Brand guide for instagram
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Brand guide for instagram

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How to establish your brand on Instagram...and why...

How to establish your brand on Instagram...and why...

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  • 1. ICROSSING POV: THE CMO'S GUIDE TO INSTAGRAM: WHY BRANDS MUST BE VISUAL TO GAIN VISIBILITY by Kashem Miah and Nick Burd with Doug Platts, iCrossing Facebook’s recent acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion highlights the importance of visual storytelling for marketers looking to build connected brands with social and mobile. Text, links, and video have long been the gold standard for awareness, visibility, and engagement. But the ubiquity of camera phones and the enduring popularity of photo-friendly social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed images to become some of the most engaging and shareable content on the web. To build close relationships with their audiences, brands need visual strategies, and Instagram is arguably the current leader in visually representing brand identities. In this POV, we’ll highlight the key takeaways, recommend next steps for marketers looking to visually share their brand story using Instagram, and give an update on Facebook’s acquisition of the platform and discuss what’s next in terms of advertising opportunities on the platform. WHAT IS INSTAGRAM? Instagram is a free photo sharing application that allows users to take a photo, apply a digital filter, and then share it instantly. Sharing is enabled for a variety of social networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare, as well as Instagram's own network. It is also the biggest mobile social media network; the majority of its activities and community exist solely within iOS and Android mobile apps. The fact that Instagram is primarily a mobile platform is particularly important, given the fact that people are increasingly accessing the Internet via a mobile device. According to a recent study by the International Telecommunication Union (ICT), there are almost 6 billion active mobile subscriptions in the world, easily surpassing other access methods such as broadband and dial-up. In fact, mobile usage has grown 45% annually over the last four years, ushering in what some are already calling the Mobile Age. As with most social networks, Instagram allows users to follow each other; they can also tag other users, use hashtags, and like uploaded pictures that are shared within their stream from people they follow, which is now integrated with Facebook for greater visibility and engagement. Instagram’s popularity is mostly due to the instant shareability, but also its ability to make photos taken with a mobile device look more professional and stylized. The application is compatible with any iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS 3.1.2 or above, and any mobile phone running Android 2.2 or above. It is a free app on the Apple App Store or Google Play.
  • 2. THE CMO'S GUIDE TO INSTAGRAM: WHY BRANDS MUST BE VISUAL TO GAIN VISIBILITY OCTOBER 2013 Instagram is extremely popular, with more than 5 million photos uploaded every day and 40 million plus accounts created since Instagram launched in October of 2010. As Instagram continues to grow, competitors such as Path and Dailybooth are hoping to cut into the overall marketshare with their own mobile photo sharing apps. Of course, Pinterest is also a wildly popular site that brands are embracing as part of their visual content strategies. What makes Instagram different and also vital is its mobile experience. The Instagram ecosystem lives on mobile, which is increasingly becoming the consumption of choice for consumers. While Pinterest has a mobile presence with apps on Android and iOS, its desktop experience far exceeds that of the mobile apps. If brands want to target the always-on visual consumer, Instagram currently offers the best mobile experience. WHY YOUR BRAND SHOULD BE ON INSTAGRAM Granted, Instagram is popular with consumers. But why should brands be on Instagram? Here are a few reasons to join the largest mobile social network on the planet. VISUAL STORYTELLING At its core, Instagram is about taking pictures, adding cool, professional looking filters, and sharing them across the Internet. But something else is also happening: Instagram is creating an active community of visual storytellers, unlike any other social platform. Brands should be on Instagram to tell the stories of their products and allow fans to see their inner workings but also allow their customers and followers to share their own brand perspective with the rest of the