Shanna Mallon

Visual Content: How Starbucks Uses Instagram

By: Shanna Mallon | September 24, 2013 | 
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visual content

By Shanna Mallon

With 1.5 million followers (and counting!), Starbucks is a big brand that knows what it’s doing on Instagram.

From posting pretty pictures of its products to amplifying a strong sense of its brand with relevant visual content, the company uses Instagram to reinforce its messaging and to connect with its fans.

And while your company might not be Starbucks, here’s how you can learn from its example, no matter your brand’s industry or size.

Beautiful Product Shots

Starbucks regularly posts pictures of its products, but usually in unique and attractive settings. From three glasses of passion tea with a sprig of mint to a Starbucks cup being held by a girl on a blanket surrounded by fall leaves, the brand showcases its drinks in the best possible light.

How You Can Apply This: Follow the example of Starbucks and showcase your products or services in a way that is interesting, attractive, and aligned with your brand. If you sell cleaning products, take the best possible picture of a residence you just cleaned. If you run an island bed and breakfast, post pictures of Saturday French toast with scenery in the background.

Emphasis on the Emotional Connections with its Products

If there’s nothing else we learn from Starbucks, it’s that a product is never just a product. Thanks to Starbucks, a cup of coffee is more than a cup of coffee – it’s a statement. On Instagram, Starbucks shows this by posting pictures aligned with the image it’s created for its brand. Its feed includes more than its products; it also features lifestyle pictures, from a shot of a dad and his kid at the beach to one of a boat on the water.

How You Can Apply This: Think of Instagram as a branding tool. Who are you and what do you stand for? What are the interests and styles that define your brand? Use Instagram to consistently, regularly reinforce that branding message by posting photos aligned with what you want to represent.

Behind-the-Scenes Images

Starbucks gives its followers an insider look at what it does, from a bowl of coffee grinds to a vat of beans in Panama. Doing so enhances the information available on Instagram. It deepens connections between the brand and its followers.

How You Can Apply This: Share photos from event prep or office gatherings. Post images that show how your products are made, or what goes into your packaging. All of these peeks into your process give followers the feeling of being let inside the loop.

Custom Hashtags

Starbucks identifies its “Treat Receipt” promotion on Instagram with the hashtag #treatreceipt. Search that hashtag and you find thousands of Starbucks product pictures – and not just from the brand.

How You Can Apply This: When you run a promotion at your business, promote it on Instagram and use a custom tag. Then, on your blog or other social channels, encourage your followers to do the same from their Instagram accounts. This not only promotes your current marketing campaign, but it also encourages sharing of your brand.

Can you learn something from the example of Starbucks on Instagram? Might implementing the above tips point you towards savvy practices to promote your brand? Why not start today?

About Shanna Mallon


Shanna Mallon is a writer for StraightNorth, a Chicago web design firm providing specialized SEO, Twitter marketing strategy, web development, and other online marketing services. Follow StraightNorth on Twitter @straightnorth.

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