I’ve been sucked into the world of Instagram.
Soon after the photo-sharing mobile app was made available for Android users, it quickly established itself as a personal favorite and a daily must-have.
Like every other social tool I use, it takes a little while to discover the individual benefits and how to best leverage the application to produce desired results. With Instagram, the power of hashtags is truly stunning. The mundane and the ordinary in your life can be transformed into interesting games and shared experiences by having some fun with hashtags.
Here’s a personal example:
When I first joined Instagram, I noticed that two of my buddies here in Columbus, Ohio, were posting photos of automobiles with the hashtag #midwestwhips. The feed – or series of #midwestwhips photos – consists of classic, yet often forgotten cars, vintage trucks, heavily-corroded autos and any vehicle that has a certain Midwestern patina.
The game aspect of the hashtag series is illustrated by harmless one-upmanship.
To be the first to post an even rarer auto, a unique customization, or the perfect background composition to accompany the color of the car.
All of the “players” in the game are trying to add a new jewel to the series – one that will really score a bunch of “Likes” amongst the group or a shout-out in the comments. More on the comments soon.
The other part of the game is the hunt itself.
When I’m walking my dog, I’m also craning my neck in alleyways for yet-to-be captured #midwestwhips. I might take a little break from the office and walk around the neighborhood, scouting far off in the distance for a glimmer of what could be an old, beat-up Ford Bronco.
The #midwestwhips feed has grown from the original two posters (@JacobTaylor0 and @misterbarnes) to around 10 current contributors from Michigan, Kansas, Illinois, South Dakota and Ohio. Another Instagram series – the West Coast-based #vanspotting – even has its own dedicated website and merchandise, like key chains and T-shirts.
As you might guess from the hashtag, #vanspotting is all about the art of snapping photos of vans. (Minivans and Crew/Service vans do not count, according to the rules!)
So back to the comments and a point that I want to make:
I try to tag my Instagram photos to be as descriptive as possible – so if I’m posting a #midwestwhips contender, I want to include the make and model if I happen to know that info. A few weeks back, I spotted a Chevrolet Corvair, so naturally I included #chevrolet to accompany the photo (along with #corvair, #unsafeatanyspeed and #ralphnader, just for good measure).
If I browse just the #chevrolet hashtag, there are nearly 40,000 photos. That is 40,000 opportunities for Chevrolet to interact with someone who is already talking about their brands, via visual representation.
The consumer is initiating the conversation!
How cool would it be for someone from Chevrolet to jump into the comments on my Corvair photo and drop a little historical tidbit about that sweet ride? Or even just simply mention that it’s a cool shot?
Tell me a story about the launch of this car.
Any kind of genuine engagement from the automaker would go a long way toward earning a follower and brand advocate.
Curiously, the hashtag #unsafeatanyspeed yields 49 results – all photos of a Corvair.
So far, I’ve received zilch from brands.
Nothing from Jeep, Ford, Cadillac or Mercedes.
There is untapped marketing gold in the comments section if brands apply interaction properly (i.e. don’t try to sell me or redirect me – just talk to me).
During Advertising Week 8 last Fall, I had the chance to speak with Kristin Frank, the GM of Digital Media at VH1/MTV. She hinted at the emerging importance of visual storytelling and how brands need to leverage Pinterest and Instagram in a way that emotionally resonates with people.
We’re already there – and we’re waiting for you, advertisers and brands.
I’ll be chilling on Instagram (@jayschmidt) if you need me.
Or if, you know, you want to talk #midwestwhips.