The photo- and video-sharing app boasts a reported 70 million posts and 2.5 billion likes a day.  Since its launch in 2010, 300 million users have shared more than 30 billion pictures on the app.

If your company is not on Instagram already, you may want to consider creating an account if you’re looking for an effective way to increase brand awareness and engagement.  According to Forrester, Instagram’s per-follower engagement rate for major brands is 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter. If that doesn’t have you convinced, consider data from Simply Measured’s Q4 2014 Instagram Study which showed that top brands saw 11% more engagement per post in Q4 than they did in Q3—another sign that Instagram is poised for continued growth in 2015.

Before you start flooding Instagram with selfies of your products or logo, it’s important that you understand Instagram’s audience and authenticity. We’ve provided some information below to help you learn more about the platform, how to incorporate it into your brand’s media plans, and the tactics that have made the biggest impact for brands.

Who’s on Instagram?

From teens to celebrities to luxury cars to pet food, a diverse range of consumers and brands are active on Instagram. According to Pew Internet Research, 26% of internet-using adults ages 18+ use the platform, with young adults ages 18 - 29 being the highest demographic (53%) followed by adults ages 30 – 49 (25%).

Below is demographic information for Instagram from the report, which was based on data from a sample of 1,597 U.S. internet users age 18 and older.

Instagram saw a significant increase in users across all demographics from 2013 to 2014; the platform is particularity popular among young adult women, Hispanics, African Americans, and city dwellers.

When it comes to businesses, Simply Measured reports that 86% of top brands are on Instagram (up from 71% in 2013). The chart below shows the percentage of socially active brands with an Instagram account by industry.

[Source: Shareablee/comScore]

Advertising on Instagram

Instagram began offering ads back in 2013 to a select group of advertisers, which included top brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Michael Kors, Levi’s, Chobani, and Adidas. The ads appear like a typical photo (or video, for U.S. brands) post in users’ feeds but are clearly labeled “sponsored” at the top right corner of the photo. Users can like the photo or follow the brand’s account. Additionally, users are able to hide any ads they don’t wish to see, as well as provide feedback to Instagram about the ad.

As reported by Instagram, results from the first four completed brand campaigns on the platform showed a significant increase in reach, ad recall, and awareness. Below are a few highlights from Instagram’s blog post:


“Ben & Jerry’s reached 9.8 million people in the U.S. over eight days, targeting people aged 18-35”

Ad Recall:

“Across the four campaigns, there was a 32-point incremental lift in ad recall per campaign for people who were repeatedly exposed to a particular campaign versus control groups.”

Brand Awareness:

“Across the four campaigns, there was a ten-point incremental lift in brand message awareness per campaign for people who were repeatedly exposed to a particular campaign versus control groups.”

You can read case studies on Ben and Jerry’s, Taco Bell, and Levi’s brand campaigns on Instagram’s business blog.

Instagram plans to expand its advertising services to all companies later this year and recently introduced its new carousel ads, which gives brands a better way to tell their story by sharing multiple photos in one post. Users can swipe left on the photo to move to the next image in the post and learn more about the brand or its products. They also have the option to hide the post if they are not interested.

Like Instagram’s sponsored ads, the new carousel ads are being offered to advertisers on a limited basis.

While Instagram ads are not widely available just yet, companies can leverage the platform’s organic reach to build brand awareness and increase engagement. As reported by Iconosquare, the marketing and analytics suite for Instagram, 70% of Instagramers have already looked for a brand on Instagram and 37% of Instagramers follow between 1 to 5 brand accounts.  Below we’ve listed some tips and best practices for growing your brand on Instagram.

Best Practices for Building Your Brand on Instagram

  1. Choose an account name that is easily tied to your brand or business or consistent with your company’s other social media accounts.
  2. See what users are already posting, and try to emulate the same shots. For instance, a majority of the shots on Instagram are taken from the vantage point of the user. If you’re a car company, try posting photos that depict the driver’s point of view, such a shot behind the wheel, rather than sharing professional-looking images of the car.
  3. Comment and like users’ photos. According to Iconosquare’s Instagram 2015 study, 65% of users would feel flattered or honoured if a brand liked one of their post. Use the platform’s features such as hashtags, Photos of You, and location to find images of your brand that users are sharing, then engage with them by leaving a comment or liking the photo.
  4. Create a unique hashtag to generate buzz and build a community around your brand. Hashtags can be used across multiple social platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, which allows you to engage with all of your social followers. Additionally, creating a hashtag campaign can spur users to also tag your brand in their posts, which will appear to all of their followers and increase awareness for your brand.
  5. In addition to creating your own hashtag, contribute to trending hashtags like “#ThrowbackThursday to reach a wider audience.
  6. Post regularly, but don’t over post. You don’t have to post photos or videos on Instagram every day, and shouldn’t post more than one photo or video at a time. Doing so can clutter your followers’ feeds and possibly cause them to lose interest and unfollow you. Instead, try to stick to a general schedule, like posting every Monday or sharing two posts a week.
  7. Think beyond your brand. Don’t just snap photos of your products or logo. Share photos of your employees and office to showcase your company’s culture and give your brand a human element. Think about your brand’s story and how you can tell it through photos, or consider how people interact with your brand or product.

For more details about Instagram and tips on how to effectively use the site in your marketing strategy, check out this infographic by Salesforce.