So this weekend, I found myself in Shoreditch. Previously I never considered myself cool enough to grace this part of LDN, but curiosity took ahold and I set off to experience the alternative parts of E1.

There’s definitely a look that comes with hanging out in this part of town; short trousers, boat shoes with no socks, glasses with fake lenses and vintage (charity) clothing. And the must have accessory? A huge camera. Everybody’s a photographer here and they take photos of anything and everything. I went to a pub and two guys literally just sat taking photos out of the window. But I digress, the interesting thing is that it’s a community; an odd dressing community, but a community nonetheless.

At Cafecreate, we fancy ourselves as photographers, but rather than professional cameras, our outlet is the marketing person’s best friend, an iPhone with added Instagram. For those who may have been living in the proverbial cave, Instagram is not only a photography app, but a social media. A social media worth $1billion. And it is the social aspect that intrigues us. We have found a group of people where creativity can be collectively admired, easily and actively.

The question marketers have agonised over for years is how to monetize social media? However, we understand that there is no short term financial gain from social media, it’s about putting value into your brand, and not cash in your pockets. Social communities are rather opposed to advertising being introduced into ‘their’ space, however come to accept it as part of what is essentially a free service. That’s why at Cafecreate we’ve taken a shine to Instagram. Currently it is free from advertising, yet we have still managed to find value in the platform. The need to be social in today’s world goes without saying, and for a growing agency, generating a strong social presence is paramount to our future success.

We never set out to choose a social media and try and make it work for our marketing needs, rather we took something we enjoyed, something where we felt part of the community, and try and give something back. Social media is a two way engagement. So we decided to run a competition on Instagram. We asked the Instagram faithful to take photos of coffee in the most creative ways possible, hashtag them #coffeecreate and surprise us.

Without a huge global brand behind us, we managed to find an outlet which would become the catalyst in which we could grow our social network. The prize was a cheeky coffee machine and added the incentive that would set off the social chain reaction. We advertised it across all our social channels, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and once we saw Instagram taking off, the other social networks followed suit. Our Instagram followers grew by over 1000 in 2 weeks and we had 2500 entries in that time. Our Facebook and Twitter likes/followers cemented their numbers in the 4 figures and has now given a platform to engage with a larger community. We announced the winners on our Facebook, via a YouTube video.

It’s important to realise that this is not a promotional campaign, it’s a way for a young company to build its following and share what we do with more people, while at the same time, getting involved with what other people our interesting, enabling us to broaden our horizons and take inspiration from more diverse places. It is also important to realise that now the competition is over, our social presence has only just taken off. We have built our own community, our own Shoreditch, and we did it without looking to make a quick buck, but looking for people who are genuinely interested in what we have to offer as a company, in this case it was photography. Instagram is a collective lace for individuality, and if it’s something people want to think of themselves as, it’s an individual. Despite being one of 40 million, people have found a place where they can express themselves. It’s Shoreditch online, just less exclusive and without the dodgy threads. Find something that interests people, find followers, build communities.