community. Customer personalities can be a powerful tool for brands, and allowing them to express themselves visually can fuel advocacy and propel a brand’s image in a positive direction. USER GENERATED “COMMUNICATION” The amount of user-generated content a brand can create is a great metric for measuring activity and engagement of a brand community. Instagram provides brands the unique opportunity to solicit user-generated content through an activity they’re already performing every day: taking and sharing pictures. Brands like Starbucks and The Today Show regularly ask users to submit pictures from their daily activities to specific events they attend. In doing so, those brands provide great examples of crowdsourcing, where consumers share ideas with a brand for campaigns or social activity. Connecting with users through a visual aid helps brands create a strong bond with their audience, one that separates Instagram from other social networks, where brand publishing approaches sometimes feel like a one-way street. SOCIAL SHARING = SEO BENEFITS Instagram has the ability to share pictures across multiple social networking sites such as Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Now, due to increased consumption of visual imagery on social networks, Facebook and Twitter no longer only include links on the wall to individual Instagram photos – they show the entire image, heightening Instagram’s visibility even more. Another social capability that Instagram boasts is hashtag functionality. Brands can use hashtags in connection to a specific campaign or contest. Brisk Iced Tea was one of the first brands to use hashtags for an Instagram campaign. At SXSW 2011, they asked fans to tag their pics with #briskpic for a chance to get their faces on a Brisk Iced Tea can. Brisk received thousands of pictures within a day. Finally, Instagram also allows you to tag friends and followers using the @ symbol, a feature most commonly found on Twitter and Facebook. Instagram’s social sharing capability is also a great facilitator in providing SEO benefits through amplification of the images, captions and hashtags. As images get pushed across multiple social networks, the amplification of this content will also reach authoritative influencers, who can then further share with their audiences to increase visibility and awareness for any brand. Doing so can drive further links and social signals to a brand’s website, therefore building a stronger equity for the site and aid in it ranking more competitively in search. © ICROSSING, INC., A HEARST COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 2
  • 3. THE CMO'S GUIDE TO INSTAGRAM: WHY BRANDS MUST BE VISUAL TO GAIN VISIBILITY OCTOBER 2013 INSTAGRAM BEST PRACTICES Getting started on Instagram is easy, but sustaining long-term engagement takes dedication. Here are a few best practices for brands to keep in mind when engaging with a new audience on a new platform through a unique approach to social media publishing. SHARE INTERESTING IMAGES Every brand will need to decide on its own whether its Instagram strategy should focus on product-related images or photos that convey the ‘brand lifestyle’. No matter what they choose, brands should keep in mind that Instagram is first and foremost a creative platform where the unexpected and authentic are equally encouraged. Photos that only showcase products or corporate messaging may feel out of place among photos of users’ friends Instagramming their fun weekend activities. Brands should also remember to address relevant topics other than explicit mentions or images of their brands and products, whenever posting on any of their social properties, including Instagram. Every post in the Starbucks feed doesn’t necessarily have to be about coffee; and the Gucci or Marc Jacobs feeds can feature much more than shots of clothes or accessories. Why not feature a photo of a gorgeous summer sunset? Or the adorable corgi that an employee brought into the office? If highlighting products is indeed a priority, consider General Electric’s approach: sharing pictures of their jet engines in an artistic, visually appealing fashion that is appropriate to Instagram’s sensibilities. POST OFTEN AND CONSISTENTLY Similarly to most social networks, followers will abandon a brand if updates aren’t frequent, but brands also shouldn’t clog an audience member’s feed by sharing too many images within a short period of time. There needs to be a consistent balance. For example, Good Morning America shares pictures during the morning hours of the show. The regularity of the posting schedule gives followers rich content to look forward to every morning. © ICROSSING, INC., A HEARST COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 3
