Yvette Pistorio

Instagram: How to Use it to Build Your Brand

By: Yvette Pistorio | October 9, 2013 | 

How to Use Instagram to Build Your BrandSharing images with your community is fun, which is why Instagram is such a popular app.

It makes all photos look good, photographer or not.

With  more than 150 million active users, I’m not the only one who enjoys the photo sharing site. Brands have been hopping on board and trying to master the social network.

In comes TrackMaven, a competitive analysis firm, that recently released a report to try and decode Instagram based on how Fortune 500 companies are using the network.

The process: They took the 2013 Fortune 500 list and loaded all of the Instagram handles for every brand (123 total) into their platform. They collected and analyzed the number of interactions and meta information (such as which filter was used) through their entire history until mid-September.

The study had some interesting findings:

  • Best days to post: There isn’t one, but companies post the most on Thursdays.
  • Best time to post: Between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. ET.
  • Best time to post Instagram videos: Off-hours from 9:00 p.m until 8:00 a.m. ET.

Sabel Harris, lead marketing maven at TrackMaven, shared three tips for brands that want to jump on the Instagram bandwagon, based on this report to Mashable.

Instagram Videos are Effective

We know videos are effective because they allow us to consume content quickly. And most users prefer watching video to reading plain text. Harris says:

On average, a video on Instagram can get up to 24 interactions (sum of comments and likes).

This is slightly less than pictures, in terms of interaction according to the report, however Instagram videos were introduced just this summer so my guess is this number will increase.

The bottom line: Take your marketing a step further by adding videos to your account as it can give you an advantage with your followers.

Use Multiple Hashtags

Hashtag etiquette doesn’t apply on Instagram. While it’s frowned upon on Twitter and Facebook to use more than two hashtags, on Instagram this isn’t the case.

The data proves otherwise for bigger brands, showing that four to 11 hashtags can increase up to an average 77 interactions per Instagram post.

However, you should integrate them into your post naturally and be specific. Don’t just add a bunch at the end. #itsannoying #toomanytagslooksliketagspam

HubSpot shares a great example from CBREGroup. They posted an image of the Chase Tower with the comment “#ChaseTower #Chicago #Downtown tallest building inside the #el look tracks.” Instead of  “Tallest building inside the el loop tracks #ChaseTower #Chicago #downtown #el.”

Also something to note, Instagram search is only for hashtags so if you don’t tag your content, there’s little to no chance someone who isn’t following you will find it.

Your Posting Schedule

Typically we can find the optimal time to post on social networks through a bit of trial and error. But with Instagram, people interact All. The. Time.

People are rarely away from their phones, so posting at different times of the day ensures advantageous mobile strategies for different audience segments.

Harris suggests (and I agree) using this to your advantage and finding what’s right with your audience.

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, you can use Instagram successfully. Beyond pictures of puppies, lattes, and greasy, yet delicious, food, the photo sharing network is also a great place to show off not only your brand and products, but also your company culture.

Plus with all of those active users, it’s worth considering adding this network to your marketing mix.

And a belated happy birthday to Instagram who turned three on Sunday! Thanks for all of the eye candy!

About Yvette Pistorio

Yvette Pistorio is the shared media manager for Arment Dietrich. She is a lover of pop culture, cupcakes, and HGTV, and enjoys a good laugh. There are a gazillion ways you can find her online.

  • I just had a thought about our Instagram use…what if we did photos of Chicago stuff like Chase does? We can relate it back to what we do in a way that makes us different. Hmmmm….

  • Great post, yvettepistorio! Instagram is one of my favourite platforms for it’s simplicity.
    One of the most interesting examples I’ve seen of a brand using Instagram is the Calgary Zoo’s annual report as a means to encourage more visitors: http://instagram.com/calgaryzoo2012ar, 
    Do you have any pet peeves about Instagram? Mine is the inability to share another person’s/brand’s photo or video within the platform.

