How can companies utilize people’s psychological need for attention and belonging to make online word-of-mouth magic happen for their product or service?
Instagram has over 800 million active monthly users. Every minute, 46,740 pictures are posted. People go crazy for the opportunity to capture other people’s attention. As users get more followers and more eyes on their profile, they all attempt to rise up to the challenge of living an Instagrammable life. There are varying levels of commitment to this challenge: some people don’t put a lot of thought into their Instagram presence, but others have made it into a whole project. With apps like Plann, people can organize pictures on their profiles to see what they look like before they even post them. Thanks to Instagram, the word “aesthetic” is popular again.
This raises some good questions for brands: when everyone has such high standards for their own Instagram profiles, how can brands end up being showcased organically on Instagram? How can companies utilize people’s psychological need for attention and belonging to make online word-of-mouth magic happen for their product or service? I don’t have all the answers, but a good start is to look at some of the local and national brands that have done it. In seeing what they have in common, maybe you’ll get a few ideas.
This coffee shop is the brainchild of country music mogul Missi Gallimore. In combining her love of the beach with her love of coffee, she opened this charming café in the growing Berry Farms community of Franklin, Tennessee. It’s bright, colorful, and pure without looking sterile or manufactured. While most coffee shops go for a wooden, rustic, or industrial vibe, Coffee and Coconuts stands out for its atmosphere of color and relaxation. Combine it all, and it’s an Instagram magnet. The hanging swings are a shoe-in for a photo-op, and even the bathrooms just beg you to take a mirror selfie.
In NYC, near Washington Square Park, you can buy a whole cone full of edible cookie dough. That’s the first reason people want to post it on Instagram. How outrageous is that? The shop is bursting with colors that evoke all things sweet, and people love documenting their visit by taking pictures of the bright neon signs both in the window and inside the shop.
With the rise of Instagram came a new kind of art experience — the Made-For-Instagram museum. The combination of photo-friendly backdrops in every room of this New York attraction has spawned imitators all over the country. On Instagram, the hashtag #museumoficecream has over 180,000 posts. Again, we see a combination of novelty, color, and photo-ops throughout that makes this irresistible for the ‘gram. There’s literally a pool full of sprinkles. Nothing matters anymore.
In case you missed it, here’s the recap: Starbucks had a week-long promotion selling a limited-time purple and pink sugar bomb. This was an intentional move to give Instagram users with 5 bucks an easy layup. People literally coined the term “insta-bait” for this one. Starbucks’ social media made it out to be color-changing, flavor-changing, and magical. People around the country gave into the craze and posted over 150,000 Instagram photos under the hashtag #unicornfrappuccino. Most people said it tasted like garbage, but that didn’t stop Starbucks from raking in sales and getting people talking about how pretty it looked. Who needs to drink it when you can post it?
Looking at these examples, the similarities are noticeable: color, novelty, and that unmistakable intrinsic quality that invites you to take a picture. Many things and locations on Instagram serve the same function as trading cards; you can snap a picture of it and add it to your collection of experiences you want the world to know about. Many of these experiences are centered around color and design. When things are more colorful or designed more tactfully than other aspects of our everyday life, they end up being worshipped on Instagram. This is a huge opportunity for brands to create products or spaces that consumers will advertise for you, for free. By creating something or someplace that you have to share a picture of, you create a community of people who spread the word about your brand for you.
How can you capture this magic if you’re not selling a glitter milkshake? It can be as simple as going out of your way to design a photo-op in your office or building. Maybe it involves making your product more visually appealing. Maybe running a unique limited-time promotion can land you a spot on your customers’ Instagram pages. Maybe you need to create an outrageous experience centered around your ordinary product. It’s something to think about.
P.S. If you can’t figure out how to make your brand work for Instagram, maybe you can make Instagram work for your brand. Check out this case study that shows how Burger King used Instagram Stories to get people pumped about the Whopper.
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