Using Instagram effectively
A picture tells a thousand words and endless social media stats demonstrate that visuals generate more interest in posts (clicks, likes, and shares) than text alone. It should have come as no surprise then that Instagram is quickly climbing the social media ladder, attracting millions of users each month, and breaking in to the top 10 most used social apps of 2013. Better than any of the camera tools integrated in to Facebook, Google+, or Twitter, Instagram makes average pictures look very good; however, as with any social channel, it’s incredibly easy to post, but requires skill and understanding to make a real impact.
For any business, the basic use of Instagram is to show a product at it’s best. Food, clothes, cars – post them and they will sell, the logic goes. It’s called advertising and Instagram is fast filling up with ad after ad after ad. In fact, an entire industry is growing around Instagram ads, with ‘traditional’ photographers ditching their DSLR for a 5s, snapping away, and selecting amaro. But, is a great ad featuring a well-crafted visual truly the best use of Instagram?
By far the most effective use of Instagram is as a window into a brand, not as a platform for adverts. Ads are fine – they can look great and will generate some interest – but on Instagram the immediate audience for a post are already keen on your products: they declared their loyalty when they clicked follow. What this audience really wants is a better understanding of your brand; a clearer insight into the workings behind the products they already know and love. Of course they’ll want to know of a new product launch and will gladly promote this and, in many cases, purchase; but, by demonstrating the integrity and values of your brand you build a greater loyality, one that will increase likes, sharing, interest, followers, and ultimately customers.
Instagram images, based on their size and method of consumption, lend themselves well to intimate shots of your brands working – a behind the scenes glimpse, and under the skin glance. The chefs crafting a dish, the models relaxing before the photoshoot, the hem being sewn. These are the photos that advertisers previously killed for, spent hours trying to stage, failed, and more often than not resorted to cheesy stock photos of men with pearl teeth in creaseless shirts, smiling at the camera or looking aimlessly into the middle distance.
The camera phone, even with a lens attached, is an unobtrusive device that allows the photographer to get close to an undisturbed subject – the people behind the brand – and reveal the inner-workings that followers long to see. This strategy always gains greater recognition, always wins more friends – advocates who are keen to spread the word of the brand. Of course, for this to work, the image of the brand portrayed has to be genuine. A staged Instagram post will gain little traction and is not a solution to a poorly performing brand – simply transparent paper covering the cracks as poorly as any stock image from the banks of Getty. Before using Instagram, assess the image of your brand – do the inner-workings demonstrate the look and feel you hoped they did? If the answer is no, now is a time to reassess your brand, not just you Instagram account.
In summary, the real skill in using Instagram and, therefore, it’s highest value to a brand, is to project the image of that brand clearly for followers to see. There is nothing wrong with the occasional advert (one in every ten posts should be the limit), but never forget followers aren’t interested in a square catalogue, rather an insight beneath the brand’s skin.