The rise of the user-generated content on Instagram

With more than 40 billion pictures shared, Instagram is THE place for visual storytelling. How can you develop an Instagram strategy that works for your brand?

With more than 40 billion pictures shared, Instagram is THE place for visual storytelling. How can you develop an Instagram strategy that works for your brand?

I love Instagram. And yes, hashtags too. The more, the merrier in fact.

I am always amazed at the amount of creativity you find on Instagram. It’s a place where I (and a million other people) go to discover what’s new and what’s next. There’s always a story behind every picture – a rail track, an old church building, a glass of wine, or even an office cubicle.

Instagram inspires a journey. It captures the immediacy of the moment, ignites creative expression, and provides a connection to like-minded communities. And if you observe closely, you’ll discover the inventive ways in which the Instagram community inspires and connects with one another.

With more than 40 billion pictures shared, Instagram is THE place for visual storytelling. People have a lot to say about who they are, and we’ve increasingly seen brands joining Instagram over the last year or so to share stories around their products, their company, and their philosophy.

But to inspire any audience, you have to understand it. Discovering how they think, act, and purchase is only the first step to finding new opportunities to engage with them. This is especially true of the Instagram audience. As its purchasing power increases, the Instagram audience will continue to drive consumer demand and shape your marketing approach.


Growing and engaging your Tribe

Brands not only have visual “storytelling power” on Instagram, but also the strength of a community that follows them. With just one click, you have an engaged user.

But what are users looking for online? To engage with brands that are dynamic, relevant, and can add value and an experience. They are hungry for knowledge and a unique brand experience, and this hunger drives their choice of brands.

When we offer content about us as brands while tapping into users’ interests, we become an asset to our fans. We become more than our products; we become a provider of an experience that this generation wants. And when we become a relevant part of users lives, we give them more reason to share with others – they start to respond, engage, and inspire. (Some prominent fashion brands, for example, have mastered this strategy.)

We have to realize that we no longer control our own brand messaging. Instead, we need to capitalize on the impact of tribes that we lead. When developing an Instagram strategy for brands, I like to look at it as a balanced spread of part recognition, part user-generated content (UGC), and part community building. The more you include your fans and understand their motivation for following your brand, the more compelling your content becomes to them.

  • Recognition – Make them feel special and offer exclusive content or a sneak peek that is only available on Instagram. Your fans love to get an inside look at everything so they can get a better understanding of the brand, its people, and its products. They want to be part of the experience and discover the stories and secrets behind the brands they admire. This exclusive information will keep them engaged and make them feel more connected to the brand in every way.
  • UGC – your fans are consistently cultivating every social opportunity they can to be a part of their own brand’s story. Create a contest or a campaign to get them to be part of the campaign and to feel more included in your marketing activities. Through this exercise, you’ll also be able to collect a lot of UGC along the way, and begin to understand what your fans want from you and their motivations for following your brand on Instagram. Rewarding your most active fans is a sure-fire way to increase campaign engagement and give them the recognition that they want.
  • Community building – Be original and don’t go M.I.A. If you’re posting every day, but you suddenly stop for a week, there’s a strong chance you’ll lose your followers. Nobody wants to follow a “ghost” page. Post something that will engage your follower in about 2-5 seconds (using insights from UGC or even building on your fans’ motivation).

Instagram has become a customer reciprocity tool that allows brands to show and acknowledge their current fan base and, as a result, increase brand followers. When fans see this done well, they feel more of a part of the brand than traditional brand marketing could ever accomplish.

This article first appeared on Digital Market Asia.

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