Instagram, despite a $1 billion acquisition by Facebook and more than 40 million active users, doesn’t have many options for brands. Many, like Brisk, Coach and Forever21, have set up accounts there, but the growing photo social network hasn’t figured prominently in most social strategies.

Qdoba Mexican Grill is kicking off an interesting foray that will make Instagram an integral part of its latest digital campaign, but won’t exist on the photo platform itself. Instead, Qdoba is using the Instagram API to foster consumer interaction on Qdoba’s website.

The “Tell Us What You Love” campaign asks visitors to complete the phrase “Food for people who love ______.” Qdoba then takes the phrase entered, connects to Instagram via the API, and returns a grid of Instagram photos using the word. Enter “bacon” and you’ll get a mosaic of greasy slabs, tastefully filtered to look artsy.

Guests can also receive coupons from Qdoba by interacting with the images or entering certain words. All rewards must be redeemed via Facebook Connect.

“We, for a time, have been looking to develop a piece of content that would get our point of view on food out to guests and their shared networks,” said David Craven, divisional vp of marketing at Qdoba. “And we were not looking to just post a piece of content on Facebook or Twitter and leave it at that.”

Other brands, like Starbucks, Levi’s and Ford, have tapped Instagram for campaigns, but Qdoba claims it is the first brand to use Instagram’s tagging API to pull in images for the personalized collages made for each individual. Levi’s campaign ran in January, when it was looking to find new models. Consumers were asked to submit photos of themselves on Instagram and tag them #iamlevis to be considered.

The core metrics for measuring the success of Qdoba’s effort are views on the campaign intro video and participation in the word-completion part. Qdoba will monitor the words filled in to see if a theme comes up, which it could use for a potential follow-up effort. The brand will also monitor the number of people who unlock the coupons and actually redeem them. Qdoba will promote the month-long campaign via TV, in-store and the brand’s social media channels.

“Instagram is a great platform for photos of food,” Craven said. “Food drives our business, and so we thought Instagram would be a great way to present ourselves to people and connect them with the brand. The coupon piece is meant to encourage users to redeem on Facebook so that we can then target their network of friends as well.”

Food imagery plays a central role in Qdoba’s social strategy, figuring heavily in its activities on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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