Spotlight: Instagram

Instagram has become a sensational hit in the realm of cellphone photo apps, making it easier and more beautiful than ever for the average user to share gorgeous photographs with their friends and family. Just this year Instagram reached a staggering 50,000,000 users and was purchased by Facebook [source], making it a powerhouse social media tool.

Every worthwhile company and organization has a Facebook and a Twitter page, but what about Instagram accounts? These days, more and more businesses are catching on to the idea that Instagram can be an incredibly beneficial venue for delivering content to fans, and for drawing more attention to their brands.

Just this past week Instagram released a web version of their app [source], much to the pleasant surprise of it’s many users. These web profiles can now be viewed online, as opposed to the previous design which forced users to download the app or go through a third party website. Not only will this give businesses another way to showcase their photos to fans without forcing them to have an Instagram account, but these web profiles are presented in a very attractive way that will keep them coming back.

How can Instagram be great for marketing?

Instagram makes it incredibly easy to post your photos to other Social Sharing sites like Twitter and Facebook for a seamless tie-in with your overall marketing scheme. While this social sharing tool is best suited for specific brands, with a little creativity it can work for anyone. The key – as with any Social Media venue – is to post interesting things, tag them correctly so that they can be found in searches, and communicate with your fan-base.

Instagram handles usernames like Twitter does, with an @ symbol before the name. They also utilize Twitter’s hash-tag system which allows users to tag their uploaded photos and make them searchable. For example, if you own a shoe store and you’re posting a photo of some cute winter boots going on sale, you could hash-tag it with #snow, #winter, #boots, #shoes, and #sale to cast out a wide web of incoming searches. Though some claim that Instagram’s hash-tag system is a mess and the tags do not work well, you can cover your bases by using personalized hash-tags about your brand and asking your fans to use them as well when on Instagram.

How do you get Instagram fans?

If you’re starting out with an already popular brand this won’t be too tricky, but otherwise you’ll need to pull out some known tricks. Include a blurb in your next newsletter saying that they should follow you on Instagram for the latest photos from your company, and link right to your Instagram web profile. You can also send out the occasional Tweets and Facebook updates including a hot new photo you’ve taken with Instagram, linked directly to your account. 

A sure-fire way to get people commenting on your photos and saving them to their favorites, is to do that very thing for them. Show your fans, customers, followers, and community that you not only appreciate their presence, but you care about what they’re putting out there. Social Media appreciation is a two-way interactive street and if you want your followers to recognize you as a person behind the brand, you have to prove it. Show them a little love and they’ll show you a little love back.

In that same respect you can run a contest or a campaign encouraging your Instagram followers to post photos related to your brand or field of interest, asking them to use a specific hash-tag so that these photos are easy to find. You can also ask them to Tweet the photo entries to your Twitter, post them to your Facebook page, and share them with friends. Then you can travel around Instagram, favoriting the photos and commenting on the ones that knock your socks off.

How else can I optimize Instagram for marketing?

If you have a company, business, or group that has multiple locations or regular events, then using Instagram’s geo-tagging feature will help clue your fanbase into where you are and where you will be next. Throw a big party or have a sale, send out a few photos to your followers, and geo-tag them properly with your location so that any fans in the area can show up.

Perhaps the most basic idea for better optimization of your Social Media pages is to check out the analytics for your page. Take a look back through your Instagram photos and see which ones are garnishing the most likes and getting the most comments – this is a window into what sorts of photographs your audience is most receptive towards. You can also use free Instagram analytics tools such as Statigram and Simply Measured to track account growth and even gain insight into what time of day your followers engage the most.

The bottom line

Instagram has massive potential, as long as businesses are willing to take the proper steps to grow their community. With the new addition of web profiles it’s easier than ever to edit your account online and share your Instagram profile with others, which should only help this nifty photo tool become a staple in Social Marketing. If you’ve got a product or an idea to sell to your followers, brainstorm ways to get it onto Instagram and secure your place in this quickly growing Social Sharing giant.

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Marketing Spotlight: the McDonald’s CBO Mashup

Whether you’re a fast food lover or a health nut, one thing is indisputable in the realm of Social Media; McDonald’s knows how to market their products online. Successful companies like McDonald’s have realized that Internet Marketing isn’t about strictly delivering brand messages – it’s about engaging users in unique, fun ways that’ll keep them coming back for more.

The CBO

McDonald’s recently introduced their new Cheddar Bacon Onion sandwich – aptly titled CBO in the world of internet acronyms – and they’re lighting up their internet presence with some creative marketing.

