Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Instagram as a Branding Tool

All of the social media sites have fans, but when it comes to business opportunities, which is the best fit? While some industries are natural fits for some sites, others are less clear. For example, real estate agents can use YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, and Twitter to capture property features and quickly publicize them. Restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality venues can use Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to showcase their locations and also offer real-time discounts and offers. But if you sell something a little less mainstream or provide services, how can you actually show prospects and customers? Your solution may be Instagram.

A study by Simply Measured in October revealed that “Instagram’s growth has been so substantial that it now rivals Google+ and Pinterest in terms of brand adoption.” According to the study, 71% of the most recognized international brands are now active on Instagram, up from 40% last year. Photos receive more comments than videos, and hashtags are the norm. 83% of posts include at least one hashtag, but many include several. And most users add a filter of some sort to customize their photos.

According to Instagram’s website: “Capture and Share the World's Moments. Instagram is a fast, beautiful, and fun way to share your life with friends and family. Take a picture or video, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram – it's that easy. You can even share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more. It's a new way to see the world. Oh yeah, did we mention it’s free?” Initially available for the iPhone and Android smartphone audiences, Instagram.com can also be accessed on desktops and tablets for a viewing experience.

But Instagram is much more than an app to share photos with friends and family. It offers a way for brands to communicate with their fans and customers through visual communication, whether photographs, word art, or anything else imaginable. Some brands showcase company employees in action at tradeshows and other events. Some brands showcase brand appearances in ads and historical events. Some brands create contests to engage their followers and request photos with specific hashtags. Some brands introduce and feature new products.

Here are 10 examples of successful Instagram pages and why they attract followers:
[1] Sherwin Williams (sherwinwilliams) – 150 posts showcase color in very clever ways
[2] Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii (turtlebayresort) – 490 posts of hotel and local area
[3] San Diego Zoo (sandiegozoo) – 425 posts of residents
[4] Guide Dogs for the Blind (dgb_official) – 40 posts tell the story of this unique non-profit
[5] American Heart Association (american_heart) – 199 posts promote this non-profit’s events
[6] Crumbs Bake Shop (crumbsbakeshop) – 167 posts of edible delights
[7] Snowboarder Magazine (snowboardermag) – 1799 posts of snow and athletes in the snow
[8] Tiffany and Company (tiffanyandco) – 525 posts of sparkling products
[9] Jet Blue (jetblue) – 108 posts of how the company supports the community (for example, NY Fire Department logo on an airplane), invites contributions from users, and creates contests for its fans and flyers
[10] Oreo (oreo) – 294 posts of fun and yummy ways to eat this timeless treat

In order to build a brand presence on Instagram, consider these questions first:
[1] How will images improve the dialogue between my customers and my brand?
[2] Do my customers need to be tech-savvy and photo-savvy to participate on Instagram?
[3] Are there specific types of images that would fit for a brand presence on Instagram?
[4] Are there staff resources to respond in real time to Instagram posts that reference my brand?
[5] Would an Instagram presence align with my brand’s presence on other social media sites?

There is also a sub-culture of apps that enrich the Instagram experience, and here are just a few. Instaquote allows users to add text to a selection of backgrounds to create memorable word art images. Photorepost allows users to share other users’ posts by adding the original poster’s name in the image. GuessWhere allows users to guess the location of featured posts.

I invite you to check out my page on Instagram at http://instagram.com/debbielaskeymba.

So try adding Instagram to your marketing mix – you may receive attention from people who aren’t active on many of the other social sites. And you may get new customers in the process!


If you’d like to learn how Flipboard, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn can help build your brands, check out the posts I wrote on my Blog and elsewhere for useful tips.

Flipboard as a Branding Tool

How to Build Your Brand on Twitter

Twitter Can Be a Marketer’s Best Friend

Five Things You Can Learn From Facebook

A Facebook Brand Presence Is Important

How to Build a Brand with Pinterest

Lead by Example with LinkedIn

Image Credit: Instagram.


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.


  1. You have a point here, Debbie. Instagram does provide the more real time feel to a certain brand or product. A visual form of advertising platform such as Instagram is really very effective, especially if we offer services like accommodations or food. With the use of hashtags too, Instagram provides a crowdsourcing effect by collecting advertisements straight from the consumers themselves. Other possible customers can receive first hand testimonials from people who have tried the product a certain brand has to offer.
    Julius Horton

  2. Its fantastic to read something on using social media such as Youtube, Instagram, Flickr & Twitter as branding tool. Instagram is a fast, beautiful, and fun way to share your life with friends and family. Brand agency such as Brand Harvest engages new consumers, connecting through new media.

  3. Wonderful article. Its inspire me a lot. Thanks for sharing.
    Cigna Media Group


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