Dear Marketers: Please Don’t Poison Instagram

Topics: Social, Digital


Reading Time: 3 minutes

A picture is worth ten thousands likes. There’s no question that Instagram is the “underdog” social network that proves there is still room for social networks to be successful…and acquired by Facebook.

Instagram offers a brilliant platform, particularly for brands and marketers. But the network can be ruined in the time it takes to choose a filter by taking away what makes it so cool and clogging it up with self-serving spam.

Instagram - 8

Instagram – 8 (Photo credit: BrentOzar)


Here are a few insights on how to not make Instagram a brand’s “on-the-go billboard”. Because there IS room for companies, and there are plenty doing it right!

  1. Post actual photos: Don’t populate your feed with photos of text telling people about promotions and giving them facts. Instagram brings words to life through photos, but they still should be photos. Plus, you’ve got room for a caption. Take and share real photos. If you need to add text, consider using Overgram to add text subtlety (  It’s free!
  2. Take it slow: Nothing is worse than following an account that decides to post 30 photos in 2 minutes. I realize you may just get service or have A LOT to share, but remember that my Instagram experience is important to me, and I’d rather not have to scroll past your flood of photos to see content I like. Keep it limited and work to share only your best photos. It enriches your followers experience AND benefits you. If you’d like to combine photos, apps like Diptic and Fuzel can create a collage and export straight to Instagram to make the most out of one photo ( (
  3. Pump the stock brakes: I don’t go on Instagram to see stock images. I don’t need to see your billboard, the really expensive shots of your menu items and hotel rooms, or some irrelevant image you found using the Flickr commons. If you’re going to represent a brand on Instagram, give it flavor. Give me the backstage pass, the chef’s hat, or the passenger seat to where your brand is, where it’s going, and what it likes to do. Instagram is about gritty, on-the-go images that take us behind closed doors (you know, the place we all secretly want to go with Justin Bieber). One of my favorite music blogs, Brooklyn Vegan, fills me with jealously on a regular basis, allowing me to catch glimpses of bands that please my little hipster soul. I’d rather see that than a stream of Googled band images and show dates.
  4. Involve your followers: Brands such as Red Bull, Southwest Air, and Audi have mastered creating communities on Instagram using hashtags and contests that get users to interact with their products and brand by connecting to their lifestyle and emotions. Southwest gave away a series of gift cards over the holidays to people who posted photos of their holiday “photo of the day” and used a special hashtag (also had to include their account handle) to enter. The entries flooded in, and during a time when people have traveling on their minds, Southwest caught their attention in all the right ways. Smart digital communications right there!
  5. Comment back: Depending on the brand size, it can get difficult to answer response to photos, but it’s important to interact with people in Instagram. It’s a network largely based on the intimacy that a photo provides, and that intimacy includes conversation (in the form of comments) made regarding the photos. Try to make communication a two way street and people will be excited not just to follow you, but to interact with you.

The most important thing to remember is that people use Instagram as a new scope to see the world around them. Make your content real- if your followers want to go to a certain place or do a certain thing as a result of you, then you can bet they’re going to your brand/products right there with them.

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