  • 4. THE CMO'S GUIDE TO INSTAGRAM: WHY BRANDS MUST BE VISUAL TO GAIN VISIBILITY OCTOBER 2013 On the other hand, Lipton’s Brisk ice tea channel stopped sharing images on Instagram for a month and followed up with 13 in one day, which annoyed many users. To sustain relationships with its audience, brands should create a publishing plan that establishes reasonable expectations for consistent post timing and quality. CREATE THEMES AND HASHTAGS Consistency is key when it comes to finding success on Instagram. Brands need to create themes to let followers know what to expect and crave more images. Hashtags are a powerful way to keep the themes streamlined and searchable, and with Instagram’s new Explore tab, it’s now easier than ever to search for hashtags. Kate Spade NY does a great job of sharing images with a splash of color in them, by using the #popofcolor hashtag. GET THE COMMUNITY INVOLVED Like most social networks, in order to be successful, the network needs for a community to feel involved. And the best way to involve the community is through user generated content. Use a themed hashtag and re-publish images back to the public audience. Doing so lets the community know that you are looking at what they’re submitting, sharing content that aligns with the brand goals and willing to celebrate brand advocates for their contributions. GETTING STARTED ON INSTAGRAM + Download the Instagram App and create your free profile. + Secure your brand as the username on the platform (many brands have yet to do this). + Develop a publishing plan, based on brand and marketing objectives, as well as an understanding of audience sensibilities, to tell your brand story in new and interesting ways. + Post photos of your products, events, any behind-the-scenes photos of your business or other photos, based on your publishing plan. + Post regularly and monitor your account. + Share your Instagram profile and posted photos with fans and followers on your other social sharing channels. + Ask for feedback, listen to your followers, but most importantly, interact with your followers. + Use hashtags to determine how to drive increased engagement. + Reward influencers - Early brand evangelists are the key to higher reach and visibility. They’ll spread the word if you continue to reward them with recognition. Even a simple “thank you” can go a long way. + Optimize o Build engagement mechanisms - Users need a reason to share, like or comment on your images. o Test different types of content - Monitor what type of images the community reacts to best (i.e., lifestyle, productfocused, behind the scenes, and so on) and adjust your strategy accordingly for higher engagement. © ICROSSING, INC., A HEARST COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 4
  • 5. THE CMO'S GUIDE TO INSTAGRAM: WHY BRANDS MUST BE VISUAL TO GAIN VISIBILITY OCTOBER 2013 BRANDS EFFECTIVELY USING INSTAGRAM Lifestyle publications, beverage makers, newspapers, fashion labels, and television networks are using Instagram to convey their personalities and values through images. Since it is such a straightforward, intuitive platform, there aren’t a tremendous amount of rules as to how brands should use it. If brands simply focus on being engaging and interesting, they will probably find success on the platform. Below are some brands that are currently incorporating Instagram into their digital strategy ways that feel organic and effective. NEWS ABC World News, NBC News, CNN iReport, NPR News agencies are using Instagram to report on breaking news, show behind-the-scenes footage, and collect newsworthy user-generated content by inviting citizen journalists to submit photos with hashtags. Some content gives users smaller bites of information that in turn encourages them to visit CNN.com or tune into the actual network for a more in-depth analysis. @NPR @DatelineNBC @CNNiReport FASHION Burberry, Gucci, Bergdorf, Red Wing, Marc Jacobs Instagram has proven to be the perfect app for the image-obsessed world of fashion. Many fashion brands are using their Instagram streams to showcase street style and capture the bustling energy of fashion events. Some brands, like Marc Jacobs and Red Wing, use the platform to give visual tours of their factories and offices. By doing this, users get an idea of the work and culture that goes into to some of their favorite products, thereby creating a deeper bond between the consumer and the product. @gucci © ICROSSING, INC., A HEARST COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. @redwingheritage @marcjacobsintl 5
