4 Killer Ways Brands are Integrating Instagram into Their Content Marketing Strategy

It's now been over a year since Facebook's acquisition of photo-sharing app Instagram. The take-over resulted in a 500% increase in active Instagram users, see the app grow from 22 million users to 100 million in just a years time.

Instagram is just the latest social media platform being utilized by brands to connect with their audience. Among active Instagram users are 67% of the worlds top brands, from MTV, to Starbucks and H&M, with some brands bringing in well over 1 million followers. These brands are able to integrate Instagram into their content marketing strategy in a number of creative ways. Here are some of the top brands using Instagram, and using it well.

1. Victoria's Secret 2.3 million Followers

Strategy: Display your product while you let your audience in on the behind the scenes process

The lingerie giant is currently the most followed brand on Instagram for numerous reasons. Besides many photos of beautiful women in lingerie, the Victoria's Secret Instagram feed offers exclusive behind-the-scenes images from photoshoots and fashion shows. The photos allow customers to experience what goes into the marketing process, all the while being marketed to, as Victoria's Secret products are sprinkled into almost every photo.

The company also posts photos from their catalog and uses their account to interact with consumers, all the while strengthening their brand. For example, Victoria's Secret recently used Instagram to launch a campaign to strengthen their newly launched loyalty program. Consumers were encouraged to snap photos that they thought represented the Victoria's Secret brand and post them using specific hashtags. Winners were rewarded with shopping sprees in Victoria Secret stores. This worked to build the Victoria’s Secret brand around a fun contest that interacted with customers.

Why it works: Allowing your customers to see what goes into the process of marketing and building your product gives them the perspective of an exclusive insider. This in turn builds a sense of familiarity between your brand and your customers as they are able to better understand what goes into the production process.

2. MTV 1.32 million followers

Strategy: Use Instagram as an interactive tool

The popularity of MTV's Instagram account could easily be accredited to the fact that MTV's target demographic also reflects the typical Instagram user profile, however the accounts popularity is probably due to the high level of interactivity it offers users. During the 2012 MTV Movie Awards, fans were able to vote for their favourite actor in the "Best Hero" category using assigned hashtags.

MTV also keeps its account up to date by posting daily behind-the-scenes photos of celebrities who frequent the New York studio, as well as images from live on location broadcasts.

Why it works: The participation that MTV promotes through Instagram allows viewers to feel like they have the final say. This also allows MTV to get a better idea of what their audiences preferences are.

3. Starbucks 1.27 million followers

Strategy: Market your brand as an experience

Starbucks uses their Instagram feed to take their brand and make it into an experience. The feed highlights in-store experiences at locations from around the world and displays new and upcoming flavours. Photos also capture the manufacturing process, with some photographs of coffee being made at Starbucks Corporate Headquarters. This allows customers to see exactly how their final product comes to be.

The account also works to respond to specific events or conditions by using their products. For example, the account recently posted a photo of a Starbucks ice tea during an NYC heatwave with the caption "Cooling down in the NYC heat." This approach helps to promote Starbucks products while humanizing the brand. The account is also not shy to take full advantage of the photo filter options, which work to add tone and aesthetic appeal to simple photographs.

Why it works: Marketing your brand as opposed to specific products allows your brand to be associated with an entire way of life or experience. This humanizes your brand and enables customers to better relate to your products.

4. Sharpie 90, 235 followers

Strategy: Show the potential of your brand or product

Definitely not the brand with the most followers, but for sure one of the most creative. Sharpie displays the potential of their product by posting amazingly artistic Sharpie drawings created by their customers. Content is up-to-date and relevant to the occasion. For example, on Mother's Day, the account posted a creative Sharpie drawing commemorating the occasion.

Why it works: Showing the best of what your product can do is a great way to not only promote your product, but also encourage user-generated content.

What's your favourite brand on Instagram?

Tags: Victoria's Secret, audience, Blogs, Brands, consumers, content marketing, Customers, Followers, General, Instagram, MTV, Sharpie, social media, Starbucks