    • EdenSpodek yvettepistorio My wish list for features: embedded links that actually display properly and desktop/web client.

      • jasonkonopinski yvettepistorio Yes to both, especially the desktop/webclient part. And the ability to post from multiple accounts with one login like you can do from many other apps.

    • EdenSpodek I wish they sent out notifications or something when someone makes a comment on a photo. That’s my biggest pet peeve and it’s because I don’t check it much after I post a picture. So it’s my fault, but would still be nice!

      • EdenSpodek Oh and just checked out Calgary Zoo Instagram! Love it!! It’s not just of the animals, it’s really good!

      • yvettepistorio I know what you mean because the onus is on us to check for comments but I don’t mind having fewer emails. We need to figure out a better way for notifications than inbox overload. How do you handle that? Maybe another idea for a Spin Sucks blog post. 😉

  • Instagram is quickly becoming one of my favorite socnets. While it does seem to be a more natural fit for B2C brands, I’ve seen some really great B2B and NPO implementations as well. 
    If you’re planning on using Instagram as a way to launch contests, check out Statigram. They have a great tool kit and advanced analytics. Statigram also makes it really easy to add an Instagram tab to a FB page, which is what I’ve done for a client.

    • debdobson62

      jasonkonopinski I didn’t know about Statigram.  Thanks for sharing.

      • debdobson62 You’re welcome, Deb! How’s the kitten these days? 😉

        • jasonkonopinski debdobson62 Statigram is a paid platform though right? 
          You can also set up a search in Feedly for Instagram hashtags – found that out when we did our contest.
          Agreed – it’s a natural platform when you have a tangible product, but so many B2B companies have figured out how to use it in a powerful way to show off what they do. It’s really exciting to watch.

        • yvettepistorio jasonkonopinski debdobson62 The promotion toolkit in Statigram carries a cost, yes, but you can do quite a bit with the free version. The analytics are really cool.

        • debdobson62

          jasonkonopinski Kitten is good, though definitely has “only child” syndrome meaning I am meant to play and feed her constantly.  It is all about her.  How are you doing?

  • Between Vine and Instagram, I might as well keep my camera app open all day long and accept that I’m never going to get any work actually done…I’ll just have pictures and videos of me looking like we work 🙂 Seriously though Yvette, this is a great post and I really like your suggestions. My office is in for a real treat today…can you say “cheese”??

    • SocialMediaDDS Sharp cheddar? Maytag bleu? Camembert?

      • jasonkonopinski SocialMediaDDS Lol! Yes, just take all of the videos you can!!

      • jasonkonopinski SocialMediaDDS Hahaha…I can’t let the world think that all I do is eat artisan cheeses, apple cultivars and wash it all down with the very best wines…I wouldn’t even take me seriously 😉

        • SocialMediaDDS jasonkonopinski I want that job – eating cheese and drinking wine…
          I’d take you seriously but only if I could join you 😛

        • yvettepistorio SocialMediaDDS jasonkonopinski AND we can’t forget to post it to Instagram!! Most important part of the process!! 😉

        • SocialMediaDDS jasonkonopinski Obviously!

  • Per comments here from jasonkonopinski and ginidietrich, I’d love to see a post about Instagram for B2B companies and for service providers (like PR firms, law firms, etc).
    Also, I’m glad to see most of my friends in my Facebook feed have finally realized that nobody wants to see their 20-hashtag Instagrams automatically cross-posted to Facebook. #barf #shutupalready #blocked

    • RobBiesenbach jasonkonopinski ginidietrich What kind of post? Let me know – I love finding B2B examples and I’m up for writing about Instagram again 😀
      Hahaha!! I have a FB friend who annoyed me so much with his excessive hashtags, I blocked him from my feed. #shutupalready indeed!

      • yvettepistorio jasonkonopinski ginidietrich For me, I’m just having trouble imagining how people like me, or certain clients of mine (like law firms, for instance) could use Instagram. I’m probably not being imaginative enough.

