August 01, 2013
/ by Jenny Wittman
This piece is the first in a two-part series exploring the professional functions of Instagram. Next week’s piece focuses on the media perspective.
Almost three years after its launch in October 2010, Instagram has 100 million active users that have captured photos from their smartphones to share everything from beautiful food presentations to scenic beaches. While this platform was originally picked up by consumers and photographers, it has naturally become an important tool to visually communicate a brand’s story for PR professionals and their clients.
Speaking to three established industry professionals on the topic, it is clear that Instagram has and will remain an asset to business leaders that have stayed relevant in using social media to promote clients’ voice and visual brand.
President of NKPR, Natasha Koifman, established her PR firm in 2002 and focuses on clients who are lifestyle centered, not-for-profit or have a philanthropist mindset. She finds that Instagram is a great way to build brand personality and outreach. “Using a new social platform results in reaching different individuals and reaching individuals differently, which helps increase awareness and also translates into additional and often new customers,” she said. She also believes the built in hashtag options are beneficial. “Being able to categorize our images and show up in numerous feeds is very effective – connecting brands with countless, previously un-reachable people,” Koifman said.
Leila Lewis, wedding publicist and owner of Be Inspired Public Relations, also encourages all of her clients to be active on Instagram. “In the wedding industry, there’s a large audience of brides that follow along with wedding businesses whose style they like,” she said. “I’ve heard countless stories of brides finding and hiring their wedding team from finding and following them on Instagram.”
President of Ink & Press PR, Stephanie Tsai, specializes in beauty and baby brands. One client that she represents is Kelley Baker Brows, a brow service by Kelley Baker. Baker has seen her business triple since she aggressively implemented an Instagram program with Tsai. Now, as an Instagram personality, she has a loyal following and an increased demand for her services. “She also uses Instagram and Facebook to let people know of last minute cancelations and openings. Not only has she gotten new clients and business for her studio through Instagram, but she is now being asked to visit different parts of the country to set up pop-up services,” Tsai said.
Needless to say, certain companies can easily benefit from Instagram more than others. Beauty, fashion, food, wedding, home design and travel are some industries that can be complemented with a visual aspect, compared to accounting or tutoring services, for example.
But Koifman believes that any brand can take part in Instagram with a little out of the box thinking. “If you are creative and authentic, you can make just about any brand a success on Instagram,” she said. “The key is how you leverage it. For us, being authentic is the number one rule. We try to capture the human element without our brands because that is what people can relate to – creating, providing and capturing the experience.”
Additionally, the actual photo post is important to get right as well. “The key to success is choosing images that are consistent in quality and content,” Lewis said. “Meaning, the post has to be an image of something people want to see, but the quality of the image has to be there too – lighting, color, sharpness, etc.”
The visual aspect of any campaign is important as we find that consumer engagement is higher when social media includes video or an image. “Instagram is a unique tool in the sense that you can get creative and tell a story with a single image,” Koifman said. “We love this as it opens up many opportunities to engage with our community on a different, more personal level. I think people respond to this because they feel like they are getting a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite brands which builds a lasting connection.”
Most importantly, it’s vital to keep up with the platform for clients wishing to benefit from Instagram. “Any business that has Instagram needs to be using it consistently,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t do you any good to set up an account and only post once a month. There needs to be a consistent presence, otherwise it defeats the purpose.”
Also, make sure to engage with others and follow like-minded individuals. “Dedicate yourself to building up users. As always, successful social media programs are always more successful if they’re matched by equally successful offline networking as well. So socialize, network, seek out others in your field – particularly those with higher numbers than you,” Tsai said.
Koifman also finds that making Instagram a way to showcase the everyday lifestyle of a brand gives followers a special inside look. “Offer a glimpse into the everyday or behind-the-scenes action. Fans of the brand love the exclusivity of seeing what’s going on. For most, a brand is more than a product; it’s a way of living. Photos on Instagram help embody the lifestyle. Use this platform for awareness and loyalty building rather than for selling and advertising,” Koifman said.
She added, “Other advice, don’t post too much and clog up your fans’ feeds, they will only get annoyed and un-follow you. And #don’t #overuse #hashtags! My personal pet peeve.”
All three publicists have made and reinforced personal and professional connections through Instagram and encourage others to do the same. “I met both makeup artists and mom bloggers through Instagram,” Tsai said. “While my email pitches might not get their attention, my photos somehow have garnered their interest in my work.”
“I’ve had several business relationships either start, or strengthen through Instagram,” Lewis said. “Interaction with other accounts can be an effective way of networking, if done properly.”
“I use Instagram as a way to keep up with current connections,” Koifman said. “It’s a way to bond on a deeper, more personal level.”
Social media giant Facebook acquired Instagram last year, and now has settled into becoming a lead visual tool that brands and marketers can no longer ignore. “It’s very important. In this day and age, visual promotion is what captures and captivates audiences,” Lewis explained. “Whether it’s a product or service you’re offering, people want to see what it is they’re buying into.”
Natasha Koifman President of NKPR http://instagram.com/nkpr
Leila Lewis Owner of Be Inspired Public Relations http://instagram.com/weddingpr
Stephanie Tsai President of Ink & Press PR http://instagram.com/stephgtsai
Follow Cision on Instagram: http://instagram.com/cisionglobal
Get the latest updates on PR, communications and marketing best practices.
Keep up with everything Cision. Check here for the most current product news.
Thought leadership and communications strategy for the C-suite written by the C-suite.
A blog for and about the media featuring trends, tips, tools, media moves and more.
1-312-922-2400from 8 AM - 5 PM CT