For better or worse, cameras have long been a staple at holiday dinners this time of year. Since the advent of camera phones, though, it’s easier than ever to grab a shot of youngsters decked out in their holiday attire, the perfectly-basted turkey or Grandpa sleeping off the tryptophan in front of the big game.
Now those same shots are finding their way to the internet, thanks to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and one of the most popular phone apps out today, Facebook-owned Instagram. Today, people don’t just take pictures. They share pictures. And photostreams offer a fascinating window into people’s lives in real time.
A look at Instagram stats from Thanksgiving 2012 illustrates my point. On Thanksgiving Day last month, Instagram saw record numbers of images posted with its app: More than 10 million over the course of the day, and at some points, more than 200 photos per second. 200 photos per second of relatives helping out in the kitchen, of family sitting around the table, of pets trying to sneak pies off the counter, of traffic trying to get from home to dinner and back again . . . you name it.
Instagram tallied the results by searching on “Thanksgiving-themed words,” and announced its results once the holiday had passed. This level of volume confirms that sharing media has become one of the most popular functions of social platforms—and it also presents the question all marketers should be asking when trends emerge:
How could I be putting this to work?
Since Instagram won’t be slowing its climb to the top anytime soon, and since photo sharing consistently ranks as a favorite activity across social media platforms, here are a few tips for marketing pros who want to make the most of the snap-happy:
- Find opportunities to put user-generated content front and center.Companies stress about creating the content their target markets will love, but why not shift some of that burden to your customers? User-generated content is often more popular than marketer-created content, and while you’ll likely have to do a bit of censoring to ensure everything is on the up and up, you’ll find you actually save time if you’re encouraging and sharing, rather than constantly developing.Ask your customers to share pictures of your product tagged with a special phrase you can track. Hold a contest for the most creative use of your product, captured for all to see. Invite your community to share images of their family or friends around a particular theme that relates to your product, and after they do, make sure to re-share, re-Tweet and reward their efforts. Ben and Jerry’s Instagram stream is a great example of how a company can make the most of user-generated content.
- Interact with visual “mentions” of you and your products.Search the most popular platforms for visual content sharing using your product name, your company name or even related activity or object words that your market might be using. When you find relevant images, offer a response, say “Thank you,” click “re-Tweet” or “like” to reward a specific mention. Even better, start a conversation with a simple question or comment.When customers and potential customers know you’re paying attention, it makes them more curious about the content and messages you’re producing, and that encourages further interaction. Also, always remember to “favorite” or save evidence of your mentions! Data like this will help you track and gauge your digital marketing efforts.
- Get a leg up on your market research. Want to know more about customer opinion regarding your brand? Curious about how consumers feel about your competitors? Search for images posted of your products and/or images related to your brand. As we all know, a picture can tell a thousand words –even if they’re not always the words you want to hear. If you see problems or complaints emerge, be sure to reach out to offer help.
- Give customers a peek into your company culture and inspiration. UK clothing retailer Topshop shares its style inspirations—gorgeous pictures, favorite art, stylish people on the street, great vintage finds—with fans who use Instagram. But, the company doesn’t stop there. Topshop also has a page on its website dedicated to encouraging fan photo interaction and contribution across multiple platforms (including the best way to ensure those contributions get recognized: #topshop).
If your target market enjoys a particular form of social engagement online, it makes sense to engage there, too—whether you’re starting a presence of your own, or affirming your customers’ efforts. So, don’t be camera shy. Give photo sharing a try. Who doesn’t love an online image of some traditional offline holiday cheer?