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Instagram is quickly turning anyone with a cell phone into a photographer. Novice photographers faced two barriers that Instagram has tackled head-on – applying filters to photos and easily sharing them with friends. For consumers, that means more personal expression of individual passion and values through social channels. For brands, the cross-channel integration with Facebook, Twitter and mobile devices means more relevant content and conversations. 100 million people have noticed, and with the recent acquisition by Facebook, Instagram is here to stay. We understand that most brands are already stretched thin trying to engage their stakeholders on Facebook, Twitter and their company blog. Even so, don’t fall behind! Read on for our primer on getting started with Instagram today.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a free photo-sharing application and social network that lets users snap a photo with their cell phone, apply a filter to it and effortlessly share it with other users. A mobile-based app, Instagram is supported on iPhone, iPad and Android phones. And just last week, Instagram announced that user profiles will be available on the web, outside of the application.Primacy Instagram Mug That means you can search trends, follow friends and see your analytics directly in Instagram.

Why Instagram matters

Launched in 2010, Instagram has quickly grown to over 100 million registered users. It was acquired by Facebook in September 2012 for $1 billion. It has become what Simply Measured calls an "integral component for marketing in the social space." And big brands have taken notice: 54% of the world’s top brands are using it to engage customers. If the best camera is the one you have with you, perhaps the smartphone is the only camera you need. Nearly 46 percent of Americans carry a smartphone and almost all have a camera built in. Instagram has fundamentally changed the process of taking, editing and sharing photos by making it instantaneous. Before Instagram, adding a sepia effect or adjusting the contrast on a photo was head-scratchingly difficult if you weren’t fluent in Photoshop. And the options to share photos are endless - Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Twitter and countless others. However, those sites required users to plug in their digital camera and slowly upload their unaltered images. Instagram has removed the waiting time and reinvented the photo sharing process while building a powerful means of immediate personal expression for consumers and brands. It’s also not playing in the content aggregation space (like Pinterest); its focus lies on content generation and others, like Twitter, have taken notice.

Should your brand pursue Instagram?

It depends on your business objectives.  But increasingly, with widespread adoption and virality, it can be a strong accelerator of your social efforts with relatively little investment required. There are some great use cases for a variety of industries and many brands who are already engaging their consumers. Let’s take a look:

Higher Ed:

27% of Instagram users are in the coveted 18 to 29 year old demographic, a group that is very important to the higher education space. If you want to connect with this group, you need a plan to do it over mobile. Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT is a great example of a school that is building an online community through photos of students, sporting events, music and live events and the campus itself.


Healthcare is another industry that relies on building communities and connecting with their patients. Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando, FL recently used Instagram to live-stream pictures of an open heart surgery.  The team posted updates with photos every ten minutes and supplemented the coverage on their Facebook and Twitter channels.  They engaged thousands of users and received positive feedback from families with other patients.

Other Brand Examples:

  • Nike has built a huge Instagram following by featuring product photos and athletes:
  • Same with Burberry, whose images features their clothing and iconic photos of London, collectively generating 28k replies and 822k likes:
  • Red Bull, thought leaders in capturing attention directly through social media, uses their Instagram page as another entertainment channel to reach more people for less money. Their page features images of their sponsored athletes in action, some with their well-known hashtag #flyingfriday:
  • Sharpie showcases artwork and pictures drawn with their markers and they’ve connected with a big audience with over 37,000 followers:

Getting started

Your brand is already on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re thinking about the next way to reach the modern consumer, 100 million of them are on Instagram. Help them find you. A great first step is to create a personal account and try it yourself. If you’re looking to use Instagram with your business, consider starting with an internal project and try to grow participation across your company. Here’s what we did: for our recent Open House, we built an Instagram aggregator to display photos on monitors throughout our building. We encouraged employees and visitors to post photos using our #theprimacy tag to Instagram. People submitted over 150 photos that we displayed around the office. Our lesson learned: everyone enjoyed the instant gratification of seeing their photos pop up – no matter where they were when they took them. People who had never used Instagram before were signing up on the spot just so they could submit a photo or two. It showed us the power of Instagram and encouraging participation at an event. Instead of asking yourself “is Instagram worth my time and investment?” see if your competitors are using it and then ask that question again. This post is a collaboration of ideas from several people, namely, Michael Saterman, Alicia Millane, Amy Keach, Alex Fraser and Mike Stutman.