Instagram: How Businesses Use Photos to Tell Their Stories

For an Instagram user (a.k.a. Instagrammers), it takes only three quick steps to share a moment in time:

  1. Snap a photo on your iPhone or Android device,
  2. Select a filter to make it look snazzy, and
  3. Simultaneously save and share it on social media.

Photoset from the Instagram blog

For businesses, you can share moments in time to help tell your unique brand story. Some keys to success are:

  • Be human and personal so your audience can relate to the people behind the business
  • Focus on your target consumer’s interests, not just products you sell
  • Understand what it takes to create a striking, engaging photo

Integrated into your social media content strategy, Instagram can improve the look of your Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest profiles and engage your audiences with impressive, artsy-looking photos.

Big Companies on Instagram

With 873,000 followers, Starbucks takes their old trademark, “Life Happens Over Coffee” to heart with “freshly-brewed instagrams.” By asking patrons to use a specific hashtag on their profile page, #Starbucks now boasts over 2.5 million user-generated photos!

Starbucks has posted only 221 photos and uses fun hashtags like #nomnom, #ToDieFor and #BFF to describe their pics. Throughout the year, they’ve posted photos of various coffee cups in seasonal settings, employees at local Starbucks and announcements such as the opening of a store at Disneyland.

Starbucks gets seasonal on Instagram

American Express has also embraced Instagram and asks people to follow them for “insta-access to exclusive experiences, news and rewards through our lens.” Since they don’t have physical products to showcase, their stream focuses more on photos from events they sponsor, including celebrity sightings.

Amex features celebrity shots at sponsored events

Small Businesses on Instagram

As a small or local business, sharing your story through Instagram can connect you to customers in an appealing, personal way. And now, there are third-party services that allow you to sell products through Instagram. Several fashion retailers have found success by building a loyal following and treating each post as a “virtual billboard” to sell their goods worldwide.

Yogurtland in Las Vegas’ Town Square just started posting photos about a month ago, but they understand how to use it well. Not only do they feature their young patrons, but they also post special offers and have found a creative use of the iPhone’s notepad to send messages to their followers. Instagram is their hub for Facebook and Twitter posts as well.

How Yogurtland in Las Vegas’ Town Square uses Instagram

Another local franchise, School of Rock in Wichita, Kansas, actively manages their social media presence on InstagramFacebook and Tumbler to feature their students, favorite rock star celebs and announce upcoming live shows.

School of Rock in Wichita maintains
a steady flow of images.

Non-Profit Organizations on Instagram

With a following of 64,000, charity:water is doing something right. For one, they’ve captured beautiful photos to help support their mission: “800 million people live without access to clean, safe drinking water — we’re working to change that.”

CityTeam International, an organization serving the poor and homeless, shows how they touch their communities with their donations, food services and charity events.

Are you ready to use Instagram for your business? Here are some resources to get you started:

10 Creative Ways to Use Instagram for Business
How I Shoot — Tips from Talented Instagrammers
5 Ways to Grow Your Exposure with Instagram
A Clever Guide to Not Failing Miserably on Instagram

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