To the untrained eye, Instagram may just seem to be an endless stream of photos that, let’s be honest here, are often overly edited. However, there’s much more to Instagram, especially if you’re willing to take full advantage.
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” It may be a cliche, but it doesn’t mean there’s no truth to this phrase. A well-executed image can be much more succinct and descriptive than any press release. Pair the picture with a snappy caption and carefully chosen hashtags and you’ve got yourself a non-intrusive and potentially viral pictorial press release.
And what exactly is a hashtag? A hashtag’s original purpose was to act as a sort of online filing system. If you click on a hashtag on Instagram, it takes you to every picture on Instagram that uses that hashtag. Used correctly, this can be a powerful tool. In recent times, hashtags have transformed into tools for irony and summary of content. This new incarnation of a hashtag still accepts the function of the old and can in fact be of benefit when trying to reach certain audiences.
For example, a hashtag such as #art is indicative of the old form. While it is descriptive and clear, it is also general. So a hashtag of the new form such as #artismylife might filter out some of the noise and reach a specific subsection of a target audience. Searching hashtags to see who uses them and what else comes up is a great way to determine whether a specific hashtag is useful.
Additionally, creating a new hashtag for a certain project or group can provide audiences with a way to easily access the photos relating to that project or group. This is especially helpful at events or during campaigns. Hashtags encourage audience participation and only serve to create more buzz about the topic.
Pictures can have words in them too, which just builds off those first thousand words. Taking pictures of signs, vehicle paint, t-shirts, logos, etc, can help advertise and brand a group. Paired with the right hashtags, you can reach audiences you might never have been able to otherwise.
During the recent Sweet Ride Tour, we used vehicle paint on the support vehicles to advertise the tour’s Instagram account and used #sweetridetour to enable users to find all images related to the Sweet Ride Tour. This meant that personal photos from the riders and support team that were hashtagged this way were also included in #sweetridetour searches and clicks. The images allowed supporters back home a chance to get a slice of what it’s like on the tour. The new Instagram Video feature expands on this. During the tour we took advantage of the video capability to broadcast some of our funniest moments and sing-alongs. Both the images and video give users a more diverse and rich experience, which fosters a sense of connection.
Instagram isn’t all about the hashtags, but hashtags are the main vehicle for connecting your organization to users you’re not already connected with. The newer “regramming” trend is another way to connect with different users. Your current followers can “regram” or re-post one of your images and if their followers see it and like it, they might start following you.
Celebrities on Instagram have also been known to promote products and organizations via image. An actress might take a picture of her wearing a designer label and link to the label’s website and Instagram account if the label has one.
These are just a few ways that Instagram can be used beyond simply sharing photos with friends. Internet and social media users are developing shorter and shorter attention spans, so an image is right up their alley. If you can get their attention in those first few seconds, it can be more powerful than any article or press release.