What Brands Are Really Doing on Instagram

Facebook has spread itself all over the map with the help of its photo-sharing app, Instagram. Since Facebook brought the versatile photo editing and sharing tool into the fold in 2012, the platform has seen 2 million likes, comments and shares of Instagram photos. Brands are starting to experiment with the app as a marketing tool, but early use cases show that they’re not just there for the aesthetics.

Finding and sharing localized customer content is what appeals to brands the most, said Erica McClenny, senior vice president of client services at social media management software company Expion.

Instagram includes a tool for tagging photos by location and placing them on a map for other users to find.

In April, social data provider Gnip reported that between 15 and 25 percent of Instagram users were geotagging their photos. “We have consistently found that our customers are eager for more social data with geotagged content,” Gnip said at the time.

Expion, whose clients include global chains like Hilton, Applebee’s, and AMC, is one of few companies around the world that has access to a location-based moderation tool for not only finding, but also commenting on users’ Instagram photos.  An upgrade to the public Instagram API for searching images, this tool automatically surfaces the brand-related photos that lie within a certain radius of, say, a particular store location. ”Our localization of moderation on Facebook has an obvious synergy with Instagram moderation based on geo-location fields provided in the API,” McClenny said.

And many more companies are exploring Instagram — 67 percent of top brands are now using the platform, according to a study of active Interbrand 100 companies by Simply Measured. The platform reaches more than 100 million active monthly users — a 500 percent increase since it was acquired.

In fact, Instagram now has a greater reach than the visual bookmarking site Pinterest, the study found. As of May 1, the 76 Interbrand companies that have a presence on Pinterest reach a collective audience of less than 500,000, while the 67 companies that are on Instagram collectively reach more than 7 million followers.

But engagement is another story. To start a dialogue with their growing audiences, 23 percent of these companies post more than 50 times a month on Instagram — a 20-percent increase from last quarter. User engagement with these brands has likewise gone up 16 percent over last quarter, with an average of 5,600 engagements per photo.

By using Instagram for the MTV Movie Awards, for example, MTV saw a 200 percent growth in engagement, Simply Measured found. This was due in part to the use of hashtags that encouraged viewers to share and submit their own content for inclusion in the movie awards. Each nominee in the best superhero category had a tag on Instagram and Twitter so that fans could tell their friends to #VoteBilbo, #VoteBatman, #VoteIronman, or #VoteHulk.

MTV is one of the first three brands, including Starbucks and Nike, to reach 1 million followers.

“A year ago, many people were skeptical about Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and whether it would hinder the network’s growth,” said Simply Measured CEO Adam Schoenfeld. “However today it’s very clear that the synergies are not only bringing new users on board, but also creating incredible opportunities for brands to connect with consumers.”

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