7 Ways Instagram Helps Brands Connect Online & Offline

June 25, 2012

Boasting one new user a second, it’s safe to say that Instagram — in the words of Ron Burgundy — is “kind of a big deal.” The network is on target to reach 100 million users just two years after its release, which is staggering when compared to Facebook and Twitter who took four and five years respectively to reach this milestone. Of the one billion photos taken with Instagram, an increasing number are from brands flocking to the fun photo app to engage in the art of visual storytelling. 

One key advantage of visual storytelling is the ability to connect your online and offline engagement and vice versa. Beyond social media activity, brands continue to engage in real-life events that foster a sense of closeness and strengthen online ties in real life. That’s why conferences play such a strong role in many online brands. With Instagram, brands can take this engagement a step further by sharing photos that bring otherwise offline stories online.

Several brands are already using Instagram to connect their offline and online worlds through coverage of actual events, special Instagram-only events, and taking their community inside their culture. Let’s take a look at some of the strategies you can employ to bring your brand’s real-world stories to life online.

1. Create Exclusivity

High-end clothier Burberry (@burberry) is easily the best at this as they holds many events that they cover heavily via Instagram. While this fashionable brand might seem like an easy fit for the app, there are several ideas you can steal here such as this photo of an invitation they mocked up. This not only provides the community with needed info to follow the event online, it also makes their Instagram network feel like they have exclusive access.

2. Build Anticipation

Events are high-profile brand touch points that can arrive quickly and be gone before you know it. That’s why savvy conference marketers like the team at MarketingProfs (@marketingprofs) builds event anticipation through Instagram photos of the stage being set and the badges and conference swag at the ready. Remember your role as your brand’s photojournalist the next time you’re setting up an event.

3. Visualize Data

Recently Pew Research (@pewresearch) joined Instagram and began covering announcements on new data releases. In addition to featuring photos from the event they also took several key graphics and shared them on Instagram as well. While perhaps not the most visually engaging, these charts stood out on Instagram feeds heavy with photos of kids and food. Do you have bold data that you can turn into visual assets?

4. Foster Meet-Ups

Many examples start with an offline event and take it online. However, a hybrid solution is to create a real-life event specifically for your online community. Eyeglasses maker Warby Parker (@warbyparker) does this through their photo walks in New York where fans meet up and hit the streets, Instagramming cool NYC photos and sharing with a branded hashtag. These meet-ups sold out and yielded 678 photos. Have you ever thought to host a meet-up of your brand’s Instagram followers?

5. Leverage Sponsorships

Most brands end up in the sponsorship arena in some capacity. Often times a big consideration is ROI and how you can best ensure that your sponsorship gets the most bang for your buck. Chobani (@chobani) does a great job of this by photographing their product on-site, using the event hashtag, and geotagging the location. Sponsorship doesn’t have to be a passive channel with social media. Are you doing everything you can to engage with the events your brand sponsors?

6. Look Inside the Process

Another role Instagram can serve is taking your community behind the scenes of what you do. If how you do what you do is a key differentiator, visually documenting these processes is critical. Dogfish Head (@dogfishbeer) uses their Instagram feed to take you inside their own unique and innovative brewing process. How can you take your community behind the scenes of what you do?

7. Communicate Culture & Space

In the digital age, we find ourselves inside our clients’ and partners’ offices less and less. Yet with so many innovative workplaces it’s a shame not to share this as much. Edelman Digital has done just that by documenting their new Social Intelligence Command Center (or SICC) on Instagram (follow Edelman’s David Armano @darmano). In addition to sharing their workspace, (mt) MediaTemple (@mediatemple) makes their intangible business tangible by showing employees having fun and enjoying meals together. How can you use Instagram to share your workspace and culture?

Final Shot

As Instagram races toward the 100-million user benchmark, are you considering this platform as part of your social strategy? As you can see, beyond taking fun photos with funky filters, there are several business goals and objectives your brand can realize by embracing visual storytelling.

How is your brand using Instagram? If you’re not currently, how could you be using this growing network to visually connect your online and offline touch points?

Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.