Social Media for Business Part 3: Instagram

Posted by Lisa Daly Lehmann on August 26, 2015 in categoryStrategycategoryUser Experience

Part three of a five-part series on social media for businesses. The series looks at each of the big five social media outlets (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter), and the opportunities each offer to businesses to engage with customers and other stakeholders.


What it specializes in: Visual storytelling, through the medium of square, stylized photographs and videos. Instagram is all about aesthetics. It allows users to apply professional looking filters to their photos in order to capture various moods and styles and the resulting images often look far more interesting than the original photos. Instagram makes it easy for users to project an image of worldly sophistication, without needing to be a professional photographer.

Who uses Instagram: As of Sept. 2014, 21% of adults (and 26% of online adults) use Instagram. Of those, 49% use it daily, 24% weekly, and 26% less often. Slightly more women than men use Instagram. Demographically, 38% of online adults who self-identify as Black use Instagram, 34% for Hispanic, and 21% for White online adults. Instagram skews toward a younger audience, reaching 53% of online adults age 18-29. It reaches 25% of those 30-49 years old, and 17% of those who are 50 years old or older. (Source: Pew Research Center's Internet Project September Combined Omnibus Survey, September 2014.

What kinds of businesses make the best use of Instagram? Instagram can be a powerful tool for any organization that wants to promote an aesthetic worthy of its brand. One can see this most powerfully with examples from the worlds of fashion, art, and travel, but creative retailers can use Instagram to enhance their brand identity in interesting ways as well.

Below are some examples of companies, organizations and brands that Instagram particularly effectively. 

One of the most straightforward uses of Instagram is to promote fashion and style. Both Louis Vuitton and Paper Doll Vintage Boutique provide a steady flow of aesthetically pleasing images, which help to define their styles with their followers. Louis Vuitton offers behind the scenes images that give its Instagram followers backstage access. Paper Doll offers users with a first look at particularly good finds, which helps keep loyal customers coming back. Both use attractive models to show off the clothing in real life glamorous settings.




The travel and tourism industry is able to use Instagram to highlight the glamour and adventure of discovering the world. In the examples below, Norwegian Cruise Line and Virgin America both post beautiful travel photos, but they also highlight the particular personalities of their brands. Virgin America highlights community engagement events, employee celebrations, and special holiday photos with an emphasis on fun. Norwegian uses the hashtag #CruiseLikeANorwegian to encourage passengers to post their own photos.

Retail/Consumer Goods:
Red Bull and Crayola offer two particularly good examples of non-fashion-related branding done very well on Instagram. Red Bull fills its feed with exciting photos of extreme sports, and other adventures, all with Red Bull branding in the center of the action. Whether it is surfing, skydiving, extreme skiing, or any other Red Bull sponsored event, expect to see high energy fun closely tied to the Red Bull brand, and brilliantly captured by a pool of professional photographers. Crayola also uses professional photography, but skillfully blends in photos from fans that have shared their artwork created with Crayola crayons, colored pencils, or chalk. Each photo promotes the image of creative fun, and pushes the boundaries of what one might think would be possible within a medium most people associate with their childhood.


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