Fanbase is the Instagram Picture of Vancouver Success

Marketing is the industry that creates modern glamour—yet it is remarkably unglamorous behind the scenes. Perhaps that’s why few people have heard of Fanbase, despite being a local production that’s already turning big heads in the fashion industry.

Fanbase is a new marketing service application designed to make the most of Instagram. There are plenty of platforms out there for companies to make the most of Twitter and Facebook; Instagram has, until recently, gone largely untapped in terms of its marketing potential. Michael Zsigmond considered that an oversight: the summer of last year saw the founding of Fanbase, and after a couple experiments with local businesses and institutions, the service is getting international attention.

With an MBA from Queen’s and two talented cohorts, Michael led a team funded by sweat equity and donations from friends and family. After projects with Lifetime Collective and Dine Out Vancouver proved fruitful, Fanbase won the notice of a certain fashion designer and previous Project Runway judge, and Fanbase’s work for them has turned other heads in that industry.

To Michael, the choice of Instagram as Fanbase’s platform was obvious.

“It’s the only purely mobile platform—there’s a lot of marketing platforms for Facebook and Twitter, I don’t want to say they’re dime a dozen, but they’re certainly common,” he expained to Techvibes. “So we wanted to differentiate ourselves. We’re not just a branded content aggregator; our focus is on user-generated content on mobile platforms. Right now Instagram’s the primary platform, but there are others, like SocialCam and Viddy, they’re the ones that we’re keeping an eye on for integration.”

The essentially visual nature of Instagram makes Fanbase a natural fit for fashion and advertising, but there are plenty of consumer brands that are already celebrated on Instagram. The Starbucks tag, for example, has over five million photos from around the world. With that level of brand devotion on the platform already, it was only a matter of time until a service like Fanbase emerged to harness the power.

And for that notable fashion client, there was competition, Michael admits.

“For that client, we won it after their marketing team came back to us and after they looked at a few of our competitors, they said ‘The other apps were confusing, and yours is just so easy to use,” he says. “New York Fashion Week’s going on, so their digital team just needs something that’s easy to run while they’re so busy.”

Michael walks me through it, and it’s as easy as he claims.

Fanbase works on a three-step process. Upon logging in, the campaign creator decides upon a hashtag, a title, determines whether it’s a contest or a sweepstakes, and whether or not to show Instagram comments. Considering that they can be vulgar, it’s understandable why some brands would opt out. The second step is the design of the campaign page: a header is uploaded, and then the accessibility for the client over the network has to be determined.

This product could very well be Instagram’s Hootsuite—a Vancouver passion project that alters the usage of a social network for the good of companies worldwide. An upcoming widget adaptation promises that its functionality can be utilized by bloggers and other digital publications, while ad agencies and event organizers can celebrate communal experiences of their work. Contests on the platform can mobilize users to vote for their favourites, not only building up the community of the brand but the community of each individual Instagram user.

Fanbase is headed to Social Media Week in NYC next week; here’s hoping that in the face of such success, Fanbase remembers that it has its own fanbase right here in Vancouver.