A new way for brands to interact and engage their Instagram followers?

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Although InstaMeets — a face-to-face gathering with a likeminded Instagrammers — are traditionally organized as organic events (for Instagrammers, by Instagrammers), they may provide a unique opportunity for brands to engage with their audience.

InstaMeets are becoming a popular way for Instagrammers to share photographing tips, explore a passion in a group of like-minded people, and perhaps even make a new friend or two. In a nutshell, users can post an InstaMeet event up on the meetup.com/Instagram site and other users can RSVP as going. A large barrier for most of these InstaMeets is the location. Looking at the Melbourne page meetup.com/Instagram/Melbourne/ all the upcoming events are yet to find a location. This gap provides a unique opportunity for brands.

Although putting on an InstaMeet can be an expensive endeavor for a brand, the translation of an online to a real world community may have a number of benefits for both a brands social engagement and product sales. An InstaMeet has the potential to be a rich market research tool. By gathering your engaged followers in the same place for an “Instagramming experience like no other” a brand could learn more about what their followers like/dislike about their brand, how the can improve their offering, as well as picking up some useful photography tips. The structure of a brand-run InstaMeet provides value to the consumer/Instagram follower because they are given learning and teaching experience (for free, if possible) and a connection and voice within a brand that they like and most likely respect.

For example, VisitCanberra invited 500 social media savvy Australians to participate in their Human Brochure campaign. The lucky participants were flown to Canberra for one of two weekends for “an experience like no other” trip for free. In return, VisitCanberra asked them to share their thoughts and experiences through their chosen social media channels. This campaign resulted in 4952 images on Instagram, 7782 tweets, and 1843 Facebook posts, 92% of which were of positive sentiment. It also resulted in 570 pieces of media coverage, and the top prize at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.

 

What you need for an InstaMeet:

1.    You will need a venue

The venue will depend on the type of event you want to put on. If you are a fashion brand, a photography studio or contemporary art gallery might be ideal.

2.    You will need something interesting to photograph/an experience

The US National Zoo granted their InstaMeet attendees access to the panda cub Bao Bao at their #ZooMeet. Of course, not all experiences need to be this unique. For example, a make-up or fashion brand may supply some product samples and mirrors for Instagrammers to practice taking selfies. Or, a fitness brand might meet in a park or bike trail and have a jogging InstaMeet.

3.    You will need to cater for the event – food and beverages. 

As with all events, you should provide some sort of refreshments. If possible, something that suits the vibe and positioning of your brand. For example, a high fashion label might have a cocktail evening with canapés, whilst a fitness brand might provide protein shakes/smoothies and a fruit platter.

4.    Paid or Free

This will depend on how much the event is going to cost and how much interest you think it will generate. If you are after an intimate gathering of 15-30 guests and feel that you will have a lot more interest in that, you might have an Instagram related competition to give away the tickets. Likewise, if you are planning a larger event you could charge an entry fee. However, everyone likes to get things for free.

As brand-run InstaMeets are a relatively new phenomenon, I am unsure of the financial return that can be expected from such an event, or if there will even be one. However, Hamilton Island has produced two very successful InstaMeets in 2012 and 2013.

Hamilton Island

In May 2013, Hamilton Island held their Return 2 Paradise InstaMeet. The second installment of their “Ultimate InstaMeet” drew followers from all around the world, much like their original Pilgramers campaign launched in 2012. The Return 2 Paradise event was more popular than its predecessor, generating more than 700 images, of which 73 were featured on Instagram’s ‘popular’ page and reaching an audience of over 100million active users. What’s more, Hamilton Island reported as experience $2million in room revenue growth during the campaign period and a 9 per cent increase in room bookings from the previous year.

 

I think it is a fun, fresh idea and whilst it may not always result in bottom line profit, it certainly has the potential to build, maintain, and strengthen a brands relationship with their Instagram community.