Instagram  is an app that allows users to take, adjust, and share photos--pretty simple and straightforward. Despite (or maybe because of) its simplicity, Instagram has gotten a lot of traction in the time it’s been available, to the tune of 150 million photos uploaded  (that's 15 every second), all from a single platform--the Apple iPhone. The really powerful aspect of the app is the ability to share, like, and comment on other people’s photos. In other words, it's another social network.
And just like Facebook and Twitter before it, various brands have discovered Instagram and are using it to connect. Some forward-thinking brands are already on Instagram: Starbucks , GE , Sharpie markers , Brisk Iced Tea , and Red Bull . All are exploring whether creating and posting pictures can build their relationship with customers, but some are doing it better than others. The best brands using Instagram have learned what’s true of success on any social network: It’s about being interesting, not about pushing products.
Some of the brands currently on Instagram are using it the way brands used the Internet in 1999, as a way of "digitalizing" their marketing materials. Follow some brands and all you’ll see are picture after picture of their products and their brand materials. That old-school approach is no more interesting than listening to a person at a party yammer on and on about themselves and their job.
It’s probably not surprising that some of the brands using Instagram best are fashion brands: Bergdorfs , Burberry , Gucci , and Threadless --they’re all on Instagram and I follow all of them. Their photo streams are more than just product shots: interesting content (employees, old ads, fashion show backstage shots, bouncy castles, piles of T-shirts) captured with a point of view  and an editorial eye.
For brands to be successful on Instagram, they have to get past their inherent interest in selling and instead get interested in:
- Having a distinctive view of the world
- Cultivating a unique visual sense
- Capturing things that are interesting to the brand and to the core target customer
- Training your eye for what makes for a great, provocative, engaging image
- When in doubt, entrusting the work to someone in the organization that has the above!
By adopting these rules, brands will find that Instagram (and other social tools) will become powerful ways of attracting, growing, and engaging an increasingly visually sophisticated populace.
[Image: Courtesy Burberry]