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Brands Flex Their Filters on Instagram

Engagement is heavily concentrated among certain brands

Photo-sharing smartphone app Instagram may have created a bit of controversy last year when it made changes to its privacy policy, but that doesn’t appear to have slowed brand and consumer uptake of the service. According to findings from social media measurement and analytics company Simply Measured, adoption by the Top 100 brands (based on Interbrand’s rankings) rose five percentage points (54% to 59%) from November 2012 to February 2013.

Although brand presence on Facebook-owned Instagram is light compared to their activity on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and even Google+, it is growing. The growth may be partially due to Instagram’s recent introduction of web profiles and feeds, both of which provide brands with a chance to better present their content and engage with followers.

According to Simply Measured, the top brands on Instagram include MTV, Starbucks Coffee, Nike, Burberry, Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Audi, GE, Ralph Lauren and Adidas—all of which have more than 100,000 Instagram followers.

Interestingly, Simply Measured made note that the top-followed brands on Instagram accounted for the vast majority of brand engagement on the platform. Currently, the top 8 brands are responsible for 80% of engagement. But that is down from November, when the top 8 brands accounted for 92% of engagement, suggesting that other brands are getting more involved and adept on the network.

Although the top Instagram brands have varying strategies and objectives on the platform, they share some common metrics and sharing habits. According to Simply Measured, 41% of the top 100 brands share more than 1 photo on Instagram per week.

MTV, which Simply Measured ranked as the No. 1 followed Instagram brand account, is less interested in using photo filters on Instagram. Rather, the company posts photos of musicians and celebrities, often behind the scenes of popular MTV programs. The photos receive a high level of engagement, especially when fans recognize famous faces in the photos.

Starbucks, the No. 2 brand on Instagram, takes an artsier approach than MTV, often posting filtered shots of coffee mugs and hand-crafted beverages. Nike, which saw engagement grow 6% since November, uses the platform to showcase its products in motion. Its photos of newly released sneakers appeal to a niche community of “sneakerheads” and tennis shoe collectors.

It makes sense that MTV, Starbucks and Nike—all of which have a stake in reaching younger consumers—would make Instagram a social media priority. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Instagram may resonate more with millennial consumers than other age groups. Pew’s data indicated that 28% of US internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 used Instagram in December 2012, compared with 14% of those between 30 to 49. Very few Instagram users were older than 50.

Although Instagram is currently an immature social network compared to well-established platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the mobile social network may provide a good opportunity for marketers interested in visual content marketing. It gives brands a chance to be creative and connect with younger fans at a relatively low cost.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Local Marketing Still Gets Top-Down Management” and “The Economist Creates Experiences Across Multiple Platforms

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