What Brands Just Don't Understand About Instagram

Instagram Photo Collage

By John Kultgen Instagram poses a big problem for marketers - it's too new for many marketers to confidently understand, but it's too large to ignore. Instagram has gained 200 million active users since its launch in 2010, and an average user spends 257 minutes per month on the app. Yet the majority of Instagram's users are under 35, making it rare for older CMOs and other professionals to have had personal experience with it.

Yet brands that are courageous enough to join the platform see increased engagement. So how can novices understand what makes the platform different? It's important to follow these five tips for understanding Instagram and how it differs from other social networks.

      1. Instagram images don't have to look like your Facebook images. Copy is much less effective on Instagram, even if it's on the image. Therefore, your photos should be stunning and clearly convey your message. This picture isn't Facebook picture perfect - there's a visible reflection and the glasses are askew. Yet Forever21's image blends in with the Instagram feeling while still conveying that they have plenty of sunglasses options for sale this summer.

      2. An Instagram post should look like any person could've created it, except for that one thing that makes it better. Anyone can shoot a video, but brands have the bandwidth to make stop motion videos. Anyone can take a picture of delicious food, but brands have the resources to eliminate bad restaurant lighting. Starbucks mimicked a photo any user could've taken, then added simple illustration to enhance the photo.

      3. Your Instagram audience is different, even if they're the same age, gender, etc. as your Facebook audience. Instagram is inherently more playful. While Facebook is a place for people to connect in many ways, Instagram is more of a place to post beautiful shots of life. Oreo doesn't push its product here, but rather incorporates it into an adventurous concept users can identify with.

      4. Images should mimic what users are doing. If you want to be part of the conversation, instead of a brand interrupting someone's feed, blend in with their photos. Use filters, picstitching, and other common effects used on the platform. Here Sodastream, a Likeable Client, approaches its shot through the mind of the consumer. Everyone needs a little break from their office work.

      5. It's okay to post users' photos of your product. This is the new version of customer testimonials. Just make sure to ask permission and to credit the user. They'll appreciate it! Ben & Jerry's rewards good Instagram work when it sees it. The brand praises users for their creative work while simultaneously sending the message to followers that "others love this ice cream just as much as you do."

What other dos and don'ts do you follow when posting on Instagram? Let me know in the comments below.