I recently had the opportunity to collaborate on a project with one of my agency's clients that captures the very best of what Instagram has to offer for brands. NewYork.com, a city guide for both locals and tourists, was officially launching its website earlier this month. Though the site had invested heavily in building a top-notch editorial team and commerce platform, it was new to a very cluttered market of similar sites.

To help break through the clutter, we decided to invite the most passionate, committed, connected creators and curators of authentic New York City content to be part of the NewYork.com mission. Since New York City is so visual, we focused on Instagram users. We reviewed hundreds of Instagram feeds that centered on New York photography and picked nine photographers who best exemplified the kind of passion and energy for the city we were seeking. 

We invited our Instagramers out for a day of shooting in New York City, during which we had our own cameras tag along to get an up-close and personal view of how they view the city. Collectively, the photographers shared hundreds of photos with more than 500,000 followers and helped promote NewYork.com to new audiences who weren't familiar with the site. We also chronicled the day in a video that we distributed to news outlets on Twitter using the hash tag #WeLoveThisCity. Then, we invited people to tell us what they love about New York City on either Twitter or Facebook for a chance to win prizes.

The result? The campaign helped us build an army of supporters and generated more than 1.5 million social impressions. The credibility we earned from the campaign also helped fuel a star-studded launch party that brought together some of New York's best known personalities, including Kevin Bacon and Jane Krakowski. Our success was ultimately driven by the media coverage of our Instagram campaign, which ultimately helped reduce our budget and the need for paid media advertising.

Some key takeaways from the experience: First, identify the right social platform for your campaign. For us, Instagram made sense due to the visual nature of the brand we were selling. Our campaign likely wouldn't have been as effective if driven through other, less visual, social platforms. Second, prize passion over follower counts. Our focus was on finding photographers who took the most engaging photos. Great work matters far more than how many followers one has on social media and the quality of the photos we were able to capture was truly inspiring. Third, freedom drives authenticity. We didn't tell the photographers what they should or shouldn't do. Our ask was simple: Help us shoot the essence of what makes New York special to you.