Instagraming our lives

Many people use social media to portray their aspirational self, tweeting on Friday night when you’re at that cool bar or telling all your Facebook friends you’re in front of the Taj Mahal. I am a sucker for apps that can ‘make’ my childhood aspirations come true. I wanted to be a chef, a professional travel writer or a photographer. I’ve tried (with mixed luck) half of the food apps on the app store, written travel diaries on Triposo and most recently I’ve become an instagram junkie.

instagram logoAlthough my jeans are not (at least not yet) grass stained from attempts to get a cool shoot of a lone park bench, I use it almost every day to capture moments of my life, full of filtering joy.  Instagram allows me to pretend that I am a half-decent photographer, but the reason I really like it is that I usually prefer posting visual content rather than trying to describe it.  In an era where even 140 characters can be deemed too much if you’ve got a short attention span, a picture is definitely worth at least a thousand words.

And it seems that I am not the only one.  Instagram now boast over 100 million users, 70 million more than six months ago, reflecting the strong trend in social media towards visual content. As more and more people access social media from their smartphones, they are finding that taking pictures is easier and much more engaging than typing out a status update on a small keyboard. According to comScore, last August  Instagram managed to pass Twitter in daily active users on mobile for the first time.

Brands are jumping on the bandwagon, looking to expand beyond Facebook and Twitter. A recent study shows that over half of the world’s top 100 most valuable brands have an Instagram presence. Visual content is now king and pictures can convey emotions  more powerfully than text, and are therefore a very strong instrument for storytelling. Around 20% of brands have over 20k followers, with 8% attracting over 100,000 instagramers. MTV is the strongest brand, with nearly 1 million fans, followed by Starbucks with 877,000 and Burberry, with 557,000.

There are some great examples of brands using Instagram to connect with their target audience.

One of my favourites is Red Bull, who use the platform to enhance its image as a lifestyle brand for extreme sports, posting pictures of skaters, surfers and skydivers, with the occasional Red Bull can. The brand also organises contests on Instagram, giving away tickets to sporting events, like the recent #TakeMeToTheRock, where followers had to take a picture of themselves with a basket ball in unexpected places.

Burberry is another brand that is getting Instagram right (not surprising as its social media strategy is one of the best I’ve seen this year). Besides showcasing its products, most of its posts have been incredible images taken around London, promoting Burberry’s image as a cosmopolitan brand and reinforcing its Britishness at the same time. innocent has also been hitting all the right notes with its original, funny and cute content, like the recent ‘Big Knit’ competition.

Instagram is now trying to make things easier for brands, earlier this week it announced the launch of web profiles, which will allow users to share photos with a larger audience, beyond mobile.  I expect to continue seeing more and more brands joining the platform. However, it is important to remember that having a profile on Instagram is not enough. Most brands are fairly quiet, posting less than a photo per week and, as with any other social media platform, brands need to constantly engage users with creative and inspiring content.  Instagram holds a huge potential for brands, but it’s no guarantee of instant success!

Ines Nadal is  Head of Trends & Futures at Ipsos MORI. Follow her on Twitter @inesnadal

Campaign Jobs