What’s Instagram

You’ve probably heard about Facebook buying Instagram for a billion dollars some months ago, news that was a hit in the stands for many weeks. With more than 15 million users signing up in the past year and more than 400 million photos uploaded, Instagram might have been able to put a dent in Facebook’s hopes of internet domination. So Zuckerberg decided to buy the small company with only 13 employees. It was not the features of the app, but the database of people Facebook bought that defends this astounding price. Instagram might have become more than just a photo sharing app with a reported number of 26 new pictures uploaded every second and with a new user signing up every second.

Apparently, Facebook bought Instagram for $300 million in cash and 23 million in shares. And with the updated stock values, Instagram is somehow short of $300 million.

Basically what Instagram does is simple: it allows you to take photos with your smartphone, apply filters and share them on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and other networks. Basically it does nothing more than you could do with other apps – so again, its power is translated by the number of registered users.

Who uses it?

Instagram is used by a number of companies, news channels, sports teams and so on. Almost everybody with an iPhone or an Android-based device uses Facebook’s app.

What companies like is that for every time you check-in on Facebook, you advertise them. Every time you write something about them on Twitter, you advertise them. And every time you take a photo of a product and share it with Instagram, you advertise them yet again. This is the way people tell stories nowadays. It is much easier to post a picture of a product than trying to describe it. And this is why Instagram is so powerful. And when you will go by a Starbucks and will see a Cafe Latte in the window, you will remember the picture posted by your friend on Instagram and might go in to try it yourself. And you know what the funny part is? You might post a picture of the same Latte again.

Other big companies use Instagram to run contests of submitted consumer images, such as General Electric. Thousands of people submitted their picture and hoped to win. And all of this just to win a trip to Wales where you had to take pictures of an aviation facility. The results of the #GEInspiredMe campaign were incredible compared to the prize.

Some other companies use Instagram to tell consumers more about their inside workings or to introduce new products. Engaging customers is probably the best bet a company has with Instagram.

What about you?

Now you could say that other companies were successful in using Instagram because they already have a huge database of followers. And I have to agree. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself. Some tips for you? Sure, here they are:

  1. Decide on what you want to do. By just starting and posting random pictures of random things won’t make you successful. You need to know from the beginning what it is you want to do and ONLY do that thing. Have a plan. It can be showing the world how you design a website and the whole process behind it; it can be showing how you relax on your lunch breaks; it can be how your small company employees have fun on their breaks; it can be literally anything. But let it be something interesting, something part of a routine, something you will be able to share about in the following days.
  2. Establish a posting routine. When you own a blog, it is a good idea to get your readers used to a posting pattern. If you post daily for two weeks in row, then for the following two you post three times, this inconsistency might not please your readers. They usually expect something from you. They don’t know exactly when it’s coming, but they know it’s close. It is important to have consistency in posting, so keep this in mind when you make your plan.
  3. Get your followers involved. If you really want to engage customers, Instagram is one of the best ways of doing it. This is the way to ensure followers will participate and they will continue to follow you. Ask them to post pictures of your product and see what the results are.
  4. Follow uploads. While it can be very funny to ask customers to post images of their new sun glasses that your company makes, it can also be quite damaging if they get shipped the wrong product or a product in a bad shape. It is important to keep an eye on what people upload to assure that you protect your brand. If bad uploads are found, then always respond in a calm and helpful way and correct any misunderstanding. Do not EVER get into a war.
  5. Take quality pictures. You might not be a professional photographer, but keep in mind that picture quality is an important element of a good brand. If you are not good at taking pictures yourself, let someone else do it for you, or read some tips and tricks that can improve your skills.
  6. Connect and share. Integrating Instagram with other networks is crucial. I would immediately start with Facebook, Twitter, maybe Flickr and Foursquare. This way you can take images and share them using hashtags on other networks. Proper SEO will bring in many views.

What’s Pinterest?

The concept behind Pinterest might be a bit more complicated than Instagram’s. The basic idea is that you have a digital bulletin board and post everything you find interesting there . You basically have the option of creating and managing theme-based image collections (events, hobbies, interests and others) and you can like or re-pin other user’s content. The idea behind Pinterest is to connect everyone  through the things they are interested in using the tool.

Pinterest is, just like Instagram, one of the fastest growing social services in the world and can be considered a mix between Facebook and Twitter, which allows you to have lots of followers to whom you can share your interests. Although not as effective as Instagram, Pinterest has some advantages of its own.

  1. Spend the time.  There is no social media network where you will be popular right from signing up. You need to spend time on all of them. You need to prove your followers and readers you are an important and credible source of information. It takes months for even the biggest companies in the world to reach a high number of followers – and they will never reach all of their customers on social media for various reasons. Keep in mind that spending time to build a profile is important. On Pinterest you can get recognized as a profile that only posts valuable pins. If you own one of those profiles, it will be easier for you to move the relationship on another media and make the best out of it.
  2. Promote others. The first temptation for a new Pinterest profile owner would be to only post products he/she sells. But this is entirely wrong. Many successful Pinterest users declared that in order for a profile to become popular, you also need to pin tips, products from other companies and interesting news. If you only post your own products, Pinterest users will spot that sooner or later and might not be interested in your updates anymore.
  3. Learn from the elite. It is a good idea to follow big hitters on Pinterest and see what they are doing. If a huge company does something a specific way, there is definitely a reason behind it. Try to catch up on that and do the same if the strategy fits your target customers.
  4. Connect online with offline. Remember to always draw a connecting line between the online profile and the offline location. If you have a store, include some ads on the walls for your Pinterest profile (and other social media networks for that matter). And if you have something like it (and you should), then advertise all your Pinterest promotions there as well. Combining the offline with the online is a good recipe for success.
  5. Do you fit in? It is an important questions to ask when you sign up on Pinterest. Is your company really fit to use this particular social media tool? There are companies out there who are simply not a good fit for Pinterest because their target audience is not present on Pinterest. If you think the ones you want to do business with are there, then use Pinterest, otherwise try to avoid spending time on it and focus on something else.

Bonus: Pinstagram

So we’ve talked about Instagram and Pinterest..did you know that there’s a fairly new application called Pinstagram? Pinstagram is a service that lets you use and enjoy Instagram on the web and make it easy to share your photos on Pinterest. Since the two applications/services deal with photos, Pinstagram is a valuable tool to fully utilize Instagram and Pinterest at the same time!