  • 6. THE CMO'S GUIDE TO INSTAGRAM: WHY BRANDS MUST BE VISUAL TO GAIN VISIBILITY OCTOBER 2013 ENTERTAINMENT MTV, Billboard.com, Complex Music and entertainment outlets are using Instagram to generate buzz for offline content such as magazines and award shows. Followers can catch curated glimpses of their favorite stars, along with behind-the-scenes footage at major events sponsored by these brands. Many entertainment brands are also, in essence, lifestyle brands, giving them the editorial freedom to publish a wide range of content. Complex is a good example of such a brand. Their Instagram stream features everything from hip-hop portraits to snapshots of limited edition sneakers. @complexmag @billboard @MTV CONSUMER BRANDS Pepsi, Red Bull, Starbucks Many consumer brands are taking a cue from entertainment brands and using Instagram to more fully illustrate the lifestyle associated with their product. For instance, the Red Bull Instagram feed focuses on living life “with wings,” an outlook that allows them to capture a wide range of topics including from travel, extreme sports, inspirational quotes, and hipster exotica. Such brands are finding success on Instagram by adhering to one of the most important behaviors for brands in social: they talk about things other than themselves. By doing so, they convey what’s important to the brand, as well as move nimbly among trending conversations without being shut out or seeming out of place. @redbull © ICROSSING, INC., A HEARST COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. @starbucks @pepsimax 6
  • 7. THE CMO'S GUIDE TO INSTAGRAM: WHY BRANDS MUST BE VISUAL TO GAIN VISIBILITY OCTOBER 2013 WHAT’S NEXT? On October 3, 2013, Instagram announced that it would be rolling out native advertising in its feed over the next few months. The ads, which will take the form of "high-quality photos and videos," will be placed in the feeds of users who don’t currently follow that brand. Instagram is emphasizing that the ad content be "beautiful, high-quality" so it doesn’t disrupt the user experience. Initially, only select brands will be chosen to participate, but it is expected to open to more brands in the future. CONCLUSION Brands need to remember that Instagram is a simple platform. They will find the most success on the platform by being straightforward and creative and engaging with their community through ritualized content and regular conversation. Anything that complicates the experience should be avoided at all costs. The fact that Instagram is a wholly mobile-based platform is also significant. Facebook and other popular sites are quickly realizing that mobile is the future of the Internet, something that Instagram recognized right off the bat. In the coming years, social platforms will increasingly be accessed through mobile devices. It stands to reason that many social offerings will look to Instagram for guidelines on how to do mobile right. If Instagram’s massive popularity, low barrier to entry, and inherently social DNA didn’t yet convince brands that it is an essential platform in the content marketing mix, its $1 billion purchase by Facebook should. This purchase shows a distinct interest in visual content by the media giant and hints at where the web is likely to go in the future in terms of content. In addition, if the Instagram community continues to grow on Facebook, brands can look forward to eventually having a vast collection of beautiful tagged content on the Pages they are already investing in developing. KEY TAKEAWAYS + Be Authentic: Develop a strong, authentic voice for your brand. It’s the golden rule for developing a robust community. + Let Photos Tell the Story: Creative, relevant photos with the right filters can tell your brand story unlike any text based status update. + Integrate Instagram with other Social Media Efforts: Let consumers know that Instagram is part of your full suite of social media channels. The more visible it is, the more opportunities there for consumers to connect with your brand. FURTHER READING: No More Secrets: Twitter IPO filing is now public – CNBC, October 3, 2013 Instagram to Start Showing In-Feed Video and Image Ads to US Users – Techcrunch, October 3, 2013 Why Brands Like Puma and GE Are Flocking To Instagram – AdAge, January 17, 2012 Facebook Buys Instagram for $1 Billion: Mobile is the Future – Forbes, April 9, 2012 Facebook Meets Instagram: What It Means For Your Brand – Mashable, April 17, 2012 4 Ways Facebook’s Instagram Acquisition Works for Brands – Forbes, May 5, 2012 Instagram updates to 2.5 with 'visual improvements' – CNet, June 25, 2012 STAY CONNECTED Find out more at www.icrossing.com Call us toll-free at 866.620.3780 Follow us on twitter @icrossing and @thecontentlab Become a fan at facebook.com/icrossing © ICROSSING, INC., A HEARST COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 7