Marketers with restaurants, hotels and retailers are among those most likely to experiment.

By Heather Clancy
March 23, 2015

Considering how quickly the photo-sharing social network Instagram is growing (heck, even I use it), I was astonished to read some recent research suggesting that relatively few big companies include it as part of their social marketing strategy.

Adoption is still far lower than for Facebook or Twitter. Granted, those social networks are far more established so that makes sense. But brand activity on Instagram is even lower than the pickup for Google+. Considering that the strategy for the latter is in limbo, that’s saying a lot.

Here are the numbers. Among the 2,000 brands analyzed by marketing services company Yes Lifecycle Marketing, 80% managed Facebook pages and 82% are active on Twitter. That compares with just 23% for Instagram. YouTube’s brand engagement number is 60%.

Right now, Instagram seems to be mainly an afterthought, according to the research. “It surprises me that more brands are not developing their presence on Instagram,” said Yes Lifecycle Marketing President Michael Fisher, commenting on the research. “With over 300 million users and 70 million photos and videos shared daily, by not investing in a social strategy that includes Instagram, brands are missing a sizable opportunity to further engage their customers.”

Among the trailblazers uncovered by the organization’s analysis are restaurants, hotels, and retailers (in that order), according to the Yes Lifecycle Marketing research. Retailers using the platform typically add 8% more followers each month right now, which is about double the rate for the more established social networks.

Indeed, retailers in particular might want to get with the picture, so to speak. That’s because fashion brands dominate Instagram’s statistics on the most popular brands.

Nike is No. 1 (with 13.3 million account followers), followed by fellow athletic shoemaker Adidas (4.6 million). Zara, Prada, Dior and Gucci all make the top 10 if you count followers, as do Starbucks and GoPro. Instagram’s list of “notable users” also includes Ben and Jerry’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Veuve Clicquot, and Whole Foods Market.

Two high-tech giants making a serious investment in the platform are Intel, which uses it regularly to promote designs and events; and Microsoft, which hired a professional photojournalist to make its channel all the more compelling and human.

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