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A picture is worth 1,000 words. Or if you’re Mark Zuckerburg it’s worth a billion dollars. Whatever it’s worth, or whatever Zuckerburg thinks it’s worth, we know photos are valuable. This is because pictures tell stories and Instagram is way to create your own story. In the first part of the series I gave examples of some companies that are using the SmartPhone application to build their advantage. In this part of the series we’re going to take a look at how you can do the same by building a user base and maximizing your branding and online marketing efforts.

Tell Your Story On Instagram

The photos you post on Instagram should be relevant to your brand and the message you want to get across about who you are. Following the 80-20 rule is key: post 20% of promotional photos and 80% of photos that relate to your brand without making your product the center of attention. Posting a variety of images is also important. If you are a coffee shop, no one wants to see post after post of the same “perfect latte.” Think about what your customers consume and take information you’ve learned from Pinetrest or other social media sites to create a content strategy. If your product isn’t tangible you’ll have to get even more creative. Give followers a behind the scenes look at your office or production center, funny employees or anything that followers wouldn’t be able to see in their daily lives that is unique to your brand.

Sharpie is a good example of a company that posts relevant content that relates to their product (without being too promotional) through sharpie art work. Sharpie knows that there is nothing interesting about monotonous photos of markers. Images become engaging when you think about how people are using you product, and that’s how you can create a story. It’s this type of backwards creative thinking that companies should think about when setting a content strategy for any photo platform.


Photos from @Sharpie on Instagram.


Using keywords and hashtags on Instagram photos are the small details that can help your internet marketing strategy in the long run. Just like placing keywords in the HTML attribute of photos (alt attribute) is important for regular photos, keywords should be placed in the title for Instagram photos. Photos will find their way online in many different places. The caption of your photo will also become your tweet and the caption on your Facebook post.

Hashtags are important because they are an easy way for people to find your photos and increase the number of follows and likes you get. Creating custom hashtags is an easy way to organize and promote contests, thoughts or images that are specific to your brand.

GAP used their own custom hashtag #bebright to gather photos of users wearing GAP at the Bonaroo Music Festival this past weekend. GAP had a booth where festival-goers could make their own tee-shirts. Be Bright is more than a hastag, it’s a type of contagious energy that GAP was trying to promote to get people excited about their brand.


Photos from Bonnaroo with the hashtag #BeBright from over the weekend.

Build a Following

Just like with Twitter, the more people you follow and the more engaging you are the more people will want to follow you back. Use Instagram’s search and hashtags to find people talking about your brand or relevant users. As a user you are allowed to tweet photos that other users have uploaded. You should also like your fan’s photos, follow them, comment on their photos and be as engaging and excited as possible.

It’s also important to note that being authentic and personal in your interactions is equally important. People don’t want some random marketer intruding on their social space unless they have something relevant to say.

Pretty Lights, an electronic music group from Colorado does a great job of engaging fans on Instagram. Pretty Lights created a custom hashtag #plpix where users upload pictures dealing with music, lights, reflections, colors and textures.


Pretty lights posts their favorite fan photos (in addition to their own photos) and uses the #plpix hashtag to organize and find the photo

General Electric held an Instagram contest to “Be the Next Instagrapher” and win a trip to Wales to photograph of GE’s jet engine facility. Fans took and shared photos inspired by GE innovation and hashtaged photos with #GEinspiredME. Fans voted on the images and the winner took home $3,000.


Photo Submission of #GEinspiredME contest above, and the video explaining the contest below

Create Your Own Contest

You too can create a contest and gain a following. You can host a contest where the best photo caption wins your product or host a contest where the best photo that relates to your product wins the product.

Like Pretty Lights and General Electric, promote contest through special hash tags and post photos on social media platforms and your website. Announce the winner of the contest on your website in order to drive traffic back to your page and gain SEO value.

The simpler the contest, the better. The point is to start a conversation and promote social engagement.

TXMotorSpeedway hosted a simple contest: “3 days until @globalrallyx! Upload a pic of a number 3 or something representing “3” with the hashtag #GRCisComing for a chance to win a signed @travispastrana @dcshoes hat!”



Location, location, location.

Geo-tagging is important for Instagram because it’s a way for people to find what’s around them. Geo-tagging can increase the chances of someone finding your photo and also discovering your storefront, art museum, factory, coffee shop etc. By submitting a geo- tagged location to Instagram, you’ll also be able to gather photos from your location and find more relevant followers.


Photos from two of my favorite places: Park City Mountain Resort and Cabo, Mexico.

Find Influential Users

Another way that marketers are using Instagram is to find influential users and pay them to take photos of an event or product. An influential user is someone that has a naturally large following (lets say 50,000+) and takes awesome photos. Marketers should think of this strategy like they would product placement in a movie or TV show. Companies like Delta and Barneys are already doing so.

Bring It Full Circle

The last and final piece of the Instagram pie is to crowd source your content, which ties into social engagement, through social bookmarking sites. Starbucks for example has created a slideshow of photos from users who have hashtagged #starbucks on their photos. This gets users excited about posting photos and gets them to check the website to find their photos.

Here’s a quick list of places to find and share your photos:

  • Webstagram/Instagram: Webstagram and Instagram are websites where you can get RSS feeds and browse hashtags, photos and users. It’s an easy way to find people talking about your brand and save photos to your computer that you can upload and post to your website, Pintrest or use for promotional material. Using these sites are also a good way to speed up your Instagram process because we all know cell phones still aren’t as fast as computers.
  • Pintrest: Pintrest is a great place to share you Instagram photos and drive traffic back to your website.
  • Pinstagram: Pinstagram is like Webstagram except the way that it displays photos is like Pintrest. Your login is your Instagram name and it was created so that people could enjoy Instagram photos online.
  • Flickr: Instagram allows you to upload photos directly to your Flickr account. Once photos are on your Flickr they are indexed by search engines and can show up in results for keywords. (Remember to pay attention to the titles of your photo).

There’s also Tumblr, Instagrid, Gramfeed, Instagre.at and Flipboard which are all good avenues to explore.

With a little bit of elbow grease and creativity, Instagram can help you build brand awareness through social engagement and provide a clear message about who your company is. It’s a simple way create likeable, shareable, unique content with minimal effort that can spread across multiple platforms to help your brand and SEO.

I’d love to hear from you, do you have any more questions about using Instagram or other great examples of companies who have found success.