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VOL. 36 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 07, 2012

Instagram marketing secrets

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It’s not often that a company with essentially no revenue sells for nearly a billion dollars, but that’s just what happened when Facebook wrote the largest check for a social media network ever this year. So what inspired the Facebook founder’s record-breaking purchase of Instagram?

For starters, Instagram has more than 80 million users with more than 4 billion user-published photos posted – impressive stats for this two-year-old start-up. Many believe that Zuckerburg (Facebook’s founder) was threatened by Instagram’s growing user base and degree of service overlap. After all, what Facebook users like most about the network is the ability to share photos. Once Instagram, which was developed exclusively for mobile users, began adding social media messaging capabilities, they were in essence attacking Facebook’s weak spot – the strength of its mobile app, which most find to be mediocre at best.

Instagram is a photo-sharing program. It allows users to take and doctor photos using a variety of interesting effects (such as applying futuristic or retro filters), ultimately sharing them with others on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Instagram users can “like” and comment on one another’s photos, similar to functionality found on Facebook.

An increasing number of brands are developing an Instagram presence, but it was the luxury brands that were the early adopters – brands such as Starbucks, Burberry, Audi and Mercedes. For these brands, creating an emotional connection with buyers is the name of the game, and sharing interesting visuals that allow consumers to imagine how their lives might change as a result of their products is a good start.

Whether you’re new to Instagram or looking to get more from your time investment, follow these tips.

Determine what your readers are most interested in and expect from your brand, and stick with it.

Be careful not to overdo it. Most Instagram users follow fewer than 200 people. So if you post 10 photos in a row, you are in essence hijacking their feed. That’s a great way to get “unfollowed.”

Use relevant hashtags. Due to Instagram’s simplicity, where advanced search features aren’t available, it’s essential that you include relevant hashtags in your photo captions to allow new followers to find you and your photos.

If you’re still not sure if your brand is a good fit for Instagram, or even Pinterest, here’s food for thought. Photos are twice as likely to be shared via social media than text links. If your brand lends itself to interesting photography and you’re looking for greater consumer engagement with your brand, these tools may well be worth the time investment.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and managing partner of RedRover Sales & Marketing, www.redrovercompany.com, with offices in Memphis and Nashville. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).