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How to Use Instagram to Build Your Brand

When it comes to building your brand on Instagram, you basically have two options: you can create content yourself, or you can tap into your community and ask them to create it. Both are valid strategies for building brand on the social network, but they require different tactics and implementation.

Instagram for PR

Create the content

If are a new brand and don’t have an online community, you’re better off creating your own content, at least at first. You need to give a sense of what your brand is about, which means using photos that illustrate both your brand’s personality and whatever it sells or does.

You need both; sharing striking photos may earn you “likes” and maybe even some comments and followers, but it doesn’t help you grow the numbers that matter to your boss. The same somewhat holds true with only posting photos of your brand’s product or service. Unless you can find ways to include photos that show how the product or service can be used in day-to-day life, you’re unlikely to grow a community.

To strike the right balance, you need to determine what your story is and how you want to say it. Is your brand edgy? Geeky? Cute? All business? You can create content that capitalizes on any one of those characteristics, thus building your brand, community and sales.

2 examples of brand-created content

American Express may have some of the cleverest photos on the network. Generally, the brand aims to tell the story of what people can do if they’re American Express cardholders:

Dell focuses on geeky trivia and projects, an effort that simultaneously entertains and informs. The image below shows how the Thinkery, a nonprofit children’s museum in Austin, is using Dell computers and 3D MakerBot printing to fuel a Youth Learning program:

Want some more Instagram PR campaigns? These four will spark your imagination.

Curate the content

If you have an existing online community, you may be better off asking it for content, particularly if it’s already active on Instagram and other networks. Chobani chose that route when it started to use Instagram; it did some initial research and discovered that its customers were already creating content for the brand. Chobani just had to unify the content with some standardized hashtags.

Your community may not be creating content as Chobani’s was, but it might if it’s already shown a fondness for your brand or initiative. If that’s the case, all you have to do is provide some initial guidelines, which can be done on your site and promoted across all your channels. Curate the submitted content, and finesse your directions as needed.

2 examples of community-created content

Chobani was mentioned above, but it deserves another look. The brand joined Instagram in 2011 and noticed that people were sharing images of how they used the yogurt to create dishes ranging from breakfast muffins to smoothies. Chobani used that existing interest to build its Instagram community and encourage new uses for its product.

#showmeyourpump isn’t tied to a particular brand, but the movement has caused diabetics to come together and celebrate the gear they wear and the bodies to which it’s attached. The initiative started when Sierra Sandison wore her t:slim insulin pump on her bikini during her recent beauty pageant. Her action and subsequent call to all Type 1 diabetics to “show their pumps” has inspired diabetics worldwide and produced unsought content for brands like Medtronic, Tandem and Dexcom.

Are you on Instagram? How are you using it to build your brand?

Want to use Instagram better? Take a look at this free Instagram for Marketing and PR cheat sheet!

Image: Aleks Grynis (Creative Commons)

About Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is the director of editorial services at Tenacity5 Media. When she isn’t researching, writing, and editing blog posts and white papers, she writes poetry and essays, draws her favorite Write Right character, and plans what art form to study next. She’s based in Austin, Texas and can be found on Twitter @erinmfeldman.

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