4 Ways Great Brands Will Use Instagram in 2015
Social Media Marketing

4 Ways Great Brands Will Use Instagram in 2015

8th January 2015

Instagram is an underutilised and high engagement-to-conversion channel for brands. Here are 4 Ways Great Brands Will Use Instagram in 2015.

1. Content Strategy First, Channel Second for the Integration Win

One of digital marketers biggest obstacles to overcome is executing in single channels in isolation. Great brands will continue to create their communications and content strategies first, then decide which channels to leverage and how to grow communities within those channels.

REI launched their 1440 Project in late 2012 and asked REI members to fill a full day,1,440 minutes, in a virtual timeline with outdoor photos. Since then, Instagram has become a natural hub for continuing their efforts, and they share favorite photos every week on the REI Instagram account. The content is shared across multiple social platforms. Content is seeded on their blog, the channel they own, and shared prolifically and appropriately on channels they earn.

This strategic thinking and planning requires integration across, not just multiple channels, but multiple teams. Adopting a content strategy first helps marketing teams see content throughout the customer journey and brands marketing and creation journey. Adopting a methodology to be used across paid, owned and earned teams such as Content Marketing Institute methodology of plan, audience, story, channel, conversation, process and measurement is inclusive of the needs, deliverables and ROI of an integrated team approach. Whichever methodology you adopt, it’s imperative that it’s one that gets buy-in from all hands on deck including agencies and other partners.

The REI 1440 Project highlights the need for creative and technology to work together with marketing for exceptional customer engagement. The  content from hashtag #rei1440project is then smartly curated and leveraged across Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and other relevant channels.

As partnerships between social platforms emerge like the one between Instagram and Tumblr, integration will become even more important. Paid media, PR, community managers, creatives and technology will be further tasked to work together more holistically for digital marketing success.

Tumblr and Pinterest are the fastest growing social platforms with Instagram close behind.


SOURCE: http://www.globalwebindex.net/blog/tumblr-pinterest-growth

In the Wild West that is digital marketing, it’s more important than ever to consider content strategy first, there are no guarantees for singular investment in one particular channel.

With all the bells and whistles available to marketers within social platforms (such as Instagram’s Hyperlapse tool) creating a content strategy first and channel second helps marketers stay true to the strategy rather than being distracted by the newest bright shiny object.

2. Community-Centric Storytelling

The REI 1440 Project community inspires with gorgeous images and heartfelt stories. Community members don’t just share their love of the outdoors with photos, they share stories of how the outdoors gets them through their day-to-day lives, how they engage with the outdoors as a way to add meaning to their lives and their relationships and their place in the world. One customer shared, “My love of travel, exploration and adventure frequently brings me outside. I have a huge appreciation and fascination with the natural world and I feel most alive when I’m out in it.”

AirBnB community stories and inspirations are what drives their storytelling. Their core brand value is desire for community and belonging. For AirBnB, being customer-centric doesn’t just mean caring about the community, it means giving their brand story over to their communities. Marketers can’t build communities on their own, it’s real people who engage with your brand build communities. Visual branding as told by user-generated content drives higher engagement-to-conversion. It’s the perfect example of the marketing and advertising acxiom of showing not telling.

3. Visual Storytelling that Leads to Shopping

AirBnB curates photos from hosts and guests and allows users to book directly from Instagram. Tools like Curalate’s Like2Buy make it easy to connect from their great images and visual storytelling on Instagram to their booking engine. Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr are all great platforms for inspiration. Allowing users to go from their inspired moments to the next step in their experience provides a more powerful customer journey. Organic reach for brands on social channels is continually dwindling. Allowing the community to drive the storytelling and including ease-of-use to connect to ecommerce not only gives brands more bang for their buck, but as powerful communities emerge as best customers it allows smart marketers to segment psychographics and grow audience with paid social, email marketing and other tactics.



Marketers biggest challenge is letting the journey from engagement to conversion be authentic. Campaigns with the intention of the quick-sell fail quickly. Clorox played on the name Lanister from Game of Thrones to launch their “A Canister Always Pays Its Debts” campaign. Clorox tried to impose a buy-now scenario in a platform that requires engagement. Clorox went straight for the second-screen engagement without creating a real connection for customers. They could have made the campaign engaging by asking customers to come up with Clorox slogans with catch phrases from popular shows or films. The idea was clever but the implementation lacked community. Smart brands will implement the stories and technology to let visual storytelling lead to shopping, but won’t skip the important step of creating authentic engagement and relationship-building within the community first.

4. Measure Campaigns, Not Clicks

Examples from AirBnB and REI illustrate how marketers can measure campaigns and better understand impact across multiple channels as well as better understand how Instagram content contributed to the sales funnel, not in isolation, but as part of the full sales cycle. Campaigns that last for months and years, not just moments, also encourage marketing teams to see the value of great Instagram content over time.

Measuring campaigns holistically rather than in silos allows marketers to share analytics to drive business success with email marketers, organic search, paid media and content teams. For example, a Google search on REI 1440 drives users to relevant channels to explore the project. They can test loyalty or referral opportunities in email marketing to capture the full value of the campaign, not just Instagrams’ siloed impact on sales.


  1. Brands executing a strategy effectively on Instagram will plan their content and creative first and as part of an overarching brand strategy.
  2. They will understand and engage their community to participate in visual storytelling on Instagram.
  3. In 2015, brands won’t ask the question, “Should we be using Instagram?” but instead ask “Does Instagram support our content strategy and do our customers live there?”


Written By
Lisa Williams is the Associate Director of Digital Engagement at Oregon Health & Science University and author of "When Everybody Clicks: Sustainable Digital Marketing". She is a 19-year veteran of online marketing and has been featured in Kiplinger Magazine, Glamour Magazine, Boston Globe and The Oregonian. Lisa is on the...
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