The Power of Instagram for Brands

Photos can tell many stories and they are powerful representations of the world around us. It is no wonder that users have taken the simple task of taking photos with their iPhones to new levels with apps such as Instagram, Hipstamatic, PicPiz and Pose.

Instagram, a photo-sharing app for iPhone users, is quickly becoming a force for individuals & brands alike. With over 10 million users and an average of 1.3 million photos uploaded per day, it ties the ability to adjust your photo via multiple built in filters with socially enabled features such as sharing, liking, and commenting.

Why is Instagram attracting users and brands vs. say simply using Twitpic or another utility to take and share a photo? One reason may be the ability to easily customize photos where users feel in control and further expressing their personality & style with a simple user interface. The other thought is how Instagram enables social sharing across multiple channels with ease.

From the app, you have the ability to tag your photos with relevant hashtags, (#Starbucks) subscribe to feeds of individuals & brands as well as view the most popular submissions. In terms of social sharing, Instagram allows you to share your works of art across Twitter, Facebook, Email, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare and Posterous.

Brands have found innovative ways to incorporate Instagram into their social strategies to drive awareness & engagement. Those that use the medium well understand the opportunity to humanize the brand, incent users to create content on their behalf via unique hashtags & photo contests and it offers a quick and easy way to share visual content and of course engage users.

Below is a list of the Top 10 most followed brands & organizations on Instagram (As of September 15, 2011)

1. MTV = 103,036 Tweens, Teens, Young 20’s + Music + Visual Self Expression = MTV #1.

2. Starbucks = 91,157 – Starbucks understands the power of crowdsourcing. From their groundbreaking work with the My Starbucks Idea program to activating amateur photographers across the globe to tag #Starbucks with their Instagram enabled iDevices. You can go to starbucks.com/coffeehouse to see the latest images.

3. Burberry = 86,544 – Fashion & photography go hand in hand. It is no surprise that Burberry uses the service to showcase their professionally created visual imagery associated with their brand.

4. ABC News = 67,874 – ringing in at #4, ABC News uses it stream to visualize the news and users engage via comments

5. NPR = 65,972 – One of many news sources using Instagram to visualize the news.

6. Red Bull = 59,298 – Red Bull rings in at #6 with a healthy following. The brand executes hashtag photo contests and rewards users with likes as they show their affinity for the brand visually around the world.

7. CNN = 58,256 – Yet another news service visualizing the news

8. NBC = 55,012 – See #4, #5 and #7

9. Kate Spade = 45,597 – Another Fashion entry in the top 10. Kate Spade focuses on uniquely photographing merchandise & sharing the images via multiple social channels such as Tumblr & Twitter.

10. Celtics = 35,433 – Events are a natural extension for Instagram. Sporting events in particular can generate a significant amount of visual content. By understanding and capitalizing on this the Boston Celtics round out the top 10 with over 35,000 followers.

Other brands of Note include:

1. Volkswagen
2. Gucci
3. Levi’s
4. National Geographic
5. Coca Cola
6. Pepsi
7. McDonalds

The brands that are closer to the innovation end of the social marketing spectrum understand that it is not enough to simply rely on Twitter & Facebook but to ultimately be present, monitor & potentially engage in the channels where their brands are being discussed.

Many organizations view additional channels as spreading the brand too thin and fall into the trap of only leveraging Facebook & Twitter. I view each social channel as serving a specific purpose based on how consumers use the channel and the ultimate goals of the brand.

If you have the ability to define a strategy that incorporates various mediums while maximizing how they were intended to be used you can truly drive value for both the brand and the consumer. And yes there are branded conversations that happen outside of Facebook & Twitter.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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The VolksAd and the Power of FaceTube

Recently we, Red Urban Dallas, completed an amazing collaboration with our sister agency Red Urban Toronto. They work very closely with the Volkswagen brand in Canada and are responsible for very innovative and compelling campaigns.

The initiative started as they always do… with an idea. The idea of a crowdsourced VolksAd came from the very highly regarded Creative Director of Red Urban Toronto, Christina Yu.

Red Urban Toronto had completed serialized ads for the Volkswagen Golf GTI and wanted to extend the campaign from the two current TV spots to incorporate Facebook & YouTube.

Ad 1 – Drive Until: Courage (Chapter 1)

Ad 2 – Drive Until: Time (Chapter 2)

This is where I joined the project. Working closely with the Red Urban Toronto team, I was the strategic advisor for the execution across social channels.

When it came time to execute the VolksAd, the goal was to crowdsource all aspects of the upcoming commercial. From users commenting & voting on storylines, the script, model of the car, the cast, the music & the edit. The Red Urban Toronto team did a great job of executing the campaign.

By spacing the voting activities over multiple weeks, the team was able to maintain engagement and kept fans interested even to the point of livestreaming all 14 hours of the making of the making of!

By incorporating the names of the individuals who contributed during the campaign into the credits of the final edit, there was a sense of ownership for each individual for the finished product.

The results of the campaign were impressive. Active users jumped 140%, Fans of the Volkswagen Canada brand page jumped to 364,097,  there were 119,647,537 total media impressions and over 2,070,936 Facebook impressions.

Here is the full case study video

Here is the finished edit including everyone who contributed to the final product

Here is the official press release

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SnapTags vs. QR Codes Round 2

One of the more controversial posts over the past year was tied to my POV on 2D barcodes, specifically SnapTags vs. QR codes. This sparked an interesting conversation.

To follow up on that conversation, instead of getting into a philosophical discussion I will let this infographic sent to me by the SpyderLynk team kick-off the discussion. Would love to hear your thoughts after reviewing the infographic.

Snaptags vs. QR Codes per Spyderlynk

Let the commenting begin!!!

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

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