        • RobBiesenbach yvettepistorio jasonkonopinski ginidietrich Bust out those creative juices!!

        • yvettepistorio RobBiesenbach jasonkonopinski ginidietrich The Instagram blog highlights some interesting campaigns. Maybe start there?

        • jasonkonopinski yvettepistorio RobBiesenbach ginidietrich I highlighted a few visual things B2Bs are doing here too: http://spinsucks.com/marketing/how-to-leverage-visual-content-in-your-marketing-mix/

        • yvettepistorio I remember that post! I’ll give it a re-look, and jasonkonopinski I’ll check out Instagram’s blog. Thank you!

        • RobBiesenbach jasonkonopinski 😀 HubSpot wrote on this study too and share a few B2B examples. http://blog.hubspot.com/b2b-brands-driving-results-instagram-ht 
          But honestly GE is one of my fave examples. They do some really fun stuff with their IG account.

  • I like your point that hashtag rules don’t apply. It’s totally true! And the video viewership in off hours is interesting but not necessarily surprising as people would have more off-work time in those cases. I wonder if that stat applies to Vines too?

    • KateFinley Hrm…not sure. I do know Instagram video is doing better than Vine – marketers like it more because its 15 seconds vs. 6. I’ll see if I can find any stats.

  • SpinSucks

    susancellura 😀 Thanks Susan!!

    • susancellura

      SpinSucks My pleasure! This is a great post!!!

  • SpinSucks

    Kato42 Yes you do!

  • SpinSucks

    kateupdates 😀

  • SpinSucks

    jenconway Thanks Jen!

  • SpinSucks

    KerryMacuska Morning Kerry! Thanks for the share 🙂

    • KerryMacuska

      SpinSucks You’re welcome! I hope you’re having a great day!

      • SpinSucks

        KerryMacuska Can’t complain! Hope you are too 🙂

        • KerryMacuska

          SpinSucks Today is great so far! 🙂

  • susancellura

    Visual! Visual! Visual! No need for expensive production set-ups unless they match the project. People like to see themselves and other people.

    • susancellura Very true! All you need is your phone and/or a flipcam and voila!!

  • Great post, yvettepistorio – I find myself telling business owners almost every day about the value of Instagram!  🙂

    • lizreusswig Thanks Liz!! Any kind of visual is valuable – it’s like this big secret yet everyone knows about it. I’ll be interested to see what happens once they start with the ads though – if people will still use it or if they’ll see a massive exodus.

  • I can get lost in Instagram for hours. I love all the creativity I can find there.

    • Anthony_Rodriguez It’s so easy to get lost! So many pretty pictures 🙂

  • eveypistorio

    patricia_haag Thanks for the share Patricia!

    • patricia_haag

      eveypistorio You’re welcome, Yvette!

  • I love Instagram, but I have it set so videos do not play. Maybe I’m old skool, but Instagram is for pictures, Vine is for video. I enjoy following brands on IG though, more than in other places (eg face or twit). I really like the brands that show some personality in their posts. Interesting point about hashtag use-it actually has a function on IG. Thanks Yvette!

    • RebeccaTodd Haha!! Old school for Instagram?! Can you be old school when it’s only three years old?! LOL! Love it!!
      I like Instagram video because it’s 15 seconds – still super short, but effective. Agreed – I love following brands on IG. Makes me want to take more pictures! But I need to be better with hashtags.

      • yvettepistorio RebeccaTodd Listen – NO video should be :15 seconds long, let alone :06!! These micro-vid platforms drive me bonkers. Interesting statistics though, I was quite surprised to read about the # usage.

        • belllindsay yvettepistorio RebeccaTodd Get used to it Lindsay!! I know – the hashtags threw me way off!

