Growing your brand through Instagram

Growing your brand through Instagram

When I posted my first photo on Instagram almost four years ago I couldn’t have predicted where this app would take me. It’s not an exaggeration to say that since then, Instagram has changed my life, personally and professionally. It’s also fair to say that the value of Instagram as a marketing channel for brands has grown enormously.

My Instagram Odyssey began the same way it begins for most – I started posting photos without having any idea what I was doing. While I had years of experience taking photos, I knew nothing about what made for great shots in the Instagram interface of squares in a grid appearing on mobile devices. But I kept taking photos, posting, and learning. I learned about editing apps like VSCO and Snapseed, which improved the look of my posts. And I learned a lot about shooting and editing by following other Instagramers from around the world. Then I started attending Vancouver instameets, gatherings of Instagramers for shooting and socializing. Before I knew it I was co-organizing instameets and I was in deep with this app and community.

Instagram’s primary way of acknowledging Instagramers is by selecting them for the “Suggested User” (SU) list. I received that honour last August, and that’s when I started learning about influencer marketing. As my number of Instagram followers kept growing while on the SU list, I received more and more emails from influencer marketing agencies asking me to join them. This type of marketing focuses on individuals who can directly influence buying decisions. I ended up joining Collectif 4249, a Montreal-based agency. Through 4249, I worked with NBA Canada when the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers played an exhibition game in Vancouver. I took photos before and during the game (including the one above) that I posted on my Instagram account and that NBA Canada posted and tweeted. Also through the agency, which no longer operates, I was recruited by Bloguettes to teach workshops on photography and Instagram at an InstaCamp held in Palm Springs. See the interview that Bloguettes did with me.

An increasing number of companies are growing their brand through their Instagram feeds. Some are better at it than others. Here are my top five suggestions for small and medium-sized businesses hoping to make an impact on Instagram:

  • Above all, post high quality photos (and videos when appropriate to do so). Shoot them yourself on an good camera phone or DSLR, or hire someone to do it for you. But you don’t need high-end and expensive photography. Also manage your company’s account yourself or hire someone to do it, but only if they understand your business.
  • Be engaging. Ask questions in your captions that invite comments. When people leave a comment, reply promptly and with a friendly tone. Follow instagramers and engage with them on their accounts.
  • By all means promote your overall brand and specific products/events, but do so with a light touch that doesn’t come across as hard selling. Don’t forget to sometimes take a break from brand promotion by posting a scenic shot or something that doesn’t overtly connect to your brand but still reflects well.
  • Incorporate influencer marketing in the form of takeovers, where you arrange for an instagramer with high engagement levels to creatively take over your account for a specified period. Or organize meetups where you invite and give something of value to instagramers, with the implicit suggestion that they will post something that promotes your brand.
  • Post regularly but not excessively. Failing to post regularly and overposting both lead to followers unfollowing.

See Instagram Strategy for information on how I can help small and medium-sized businesses bolster their Instagram presence.

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