Instagram: A Favorite Mobile Community Among ECPs

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Instagram launched in 2010 as a place for people to share photos and moments as they moved through the day. In four years, the mobile community has grown to more than 200 million active users sharing 60 million photos per day, a total of 20 billion photos since its launch. If you still think you shouldn't be using Instagram, you might want to reconsider. The app is an important tool for brands and businesses and optical retailers are no exception.

CLICK tapped into the Instagram network to find out how independent eyecare professionals are using the platform and what they find appealing about the photo sharing app in comparison to other social sites. The takeaway: ECPs who are using Instagram prefer it because it is easy to learn, enjoyable to use and connects them directly to their targeted communities.

Joshua Schutte, OD, owner at (the appropriately named) Modern Optometry in Fair Lakes, Va., started using Instagram for the first time one year ago in order to market his new eyecare center. Adopting other social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Foursquare as well, he and his staff gravitated toward using Instagram "primarily because it is easy to use."

Joshua Schutte, OD, owner, Modern Optometry
www.modernoptometry.com 
Instagram: @modernoptometry

"Being new to social media, I found it much easier to use than other networks like Facebook. The user interface is straightforward and easy to setup and maintain. Since the site primarily consists of images, we think it is a great tool for promoting eyewear and eyecare."

Schutte, who describes his company as a start-up office with a small staff, does most of the posting himself but hopes to devote more time and preparation to the platform. He believes that Instagram is not just a place to "be," but an important venue to communicate his brand. "Our presence on Instagram shows our character as a company," he said. By showcasing daily activities in the office, "our personality shows."

Serving the Washington, D.C. area where many clients have technology and computer oriented careers has been central to Schutte's adoption of social media and other technologies. In fact, he said, one of the most engaging decisions he has made as a new business owner has been registering to become a Google Glass Preferred Provider, a move that has allowed him to meet and serve "a diverse group of tech savvy, kind and creative people and social media tied in nicely to that," he said.

At See & Be Seen Eyecare, in Toronto, Instagram has been an essential platform for promoting upcoming events and featuring unique eyewear pieces since the store opened last October, according to co-owners Priya and Ritesh Patel. The platform, Priya Patel said, is "huge" in the area.

Ritesh Patel, co-owner, See & Bee Seen Eyecare
www.seeandbeseeneyecare.com 
Instagram: @seeandbeseeneyecare

"We keep a pulse on what social media channels our patients and community are engaging with the most. Instagram is huge with a large portion of our patient base, so we decided to develop our presence in this space," she said. Taking a collaborative and strategic approach, the Patels brainstorm Instagram ideas with staff to target a specific audience—fashion bloggers.

"[Instagram] has widened our reach to potential patients without a doubt. It also helps us communicate with people outside of the vision industry," Patel said. "As we all know, there is a huge fashion component to eyewear. By putting creativity in our posts, we are able to engage with fashion bloggers and trendsetters in our city."

In a recent effort, See & Be Seen Eyecare's "Ray-Ban Summer Jam," a promotional event held in May, the practice used Instagram to post photos as a "countdown" before the event as well as real-time coverage with videos as the event occurred. According to Patel, the integration resulted in "a fantastic turnout and great feedback from those who attended."

All in all, knowing your audience and being true to your business' purpose is crucial to Instagram success. "The key to greater engagement with followers is to be as authentic as possible and let your brand's personality come through," Patel said.

Still not sure how to get started? Instagram has a designated website, business.instagram.com, showcasing brands that are using the app in interesting ways. For even more guidance, the Instagram for Business blog offers tips, brand spotlights, API examples and news from Instagram HQ.

cwolinski@jobson.com