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Saturday, December 13 2014

Ah, Instagram. The perennial universe of a generation of kids that so many people have theories on and try to understand.

Instagram is like the green light, the future that year by year recedes before us, as Fitzgerald most definitely foresaw when writing The Great Gatsby. But don't fear, because it need not elude us eternally. Instagram can be a really powerful social media tool to help you reconnect with your customers in the new year.

Instagram has a large and loyal following, boasting over 200 million monthly active users (not too far behind Twitter with 271 million). Facebook has over 1 billion followers. Further, an average of 55 million new photos are uploaded each day. Despite these impressive numbers, 45% of marketers have no plans to utilize Instagram, according to the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner.

This is surprising given the unique opportunity Instagram offers as a mobile, image-based platform. Instagram is the ultimate storytelling tool.

Purely visual Instagram is specific: you get a 400 x 400 pixel square space on a screen, for a picture or brief video. The purely image-based platform is an opportunity to show a distinct side of yourself. The key here is to show, not tell. Facebook can give you the space (and character count) to tell followers who you are, but Instagram forces you to show your followers who you are and what you stand for in a snapshot. Although it is limited to images, your options are anything but. By narrowing your medium, you are able to expand the reach of your industry.

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Purely mobile Instagram, unlike all other major social media platforms, does not have an option to post or interact via the web. Again, there are limitations here but there are also new doors that are opened. For one, it has been shown that people feel more connected and engaged when they play a more active role in a tactile experience. Studies have found that the physical swiping and typing we do on our touch screens feel more personal than typing and clicking from a computer. The mobile functionality of Instagram promotes engagement and interaction from followers more so than web views on Facebook.

Another benefit of its mobility is that most people have their phone with them almost everywhere they go. They use it during class, on their lunch break, hanging out with their friends, and lying in bed waking up or before falling asleep. This is your shot, just this one second scroll, to make an impression...but it’s a good shot!

Due to its purely mobile and visual features, Instagram is the ideal platform for a brand to create a compelling story. It is the ultimate way of connecting and engaging with a loyal following. To get the best use out of Instagram, here are some tips:

1. Respect the hashtag- Instagram allows fast and simple, 360 degree feedback on any product or promotion; simply engage your customers with the hashtag. For instance, a fashion company might encourage their followers to style their products and use a unique hashtag to follow trends. Madewell took this one step further, hosting an Instagram photo exhibition in 14 retail shops and distributing six of the most unique, stylized user photos as promotional cards. They found a way to weave their customers into their story and get them involved in the process, all with a unique hashtag.

2. Find customers- For a company with a physical location, upload and geo-tag a photo with your location. Then, view all photos that have been tagged at your shop and reach out to them from there.

3. Cross-promote- Further, consider hosting a promotional event or contest that gets users excited about your brand and offers them a value for connecting with you.

4. Use photo-editing apps- Check out these photo editing apps These apps will give a stylized look to your Instagram photos, allowing you to personalize your story even more.

5. Use the Hyperlapse app- Instagram’s release of the Hyperlapse app allows you to capture high-quality time-lapse videos to engage followers. Consider Vogue, which posted a time-lapsed video moving through the hallways of their busy NYC office. Who hasn’t dreamt of wandering those halls? Vogue realized this and made it happen for their loyal follower base.

6. Follow the Instagram business blog- Follow the Instagram business blog to stay up to date on the latest resources and brand successes.

7. Be authentic and true to your brand- What works for another company in your industry won’t necessarily work for you because Instagram is a highly personal, fast-moving platform and is the domain of a young and tech-savvy generation that isn’t afraid to call you on your ish (anonymously and from behind a screen, of course.) Don’t be afraid, just be genuine! 

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Do you use Instagram for a business? If not, give it a try today!