They say an image can speak a thousand words, and Instagram surely does just that. Going strong with 500-million active users as of June 2016, Instagram was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion back in April 2012, with the social media mogul now planning on going after Snapchat.

Instagram started off as a platform for photographers, allowing them to upload and share aesthetically beautiful, well-designed, and eye catching images with other users. Over time, the service has grown to become one of the most powerful social media platforms with regards to increasing reach and engagement, and it continues to do an incredible job to prove itself to be one.

Experts suggest that Instagram will continue to dominate the social media spectrum, having organic reach and engagement which is far greater than that enjoyed by any other platform. This is because Instagram is sexy; it’s as simple as that!

However, this statistic alone has been enough of a reason for brands to be attracted to the platform as well. Instagram is unique in terms of its engagement, with brands applying different and innovative organic traffic generating strategies to engage with their audience. This is accomplished by creating strategic marketing campaigns which leverage the popularity and following of a famous personality or finding a way of connecting with a desired audience.

About 48.8 percent of all brands are already on Instagram, and it is expected that the percentage will grow to 70% by 2017. A total of 70% of all hashtags which are used on Instagram are branded; a statistic which speaks volumes for the platform’s power to influence marketing has. It works because people don’t feel like they’re being sold to, unlike what Facebook ads do. Most Instagram campaigns are successful because users are made a part of the campaign, prompting others to follow suit.

As one of the first users of the service since the new version rolled out, I remember seeing one of the first viral campaigns on Instagram created by the Instagram page itself. The #5050 campaign was about posting an image where half of the image depicted one landscape while the other showcased another landscape.

Below is an example of the images shared by users in the #5050 image, where 50% of the image is of one landscape while the other one is of an entirely different landscape.

spli-ocean-jepg

When I saw the effect of this, I knew Instagram was going to be what it is becoming. However, I am in awe of how long it has taken companies to attack this opportunity. However, for companies awakening now, it is still not too late for them. The time to attack is now, and more importantly before your competitors do. However, in a sea of 500-million users, there is room for many, many companies to run successful campaigns.

The time is now for another reason, as well. Ever since Facebook bought Instagram, have you noticed that the feed’s algorithm has changed? Images are no longer showing up according to the time/date post; instead, they are showing up based on who you engage with the most.

This could mean 2 things:

  1. If you don’t implement your engagement strategy now, you will most likely fall to the depths in your followers’ feeds; into eternal darkness where you are not viewed by them. Recovering from this will not be easy, as point #2 will explain.
  2. Facebook’s organic engagement is incredibly poor. If Facebook bought Instagram, implemented Instagram ads, and now is changing its algorithm to one more like that used by Facebook, doesn’t this reveal a pattern? Is Instagram trying to only reach an audience through ad spend?

If this is the case, trust me, you don’t want to wait. If you do, it’s as good as saying goodbye to your marketing budget. Instagram is here to stay, and you want to make a transition to it sooner rather than later.

I am aware there may be a fear of messing up, and I understand that messing up costs, but you know what costs more? Being late!

Yet, we still see famous and well known brands with big marketing budgets completely ignoring this platform, while startups and underdogs, with next to no marketing budget, are hitting 7-figure revenues by just using Instagram as their marketing outlet.

These are some of the Fortune 500 brands you and I know of that are shamelessly ignoring the capabilities and potential of this platform:

Walmart (@walmart)

Followers: 639k

Even Walmart doesn’t have enough of a following compared to one of their competitors, Target (@target). Walmart’s images gain 800 likes on average, making their engagement stand at a mere .001%. What Walmart should be doing is creating a Thanksgiving campaign where customers tag them to show their turkey cooking skills. However, there is no sign of a Thanksgiving campaign much less a Christmas one.

Fedex (@fedex)

Followers: 53.9k

Fedex enjoys an advantage over its competitor, UPS, in terms of their branding. It has a much more vibrant approach to connect with communities, unlike UPS, whose branding has a much more corporate vibe to it. With this being the case, Fedex has plenty of room to get creative and leverage its huge competitive advantage.

