Instagram collage with 15 different Instagram filters

Instagram, the image-based social network, was launched in 2010 as a way for people to capture and share the world’s moments. There are now over 300 million accounts, in a global community sharing more than 70 million photos and videos each day.

For brands and businesses, Instagram is a medium to engage and share compelling imagery with a wide audience.


How Instagram Advertising Works

Instagram aims to show users ads from businesses that are of interest or relevance. These are targeted using information about what you do on Instagram and Facebook (Instagram’s parent company). This might include people you follow, photos and videos you like on Instagram, and your interests and other basic information on Facebook.

Whether they’re Facebook users or not, everyone on Instagram will see ads from time to time. But advertisers are not allowed to use your photos or videos. You can also hide the ads you find less interesting by tapping the “…” button below them, and provide feedback about adverts you object to, or really like.

It’s early days, and Instagram has restricted its list of approved advertisers. A blue badge appears beside the profile name of verified accounts, and in search listings. Brands include Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Burberry, General Electric, Lexus, Levi’s, Macy’s, Mercedes USA, Michael Kors, PayPal and Starwood.

Here’s how Instagram Ads have worked, for some of them:


Chobani: A Yoghurt for All Occasions

Chobani is the top-selling Greek yoghurt brand in the United States. The company recently launched an Instagram advertising campaign to highlight its versatility.

One image shows Chobani yoghurt as the basis for an appetizing dip complemented by roasted vegetables and tortilla chips. Another depicts the yoghurt in a late night concoction, smothered with chocolate cake bits, pretzels and peanut butter. Not just a breakfast food.


Mercedes-Benz USA: Working Instagram, and Facebook, Together

When launching its new GLA compact SUV, Mercedes-Benz USA started by looking at popular themes on Instagram, to learn how it could better participate with the community.

In the Instagram theme #ThingsOrganizedNeatly, they decided to use a custom mat in the shape of the GLA cargo area. Mercedes-Benz then partnered with photographers and marketers to create a new theme, #GLAPacked, which asked users, “What would you pack in your GLA?”

Simultaneous ads on Facebook highlighted the GLA’s progressive design, and linked directly to the GLA’s website so people could explore the vehicle further. Consistent messages were used on both platforms.

When added to Facebook direct-response ads, people who saw the combination of Instagram and Facebook branding followed by Facebook click-through ads generated a 580% rise in visits to the GLA site.


Try It, Yourself

To create your own brand profile on Instagram, first sign up for an account (e.g., using the same name as your Twitter handle). Add a profile photo (like your brand logo) and a link to your website. Connect your account to Facebook, and let your followers know they can follow you there.

Then follow these recommendations, to get the most out of Instagram:

Use Instagram for Business

The Instagram for Business blog offers tips, brand spotlights, marketing examples, and news from Instagram HQ. Add it to your reading list to keep up to date on the best ways to use the Instagram platform.

Strike a Balance

Promoting your brand shouldn’t be all work and no play. Aim for a healthy balance of fun images and business pictures. Integrating images to show your human side will create stronger connections with your followers.

Use Instagram Video

Video on Instagram gives the ability to create 15-second, filter-enabled, editable video clips. There’s also an embed feature for its desktop Web browser version. Use it to embed your Instagram video in your blog or website, and extend the reach of your content.

Have a Flexible Posting Plan

If you post excessively, you might saturate your followers’ feeds, and make them sick of the sight of you. Create a schedule to help phase your content. Remember to track what’s working – and try to improve on what isn’t.

Use Apps

Instagram provides apps to let users print images, search tags and keywords, subscribe to Instagram profiles via email, download all Instagram photos in a single archive folder, and others. Use them, to enhance your photo-sharing experiences.

Bullet Time

Instagram recently launched Hyperlapse, a new app which uses built-in stabilisation technology to let people create moving, handheld time lapses for a cinematic look, quality and feel.

Hyperlapse can capture a man-made or natural process that’s core to your brand, or usually hidden from public view. This can be very compelling, when conveyed through video footage that’s sped up several times.

Create a Following

Use relevant, popular hashtags. You can track their relevance by using Nitrogram, the Instagram analytics and engagement platform.

Engage by following other Instagram users, liking their photos, and leaving useful comments.

Reward Your Followers

Deliver perks like discount codes and promos, so your followers will make viewing your feed content a priority.

Work with Facebook

Connect your Facebook account, and cross-post selected images to your Facebook page using a hashtag that aligns with your campaign or brand image.

Host photo contests on Instagram, and use Facebook status updates to encourage your fans to enter. Get creative.

It worked for Mercedes-Benz. Why not for you?