Instagram Social Profiles For Brands

As a social media platform, Instagram has achieved incredible success, boasting over 100 million users, and last week they introduced social profiles. The interface looks like a cross between Instagram and a Facebook timeline, with the top header as a rotating display of photos, and the rest displayed in a date-based grid.

The design of the interface was likely influenced by Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram earlier this year, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a full integration with Facebook in the future. This new Web interface will undoubtedly cause a surge in interest, registered users, and engagement. For brands, this surge in interest could mean new customers, but it will be up to the brand to create an engaging page where they can speak to a new audience.

Starbucks’ has already invested in building its Instagram profile, and it is a prime example of how to do it right. For Starbucks, Instagram proves to be the ideal medium to feature the iconic photos that made the brand famous in social media. Their 910,888 followers would certainly agree.

Another early adopter brand, Sharpie, is geared toward a younger set, with colorful hand-drawn art that is both visually stimulating and consistent with the brand story. Sharpie’s social media lead says that they are enthusiastic about Instagram social profiles, because it will give them the ability to tap into fans who do not have access to an iPhone or Android devices. (Ad Age)


How can Instagram social profiles appeal to brands?

Though the interface design is beautiful and there is a lot of potential, the incentive to join Instagram social profiles isn’t really there for brands at this point. For many who are still trying to grow a Facebook fan base, and who are investing in content creation for Facebook, I don’t know that the current offering is enticing enough to encourage brands to divide their resources. Additionally, any brand that joins the platform will need assets to display a rich visual presentation.

Where brands go, advertising often follows, so it is only a matter of time before we will be purchasing Instagram ads for our clients. It is hard to say what Instagram advertising will look like, but the visual nature of the platform means that it might be something we haven’t seen before.

As with any social medium, the end result should be sharing. While there is potential for sharing of Instagram photos to be sparked by the ability to now cut and paste URLs directly from your desktop, that remains to be seen. Though brands are intrigued by the prospect of having a place to showcase their content in one place, we have yet to see how they will share this content. Instagram will need to build in some innate sharing functionality in order to drive traffic.

Visit to start building your profile. We have. (Digiday – “5 Agencies to Follow on Instagram”)

Mobile Phones: The New Wallet

Your mobile phone probably hasn’t replaced your wallet yet, but it could in the next few years. Several retailers have tested or implemented in-store mobile payment systems, including Starbucks, which launched its mobile payment program at stores nationwide in January 2011. Using the Starbucks Card Mobile App, customers can pay for purchases with their BlackBerry, iPhone, or iPod Touch by scanning the on-screen barcode at the point of sale.

Starbucks Card Mobile App

Beyond mobile applications, advancements in near field communication (NFC) the wireless technology that connects devices over a short range of a few centimeters will drive adoption of in-store mobile payment systems.

NFC isn’t new, but it has recently created a lot of buzz stateside and companies are getting behind it. The NFC Forum recently welcomed 32 new members, including Google. Among the industry association’s highest level of members are Microsoft, Visa, MasterCard, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony.

Continue reading Mobile Phones: The New Wallet

How Brands Can Access an Instant Audience with Instagram

If you own an iPhone or take a general interest in mobile applications, it can probably be assumed that you have heard and may likely use Instagram, a simple mobile application that allows users to snap a photo (or choose from an existing one within their albums), apply one of 11 different filters and quickly share across the social space. To say that this application is growing in popularity is an understatement. According to Mashable, within the first week, the iPhone-only app garnered 100,000 registrations and by week 10, 1 million users had signed up for the service. At present, the platform has over 2 million registered users, who upload around 290,000 photos per day.

Why it’s so popular:

-People love photos! Whether capturing or browsing through them, photos are easy on the eye, quick and fun to skim through and can provide stimulating visual content.

-The filter function is just plain fun. These filters allow users to transform the color, mood, border and tonality of their photos. Within few seconds, you can turn your mobile image into an electrifyingly bright photo by using Lomo-fi filter.

– This is not just a photo app. In addition to sharing photos through Instagram’s network, users can instantly upload their pictures to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, and Tumblr.

– Simplicity: Let’s take a look at the recent apps that have gone viral – Cut the Rope, Angry Bird, Bubble Ball, and Instagram. The common denominator here is that they are simple. These apps do not have fancy features and none of them require users to go through a tedious tutorial.

– And the most important of all: it’s free.