We all know that great feeling when we purchase something online, right? How would it sound if Fedex did a campaign in which people recorded their expressions when receiving a package and while opening it?

American Airlines (@americanair)

Followers: 480k

Despite their recent rebranding and upgrade of their company’s assets, they don’t seem to be missing a key element in the optimization of their Instagram account; consistency. Instagram is a very important platform for airlines, given to the popularity of traveling. As such, many travelers use Instagram as a blog to showcase the different destinations they visit. American Airlines could take advantage of this by featuring themselves in their Instagram stories by creating “travel hacking tips”, such as how to best package your luggage, how to prevent jet lag, and so on. Your promotion doesn’t have to be focused directly on your product; instead, it has to deliver value.

Best Buy (@bestbuy)

Followers: 81.3k

We all know the bullet Best Buy has to bite by having Amazon as a direct competitor. They suffer from the “showroom effect” in which people visit Best Buy to see and try something before buying it online. However, Best Buy does have its own website in which they sell their products. Instagram is about to roll out an e-commerce feature in which the app users will be able to purchase directly through Instagram. This could not only fix their showroom effect, but it could use it to deal a huge blow to Amazon. Better now than never Best Buy!

American Express (@americanexpress)

Followers: 154k

As mentioned above, with Instagram getting an e-commerce function very soon, there are so many companies American Express could collaborate with on Instagram to create promotional campaigns that it is impossible to not get creative. App users could instantly get approved to become a member and start purchasing right away, especially for all those travelers on Instagram trying to get flying miles under their belt.

Kelloggs (@Kelloggsus)

Followers: 16.4k

We all remember Kelloggs for having those interactive games at the back of their boxes. Kellogg’s could easily implement all of the interactive images into Instagram to increase engagement and have a one-on-one interactive experience with their followers. For starters, maybe a throwback to a classic game on one of their boxes from the 90’s could do the trick. I can see a great opportunity for Kelloggs here. I’m especially surprised by their small following as they could promote their account on their boxes. Spark up that young creative mind within you Kelloggs!

One thing I saw is that none of these companies use Instagram stories to establish a connection between themselves and their audiences. The Instagram stories function increased Mercedes Benz’s account engagement by 500%, and it has done so with all of my clients’ accounts as well.

It is an opportunity to show your audience the “why” of your company. If they never switched to your brand because of “what you do”, then the “why you do it” is a fresh opportunity to convert followers into customers.

Although these brands may not be killing it on Instagram, one thing we know for sure is that most of these brands are here to stay. Still, that’s what we thought about Blockbuster.

Blockbuster got crushed by a technological advantage in the form of Netflix. However, it was partly their fault as they did absolutely nothing to fight back. The company did have a competitive advantage over Netflix: the essence of bringing a family together by choosing a day of the week on which the whole family would participate in the experience they provided. 

If Blockbuster would’ve had their social media positioning in place, they could’ve used that as the weapon to REMIND their audience as to why they were so great in the first place. By the time Netflix attacked, it was already too late for Blockbuster to implement this strategy. By then, reminding the people of their “why” through advertising would’ve made them burn money they didn’t have, forcing them to shut down anyways because it would have cost too much to reach out to everyone.

So don’t be that company who makes other companies stronger by failing. Take action today and have every base of your business covered. We know Instagram is here to stay, so make sure your company is too. Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Ramon Berrios

Ramon Berrios is a multi-national entrepreneur based in Puerto Rico, and the cofounder of an on-demand logistics platform. Ramon also co-founded Cenas Empresariales – an initiative that inspires underprivileged youth in a strikingly difficult economy. In addition, Ramon is known for rapidly growing social media targeted followings with his digital agency Socially Rich. Beyond work, Ramon is centered on mindfulness, and is an avid surfer along the beaches of Dorado, PR.