For all of you SEO marketers who think that the mobile app Instagram is just another fun, silly recreational activity, think again. Like its social media predecessors, a la Twitter and Facebook, this popular photo-sharing service has recently proven its clout as an effective marketing tool with a great deal of promise and potential. The evidence comes from Ford’s use of the app to promote its Ford Fiesta throughout Europe this past fall, in a recent report by Mashable.

Ford, with the help of London-based marketing firm Blue Hive, hosted a six week contest on Instagram, titled “Fiestagram.” Each week, Ford would release a hashtag related to one of the Ford Fiesta’s features. What is interesting, however, is that Ford would choose words that were more open-ended, like #entry and #music, thus leaving the door open for many creative submissions from the contest’s participants.

After every round of submissions, Ford gave away multiple prizes to those who submitted the most stunning or striking photos. The prizes grew in value every week, with the sixth and final one being a Ford Fiesta. By the end of the competition, an astonishing 16,311 images total had been submitted to #fiestagram. By all accounts, this was a highly successful SEO marketing campaign, making excellent use of a social media outlet.

What exactly about this Ford-concocted formula made it a successful marketing endeavor? There are several reasons. First of all, Ford chose a unique yet highly popular social media site that offered an already-existing strong, supportive, and inclusive community. Members of the Instagram community maintain an almost nurturing environment, in which they proactively appreciate and promote each other’s images. Many encouraged each other to enter the competition. Thus they organically brought attention and greater participation to the contest.

Secondly, Ford took the time to understand the medium, and catered to it perfectly. Instagram is already a highly popular app throughout the world because it is really fun, intrinsically bringing out people’s desires to be creative, share their creative effort, and both give and receive support for them. On top of all that, the app is incredibly easy to use. Ford utilized the language of the community to make its promotion seem much more organic rather than forced, drawing users to it.

And the third reason for Ford’s success with #Fiestagram was its prize giveaways. Giving out multiples of increasingly valuable prizes every week not only kept participants excited and engaged, but drew many more into the contest. Of course, not every business has the financial clout to give away expensive prizes like iPads and cars, but even giving away samples of products can provide a huge boost to an SEO marketing campaign.

Ford’s #Fiestagram competition is an ideal example of how a company can successfully promote a product using social media. The more creative a business can make it, the better. With that in mind, take some time this weekend to consider how your business can best utilize any social media outlet to promote its newest product or service.