As Instagram surpasses Twitter for monthly active users, I set the microscope on the social network and explore how brands should use the platform to tell their story visually in 2015.

Perusing Instagram is one of my favourite pastimes (sad I know) and I am not alone.

Since its conception back in 2010, Instagram has grown a huge global audience, from the postman to the supermodel, we’ve become a snap-happy, filtering human race, with 300m users documenting their lives, one photo at a time.

That’s right, 300m. Instagram has started 2015 with a bang, surpassing Twitter’s user numbers. 

That’s one down, but there’s one more to go; the rising star of social media is set to overtake Facebook and snatch the crown of most powerful social media platform, having found its place amongst the social media elite.

Instagram has become the social network of the moment as our appetite for content has shifted dramatically from words to visual. So what are you waiting for? Unleash the power of Instagram! Here are seven techniques your brand should use to tell your brand’s story in 2015; 

1. Instagram offers the perfect opportunity to get creative, no matter how unsexy your product

Even the unsexiest brands have a place on Instagram. If you aren’t showing off a product there are still plenty of creative opportunities to use the social media site. As long as visuals arentertaining, compelling or valuable, who cares what the image features.

The pen is not the sexiest of products by any stretch of the imagination, but Sharpie has managed to draw (pun intended) more than 100k followers to its Instagram feed.

The visual focus? Sharpie-produced art. Having identified their niche to work with, Sharpie have built a huge following of artists, a perfect target audience.

2. Let your customers do the hard work for you

If you look closely, wherever you may be, you will spy someone taking a picture of something or someone on their smart phone. Be that of a scrumptious dinner, a selfie or of a life-changing moment.

If there’s something to take a picture of, as a human race, we get snap happy. Selfie even managed to make it into the Oxford Dictionary in 2013; the popularity of which is in no small part down to the growing popularity of Instagram.

Use social monitoring tools to capture content being generated by your consumers. Featuring user-generated content in your feed builds your visual community and adds a sense of ownership to the brand. A mixture of brand-owned and community-owned images will add a dynamic edge to your account.

Starbucks has become the master of the regram, using curated content from their followers to fuel its Instagram feed.

By encompassing followers’ images into their feed, Starbucks continues to expand its followership, gaining new audience members from the accounts it includes. It's a real feast for the eyes.

3. Reach a larger audience

If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed. Right?

You need to bring your brand to your audience. If it’s millennials you’re targeting, Instagram has 135m of them. So get your content underneath their noses. Operating on their turf levels out the playing field. 

Fashions latest It girl Kendall Jenner became the newest face of luxury beauty brand Estee Lauder in late 2014, releasing the big news on her personal Instagram account.

With almost 18m followers, Jenner is a true Instagram sensation, her followership brimming with fresh faced millennials. Collaborating with an influential Instagrammer has delivered Estee Lauder to the feet of the youthful audience that it has so vigourously tried to tap into.

4. Boost social engagement

According to L2 research, Instagram engagement is 15 times stronger than that of Facebook. It comes as no great surprise that Instagram is a source for high engagement, driven by consumers need to visually share their stories and experiences. What better way than through the medium of imagery?

Marc Jacobs led the fashion frontier through the gates of Instagram with a truly engaging campaign in the spring of 2014.  

The fashion house went on a recruitment quest across the social sphere for a new face of the brand. Aspiring models were asked to tag their sultry images with #CastMeMarc to be considered for the Fall 2014 campaign. 

It was an extremely successful campaign, with 70,000 applications via the hashtag, which was whittled down to a lucky 30 who were flown from around the world to be photographed. Two winners were chosen to be the faces of the campaign and were featured in Teen Vogue in August. 

5. Use influencers to open new doors

You can reach your ideal audience for your brand by connecting with and utilising Instagram influencers. They have the ability to craft content for your product or campaign that will resonate with your audience and leave a lasting impression.

This can drive massive referral traffic to branded pages and create real time advocacy. It’s important to collaborate with them and tap into their power.

Deliciously Ella is a perfect example. This scion of Britain’s blogger aristocracy has built a loyal social off the back of her hugely successful foodie blog. She features all sorts of food-related brands in her feed, giving their profiles a great big boost.

It isn’t just big time bloggers either. Big time popstars offer great influence over their followers. Back in 2014, much to the surprise of marketeers everywhere, the first teaser trailer for the much anticipated film adaptation of 50 Shades Of Grey was dropped into the digital hemisphere – on Beyonce’s Instagram account – sorry what?!

The clever move from the movie makers shocked many but it was a wise one. Bey was covering the vocals with an acoustic version of 2003 hit ‘Crazy In Love’, staying relevant to her audience of 14.9mfollowers, keeping the endorsement subtle and spreading reach far and wide.

6. Offer an unparalleled perspective into brand’s story 

Humanise your brand with behind the scenes images. Instagram offers a real time window for a glimpse into raw goings on; whether that’s backstage at a campaign shoot, live from an event, or a sneak preview of a new product.

This content builds on a brand’s story, not just showcasing the product but everything surrounding it that makes it so special. By its very nature, Instagram has a genuine feel. 

Don’t forget to feature your customers and employees, two of your key stakeholders, to add a touch of authenticity.

Victoria’s Secret has amassed a huge following, 9.2mto be precise. Now there could be a number of reasons for this, supermodels in underwear may be one of them, but the account also opens up the world of Victoria’s Secret capturing visuals from behind the scenes at photoshoots using #somethingbigiscoming.

Alluding to a new exciting campaign, with Instagram offering up the first glimpse on a plate. This content reeks of exclusivity, adding that extra special touch that keeps followers coming back for more.

7. Create a compelling form of advertising

Consumers have become immune to advertising; TV adverts are fast forwarded, emails are deleted. We have become savvy at tuning out commercials. 

Enter Instagram. 

Releasing an image into the visual community doesn’t feel like a corporate press release. It is a creative statement that puts brand messaging on the back burner, allowing the image to do the talking. 

There isn’t much of a hard sell going on over at Nike’s instagram account. Just gorgeous imagery that sells the experience that their products bring, not the actual product itself. It must be a good tactic to follow, it has managed to surpass 10m followers.

In summary... 

The future is bright, the future is instagram. On the social media horizon, we are set to spot an increase in branded video content, as Vine is left on the shelf and Instagram is the cool kid on the block.

Visual storytelling will become the leading strategy for brand awareness, engaging with audiences and growing brand communities. It isn’t easy to craft compelling visual stories, that can spark emotion and inspire action but Instagram is the perfect outlet for amplifying brand messaging.

Rebecca Baines

Published 23 January, 2015 by Rebecca Baines

Rebecca Baines is senior content writer at Stickyeyes and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (3)

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Alex Blondell, University of Georgia at Student

Great article Rebecca! I agree that Instagram and visual marketing is the way of the future. Millenials want to be stimulated and see something engaging in an age where we've grown being exposed to just about anything we want to (and don't want to) be exposed on the internet. Vloggers and Instagram stars are the new celebrities in today's age and we would be foolish as marketers not to get them involved with what we do in a genuine way.

about 3 years ago

Alex Nichol

Alex Nichol, Multi-Platform Director at Future&Co.

"Consumers have become immune to advertising". This just isn't true. I know a few brands and retailers who'd laugh you out of their office if you suggested that advertising was dead and Instagram was the future.

about 3 years ago

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Jeffrey Fleischman, CDO at Blue Panda Interactive

Very good overview on how to use Instagram, sometimes the best way to connect is subtle and visual. Thanks for sharing.

about 3 years ago

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