Bursting onto the social media scene in 2011, Instagram quickly and aggressively made a name for itself. With the old-school simplicity of a Polaroid camera, and the tag-insanity of Twitter, Instagram turns your iPhone into an insanely cool photo studio. Click the self-explanatory camera icon, run your shot through a variety of crazy filters, and voila—your followers can now appreciate the beauty of life through your eyes. Users can @tag friends and followers, #hashtag their witty captions and comments, and then choose whether or not they'd like to share their newest masterpiece on their Twitter or Facebook accounts. Brands, retailers and athletes are jumping on the Instagram bandwagon in droves, giving fans a literal peek behind the scenes. Followers can now see events, athletes, gear, and their favorite products actually being used. Shameless self-promotion at its finest—what better marketing could a company ask for?
The real question is what makes a brand stand out in the densely populated Insta-nation? How does a company attract a mass following, and once popularity is attained, how do you keep fans entertained? We took a look at what brands are doing it well, and how.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you turn your brand into an Insta-hit and a list of some of the companies leading the charge…
The point of social media is instant gratification- type in a name, find a friend, and learn more than you ever needed to know about their personal lives. Brands need to make themselves relevant, accessible and interesting to fans. The key to making a lasting impression is to create a strong presence on every social media outlet available—a seemingly daunting task.
The beauty of Instagram comes with the fact that it can be integrated into already established accounts. Tweets include Instagram photos more often than not, and any photo taken on Instagram can be funneled straight to a Facebook or Twitter account, where followers can easily view it. On top of this, Instagrammers can @tag their friends or companies in their photos, or #make comments that will link back to certain brands. The key to utilizing this connection is syncing all usernames. Create a handle that is obvious and easy to search, and use it consistently.
Fans are constantly tweeting, tagging and giving shout outs to their favorite athletes, celebrities and brands- reward them with the ultimate in customer service and respond. Of course, it would take a lifetime to respond to every devotee, but whenever possible, interact with fans by replying to their comments. Another strategy is to ask fans for their insights—Nike asks its followers to submit "#makeitcount photos, where fans take photos, hash tag "makeitcount" and Nike is instantly linked to that picture. The possibility of getting a response will attract followers in droves, and exponentially increase the number of times these followers upload, tag, and comment on photos that concern your company. In the same vein, following others can create ground swell for your account. Reaching out earns you more fans, as followers return the favor, and will make you more visible to that account's followers.
KEEP THEM INTERESTING, AND KEEP THEM COMING.
The key to keeping your fan base, while attracting new followers, is to be creative and consistent. Mix up the subjects of your photos: incorporate products, athletes, events, scenery, lifestyle photos and throw in a few random funny shots when the mood strikes you. Fans want to feel that they are getting a peek behind the scenes- so reward their loyalty and give them what they're asking for! In addition, don't get lazy. An account that only posts once in a while quickly loses momentum and fan interest.
By the same token, constantly bombarding Instagram with your hilarious/creative/scenic photos may overwhelm followers and drive them away. The key here is finding a happy medium—uploading diverse, creative photos at a steady pace.
Red Bull is one brand nailing this tactic—the brand boasts an Instagram portfolio comprised of event photos, athlete action shots, jaw-dropping scenery, and random funny shots that lend the company a personality and sense of humor. With 138,878 followers (a number that increases by the hour), Red Bull has mastered the Insta-universe.
TAG EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING.
The point of tagging is to link up your account with those around you. By tagging people, places, events, and products, you are instantly making yourself visible to thousands of potential fans. For example, someone who follows Gretchen Bleiler is much more likely to follow Oakley once the brand has solidly associated itself with her. According to social media protocol, a tag is a favor that will be duly returned, providing your brand with yet another dose of publicity.
THE HIGHLIGHT REEL: BRANDS ON THEIR A-GAME
Best of the best: These brands have taken Instagram to the next level, attracting followers like moths to a flame. Consistently posting photos across all genres, tagging up a storm and encouraging fan interaction, these companies are prime examples of social media done right.
(Note: this list is not all inclusive)
Handle: @redbull # of followers: 138,878 # of photos: 462
Handle: @Urban Outfitters # of followers: 96,805 # of photos: 101
Handle: @Bobby Hundreds # of followers: 35,215 # of photos: 424
Handle: @nike # of followers: 26,370 # of photos: 112
Handle: @DGK # of followers: 24,853 # of photos: 673
Handle: @volcomphoto # of followers: 13,172 # of photos: 231
Handle: @expeditionone # of followers: 12,500 # of photos: 518
Handle: @dcshoes # of followers: 11,471 # of photos: 115
Up and Comers: Billabong, Oakley, Kr3w Denim and our very own TransWorld Business are 4 brands climbing their way up the Instagram ladder of success— Given time, they will be among the app’s elite.
Handle: @billabong # of followers: 5,052 # of photos: 51
Handle: @planb_skateboards #of followers: 4,467 # of photos: 41
Handle: @oakley # of followers: 3, 528 # of photos: 42
Handle: @kr3w_denim # of followers: 2,330 # of photos: 25
Handle: @transworldbiz # of followers: 960 # of photos: 79
The world of motocross has even gone so far as to create their own little realm within instagram- vurbagram