      • Digital_DRK

        yvettepistorio RebeccaTodd  3 digital years is equivalent to dog years…its old. 😉   
        I think it’s a mind-set as well, we  prepare ourselves when we hit Instagram for instantaneous short bursts  of “image gratification”. Just as when we go to YouTube we condition ourselves for  longer “moving pictures” treats.  Once or twice now I’ve found myself on Instagram accidentally hitting a video and prematurely ending it because it didn’t fit into my instagram short attention span. 
        As for branding, agreed, I am curious to know how they mesh personal branding and the planned advertising together. We could reach a point where they are indistinguishable.

        • Digital_DRK RebeccaTodd Agree about the mindset. And Instagram video has only been out for a few months so it’s unexpected – I can understand that. 
          As far as advertising, hopefully they blend in nicely, but only time will tell and of course you’ll have people complaining about how terrible it is no matter what!

      • yvettepistorio RebeccaTodd what is not funny? The fact Instgram and all the Twitter photo hosting sites suck for curation or editing. That is why Flickr etc are actually stronger platforms in my opinion (even Facebook) for photo sharing.

    • RebeccaTodd #hipster

      • EricPudalov

        jasonkonopinski RebeccaTodd Instagram is sooooo three years ago! o<|:O)

  • Rick Gregory

    Love this! I may be old skool like Rebecca (probably because I AM a lot older than her), but I love Instagram and look forward to trying out Gini’s recommendations. Thanks, Gini!

    • Rick Gregory Woo hoo!! That’s great Rick! I’m at ypistorio – looking for you now!

  • LisaCannon

    Excellent post Yvette. Thanks for sharing the latest research in such a concise form. Very helpful for getting a handle on Instagram.

  • EricPudalov

    Great post Yvette!  I’ve only been using Instagram for a short while, but I’ve noticed that using certain hashtags *absolutely* makes a difference in views. I’ve taken a lot of pictures of food I’ve cooked, for example, and some of the most popular hashtags are #foodstagram, #instafood, #foodporn, and others.  It also seems to be more popular when I post in the evening.

    • EricPudalov I use the #foodporn and #craftbeer hashtags all the time. 🙂

      • jasonkonopinski EricPudalov LOVE! I think there was a restaurant that created their menu from Instagram pics their customers too…

  • Great post @eveypistorio 

    What I found very interesting is the Huffington Post now has a Best of Vine for the week. Had me thinking Twitter might wind up winning the video war. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/06/35-best-vines-of-the-week_n_4055309.html can’t believe the creativity.
    That said while I don’t use instagram myself because I hate facebook (I don’t share any photos anymore on anything facebook related). I have seen some great instagram campaigns. In fact customers are more likely to post photos there than on your Brand page or on Twitter.
    While G+ had all the hoopla in the last year Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest have become serious platforms for brands stealing eyeballs from Twitter and Facebook. Also surprised only 123 had accounts. But then so many of the Fortune 500 are not consumer brands so not sure why Cisco or IBM would have feeds except for employee morale.

    • rdopping

      Great comment. Our firm links instagram to our website to demonstrate culture, feature process on projects and share events / contests. Do you think that we should be tying our instagram feed to twitter or Facebook?

      • rdopping I do it on a personal level, but for a business I don’t think you should. Different things work on different networks. Case in point – the hashtags. If you start adding 4 or 5 hashtags on FB or Twitter, people could get annoyed. Plus you typically have a different audience on each social network – that’s what we’ve found with our own social networks at least.

  • fra_bartolomeo

    ginidietrich eveypistorio amazing tips! Fascinating stats on hashtags #digitaledu

    • eveypistorio

      fra_bartolomeo Thanks Francesca! I know – those stats really surprised me but they make sense.

  • rdopping

    Related but unrelated. Why are more than 2 hashtags frowned upon on twitter and facebook?

    • EricPudalov

      rdopping I think because on Twitter, especially, numerous hashtags make the post look like spam.  It also kind of looks “ugly,” for lack of a better word.  Suppose I tweeted this: http://bit.ly/1czJjDD #marketing #pr #socialmedia #business #fun #blog – after awhile, it becomes too cluttered.

  • eveypistorio

    martinwaxman Thanks Martin!

