4 overlooked ways to use Instagram

We’ve all seen and likely created a sepia-tinted, vintage-style digital photo on our smartphones using the photo sharing service Instagram.

It makes our images look much cooler than they are, which is probably why the number of Instagram users is exploding—from 15 million in early 2012 to 80 million users in July. That’s an increase of 400 percent in seven months.

And as they did with the surging popularity of Twitter and Facebook, big brands have taken notice. A recent study by Simply Measured found that 40 percent of Interbrand’s top 100 have an Instagram presence. Brands such as MTV, Starbucks, Burberry, Tiffany & Co., and Nike have a huge following with numbers topping or near half a million followers.

It makes perfect sense for consumer brands to use Instagram. But what about business-to-business companies or smaller enterprises?

Instagram should be treated like all other social channels—albeit a more visual one—that has the means to build your brand, share news, and engage in dialogue. It enables companies to engage with their peers and customers by sharing snapshots of their products, culture, and people in an intimate and informal way.

But one overlooked area of use for Instagram is for various types of announcements a company may make, such as those for:

A new product. Post a cool picture of the new product, screenshot, or someone using the product on Instagram. Be sure to make the photo simple. It should give off a vibe, not jam in technical details.

A new hire. You often see headshots along with a press release for a new hire. For Instagram, make this picture a more relaxed version of the person at work or of his or her office, or use a shot of the welcome package on the desk. Avoid coming across as too stiff or formal; it makes it less likely someone will “like” or share the picture.

An upcoming event. Consider posting an image of the venue or city where it will be held. Take advantage of Instagram’s brand-new feature, a photomap that lets members plot their pictures on an interactive world map.

A recent award. Instead of a picture of the team accepting the award, a more compelling shot could be a hand gripping the trophy or someone nailing a certificate to a wall. Much like Twitter and Facebook, there are steps you need to take to kick-start and grow your Instagram follower base.

Here are is a list to get you started:

• Fill out your Instagram profile completely, completing all fields;
• Tag your pictures with relevant hashtags in the comments section, much like you do with tweets;
• Tag other users who are relevant to the post by typing their user name in the comments section;
• “Like” and comment on other pictures you find interesting—the point of a social network is to engage with others;
• Share your Instagram activity on Facebook and Twitter, and promote it on your website with follow buttons;
• Sign up for Statigram, a great tool for viewing your images in a Web browser, monitoring your stats, and promoting your stream on other social networks.

Instagram isn’t just a place for rich kids to show off their ridiculous purchases, or narcissistic celebrities such as Kim Kardashian to post picture after picture of herself; it can also serve as a valuable tool for businesses. And at the exponential rate Instagram is growing, now is the time to start sharing.

[RELATED: A complete guide for brands on Instagram]

Jen DeAngelis is an account executive at InkHouse Media + Marketing, where this story first appeared. Follow Jen on Twitter @jendeang and on Instagram.

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