Unless you’ve been living under that proverbial rock for the last six months (and perhaps even if you have), you’ll no doubt be aware of the phenomenon that is Instagram. For the rock-dwellers amongst you, Instagram is a smartphone app that allows users to share photos with each other, in a ‘stream’ fairly akin to Twitter. Its variety of vintage filters allows users a level of creativity too, which is proving highly popular (especially amongst the denizens of Hoxton).
Instagram could easily be the latest in a long line of social media ‘fads’ that are picked up and dropped a few weeks later by promiscuous digital aficionados, but substantial growth figures seem to suggest otherwise. The app now has over 2 million users, to which it is adding 130,000 every week. 3.6 million weekly photo uploads are also adding credence to its viability as something that’s ‘here to stay’.
So the question is, how can marketers claim a slice of this rather lucrative social media pie?
Starbucks is one brand that is utilising this latest tool to fantastic effect. And, as is typically the case with social media, brand advocates are doing much of the legwork for them. So how is Starbucks causing a stir (indulge me the tenuous coffee pun) on Instagram? By adhering to some of the fundamental principles of social media:
Giving fans access to ‘exclusive’ content
On the company’s Instagram profile, users can see all manner of interesting photos, from coffee tasting sessions in the boardroom, to bean-roasting machines, new logos and new product ideas.
This glimpse ‘into life at Starbucks’ offers users a genuine ‘behind the scenes experience’ that they receive as a member of the social community. There is value to them being part of that community and enables them to feel involved within the company.
Giving their fans a voice
Starbucks’ own page is only a small element of their Instagram presence. The real genius lies in their involvement of their fans. The real ‘perk’ is the rich range of content produced by brand aficionados who upload relevant pictures using the #Starbucks hashtag.
Instantly, Starbucks has a diverse range of UGC (user-generated content) that the company is able to use in its social and marketing communications. And fans feel that they are being given the chance to share the brand they love.
‘Facilitating’, not ‘Controlling’
The days of one-way communications have not ‘gone’. But those wishing to engage in effective marketing communications have entered the era of digital democracy and dispensed with closed, one-way ‘shouting’ to accommodate democratic, participatory discussions within the social sphere. The glut of comments on Starbucks’ photos shows that social channels such as Instagram genuinely do facilitate user interaction – “build it, and they shall come.”
From a marketing perspective, Instagram is clearly not going to be suitable for every single business, brand or service. But for many brands, it will be. Taking a leaf out of Starbucks’ book is vital however – the channel is different, but the rules are the same – be social, offer value and ENGAGE.