Their Facebook page is an entertaining mix of visually heavy posts, with recent updates pointing fans towards their new CBO community feature. Titled a “Threemendous” sandwhich due to it’s three prominent ingredients, McDonald’s is encouraging users and fans to pick from fifteen different words they would use to describe the new CBO. Users begin by choosing a chewing action like “Chomp” or “Gobble”, then an ingredient word like “Cheese” or “Bacon”, followed by an adjective such as “Wonderful” or “Scrumptious”. After the choices are made, the user is presented with a word compiled of their three picks and then given the option of Tweeting it out to their Followers on Twitter, or Sharing it with their friends on Facebook.

Why is this good marketing?

Users browsing their Twitter and Facebook feeds will see these eye-catching word mashups posted by friends and their curiosity may be piqued. It’s not every day you see the word Gobbacomptious on your Facebook feed! Word generators are fun in their own right, but McDonald’s has put together a brainless way for their fans to interact with the CBO while staring at three delicious versions of this sandwich, and then with just a click of a button they can show off their creations to friends. McDonald’s has taken their word generator to an amusing, mouth-watering level and seamlessly tied it into Social Sharing.

Couple this unique but simple experience with an awesome visual and audial introduction on the community landing page, and you’ve got a marketing tactic that users will easily share with friends and family.

The occasional Facebook post and Twitter update prompting users to craft their own CBO descriptive words seem to be doing the trick for creating buzz. McDonald’s receives both good and bad responses on most of their posts – which is inevitable for powerhouse brands – but does tend to hurt the company’s overall image, especially on their Facebook page.

Negative comments aside, it seems that they are beginning to build some positive attention for CBO as users respond with both their own word creations and their critique of the sandwich in general. Hopefully McDonald’s and their creative marketing team will respond to criticism and encourage suggestions, while maintaining creative use of these word mashups to engage their followers.

As long as they continue to build up multi-faceted and visually innovative forms of promotional marketing, McDonald’s will continue to succeed in the competitive Internet venue of food advertising.

Spotlight: PunchTab

If you have an online business or community-based website, then you know how frustrating it can sometimes be to incite participation from your users. Even with the freshest of content your Facebook, Twitter, Blog, and website can lose it’s luster if you do not offer your users different ways to participate, with benefits for doing so. That’s where tools like PunchTab come into play!

What is PunchTab?

PunchTab is a Social Sharing and Giveaway tool which provides your fans with varying ways to distribute your content themselves, and then rewards them each time they do. Aside from offering a classy look to their widgets, PunchTab is a simple way to boost brand awareness and create “buzz” for your website, ensuring repeat fans.

What are the options?

With PunchTab you have the option to create Giveaways, Badges, Campaigns, and more, and it’s all offered on tiered pricing starting with a free and very beefed-up plan.

The Giveaways are particularly useful because fans and customers can enter for a chance to win a prize simply by following your brand’s Twitter account, Tweeting out a specific messages to Followers, Liking your brand on Facebook, commenting on a blog or website post, hitting +1 on your Google+ page, answering a question of your choice, visiting a site, or downloading a file of your choice. Recently PunchTab added the option of pinning a photo to users’ Pinterest pages for an extra Giveaway point, which shows expansion on their part. Each of these actions allow participants one entry into the Giveaway, meaning that the more they do to promote your website, the better chance they have at winning your prize.

Badges and Achievements are what PunchTab has coined ‘virtual bling’ for your site. In short, each time a user participates on one of your Social Media venues by doing things like commenting on your blog, they can earn points which ultimately level them up in badge rank. This creates a unique opportunity for fans to partake in friendly competition to become the ultimate fan, all while promoting your website.

These options, and more, are incredibly easy to set up and install, requiring nothing more than basic HTML code knowledge. After you choose from these different features – paying for a better plan will allow you more customization – PunchTab provides short and sweet codes for you to plug into your site, and the widgets are easy to share on your Social Media pages.

Why should I use tools like PunchTab?

PunchTab guarantees that not only will your fans grow to be more loyal if you use their tools, but they promise an increase in activity and Social Sharing of your pages. You want your fans to come back, and you want them to know that you’re more than a person sitting behind a computer, feeding them information. With PunchTab, when you allow your users interaction and reward, you’re allowing your website growth.

Aside from variation of content, tools like PunchTab help you stand out amongst similar businesses, and create customer loyalty through incentive. If you don’t have the most interesting content or you’re running out of things to say to your users, having a Giveaway or utilizing an Achievement program shows your fans that you care about their loyalty and truly want them to stick around. Plus, who doesn’t love free stuff? Users will jump at the chance to win a prize, especially when it’s as easy as Tweeting out a message to their followers, letting hundreds of potential fans know that they’ve just entered an awesome contest.

Social Sharing at it’s finest!