Get the Picture: Brands Use Instagram for Visual Marketing

instagram-logoIf social media had an Academy Award, Instagram would win Best Picture of the Year. The popular photo-sharing platform snaps up 7.3 million daily users in the U.S. and last month zoomed by Twitter in daily mobile traffic. Instagram’s latest snap shot is a nearly tenfold increase from six months earlier — from 886,000 average daily visitors in March 2012, according to data from comScore Mobile Metrix 2.0.

Launched in October 2010 by co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, today Instagram is a fast, beautiful, and visually engaging way to share your story with customers and brand evangelists through a series of pictures.

For a startup that just turned 2 years old this month and was gobbled up by Facebook for a cool $1 billion this year, Instagram’s fast track growth has brands taking a hard look at how to tap into the market.

Instagram snapshot:

  • 80 million+ Registered Users
  • 4 billion+ Photos Uploaded
  • 5 million+ Photos Per Day
  • 575 Likes Per Second
  • 81 Comments Per Second

The red carpet winner and Facebook darling is reshaping the way people communicate in pictures. It’s safe to say brands can’t afford not to take notice and join the visual party. After all, sharing a photo is easier than writing a tweet.

“Since a picture is worth a thousand words, anyone can tell a story with images on Instagram, said Rebecca Murtagh Chief Strategist / President of Karner Blue Marketing LLC.

Brands Get the Picture With Instagram


  • Report your company news via Instagram by using as a public relations tool to announce visual news. Announce daily specials, report news from a conference on the spot, take your customers behind the scenes of what’s happening at your business. The NFL uses Instagram each week of the season by collecting and curating the best Instagram photos from its NFL photographers.
  • Share behind the scenes views of a brand. “Instagram enables brands and individuals to share the people, places and things related to the adventures and lifetime experiences through images, in real-time. Restaurants can entice customers with daily specials, sports teams can highlight loyal fans, musicians can captivate fans with behind-the-scenes images of the band on tour, and attendees of a conference can upload images of speakers, colleagues and social gatherings,” said Murtagh.


  • Host a photo competition and ask customers or brand advocates to post pictures using hashtags to identify.The brand Flomotion sponsored a recent surf competition and held an Instagram photo contest encouraging surf fans to enter with the hashtag #flomotion.
  • Create focus groups and test the waters before a product launch. Social PR expert and author Sarah Evans used Instagram to test out which images to use in her book “[RE]Frame” before it was published. The graphic images that received the most Likes and Comments made made the final cut. She used Statigram to monitor the progress, create excitement and engagement about her book’s content before it was even published.


  • Curate a set of brand visuals instead of using the tired old stock images or build up images to share on other social networks. “Images are the most shared medium on most social networks, yet many businesses have few images, or they use boring stock photos. An employee instagram photo contest can create a fresh and visually stunning inventory of stock images for businesses to use across social networks,” said Krista Neher, CEO Boot Camp Digital and ClickZ instructor.

Tips for Using Instagram For Business

  • Optimize profiles just like you would other social media profiles.
  • Post images that pique the interest of target audiences.
  • Use trending hashtags or create your own hashtag.
  • Tags for each image should include the name of the brand, locations, keywords, the names of people featured (preferably with their permission) and what the image represents.
  • Use ‘Likes’ to validate how attractive the images are to the intended audience.
  • Share your Instagram photos on other social networks.
  • Don’t simply post to Facebook and Twitter every time you take a photo, optimize content for each medium – the post isn’t just the image – it is the story, notes Neher.
  • If your business is tagged in a photo, make sure you get permission from the photographer to use it.

“The more you engage and participate the more people will connect with you and the better results you will have. While you don’t have to post every day, a few posts a week to keep content fresh is a great idea,” Neher said.

Measuring the Power of Instagram

Like any marketing effort, you get back what you put in and measurement should be part of the equation with Instagram.

  • Simply Measured helps see how effective your brand engages on Instagram
  • Statigram provides account statistics and community management tools.
  • Webstagram allows you to views Instagram via the web

“The voyeuristic experience created by Instagram can become addictive for followers when images are interesting to them,” Murtagh said. “Creating a compelling stream on Instagram is a great way for brands to captivate and earn the loyalty of customers and create brand champions. And, isn’t that exactly why brands invest in social media?”

The explosion of visual marketing poses the question could Instragram be the new Marketing-gram?

Image Credit: @heysp 

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