In the USA 34% of internet users have uploaded photos online via a mobile phone, and 59% of internet users upload photos to a social network. The photo sharing community is growing rapidly, and now with a large increase in the number of sites specifically designed for photo uploading and sharing, such as Instagram and Path, the photo sharing world has much untapped brand and marketing power, figuring out how to use it in the best possible way for a business is the difficult part.

To understand how to do this, we first need to understand why individuals upload and share photos. 31% of US internet users use them to update friends with their lives, while 25% use them to stay in touch with friends. We can see that promotions and adverting would probably have a negative effect for users of these sites because they aren’t interested in this type of interaction with a brand. Instead, we have to join them and intertwine ourselves in their journeys.

Ideas such as incentivising, or making it appealing for consumers to take photos of our products and post them on these sites and using photography to lure consumers to follow them, or better yet, buy our products, will engage them without being overbearing. This is great for brands as it forces user-generated content, making the consumer do most of the work for us.

So where do we start? There are two prominent photo sharing sites, with two very different intents. The smart journal Path is a social network that allows you to share photos, videos, thoughts, and life experiences with only those close to you. The 150 person friend limit ensures that you only share with a small number of people to encourage greater and more open sharing. Path has over 2 million users, a much smaller number than its rival Instagram which has 50 million users. Instagram is a far more open platform which allows you to follow people you don’t know and vice versa.

Which is better for business? They both have their advantages; with Instagram we have access to a wider audience which is good for raising brand awareness and engaging with many users, though on Path we have the element of trust between users. 30% of US internet users would have an improved opinion of a brand through an online recommendation from a friend. On Path, this will have a big impact as users only interact with close friends and family.

Photo-sharing platforms provide a big stage for engagement, figuring how to promote awareness and engagement without being intrusive is the way forward.

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