Instagram: A Beginner’s Guide
By Terry Doherty —
— A mobile social networking service for sharing images.
— A product that lets users share pictures and videos (up to 15 seconds) on other social networking platforms.
Instagram is a social-sharing platform that is installed like an App. Users have an array of built-in photo-editing tools at their fingertips. When you log into Instagram from your browser, however, you do not have these tools.
According to a May 2013 Sprout Social report, there are more than 100 million active monthly users on Instagram, and 67% of the world’s brands have a presence on the platform.
Verbs: instagram, instagrammed
Users: “Instagrammers” or “users”
Launched: October 2010
A picture is worth a thousand words, and Instagram is built for creating one-of-a-kind photographs. There are nearly limitless ways to take, upload, and edit a photograph. Because it is a mobile App, you can snap a picture or video when you’re out and about. It is very easy to share immediately.
Instagram’s feed is a mosaic of photos and videos, based on time of upload. It changes fairly regularly and is a very community-oriented approach that can work to your favor. The benefit for you is that as people are viewing the newest photographs you can reach people who might not otherwise know you or your brand.
Put your creative genius to work! On your website, clean, sharp book cover images grab a visitor’s attention. On Instagram, you can be creative. Maybe your cat is curled up and sleeping on your book. maybe your niece is hanging upside down in a tree reading your book. Apply the “sepia” filter to give them an old-time feel.
Commenting on photos is very popular on Instagram, so images of your products could provide great feedback. That feedback can make for great testimonials that you share on your website (with permission, of course).
Hashtags are a mainstay for Instagram, and that makes finding other users and sharing content within the Instagram community very easy. Here are two ideas:
- Join the Weekend Hashtag Project to participate in a theme-based activity sponsored by Instagram’s Community Team. This is a very popular activity that could extend your brand’s reach. Especially on a Monday, when the Instagram Team showcases a collage with their favorites.
- Participate in Throwback Thursday. Users post pictures from the past with the hashtag #TBT. Most often, you’ll find pictures of users’ early childhood, past special occasions, or monumental events.
These types of projects add to the more “personal” feel and can help your brand tell a story.
Instagram is built for mobile and is not particularly useful on the desktop. For example, I had to pull out my phone to add pictures from my photo library.
Open Instagram when you are ready to share a photograph immediately and/or have time to use the photo-editing tools.
In doing my research for this article, many of the writers characterized Instagram as having a “more personal” or individual feel. Instagram is about photography, so your profile is built around pictures you’ve taken and shared with the public or your friends.
This is not a platform for curating websites, articles, or images you’ve found in other places on the Web.
Consider Instagram if your target audience is mostly female, 18 to 29 years old, and urban, African American, and/or Latino.
In marketing terms, the goals for Instagram are likely to be brand awareness and fan interaction. This is not a platform for driving sales. Instagram allows you to include links with your images, but they aren’t clickable. This demographic is not likely to go anywhere where they can’t “click” to get there.
As mentioned above, Instagram is a great platform for creatively marketing your product. Compare these images for Steve Madden boots.
The image on the left (from Pinterest) has a “catalog” feel to it. The photo on the right is a boot display on Instagram. Notice the hashtags that Steve Madden uses as his “product description.”
Conversions from Instagram to your other platforms (website, blog, sales) will be low. That said, because it is more personal, Instagram is a very effective way to tell your brand’s story. A few ideas to get you started:
- A series of date-annotated images that shows how the company has grown from the corner of your garage to its current office space.
- Pictures of company events or celebrations.
- Annotated photos of employees at work – or doing one of their favorite things.
With Instagram in your marketing toolbox, you are building long-term relationships. Use this platform when you are ready to expand beyond the product you offer to engagement. When used effectively, Instagrammers will feel more connected to your company and/or books … and share their photos of your books with you.
- Within one year of launch, Instagram had 5 million users (June 2011) and 150 million photographs. By May 2012, photographs were being added and new users gained every second.
- Facebook famously bought Instagram in April 2012 for approximately $1 billion in stock and cash.
- Instagram has an Instagram for Business blog.
Reading Worth Your Time
- 8 Instagram Tips to Maximize Brand and Social Media Results – Heidi Cohen (October 2013)
- 5 Ways Marketers Can Use Instagram – Social Media Examiner (January 2013)
- Instagram for Business: 26 Tips for Using Instagram for Business – Social Media Examiner (September 2013)
- Instagram Tools to Grow Your Presence – Razor Social (undated)
- Instagram logo – Instagram website
- Instagram Screenshots – Instagram.com home page
- Steve Madden Boots pictures – Search Engine People blog (Instagram v. Pinterest for Your Brand)
About the Author: Terry Doherty is a voracious reader with a keen analytical eye and a lifelong passion for writing. Combine a passion for reading and kids, a natural affinity for analysis, and a love of solving puzzles, and you’ve got Terry. Before becoming a Mom in late 2001, she spent nearly 20 years as a research analyst, supervisor, mentor, trainer, and analytical program manager with the federal government. She has drawn on her acclaimed expertise as a national security analyst in her roles as senior editor and publishing director for an independent house; and mentor for both her consulting business & flourishing literacy nonprofit.