Social Media

Instagram Updates Platform, Continues to Dominate Visual Media

November 6, 2012

This week, Instagram updated its platform to allow for web-based profile pages. The pages include a selection of recently shared images and allow users to comment, like and follow via the web. For public users, this means that anyone can now see your Instagram content – not only those who have the app.

So, what’s the deal with Instagram?

What’s the last piece of content you shared online? Chances are it was probably a photo or a video. Instagram, along with platforms such as Tumblr and Pinterest, have ushered in visual marketing for the digital world.

As explored in our previous post (“4 Keys to Breakthrough Visual Content in Social”), content alone is no longer king; visual content is king. The progression toward visual content domination is a key sign of a change in user behavior, with platform insights showing us that people consume photos and videos more than twice as much as text updates.

Beyond the “Like” button, photo content inspires sharing, creates an emotional reaction and builds a connection – all of which are great for marketers. Set apart from competing photo sharing platforms, one might argue that Instagram’s filter-based application does more than create an image – it creates a memory. As evidenced by the marketing strategies of successful brands like Nike and Apple, content that inspires creates not only a reaction, but a desire to take an action.

Instagram has been making a name for itself since it stepped onto the scene in October 2010. Originally a mobile application exclusive to iOS, it later expanded its platform to include Android devices. And with the latest update, Instagram has created a parallel web-based environment in addition to the mobile experience.

And Facebook’s cool $1 billion purchase of the application in April 2012 (later reported as $715 million) has propelled the evolution of the platform even further. A mere three months later, Instagram has added the ability to like and comment on photos from a web-based version that gets pushed out via Twitter and Facebook.

Most recently, Instagram shed its mobile-only restrictions in a response to long-standing user requests for a web-based feature. The most arresting aspect about the new profiles is their resemblance to Facebook Timeline.

Instagram web profile page for Nike

Although this marks a huge shift for Instagram, the application remains predominantly mobile with limited abilities on the web. You still cannot click through and view a user’s followers, which limits the discovery aspect.

What’s in it for brands?

While the vast majority of Instagram photos are made up of posts about food, travel and fashion, brands in other verticals have dipped their toes in the platform. Entertainment brands like USA Network, a 360i client, are leveraging Instagram to capture a behind the scenes content and bring their fans into the fold.

Brands are advised to create a story with their content that focuses on day-to-day, life moments. As with any social platform, post moderately and with content that resonates with your target audience.

Tips for brands on Instagram

1. Know your brand voice. Though visual content speaks in a different way than text, it is still an extension of your brand and should flow seamlessly with your brand voice. For more information, read “3 Tips for Developing Your Brand’s Social Tone of Voice.”

2. Don’t over-post. As is the case within Facebook and Twitter, the majority of Instagram content is consumed within the feed. A series of updates within a short time frame threaten to overtake users’ feeds, potentially turning them off to your content.

3. Tags improve your reach and make your content discoverable. Much like Twitter and Pinterest, hashtags serve as an aggregation tool that helps users discover content around a particular topic they enjoy. Many brands have also made use of the hashtag for use during contests and sweepstakes.

4. The rules of photography still apply. Just because images are captured with a phone doesn’t mean the end product isn’t a form of art. Brush up on your photography skills; things like focus, tone, light and resolution are still important when creating a great piece of content.

5. Different filters are built for different things. Play around with the filters and learn how they affect the color and light in your photos. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into using only one variety, as different filters benefit different types of images. Bonus points if you can put Kelvin to good use.

In the end, brands that succeed in visual media will establish themselves as leaders in the digital marketplace and add value to consumers’ experience within platforms like Instagram.