective is key. The mobile app allows brands to “bring themselves to life” in a way that might not be possible on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. The brand’s that are most successful on Instagram are the ones who don’t underestimate the power of a photograph.

Edelman Digital’s Take

Instagram is free, so if you have a smartphone device, download the app and start playing. You’ll find that Instagram is very user-friendly and a fun way to peak into what’s going on in your favorite friends, brands and influencers lives. The Instagram team has a helpful resource showing you “notable users” for you to get an idea of who to follow. Start following other Instagram users and posting your own images to get a feel for what capabilities the app has. Share your images on social channels – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr – and take a peek at how people engage with your photos.

While Instagram is a very consumer-focused platform, there are several opportunities for B2B, tech, health and other industries. GE’s Instagram account is a perfect example; the company uses Instagram to give themselves “a consumer face” and offer their followers behind-the-scenes photos from their factories. For those who might not fully understand what General Electric does, the Instagram acts as bridge connecting the company with their target audience.

One popular tactic for brands to do on Instagram is to host a photo contest. The Instagram team shares a blog post highlighting the best practices for hosting photo contests on the app. It’s pretty basic – select a hashtag, call for content from your followers and begin tracking the users who submit photos with the specified hashtag. It’s a great way to kick-off a brand’s presence on Instagram.

The most important thing to remember is to not just use Instagram within the app, but to share all of your content across other social channels. You’ll be able to tap into your personal or brand’s larger community and instantly tie all social media efforts together.

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Image credit: Potzuyoko

*Levi’s, General Electric and Starbucks are clients of Edelman.

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