What do the words Hudson, Earlybird, Nashville and 1977 all have in common? They’re all names of filters that can take your smartphone photos from ordinary to impressive through a mobile app that’s taking the social media realm by storm – Instagram.
Instagram is a way to enhance and share photos from your smartphone. It’s similar to Twitter in that you can use hashtags, follow and @mention users and it resembles Facebook through its feed layout and ability to ‘like’ and comment on images. But its standout feature is the built-in filters that can make your photos look anywhere from vibrant to nostalgic.
Instagram can be overlooked when deciding on which social media platforms to utilize for your cause, because Facebook and Twitter have so far dominated the social sphere. Depending on who you’re trying to reach, that might be true, but if your targeted audience falls under the 50 million users Instagram just reached, then you may want to reconsider.
In October 2010, Instagram launched its first iOS app. As of April 2012, it reached 50 million users worldwide, with an estimated 5 million more users being added every week. At this rate, it could potentially reach 100 million users in less than a year. To put that in perspective, it took LinkedIn eight years, Twitter five years and Facebook four years to reach 100 million users. With that kind of growth, it’s no wonder Facebook purchased Instagram for a valued $1 billion.
But I’m not here to talk about Facebook’s acquisition or attempt at its own version of Instagram. I’m here to tell you it’s not just an app, but also a legitimate platform candidate for brands, people and causes. Here are some great examples of each:
Brands – Starbucks
As one of the first brands to use Instagram, Starbucks has collected more than 650,000 photos using its #starbucks hashtag alone. Whether they ask customers to snap photos of their current Starbucks coffee of choice, or where they’re sipping on it, they’ve done a great job engaging customers.
People – Jason Mraz
Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz asked his fans to “visually translate his latest single, ‘I Won’t Give Up’ into one photograph” and upload them via Instagram using the hashtag #iwontgiveup. Mraz then chose an overall winner of his hand-picked 25 winners after displaying their photos in a gallery. It was a creative, thoughtful contest that really brought not only his fans, but also the Instagram community, together.
Causes – Charity: Water
This nonprofit organization uses Instagram to raise awareness about its initiative to bring clean drinking water to people in developing nations. It asks users to tag images of water with the hashtag #charitywater, showcases its efforts and highlights community donations.
Instagram’s focus on the visual and its mobile ability may be specific features, but they appeal to a broad audience, so it shouldn’t be overlooked. Instead, take the “a picture is worth a thousand words” expression literally, and share your message using whichever Instagram filter speaks to you.