Instagram for brands

Written by Alessandro Rossi on .

instagram apertura

Social media has reached critical mass, but with new channels emerging on the regular, how do brands hit a continuously moving target? The answer is simple: prioritize the channels that are most relevant and most used. Nearly 30 percent of adult Internet users use Instagram, that’s 400 million active users

Instagram hit the 400 million user milestone in September, which just shows to what extent the platform has powered to success in the past five years. Its accomplishments are based on the fact that it offers a fantastic user experience. Consumers love it because it feels real, it’s beautifully simple and is a rich and creative way to tell stories.


The social media site is also a powerful ally for advertisers, offering them an opportunity to reach a new audience and build a community, raising awareness and even shifting perceptions.

Brands such as GoPro and Airbnb are brilliant at engaging customers on Instagram. But while these brands may already “get it” in terms of using the platform in their cross-channel marketing strategies, the same can’t be said for the whole industry. Too often marketers jump on a social network without considering its specific ins and outs. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all present their own opportunities for marketers, as well as unique challenges.

So, to coincide with the Instagram’s fifth anniversary, here are some top tips for marketers to better engage their audiences and generate brand loyalty when using this channel.

Involve your customers

Airbnb’s Instagram strategy is a great example of how to engage and involve your customers. Some of the beautiful holiday snaps taken by its customers that mention the brand’s handle (@airbnb) or capture its hashtag (#airbnb) are used to advertise the properties and destinations on its books. Not only does this help profile what the company has to offer in an authentic and genuine way, re-sharing content posted by your followers also strengthens customer relationships by demonstrating that you value their engagement.

Try competitions

When setting your followers a task to take photos and tag your brand, it’s important to provide an incentive. Some people are satisfied by brand recognition (for example, a mention or a re-post) but in other instances a prize is more effective. GoPro runs regular competitions asking customers to share their best photos and videos taken with one of its cameras. Prizes range from 50% off GoPro products to a $5,000 cash prize.

It’s a good strategy on the one hand because it enables brands to find out more about their followers (if they ask for data on entry), but it’s also a strong customer endorsement. What better way to show off the strength of your product than getting your followers to submit images and videos of them using it?

Consider sponsored posts

Instagram’s new ad features are set to take social shopping to the next level. Instagram does not yet store payment details that would enable shopping directly from the app, but analysts predict it will soon. In the meantime, there’s still a lot you can do with sponsored posts. Why not get users to click through to your e-commerce site, install your new app or sign up to a mailing list?

Be authentic

Instagram’s audience is young, image-aware and digitally engaged, and it’s a community that wants to be fed interesting, relevant and useful content. Brand marketers need to respond with profiles, content and services that are appropriate. With each tactic that marketers deploy, the word that should be ringing in their ears is authenticity. Promote your brand messages, share appropriate product information and company news, but do it in a human, real way to keep your followers engaged.

More top tips

Stuck for inspiration? Look back through your most liked posts to see if there are any common themes (for example, pictures of food). Pick your hashtags carefully: choose ones that are too common and they’ll get lost in the flood, so keep them relevant and use them sparingly. Avoid being overly sales-y: as tempting as it might be to talk about your own product, it’s important to balance this with other interesting content.

Social media is also your customer service department: if someone has a product query, respond quickly and efficiently; it makes the customer feel good about your brand and is more likely to engage them.

Training of the social media team

As always, beyond the instruments, training of the social media team or the agency/professional it is directed at is of paramount importance.

Indeed, it may very well happen that the issue is entrusted to the wrong people or that we ourselves do not have sufficient inside training to use these instruments. One of the first mistakes to avoid is to be too self-serving, focusing our users’ attention only on the contents of our own products and/or services; this should not happen in general because these instruments are used to test the waters and establish a dialogue, not a monologue…

And let’s always remember that images remain more impressed in the mind than words, so content curation is important in planning what we wish to transmit. Not only for what concerns times but also relative to the angle we want to give. An attentive analysis of the audience we are addressing, an analysis of the engagement (or total interaction) in relation to the themes treated will allow to obtain (in the long term, because at least in the beginning, we need to have patience) optimal results. Above all if we respect our users and if we try to create really engrossing contents.

