Skip to main content

With 90 per cent of Instagram users being under 35 years of age, and engagement 15 times greater than Facebook (its parent company), marketers are taking notice. Quite simply, the online photo-sharing startup has become the go-to social network for youth wanting to share experiences.

But some brands are missing the boat: Many of the usual suspects on the list of top 20 brands, including PepsiCo Inc.and McDonald's Corp., are no where to be found on Instagram. Emerging players like Go Pro – which encourages its users to capture their experiences (no matter how extreme) – and Forever 21 – which holds unique contests like the 'Soccer Collection' among others – however, are seizing the moment by pushing the limits of creativity with their content.

What's most interesting about Instagram is that – up until recently – traffic on a brand's website was solely organic, as ads weren't available. This forced brands to push their limits on creativity as they did not have the paid advertising to boost their campaigns. In many ways, Instagram was the platform where content was put to test and needed to stand on its own.

Story continues below advertisement

A strong example of a brand that's doing extremely well on Instagram is Calvin Klein. Recently, the brand seeded over 100 influencers (including celebrities and models) from 15 countries with underwear. The ask in return was simple: take a photo of themselves wearing the underwear and share it on Instagram using the hashtag #mycalvins. This campaign resulted in thousands of likes within minutes and it didn't stop there. Calvin Klein encouraged consumers to participate as well by using the same hashtag to show off their personal Calvins. This engagement inspired people to effortlessly promote the brand by leveraging what consumers are already doing – posting photos (in their undies).

From a small business perspective, Warby Parker, a glasses company from New York City, wanted to engage their brand enthusiasts and at the same time show admiration for their local neighbourhood. They held an "Insta-Walk" where people met at the company's headquarters and ventured through different parts of NYC. Participants were asked to take photos along the way of what they were seeing through "their eyes" (with many wearing Warby Parker glasses), and eventually the walk ended at a roof-top party. Over 670 photos were captured with the hashtag #warbywalk which linked back to its Instagram page. Not only did fans enjoy an exclusive event in NYC, but Warby Parker had tons of promotional photos to work with, brand ambassador love and positive online buzz.

The real lesson here is the necessity to treat Instagram as its own entity, and not just slap a hashtag on a photo and call it a campaign. What works is understanding your audience and the types of content they're already producing. Instagram's co-founder, Kevin Systrom, has said in the past: "What's really cool about this is it doesn't feel like advertising. When you open Instagram, it feels like entertainment."

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

Follow us @GlobeSmallBiz, on Pinterest and Instagram
Join our Small Business LinkedIn group
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies