Brands need to use Instagram the way humans do

Instagram users share
moments, not links. Brands that share their compelling moments through the
medium can make quality connections.

In my last post for The Hub, I wrote that our communications campaigns have
to start with people and what they want, not with our message and what we want.
Brands must share content and messages in a way that is native to each
medium.
You wouldn’t share a scan of a press release about earnings
statements on your company’s Facebook Page because no one – not your cousin,
your coworker or those rowdy teens that hang out at the mall  –  go
to Facebook for the latest financial details of corporations. Many (but still
too few) brands have figured this out with established channels like Facebook
and Twitter, but aren’t quite there yet with newer channels.

So what about Instagram?
It is important because more so than most other social media channels, Instagram
is a medium through which people’s offline behaviors manifest online.
By
this I mean users share in real time what they’re eating and buying at the grocery store,
their traffic-stalled commute, the outfits they’re wearing, and the places they love around where they live.

The real-time authentic
updates users are sharing and consuming could be great for marketers,
policymakers and other communicators, but unfortunately some brands are missing
the point. For example, HBO’s True Blood:

Ugh. You have a cast of
beautiful people, fun special effects and a rabid fan base and you pick to post
a still from the show with a ‘please like this’ message? Instead, hand the
account to a favorite actor to document the show behind the scenes. Heck, it
might be even more interesting to hand it to a production assistant to take
shots of makeup artists, set designers, concept illustrators and others
working. Fans seeing photos from real people involved with the show next to
their own friends’ photos can make them feel a part of the show and more
excited for each episode and season.

Surprisingly, many
sports teams and leagues could also be better. Even my beloved Pittsburgh
Steelers
regularly post an existing photo and use the silly ‘guessing game’
tactic:

Why not send your social
media staff out to the bars, tailgate parties, and stadium sections to capture
your most colorful fans? Why not go with Troy Polamalu and other players when
they visit kids Children’s Hospital? Painting a compelling picture that people
want to feel a part of and isn’t alien to their experience with the medium is
more valuable than the math of Likes and comments.

So who’s doing it right?
Check out NPR, whose branded profile paints a channel-native picture of an
interesting, human organization through behind-the scenes photos of their Tiny Desk Concert series, interesting visual artifacts related to ongoing news, and collaborative projects like #PSHardWork. Individuals at NPR are also avid and
Instagrammers and play a key role in painting a vivid picture of the brand.
While flipping through my own feed I always slow down for White House
correspondent Ari Shapiro’s photos of his travels with the President:

It’s not just media companies who can be good at finding a way to fit into people’s Instagram feeds. One of my favorite brand social media presences, General Electric appeals to
engineering nerds online and humanizes the company by sharing impressive photos
of giant machinery and the people who build it. And Travelocity uses its spokesperson The
Roaming Gnome to speak on behalf of the brand online, including selfies from exotic locations around the world on Instagram – a format that fits seamlessly into the Instagram
experience.

Before you begin your
campaign, consider the user experience of the human beings you want to reach. Mapping
your strategies from there will result in a more quality campaign.

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