Instagram, long adored by iOS users and named by Apple as the iPhone app of the year in 2011, made a big splash in its first day in the Android market on April 3. More than 1 million copies were downloaded in the first 24 hours alone.
Since 2010, Instagram users have been shooting photos, applying Polaroid-like filters and sharing their creations on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other popular social networks. And while there are literally hundreds of free photo-enhancement apps for both Android and iOS, Instagram can connect individuals—and brands—to a photo-based social network of more than 30 million users.
Some communicators may view Instagram as just another social tool in their already overloaded belts, but the app does represent yet another way to connect with consumers where they are. Not to mention, brands can simply make even the most mundane products or services look flat-out cool.
Unlike Flickr, don't expect all of your Instagram photos to be accessible from one place on the Web. While photos can be posted directly to other social networks, they are not housed on Instagram.com. What makes Instagram unique is that it is a social network that is designed to be accessed on a mobile device rather than a computer. It's not a Web service with a mobile app—it's a mobile app first and foremost.
Several notable brands such as Levi's and NBC News, and nonprofits like Oceana, have already tapped into Instagram to create compelling visual experiences for their fans and offer behind-the-scenes looks; expect more to use Instagram now that Android is on board.
For those looking to get started on Instagram, once you sign up, be sure to link your Instagram account to all of your applicable social networks and publish photos to those social networks via Instagram. And, just like on Twitter, adding hashtags to photos is a great way to share photos with more people. Relevant tags help attract new followers who may take a genuine interest in your photos and continue liking and commenting on them over time.
While not every brand may have the type of content to make efforts on a platform like Pinterest worth their while, Instagram allows nearly anyone with a smartphone to create stunning branded content and engage with fans on their mobile devices.
Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg