Eighty million users can’t be wrong. And smart marketers can’t ignore a platform that brings millions of eyes to brands, products and services.

Instagram is a mobile marketplace that uses images to build relationships and catalyze conversations that can impact consumer loyalty. Since launching in October 2010, over 4 billion photos have been shared, making Instagram the most popular photo sharing app ever created. Some imaging experts compare Instagram’s impact to Kodak’s iconic Brownie.

Although most users are consumers snapping and sharing images of their families, pets, food and travels, some smart marketers are helping brands build a presence on the best visual social network on the planet.

Before jumping on the Instagramming bandwagon, consider these three components of a successful strategy:

1. Consistency and Continuity

Your audience craves content with a distinctive voice, whether it’s verbal or visual. An effective content marketing strategy successfully creates consistency across all channels. Consumer’s expectations for relevant messages across channels are higher than ever. As Jim Roemmer, senior director of the addressable media team at Gap Inc. Direct, explains: “Customers don’t care that a marketer is organized by channels — they want the marketer to stitch the multichannel experience all together.” If your images are off-brand, then your brand will come across as confused or muddled.

Seriously evaluate whether your company’s content is consistent and cohesive. Is the tone of your blog quirky and irreverent? Consider consistently sharing images that reinforce this unconventional brand image. Is the tone of your blog professorial? Consider consistently sharing images that are informational.

Take  your commitment to continuity a step farther by establishing an Instagram identity and sharing standards for your company. Choose 1 or 2 Instagram filters and stick with them. This creates your  signature style for your followers to recognize. Sound simple? Maybe, but simple, strategic steps can make a significant impact on your overall content strategy. For example, Tiffany & Company’s signature blue imbues many of their Instagram images with brand continuity.

instagram_tiffany-and-co

2. Monitoring and Measuring

Just like any social media channel, Instagram can benefit your brand or turn into a time-consuming chore. If you decide to utilize Instagram as part of your marketing strategy, you must monitor and measure your activity to evaluate its effectiveness. Put a monitoring tool in place before sharing images on Instagram.

Statigram sets the standard for Instagram account management. Functioning much like Facebook or Twitter, Statigram enables you to effectively translate your Instagram experience onto desktop browsers. Chat with followers, view and respond to comments, and analyze follower and image viewing statistics.

Since Statigram stands strongly at the intersection of social media and metrics, you can chat with followers while simultaneously evaluating the best time to post a photo. To take this tool a step farther, you can confirm which of Instagram’s various filters will get you the most likes! It all arrives in a sleek reporting package that’s simple to use and lovely to see.

3. Continuing Conversations

Remember, Instagram is a *social* network. That means its real power is catalyzing conversations that turn into longterm relationships. Images are merely the conduit.

Have you created a survey via email or social media to ask your customers if they’re using Instagram? If not, try it out. When you receive results, seek out your customers and follow them. Instagram is a two-way street. So, continually engage with customers by liking or commenting on a their images. Even following a customer will let them know you’re interested in them and encourage them to follow you back!

In addition, search for and participate in commonly used hashtags, like #throwbackthursday, so users who may not be familiar with your blog can find you while browsing.

Tiffany & Company leveraged the social power of Instagram by using a specific hashtag in a marketing campaign. They prompted users to tag personal photos #trueloveinpictures and then built a microsite showcasing user-generated photos. Tiffany & Company created relationships with Instagram users, while receiving free content and a boatloads of publicity.

To learn how to use Instagram effectively, check out this helpful infographic created by Marketo. Or, to view examples of twenty companies creatively using Instagram to build brand awareness and engagement, check out this article.

About the Author

community-team-rachel-lacour-niesenRachel LaCour Niesen is co-founder and Chief Ideation Officer of MatchStick Strategies. Find more musings from Rachel on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.

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