Here’s how it goes: Instagram is released, within a few years it amasses millions of users, it gets bought by Facebook, companies take notice. It’s what seems to be a pretty usual story for online startups, at least those that are successful, so what makes Instagram different? Well, nothing really. But Instagram has a huge user base, and that’s where the money is.
Instagram is a majority visual platform. It’s become a way for people to show what they did that day, to showcase their amazing burger or latte, to prove they’re having fun hanging out with friends. For companies, it’s another cog in their content marketing scheme. It’s another way to connect with an audience, one that’s primarily younger, and may have some discretionary income (or their parent’s money) to spend.
Of the four Fortune 500 companies I looked at, it was a pretty similar story across the board. Each account had a follower count in the hundreds of thousands, not terrible, but not terribly high either. They each post between every few days, and every week or two.
Starbucks has a huge amount of followers (5.7 million) on Instagram. They capitalize on a quirky personality and the ubiquity of coffee and food photography to reach an audience. Google has a bright, and colorful feed, reflecting its brand. Southwest has pictures of airplanes, including, of course, the all-important out of the window wing pic. Whole Foods has a feed full of food. No surprises there.
Brands are trying to connect with their audiences. Being personable is a great way to achieve this. It was something that was even more important before a few weeks ago when Instagram started rolling out ads. Brands had to fight for attention, and they still do. They have to make posts that people will stop scrolling through their feed for. They need to post often enough to not be forgotten, but not so much as to be annoying. It’s a simple strategy, but one that takes commitment, and it’s hard to outsource, because when the platform requires good imagery, you need someone with boots on the ground, taking pictures.
It’s not as if Instagram is the best new social network, it’s just the current fad. It works for some and not for others. Just like other social networks, Instagram has its own personality. Maybe it won’t work for you, but it doesn’t hurt to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try.