In January, Instagram introduced a new hashtag feature that allows app users to add #hashtags to their own photos. The introduction of this feature opened doors for brands to incorporate Instagram into their own social media campaigns. In fact, several brands have already jumped on the bandwagon and are experiencing success.


Of course, Starbucks, one of the most social media savvy brands, would not take a backseat to this new trend. Through the brand profile, users are able to view unique photos from “exclusive” content such as coffee tasting sessions in boardrooms, a new logo launch, and product promotions. Currently Starbucks maintains over 9,000 followers and actively uses Instagram to engage with their fans. The ability for fans to view behind the scenes of a large conglomerate allows for a personalized social experience and helps maintain further brand loyalty.


MTV is another example of a big name utilizing a hot social media trend. Instead of solely sharing photos from their MTV headquarters, MTV utilized Instagram for live coverage at the Grammys. Grammy fans were able to get a first hand look at the red carpet traffic and shots of behind the stage activities. Instagram users just had to follow MTV’s Instagram account or search for #MTV.

My SxSW Experience

I’ve got a lot of thoughts about SxSW. Frankly, I’m not sure how I’ll synthesize them all into a longer-form post with a modicum of value (perhaps I should hire one of the unbelievably talented Ogilvy Notes artists).

Starter for 10, I pulled a slightly incomplete word cloud based on my Twitter output from Friday-Monday (courtesy of Wordle).


What it tells me … I obviously liked it.  Clearly I met a lot of  great, funny people.  Apparently the iPad was on my brain.  Austin made a big impression on me.  I liked a lot of people, places and things.  I responded to @virginiamiracle quite a bit.  My outfit of choice was jeans.  And I crowdsourced a new word for when someone accidentally takes your drink at Starbucks – Starpluck (I am on an Urban Dictionary kick lately).

Again, I’m still trying to sort out what resonated with me.  Broadly speaking, here are the themes that sparked second and third thoughts, and which I hope to explore in the near future:

Video: I sought out and loved a few sessions on video.  How to make it compelling.  How to make it interactive.  How to make it beautiful.  There is some unbelievably creative stuff going on right now on YouTube, and the future promises to blow our minds.  Check out what the Fine Brothers are doing with ‘choose your own adventure’ style videos.  The opportunities seem endless.

Experimentation: Something I heard everywhere – regardless of the topic at hand – was that experimentation wins.  It’s faster.  It’s more agile.  It often leads to bigger breakthroughs.  Idea to execution in the shortest time can be a winning approach.  Duh, Ian.  I know, but hearing it so many times in so few days is very reinforcing.

Humor: Between the Oatmeal and Baratunde I had plenty of laughs.  Humor entertains.  And entertainment can be a form of engagement.  There’s a right and wrong way to be funny in, say, 140 characters.  What intrigues me is the permission (or not) brands have to be funny (or try to be funny) in social media.  Get it right – you’re beloved.  Get it wrong – get the gong.

Relevance: Our own relevance, that is.  Lots of discussions.  How do we stay relevant?  How do we stay passionate?  How do we discover the next great thing?  How do we innovate – for ourselves, our agencies and our clients?  How to we keep learning?  One answer I heard over and over  (and over and over) was delving into side-projects.  Little things with friends or colleagues.  Not necessarily to make a buck, but rather to make something cool and energizing.  The lingering question … how willing are employers to give their people the white space to experiment?  3M and Google have thrived off this model.  Are you willing to follow that path?  Check out Method & Craft for a really inspiring example of passion-turned-side-project.  Wonderful stuff.

Branded Content Creation and Curation: The role of brand as creator and curator of content was a pervasive theme.  Besides one very dogmatic journalist I saw, everyone seemed to agree that brand as content creator is an unstoppable force. Fraught with issues yet to be sorted?  Sure.  But it’s happening and only promises to grow.  The topic of brand as curator wasn’t as widely discussed in the panels I attended, but I’d argue that’s where the debate should be taking place (best-practices, editorial obligations, rights issues, etc.).

That’s all I’ve got for the time being.  By the way, having been on the outside looking in, I know how ‘noisy’ SxSW seems via Twitter.  I can assure you the madness and mayhem of SxSW has been grossly exaggerated.  It’s quite manageable, sane and enjoyable (with a little planning, and plenty of flexibility).

As you’ll likely hear in every wrap-up post, it’s the people that make SxSW amazing.  So many old and new faces.

Dive in next year – I’m happy to hang with you in a quiet bar over a beer and BBQ.