It is not enough to simply take a picture of the products: we must try to maximize interaction with users by actively involving them (just think that a user who really loves a brand – the so-called ‘lovebrand’ – follows it and interacts constantly with it).

Let’s start with some suggestions, above all if you have not yet created your account on Instagram or you have done so recently. As we have mentioned, the first thing to do is to have an idea of your reference audience and to later analyze it more in-depth. Once this is done, one of the activities performed more often is to tell or recall the story of a service/brand and through the photo shoot, ask the audience if they know or remember the product/service. This eventual interaction generates the emotion of the memory in the user, it will most likely have an impact on him or her, leading to appreciate it not only with a “like” (a parameter considered often, but relative) but perhaps with a comment or even by reposting (through special apps like Instarepost or Regram) those contents and disseminating the company’s message even farther, thus increasing brand awareness. Recently, Instagram introduced the possibility to send, through direct messaging or DM, the post (photo or vid-eo) to other users. This, too, enhances engagement!

Launch a new product

But the issue is different if we want to launch a new product or service and we choose users who have technical or specific knowledge of the realm. In this way, these “chosen few” will be able to try the product and produce an indicative perception by talking about it with their followers.

Remember not to be too self-serving and promotional. Your corporate account should tell about particular aspects, from behind the scenes to a particular use of a product, from publishing suggestions to better use a product to reposting a user’s photo. For advertising, there is the Instagram Ads platform.

To understand if the strategy chosen for our contents is correct, monitoring will have to be done, through platforms. And this is very important also in the event that we want to create a hashtag (a label to classify and look for photos) for a challenge, a contest or to customize a certain characteristic of our contents. In all these cases, we must understand the audience’s perception through precise instruments, something that will also allow to better understand at which time of the day and what type of appreciations our followers make.

How to Create Instagram AdsThe ad platform

How to create an ad on Instagram and why. Through the Facebook entry management system (yes, Instagram is part of FB and to activate the campaigns, you must have a FB page) it is possible to create a set of ads. Why use this platform? Because there is greater interaction on Instagram and activity can be monitored.

Formats are traditional images (resolution up to 1080 px for the square format or 1200 px for the extended version), videos (max. duration 30” and max weight 30Mb) and carousels (a set of 4 – and soon 5 – horizontally running images, useful in promoting more than one product). Actions available: a link to a website (for images and carousels) through a customizable button (book now, sign up, etc.), installation of an app (for images and videos) in this case, too, through a customized button (install now, etc.).

A piece of advice for the link to your website is to create a specific page (landing page) to maximize customer interaction or requests and of course the website will have to be responsive (i.e., adaptive based on the device used).

Some instruments

Iconosquare. Thanks to this online service it is possible to have a scenario of the level of engagement, best posts, best hours relative to the content posted, followers acquired/lost, followers who interact most, photos receiving the most likes, most-commented photos and lots more. It is a basic instrument that yields an overall picture of the situation. Latergramme or Hootsuite. One of the worst nightmares of social media managers on Instagram is to prepare contents to be posted in preset hours based on the editorial plan. With this kind of service, the job is facilitated because, once the contents to be posted are prepared, the service will notify you a short time before publishing them and will allow posting them correctly. Repost, Instarepost or Regram. These types of applications allow reposting a user’s contents, enhancing the value of the user and growing users’ perception of the brand, hence increasing engagement.

Instagram partners program. Launched recently, this service allows entering into contact with people who supply technical support relative to planning of the campaigns and their contents.

In conclusion

The advice is to enhance your contents by trying to get users’ approval (even through a simple “like”, albeit a parameter that is not completely reliable if compared to number of photos, comments and the time of the interaction) but it is very important to set up a long-term strategy, trying in every possible way to interact with the public and really engross people in your brand. It is better to have a restricted but passionate group of followers of your brand, service or product, than to have one that never or hardly ever interacts. And this is because on the web and above all on certain social media platforms, the audience tends to get bored more quickly, so attaining the goals set becomes more and more complicated.

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