  • eveypistorio

    HanConversocial 😀 Thanks Hannah!!

  • eveypistorio

    rdopping DIALOG ginidietrich You mean Yvette has great tips right?! 😉

    • rdopping

      eveypistorio DIALOG ginidietrich Oops! No Yvette doesn’t have great tips…..she has AWESOME tips.

      • eveypistorio

        rdopping DIALOG ginidietrich Nice come back Ralph 😉

  • eveypistorio

    aileenabella Thanks for the share Aileen!

    • aileenabella

      eveypistorio ♥ your stuff! 🙂 #socialmediarocks

      • eveypistorio

        aileenabella 😀

  • Ok, this is the post I posted a few days ago that Livefyre once again decided to block 🙁 (I SHALL NOT BE SILENCED LIVEFYRE!!) Whew…ok…moving on
    Great post! Super interesting info here! 
    Instagram is a really a crazy weird platform. (that is my highly researched professional opinion) I’ve played around with it quite a bit to try to figure out what worked best and what didn’t, advantages/disadvantages vs. other platforms, etc. 
    It is similar to Facebook in that it creates ‘Social Media Celebrities’, the people who are really nobody’s nobody in real life, but are HUGE on Instagram and have an almost cultish following. It also seems to be really effective for niche marketing, especially micro-niche marketing. I’d say probably more so than any other platform I’ve seen. 
    Brands that can effectively tap into both these celebrities and the niche markets skyrocket. Alot of brands are able to use the ambassador model really well to do this (further enforcing the pseudo-celebrities ego…but hey, we can’t all be super awesome powered blonde ninjas can we?)

    • LauraPetrolino We can’t be super awesome powered blonde ninjas, but we can try to be!!

  • jennimacdonald

    BonnieJHodges Thanks for the RT Bonnie, I miss you!!!!

    • BonnieJHodges

      jennimacdonald I miss you toooooo!

  • eveypistorio

    bowden2bowden Thanks Randy!

  • SpinSucks

    jennimacdonald Thank you!!! How’s everything going?

    • jennimacdonald

      SpinSucks you’re very welcome! Things are great, loving the fall weather in Maine. I haven’t experienced it in. 6 yrs. You ?

      • SpinSucks

        jennimacdonald doing good too! We’ve had great weather so far so no complaints 🙂

        • jennimacdonald

          SpinSucks that’s great! Any apple picking?

  • eveypistorio

    socks88 Thanks Leigh!!

  • eveypistorio

    rachaelseda Thanks Rachael!! Saw the wedding photos – gorgeous!!!

  • SpinSucks

    DanielGHebert 😀 Thanks Daniel!!

    • DanielGHebert

      SpinSucks My pleasure! How’s your day going? 🙂

      • SpinSucks

        DanielGHebert Busy, busy, busy! How about you?

        • DanielGHebert

          SpinSucks same! Working on a site redesign – lots to do! Have a great weekend 🙂

  • InNetworkInc

    AndreaLearned SpinSucks Glad you enjoyed the tweet! Spinsucks is simply awesome 🙂

  • We definitely use those keywords (hashtagged and otherwise) to pull Instagram pics into Pulse Analytics. Brands can then see what CONSUMERS are saying about their products…and “doing” with some of their products when appropriate (and…umm, not all uses are appropriate yet STILL shared on Instagram).

  • Pingback: [HOW TO] Drive Targeted Traffic to your Website With Instagram()

  • saee2ansi

    Don’t forget how crucial it is to manage well your subscribers and subscriptions. I won’t even mention their ratio, i just wanna say that you ought to consider unfollowing anybody who don’t follow you back. My way to deal with them is fast-unfollow.com, 5000 unfollowings per day that they provide is enough for almost everyone including me. Stealing your competitors followers is a cornerstone of consistent growth, and it is the task once again executable for the service. In fact, I’d say the successful management can’t be done without multiple apps for statistics, automation and scheduling.