Instagram Proves Its Worth – From Hurricanes to Dallas Internet Marketing

If you spent last Monday evening glued to your TV, smartphone or computer watching “Superstorm” Sandy crash ashore in New York and New Jersey — especially if the bulk of your news came from Twitter and Facebook and other social media outlets — you might’ve noticed a striking number of low-quality, but stylistically filtered photos dominating the coverage.

Instagram went mainstream during Sandy, proving both its widespread use and its worth for providing rich insight into what was a truly chaotic and (for people trapped in it) terrifying experience. In the past few years, the use of social media to illustrate and illuminate chaotic situations around the world — such as the Arab Spring, the earthquake in Haiti, and others — has increased dramatically. Twitter and Facebook, for example, made it easy for protesters to organize demonstrations quickly, and then provide real-time updates if things got hairy. Instagram isn’t the first social media tool to involve pictures; Twitter and Facebook, of course, made photo-sharing easy to do as well. Instagram has just streamlined the photo-sharing experience and highlighted how powerful social images could be.

The app is pretty simple: You take a photo with your smartphone. If so desired, you add a filter to the photo, editing and stylizing it in seconds. You share the photo — either solely within the Instagram social network (it’s most similar to Twitter — you follow people’s photo feeds and can “like” or comment on any shot, categorize photo descriptions with #hashtags, @reply or mention a user) and share photos to other social media accounts by syncing with your Twitter and Facebook..

During sandy, several sites quickly popped up collating photos shared in real-time by people affected by the storm. And, according to Forbes, mainstream media outlets found it useful as well:

As the storm closed in on the coast Monday morning, Time’s director of photography, Kira Pollack, rounded up five photographers from the region and gave them access to the magazine’s Instagram feed. The photographers it sought out – Michael Christopher Brown, Benjamin Lowy, Ed Kashi, Andrew Quilty and Stephen Wilkes — are all heavy users of the Facebook-owned social photo platform.

Using Instagram as the primary outlet for breaking news coverage was an experiment, Pollack says, but one motivated by necessity. “We just thought this is going to be the fastest way we can cover this and it’s the most direct route,” she says. “It’s wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is a trend, let’s assign this on Instagram.’ It was about how quickly we can get pictures to our readers.”

The resulting collection on Lightbox, Time’s photography blog, was “one of the most popular galleries we’ve ever done,” says Pollack, and it was responsible for 13% of all the site’s traffic during a week when had its fourth-biggest day ever. Time’s Instagram account attracted 12,000 new followers during a 48-hour period.

Instagram has been popular with smartphone-toting hipsters and social media mavens for sometime, but the app first gained widespread notice when Facebook snatched it up for a cool $1 billion back in April. Since then, use of the app has exploded. In light of the publicity it received during Sandy, continued growth seems likely.

Naturally, as with any hot new app or social media site, it’s important to examine the social media marketing possibilities Instagram could provide businesses in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. And in the coming weeks, we’ll take a closer look at some specific strategies companies could employ to tap into the app’s burgeoning power.

From a big picture perspective, however, the strength of Instagram is obvious: Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words. This is especially when trying to describe chaotic situations such as a hurricane, but it’s equally true when it comes to marketing. You could, say, write a few fancy lines about how chic your clothing boutique’s new spring collection is— or you could post a tantalizing photo that visually speaks for itself and promotes your brand a hundred times more effectively.  Instagram makes it easy to take good photos and, perhaps more important, it makes it easy for your customers to do the same — and then share them with everyone they know. The Dallas Internet marketing possibilities seem endless.

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