“Saaaay Instagram!”

Instagram is a mobile social media network. Pictures are the only content users can upload. There are no clickable links. Nor are there special types of profiles for businesses or celebrities. By doing this, Instagram has in a sense leveled the playing field. Brands, as of now, cannot pay to have their content promoted or purchase any sort of advertisements on Instagram.

So why would a brand be interested in this? There doesn’t seem to be an advantage from a business perspective. How could a brand get the word out about their Instagram without being able to promote within the network? This is where the share ability on Instagram comes into play. Instagram users have the ability to share their Instagram posts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursqaure. Additionally, brands can use relevant hashtags on their pictures to draw Instagram users who may be interested in what they are Instagramming to their business account.

Now that it is clear how a brand could draw traffic to their Instagram, it is interesting to look at the content brands post on Instagram and how these posts contribute to their brand identity. The content of the posts will vary on the type of brand and each brand’s individual needs. For example, Taylor Swift utilizes Instagram as a way to communicate her thanks to her fans and visually share parts of her life with them. Many celebrities use Instagram in this manner. It is effective in helping fans see celebrities as relatable people, and makes them seem less out of touch with the everyday reality.

Larger brands can also use Instagram in a variety of ways. Two of the largest brand accounts on Instagram offer an interesting comparison. Starbucks uses pictures taken of their products by customers that hashtag pictures with “#starbucks.” MTV takes pictures of celebrity visitors, backstage/onstage at awards shows, newly released videos or singles… anything that is happening at MTV is pretty much free game. Is one better than the other? The answer lies in brand identity. Starbucks strives to make a heartfelt connection with their customer base, while MTV relies on sparking their customers interest with the celebrity factor. For Starbucks, trying to make a heartfelt connection works. While they are an international chain, as a brand Starbucks wants to keep that feeling of the neighborhood coffee shop alive yet still provide consistent products globally. By highlighting the existing Starbucks customer base, the brand still appears personal.  MTV takes another route by using Instagram to revive their brand identity of music television. The majority of their Instagram is focused on new songs, videos, and musician sightings. This is a major change from their actual televised programming which ranges from scripted shows such as, Awkward. to reality shows such as the infamous Jersey Shore. By using their Instagram to focus on their musical brand identity, MTV is returning to their roots. Instagram is a way to appease the viewers who prefer the old MTV without all of the television shows.

Whether it be your average individual using a filter to feel artsy or avid Starbucks drinkers expressing their love for a drink, this social networking site is creating a sense of community through a few simple taps on your smartphone. Brands can use this sense of community to make their customers feel more in touch with their products. Try scrolling down Starbucks’ Instagram feed without having your mouth water! Now where’s my Pumpkin Spice Latte?!

– Alexandra Huss, Caroline Merrill, Alyssa Morrello, Lauren Van Trigt, Dann Williams