Simple Steps to Achieving Instagram Success

Twitter and Facebook are a given for brands to engage with their customers. But the sheer power behind the photo-sharing app called Instagram is yet to be discovered by many businesses.  It engages consumers at a whole new level, on their turf.  However, you can’t just go posting product photos on an Instagram account and expect your customers to be highly engaged.  Instead, take a look at what the two most successful businesses on Instagram are doing and model your Insta-strategy after them.

Let’s take a look as to why this photo app is so powerful for businesses:

Photos are more engaging than videos.

TrackMaven took a look at the 123 Fortune 500 companies that were actively posting on Instagram to measure what works and what doesn’t. The study found that pictures are the most engaging type of post for businesses, even though Instagram added video into the mix in June 2013.  In fact, photos averaged 37 interactions per 1000 followers, while videos acquired just 24.

Post photos at any time during the week, but only post videos after work-hours.

Interestingly, the time of day or day of the week didn’t change the engagement levels for the picture posts, but it did for the videos.  Videos received more engagement after work-hours and on weekends, presumably because of the time it takes to view and the noise that the videos make.

How do customers engage with brands on Instagram?

Double tapping is the way that most users interact with the pictures, and comments accounted for only 3% of interactions. Users can also @brandname in order to tag another user.  Another common form of engagement are #hashtags.  These can be used to categorize the picture.

Here are a few of the most interactive photos (in terms of likes and comments) on Instagram posted by popular brands:





While there are many brands active on Instagram, there are two that are winning:  Starbucks and Nike.

So, what are the key things that these two companies are doing in order to be so successful?

They Understand Instagram User Demographics

The one thing that the two biggest companies on Instagram have in common is that they both relate to their users.  They have common understanding of Instagram users’ demographics.

Instagram user demographics are generally young (18 to 29 years old) and wealthy (members of the household making over $75,000), according to Pew Research.  This makes for a perfect opportunity to showcase products and get their followers in the conversion funnel for future sales.

“Nike really understand the psychology of Instagram,” said Nitrogram’s content manager, Thibaut Davoult. “On its official account and all its ‘child accounts’ like @nikerunning and @nikefootball, you’ll only see photos that feel right on Instagram: beautifully shot landscapes, people using the product in context — the kind of real-life-and-in-the-moment feeling that Instagram is all about.”

Instagram is not for posting product photos with white backgrounds.  Users of Instagram want to see the products in use or creative ways to present product or brand.

“Like Nike, Starbucks knows the kind of content that clicks with Instagram users,” said Davoult.

They Re-Share Fan Photos

Another successful trait of Starbucks is its ability to find user photos and share them with their followers.  One example of this is when Starbucks reached out to the Instagram user @impepevela in order to ask for permission to use his photo.  Of course the coffee fanatic was overjoyed and agreed.

Another instance of Starbucks re-posting a fan photo was @colour_me_creative, a New Zealand teenager, shared this photo on Instagram.  The teen had over 900,000 followers, so Starbucks picked up on it and shared it with their fan base.

Starbucks and Nike both model their photos based on the same kind of content that their fans are posting.

This kind of post, for example, is very similar to what Instagrammers like to share themselves and see on the platform,” said Davoult. “By way of comparison, Chris Ozer, an influencer on the network with over 500,000 followers, shared this photo which looks strikingly similar.”

They Use Hashtags to Make Their Brand More Findable

Using hashtags is one of the most effective ways to engage users on Instagram.  “A lot of brands don’t realize this, but the way people use Instagram is they’re searching for content,” said TrackMaven’s Allen Gannet. “A lot of brands just post content and expect people to follow them, but actually Instagram is a discovery platform for people looking for things to engage with. Brands that used hashtags have been more effective than brands that didn’t.”

Be careful not to be spammy with too many hashtags, though.  TrackMaven has found that 5 hashtags are the sweet spot for gaining maximum interaction.  If you are just starting out on the platform, you can increase your hashtags to about 11 without “being spammy.” TrackMaven’s study found that accounts with less than 1000 followers gained the highest number of interactions if they used 11 or more hashtags in a post.

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