In social media, Instagram has been a fast rising little sibling to its older brother Twitter (and part of an interesting rivalry, given that Facebook owns Instagram).

In 2014, Instagram attracted an audience large enough to beat both Twitter and LinkedIn, according to the Pew Research Center. It trails only Facebook and, by a slight margin, Pinterest, according to data Pew released last August.

That data estimated that 28 percent of online adults use Instagram, a 15-point increase from the 13 percent of Internet users who did so in 2012.

(About 31 percent of online adults use Pinterest, up from 15 percent in 2012. About 25 percent use LinkedIn, up from 20 percent in 2012 and 23 percent use Twitter, up from 16 percent in 2012.)

Not bad for a platform that was only founded in 2010, right?

But how should a business develop its Instagram use to enhance customer experience? By starting with basic use, we can develop some ideas on how to innovate a marketing strategy.

Instagram Essentials

Instagram is designed to display pictures and video. But how does that differ from Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook — platforms on which users can also post images and video to their connections? 

Well, the Instagram difference is the quality of how the story behind the images is told. Where a tweet may contain a picture from an event with a brief comment, Instagram profiles typically display pictures meant to augment a topic or event.

Moreover Instagram filters that alter hue and color are meant to make pictures more interesting or dramatic.

A second difference is the message format. Facebook can provide a long post, as can Google Plus.

Instagram is meant for brief posts like Twitter, yet contain no links in the posts. It means followers can avoid clickbait linking, but for marketers it also means no means for sharing intended content.

So What Should a Business Do?

The key word for starters is unique, as in providing unique images that entice Instagram followers with emotional triggers. These triggers can cover basic emotions or some variations of a narrative such as passion or inspiration.

The triggers are the framework for images and video that show how a product or service is used or developed, such as a panoramic shot of a hike in Timberland boots or an audiophile listening to jazz concert televised on a Samsung TV.

Thus triggers can be part of larger image ideas such as

Learning Opportunities

  • Behind the scenes content
  • A series that forms a story
  • Inspirational and motivational quotes

Marketers can consider a remix of older pictures by sharing a snippet of text from a post and add a unique image in your Instagram account. Doing so provides a reinvigorated way of discovering posts, even for some of the older posts that are online.

Right Tools for the Right Story

The current crop of Instagram management tools provides specific purposes, from highlighting influencers to discover a story to understanding the engagement of followers. The best way to use them is to think about specific tasks that make Instagram use easier.

For example, ink361 includes a few analytics for engagement measurement via love rate and talking rate. These indicate how much followers are sharing and talking to you online. (formerly Followgram) highlights Instagram influencers, providing a way to expand awareness of the profile. A good influencer — one that complements the purpose of the Instagram profile — can help build an audience online and raise engagement.

Tools aimed at the enterprise provide a means to manage across platform easily. They include Curalate, which monitors image analytics on Pinterest and Tumblr in addition to Instagram.

(Curalate also developed Like2Buy, which makes images posted to Instagram “shoppable.” When a brand posts a picture of a product to Instagram, consumers can click on the Like2Buy link in a brand’s bio and then on the photo — and link directly to a e-commerce page.)

Another is Piquora (formerly Pinfluencer), which offers tools for campaigns and promotions, creating customizable landing pages, analytics and measurement, competitive insights, hashtag monitoring and more.

Tools like these can help marketers maximize their use of Instagram, a basic platform with minimal options. 

That framework allows marketers to think of innovative ways of telling a story about their product, service or event. Doing so can build the right story which attracts the right customers who are ready for the planned online experience.