AP / Karly Domb Sadof

And you know what? That’s just fine! Maybe even great. It’s an unfair comparison (we’re talking apples and oranges here) for several reasons. Instagram exists in a unique environment where accessibility and usability have made it a top mobile application, right up there with apps like Mail and Maps, for the everyday mobile users and companies alike to engage and create content.

Instagram, the brainchild of Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, is a mobile–photo and video–sharing app available for iOS and Android devices and Windows Phone that allow users to apply filters and, as of a recent update, edit photos. Instagram enables users to share across various other social networking platforms. Users can both tag other users and hashtag their photos. Additionally, users can geotag photos that will then be displayed all on a click-able map. There are 19 preset filters that users can choose from. Additionally, users can straighten and sharpen images, add tilt shift and vignettes, as well as adjust brightness, contrast, warmth, saturation, and shadows. Some people get extremely creative, others post generic sunsets or selfies; there is no one type of Instagram user.

Why Instagram?

First thing’s first: the numbers alone should be enough reason for you to be curious about Instagram if you aren’t already on it. According to Instagram’s website, they have 200 million monthly active users, 1.6 billion likes daily, and 60 million photos uploaded also daily. Instagram ranked 7th in the Top 10 Mobile Apps of 2013 (by downloads) by Neilson earlier this year.

User-Generated Content

One of the greatest advantages of having your company or business on Instagram is the opportunity for user-generated content. People overwhelmingly trust user generated content in comparison to traditional (radio, television, print) media far more than any other age bracket for news, trends, and making decisions regarding products and services. How many Facebook statuses consist of people asking for advice on where to get a good haircut or a good place to eat in the area? According to a study by Ipsos Media Content and Specialty Researches, 74% of people trust product info they get from conversations, and a comparable 68% from peer reviews.  Of course advertising in traditional and social media has its place, which goes without saying. Instagram, however, offers the opportunity to engage and offer immediate feedback to audiences and have content created by other users like themselves.

Recently, Lexus created an ad completely from animated stills from over 200 Instagram users. Users were credited with their Instagram handle, which for many suffices as compensation: more followers, more people seeing their mobile video and photos (a sort of social media capital, so to speak). While Lexus took user-generated content quite literally by having their ad created by the crowd, there are other ways to take advantage of user-generated content. What many successful company/business accounts do is quite simpler: creating hashtag campaigns to engage users and a more- recent trend of showcasing content the audience itself is creating.

Hashtag Campaigns

Rewarding users for using a designated hashtag and demonstrating how they use a product or service is a great way to gain a larger following and engage users. Many companies will hold contests and offer a prize or various prizes. For many, having their image simply posted to an Instagram feed on the company’s website is a reward as well (hello again, social media capital!) which also becomes content to share on websites and other social networking platforms. Loyal users will, of course, be the large portion of those participating, however offering a prize, promotion, or showcasing users will help expand that audience.

Tarte Cosmetics asks users to tag Instagram images using the hashtag “#tartecosmetics.” Images of certain products are actually displayed below the product description on their website that will link to a more expansive page, their Social Gallery, dedicated to snaps of their products “in action” on Instagram. Tarte understands its audience: make-up users want reviews and how-to’s of products. What they’re saying on the quality of their products is essentially “don’t take our word for it, just take a look at all these Instagram photos and videos!”

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

What successful Instagram accounts do is—well—what their followers do! Understanding how much more people trust and seek out user generated content, it makes sense to not only post content created by users but also show them things they similarly post. It’s simple to post a product and a description, heck maybe even a deal on it. But again, why not show it at work?

Chobani is another great example of a company that understands how its product is being used. In the screenshot to the left, their logo is not displayed anywhere besides their profile image and it doesn’t need to be. Chobani has stored brand recognition in the credibility of being able to show users that their product can be used. I know I’m personally guilty of perusing through the #eatclean hashtag only to later post my own photo of my freshly manicured hand holding Mason jar of something green to let my followers know that I, too “#eatclean.”


This is something people don’t often think about when it comes to Instagram. For a while, the app was only available for iPhones. In 2012, Instagram released the app for anxious (and let’s not forget patient, I can’t remember how many times I visited the Android App store since rumors first started circulating) Android users. Instagram can run on the newest iOS all the way to the older iOS6, Windows Phone 8, and Android 2.2 or later. That doesn’t seem significant, but the ability of Android users to run the app on their phone is extremely important. Although high-end Androids are now sold or running the latest incarnations of their software, KitKat or even its predecessor, Jellybean, people with lower-end or older Androids running older versions of the Android OS can also access Instagram. Where before, creating content for contests or taking shareable images meant needing to have equipment, not only the average person but a lower-income individual becomes part of a larger audience. Of course, cameras on lower-end Androids cannot compete with the iPhone 5s’s or with Samsung Galaxy S5’s in terms of quality. This does not mean people will not take and share images, they still do.

The Human Element

“They lack a human element,” I hear this often and I’m guilty of using it when describing a brand or company that I do not trust. What better way to dispel these ideas of your brand or company than by going straight to your audiences? I’ve touched a lot on brands and products, but companies are not exempt. While traffic may be headed to your Facebook or website for general information, Instagram is a good tool for business and companies to demonstrate who they are internally. Posts showing your employees help audiences get a feel for the environment. Successful business profiles on Instagram do not limit themselves to just posting about their products or services.

Let’s be real, what’s more human than having pets and taking them everywhere we possibly can? Nothing, actually, and that may explain why multiple companies stray from usual postings and share images of furry friends. At Atomic, we went for the double-whammy and posted our employees and dogs. Now, you can’t tell me we don’t seem human!*

More and more brands and businesses are adding Instagram to their social media strategies and with that in mind, Instagram is not for all businesses. If your target audience isn’t on Instagram, you probably shouldn’t be either. Instagram is more popular among certain age groups, being heavily dominated by 18-39 year olds which makes up 37% of all users on the mobile app. Users are often seeking to engage and take a look behind the scenes of companies. Instagram lends itself to unprecedented access to creating video and photo content in a single, usable platform. Pinpointing your audience is made efficient through hashtag integration and engaging audiences is easily facilitated through both comments and user-tagging. Already on Instagram? Be sure you follow us @atomicdc!


*we not only seem human, we are!



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