A picture can be worth a thousand words, and in the world of digital marketing, a single Instagram can be worth a thousand-word press release or blog post.
The photo-sharing social networking service popped up in 2010 and now encompasses more than 200 million active monthly users sharing an average of 60 million photos per day. But it’s much more than everyday people capturing slices of life—beach days, nighttime outings, concerts, drool-worthy meals, selfies—and sharing them with friends and other users around the world. Over the past four years, it’s become a powerful tool in the social media arsenal of numerous companies who are churning out Instagram marketing campaigns to promote their products and work. Last week, The New York Times ran a feature piece about Dave Krugman, a New York-based photographer who is helping the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other cultural institutions in the city build up their presence on Instagram, pulling in a younger-than-usual demographic in the process.
“I just have a belief in the platform,” Krugram told The New York Times. “So as smartphones democratized photography, I was able to quickly see the opportunity for institutions to connect with a whole new generation of creative minds and was excited to help them harness the power.”
We thought that the Met’s collaboration with Krugman and his network of influential photographers made for an excellent example of a well-executed Instagram marketing campaign, inspiring us to share their strategy in addition to those of four other companies and organizations that exceed in the field.
WHO: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS: 175K
STRATEGY: After doing some personal lobbying, Krugman met with the museum’s online community manager and together, they came up with the #emptymet strategy. Almost on a monthly basis, he and other photographers with a large Instagram following receive special access to the museum outside of its normal business hours. They roam the halls and post photographs, tagging them with the #emptymet hashtag to collect them into a single stream and linking to @metmuseum, which drives traffic to the Met’s main Instagram account.
WHY IT WORKS: Everybody likes being let in on a secret—in this case, what goes on at a world-renown institution after hours, à la Night at the Museum. Krugman and his network act as men on the inside for the general public, using Instagram as a platform to share the scoop.
WHO: FIFA World Cup
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS: 609K
STRATEGY: The official Instagram account for the 2014 World Cup shares exclusive imagery from the tournament—close-ups of players, photos of elaborately dressed fans and stunning wide shots of the 12 stadiums in Brazil. It also promotes the #myworldcup hashtag, encouraging fans to share their viewing experiences from all over the world.
WHY IT WORKS: Everybody’s watching the World Cup, and everybody is sharing their experiences. In fact, it’s well on its way to becoming the most social sporting event ever. FIFA’s Instagram provides fans with backstage access to the teams and stadiums, and the #myworldcup hashtag promotes a connection among people all over the world who share a love for the game.
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS: 2,654,006
STRATEGY: Most of the images on Starbucks’ Instagram account is crowdsourced. The Seattle-based, globally-reaching coffee chain encourages its customers to share photos of their skinny vanilla chais, caramel lattes and venti frappuccinos, and then regrams—reposts—creative submissions on the company’s account, with credit given to the original photographer, of course.
WHY IT WORKS: Everyone enjoys a little recognition. Coffee lovers are incentivized to share love for Starbucks products with the prospect of appearing on the brand’s account, creating unique images—Starbucks ads, essentially—in the process.
WHO: charity: water
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS: 217K
STRATEGY: The non-profit organization, which brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations, uses its Instagram account to share photos taken by volunteer photographers on-site. They showcase smiling children splashing clean water on their faces and women who are alleviated from the time burden of carrying water back to their homes for hours each day—visual examples of the changes that the organization effects.
WHY IT WORKS: Simply put, it’s good storytelling. A single photograph of a smiling child can send so many messages, of the struggles overcome and the bright future ahead, spreading awareness about the organization’s work and encouraging the general public to donate or volunteer.
WHO: Oscar de la Renta
NUMBER OF FOLLOWERS: 342,454
STRATEGY: The high-end fashion brand’s Instagram account @OscarPRGirl is run single-handedly by its senior vice president of global communications, Erika Bearman. Bearman shares snapshots from behind the scenes of runway shows, photographs of celebrities wearing the designer’s custom-made gowns and close-ups of trinkets and bauble offered by the brand. But what the Instagram audience seems to respond the most to is glimpses into the life of Bearman herself, who from time to time posts mirror selfies of herself wearing the brand’s clothing.
WHY IT WORKS: People respond to Bearman’s personality, which falls in line with Oscar de la Renta’s customer base—chic, stylish, confident women. It’s much easier to connect with a single person representing a global brand than the faceless global brand itself.