By Julie Livingston, Senior Account Executive, CarrotNewYork, formerly Senior Director, Public Relations, Toy Industry Association

The adage “a picture tells a thousand words” perfectly describes the free, mobile-sharing app Instagram. The simple act of setting up your Toy Fair product line, exhibit booth, or private showroom can be turned into a compelling narrative easily and effectively. The free application has a simple interface; the bottom part of the app allows you to access the feed and see all of the photos added by you and the individuals you follow. You can click comment to voice your opinion and like a photo by clicking on the heart icon. To give Instagram photos a promotional edge, add a caption including a hashtag or two, such as #BrandXYZ and #TF as well as other, common Instagram tags such as #toys,  #love or #photooftheday that are relevant to your show posts. The site Webstagram is a helpful tool for identifying which hashtags are trending. Remember that although Instagram is a terrific mobile marketing tool, it works best in tandem with other visual content sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, as these offer the best viral impact for sharing and discussing photos.

Before moving forward, consider how Instagram fits into your strategic communications plan, so that messaging across all social and traditional media platforms is consistent. For example, if your company’s technological innovation is your key message, then your Instagram photos should consistently communicate innovation and creativity.

Incorporate these five Instagram tips to pump up your Toy Fair presence at this year’s show.

Product News

The media and retail buyers are attending Toy Fair to spot trends and see what’s new. Using Instagram allows your followers to do virtual window-shopping before, during, and after the event. It also gives you a platform to showcase key driver products and details that set your brand apart.

However, if your Toy Fair communications strategy is to underscore your company’s cutting edge innovation, then zero in on the qualities that make your toys stand out. This may include new technology, product design, or packaging.

Your Toy Does What?

People covering Toy Fair may think they’ve seen it all, but you can prove them wrong with a little ingenuity. Use Instagram to create interest and drive traffic by showing how your toy works and what it can do. This may also include humorous references to inspire likes, responses, and user-generated content.

How Did You Make That?

People love to see how toys are made and what makes them spring to life. Illustrate the fine points with detailed photographs and captions. For example, the way a doll mold is created or how their eyelashes and makeup are applied can provide tremendous insight into a plaything’s individuality and quality.  Showing the intricacies of how a remote-control toy operates (without giving away any secrets) can stimulate media interest and land your toy in a Toy Fair TV segment that drives momentum and grassroots buzz. Additionally, “before and after” photos that illustrate how your plaything springs to life can be extremely captivating and lure reporters to your product line.

Give a Sneak Peek

Toy Fair setup and breakdown may be matter-of-fact to you, but to the media and others it can be extremely revealing. Things that are behind the scenes or that have never been seen make for particularly shareable content, so be sure to publish the post to Facebook and Twitter as well. This may include the various phases of exhibit booth setup or display assembly.

Employee Reportage

Humanize your Toy Fair message by enlisting other team members to report and share their personal show experiences on Instagram. This can include New York landmarks (think: Empire State Building, Javits Center expansion, Statue of Liberty, or Freedom Tower), whimsical shots of favorite fast food joints or a Pedi cab. Spotlighted employees will enjoy their “fifteen minutes of fame” and Instagram followers will get a chance to see the people behind the scenes. Be sure to liven the post with a little information on the employee in the caption.

Star/Character Power

We live in a celebrity-crazed society, so if your brand is aligned with a star or if you have a costumed character on site, photograph them in action. This is ideal if the celebrity or character is interacting with your brand, signing autographs, or taking snapshots with fans.

Are you on Instagram? What creative uses of Instagram have you seen?