Let Your Customers Do Your Marketing for You

"Well, that would be nice. Just being awesome and letting the world stand back and appreciate your awesomeness as your customers do your marketing. Unfortunately, in this idealistic world, us marketers would be out of a job. But there is a hack to get your customers to help do some of your marketing for you. It’s called Instagram."


Instagram’s photo and video sharing platform has a user base of more than 700 million people… And as of October 2015 it hosts 40 billion published photos. Users can either upload photos to direct contacts or the general public, complete with hashtags and tags directed at friends. What does this mean? It means it’s a very powerful tool.

Successful marketers now have to think of another dimension for their products: is it Instagram-worthy? It needs to be so visually captivating that customers need to share a photo of their experience with their friends and followers.

Here’s a question: What compels people to post on social media sites?

Answers include keeping in contact with friends who one might otherwise lose track of, posting for self-expression (i.e., “this is me”), or posting for entertainment and action, “people share information on the brands, products, and activities they enjoy either to get more friends to enjoy the same things, or to affirm a specific identity among friends who they already know care about the same things”.

If your customers like what you offer, they might want the validation of engaging others, too. Or posting might be a way to bond with friends through shared experience. It’s also about bragging rights… I’m the one who discovered this dish at this cool new restaurant. I’m so popular and I always go out to eat with friends. Still others might share because they see their friends doing it and it because a socio-normative standard.

Though the motivations to share might be different, marketers are noticing the impact of social media on their business. Creating a buzz on social media leads to traffic and sales, all the good stuff that marketers are looking for. Differently than print add or other varieties, social media trends are often more conversational, where friends acknowledge seeing the posted picture or video with a “like”, making it more evident that a buzz has originated from social media.

What do you need to do to harness the power of Instagram?

You need to design your products and services for Instagram. They need to have a unique visual appeal or experiential value that works in a picture or short video. Engaging with other trending topics is a great way to gain attention. A sweet example of this was Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino.

The redoubled interest in unicorns combined with a visual appeal compelled millions (me included) to post a picture of this unique beverage on social media channels. Starbucks essentially built an army of grassroots marketers to promote their exciting, innovative, unicorn-loving brand.

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino

Make sure the product and/or service aligns with your brand. Anything too distant won’t carry enough association with your offering to have a lasting impact. It’s a fine line: too subtle and it might not make it on Instagram, but too gimmicky and your Insta-posters will see right through it and generate bad press.

The wild west of the Instagram world can be fickle so tread with caution. There are many a hilarious tale of social media fails, which you can see here.

Here’s a sneaky one: try to get your logo into the pictures. Try finding a popular spot in your shop or restaurant to have your logo visible in the background Instagram-bound pictures. Get that logo on the wrappers, on the plates, on something subtle but cool. But, a word of caution: you have to make sure your offering is perfect every time.

Once the buzz starts to take effect, people come for the full, Instagram-worthy experience. Anything less and they’ll happily tell the world that the buzz was all for show.

What’s the main lesson here? Never underestimate your consumer. They’re savvy, but if your product is of high enough quality, it’s not impossible to have your customers do tour marketing for you! Fall short, though, and support will likely disappear faster than you can like your bestie’s latest post.


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