By Camella Mendez published October 10, 2012

How To Use Instagram for Content Marketing

We all know that, traditionally, social channels are easier to engage and grow in the consumer market. And though B2C companies may benefit more directly from Instagram right now (because the marketing value of Instagram is still revealing itself), there is certainly a case to be made for B2B companies getting involved — that is, the right B2B companies.

Let me explain: It would be not be necessary to tell a B2B company that, let’s say, manufactures plastics for laptop cases, to get on Instagram “right now.” However, if your B2B company has plenty of visual content to share and you know your audience is on Instagram, there’s no reason to put off building your presence on Instagram.

I will only assume a visual-based social app like Instagram will mirror the engagement and growth we’ve already seen on Facebook and Twitter. However, it also benefits from the lessons we’ve already learned about engaging audiences on Instagram — most important among them being that users interact with image-based content more than any other form of content on social networks. That may make Instagram the virtual “ringer” on the social media marketing scene.

What companies are already seeing the benefits of Instagram?

Alongside the evolving vernacular surrounding the app (“regram,” “latergram,” “selfie,” “#flashbackfriday,” to name a few), are emerging marketing tactics from brands, publications, organizations, and more that are really inspiring examples of how to harness the potential this new platform holds for content marketing.

Here are just a few ways some brands are already making a marketing impact on Instagram:

Vanity Fair: 100K followers

Think a primarily text-based publication can’t incite meaningful engagement using only photos? Think again. Vanity Fair not only posts images from its monthly issues in between its monthly publication cycle, but it also finds unique ways to engage its audience on Instagram. One such effort is its participation in the Instagram community’s weekly event, #throwbackthursday, where Vanity Fair posts magazine covers from its back issues. Pretty clever.

Content marketing tip: Post the accompanying image from a new blog post or article with a link to the piece on Instagram as a way to drive additional traffic to your content. *According to a recent Association of Magazine Media (MPA) survey, 45 percent of people access content regularly on their smartphones and other mobile devices.

You can even use Instagram’s events (#flashbackfriday or #throwbackthursday) as a channel for marketing archived content through to a fresh audience.

TIME magazine: 177K followers

TIME magazine provides the type of content that is the biggest reason why audiences love to connect with their favorite organizations and brands over social media.

Posting photos from all over the world, the magazine provides candid, first-hand glimpses into the global issues that are covered within its pages on a weekly basis. TIME’s recent real-time coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions was an impressive visual display that made readers feel like they were right on the convention floor. Engagement levels around the magazine’s images are astronomical. Nearly every image is active with political and global debates. That’s what I call engagement.

Not to mention, a few months ago, editors at TIME asked for readers to submit their Instagram photos to illustrate a magazine story on mobile technology by including the hashtag #TIMEwireless when they posted their photos to Instagram.

Content marketing tip: Use Instagram to share unique, behind-the-scenes content that not only gives your audience a good reason to want to follow you there, but also helps you solidify a personal relationship and build loyalty with your customers new and old. Instagram is a perfect place to get even more personal with your biggest fans.

Top Shop: 256K followers

UK-based fashion retailer Top Shop uses Instagram to market its new products, as well as to highlight trends that inspire its designers. What’s unique about Top Shop’s Instagram approach is that the company also uses the platform as a channel to promote secret offers, promotions, and discount codes. Complete with its own content marketing platform, “214 Magazine,” Top Shop also promotes new issues and articles from the fashion magazine in its Instagram feed.

Content marketing tip: Create an image that features a promotional code or features other information about how to redeem an offer unique to your followers. Using Instagram as a platform for special promotional offers will without a doubt increase the growth and engagement of your brand’s network.

Starbucks: 846K followers

This list wouldn’t be complete without a snapshot into how social media marketing darling Starbucks harnesses the potential of Instagram. The company encourages its followers to post their own Starbucks photos, along with a campaign-focused hashtag.

The latest is the #itsfallwhen campaign, which aggregated the best photos from Starbucks customers on Instagram that illustrated the relation between fall and a hot, comforting Starbucks coffee. Users from all over the world submitted photos with the hashtag, and Starbucks is posting its favorites.

Content marketing tip: Use Instagram as a channel to crowd-source content by turning your audience members into product evangelists. Not only do campaigns like these initiate engagement between your brand and your target audience, it exposes your brand to their networks, as well.

Benefit Cosmetics: 51K followers

Alongside regular posts of the high-end makeup brand’s product lines, Benefit also posts images from around the company’s headquarters. In addition, Benefit posts beautiful, anecdotal images intended to humanize the brand and connect with its target audience — women who love beauty and makeup.

Content marketing tip: Much like Twitter and Facebook, providing a wide range of content that your users actually want is imperative to connecting with your audience on a personal level. In addition to posting about your brand, also post content on the peripheral of your brand if you know it will help connect with your audience.

Your next steps 

Whether a visual platform such as Pinterest is right for your organization, or Instagram is a seemingly more direct channel to your audience, it’s time to at least start thinking about leveraging visual social media to drive traffic. The numbers show Instagram growing by leaps and bounds every month — more quickly than any other social network out there. If you have the content and your audience is there, Instagram will prove its worth.

Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 content marketing examples.

Author: Camella Mendez

Camella Mendez is a content strategist with Internet Exposure, a Minneapolis digital agency that specializes in web design, development and Internet marketing strategy. For more articles like this one, follow their blog, Above The Fold, add them to your circles on Google +, or tweet them @iexposure.

Other posts by Camella Mendez

  • http://www.facebook.com/cassandraketrick Cassandra Ketrick

    Couple more reasons why I love using Instagram for @UofOklahoma:
    1) It seamlessly integrates with your Facebook timeline
    2) It’s not about followers on Instagram (right now), it’s about using it to push to other networks where you may have followers

  • Jon McBride

    Great closing words: “If you have the content and your audience is there, Instagram will prove its worth.” For that reason alone, every college or university in the world should be on Instagram … that is if you have a university photographer.

  • jml

    A bit confused. This post starts off by trying to make the case for B2B brands using Instagram then provides five case studies of B2C brand use of the app. I understand applicability for both but the post writer seems to have a short attention span.

  • http://allmarketingsolutions.co.uk/social-media-marketing-services Ayaz

    Great post Camella and certainly if you have content and readers on your site you can get benefit from anywhere on the internet. Using different services for your blog or website that’s totally up to your website visibility and your authority on internet.

  • Camella Mendez

    @facebook-9607431:disqus @google-f9c27db7e3f6964bc6c3594fc81f22a9:disqus @ayaz1:disqus Thanks for the great feedback. I’m interested in seeing how both B2C and B2B companies evolve their content strategies with this app over the next year. These examples are only the beginning.

  • http://www.carvermediagroup.com/ Social Media Marketing

    A corporate spreads from user to user and presumably an echo of that seems to come from a trusted source third party, rather than the brand or the company itself. Therefore, the motivation of this type of word of mouth marketing, and this means that it takes in the media and the media rather than earn wages.