This week, Instagram’s daily users number surpassed Twitter’s daily users numbers. That is huge. We think of Twitter as ubiquitous at this point: even my grandmother knows what it is (mostly because the news channel that she watches 24/7 talks about Twitter all the time). But we don’t think of Instagram as having that broad appeal, especially since it is only accessible on iPhone and Android platforms. The numbers released this week show that is not the case.

But Instagram is only a photo sharing site, right? How can it have that much appeal? It turns out that users are embracing Instagram as a social network on its own. With functionalities such as following, liking, commenting and sharing, Instagram was built to be social in itself (though it was also built to play well with almost every other popular social network out there for sharing images). Teens are even moving away from platforms like Facebook and spending their time communicating through photos on Instagram. The service is streamlined and clean, not cluttered with advertising, and quick to scroll through and see the life stories of the people that you are following.

Photo sharing on any social network is popular: it is easy, tells your story quickly and appeals to our ADD society. But photo sharing on Instagram is special because it makes the story more beautiful. Anyone can look like a professional photographer on Instagram. Instagram makes us look good.

Source: Mashable

And Instagram can also make brands look good. With 80 million registered users and over seven million daily users, it will come as no surprise that 40 of the top 100 brands have signed on to Instagram and started sharing images in an effort to connect with users. Brands like Starbucks, Burberry and Taco Bell are seeing big engagement on Instagram. There is no advertising; Instagram users are choosing to follow these brands images and stories on a platform where these users are spending an average of four hours each month. They are not following because they get discounts or great offers; they are following because they want to experience that brand’s story. What are these brands doing that makes their images worth following? Here are some tips for using Instagram as a brand:

  • Consider composition, context and lighting. Your original image doesn’t have to be perfect since the filters help make it beautiful, but quality photography is generally more popular.
  • Just like in any other social channel, don’t make what you share all about you. No one wants to follow a string of ads about your product or service. Think about images you can share that are aligned with your brand personality and mission. Think about images that align with your target audiences’ needs and wants. When you do show product/service images, make them interesting (in other words, don’t use the same images that you use in your advertising).
  • Don’t post too frequently. Once a day is probably enough. Instagram users are keeping their networks smaller. If they run into a barrage of your images in between all their friends images, they are likely to stop following you.
  • But post frequently enough to stay top-of-mind. At least three times a week.
  • Use hashtags (#example) for generating and tracking conversation.