The 4 Biggest Brands Winning on Instagram


Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Instagram, the traditional go-to place to debut your latest selfie, is also fast becoming the go-to place for brands and advertising.

Article 5 Minutes
The 4 Biggest Brands Winning on Instagram

With over 500 million users, 300 million of which use the social media site every single day, it’s no surprise that brands are utilising this channel to capture the attention of consumers.

According to research by Salesforce, 34% of marketers actively use Instagram, whilst a large majority (67%) find it very effective. Unlike Facebook, where followers usually stick to people, and brands, that they know, Instagram provides somewhere for new discoveries on a global scale; more than 80% of Instagram users live outside the United States.

Instagram also provides a useful platform for brands targeting generations who have massive buying power, but often reject traditional advertising methods, such as Millennials. Marketers find it challenging to reach this generation in a cost-efficient way, capturing their attention in a fragmented space whilst engaging them at the right time.

Research by Adparlor found that 40% of Millennials follow companies or brands on Instagram, mostly because they love it (62%), but also because they want to discover new things (54%) or because the content is interesting or funny (48%), proving if you do it right, Instagram can be a great marketing tool for brands. We’ve all heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but using pictures to tell your brands story can be a difficult thing to grasp.

So, how are brands successfully telling their stories in such unique, creative ways? Here are four of the biggest brands that are doing just that, and constantly winning on Instagram.

National Geographic

The 4 Biggest Brands Winning on Instagram

National Geographic’s Instagram account is essentially an extension of its printed magazine and a fantastic example of brand continuity. With over 63 million users, it’s one of the most popular branded Instagram accounts, and just one post attracts hundreds of thousands of likes. It’s tagline reads: “Life is an adventure – enjoy the ride and the world through the eyes of the National Geographic photographers”, and the account does exactly that.

The use of striking and colourful visuals match the brands reputation for beautiful photography whilst encompassing the institution and its objectives. Ken Geiger, National Geographic deputy director of photography said: “For a long time National Geographic has set the bar for quality photography. It is a brand name that people recognize worldwide as the equivalent to high quality photography. So, we decided to handle the account differently.

“We opened our account to 80-90 of our photographers, probably the best in the world, and they self-post. We share the password and the only thing they are asked to do, is to maintain the quality we are known for. Plus, little things, like to leave an hour between each post. It’s a simple formula for sharing photography with an audience that otherwise we may not have reached.”


The 4 Biggest Brands Winning on Instagram

You might think after a few hundred photos of the same Frappuccino you would lose interest, but somehow Starbucks continually deliver fun and unique ways to showcase their products and keep attracting consumers to their account. Only two years ago, Starbucks came out second in Instagram ratings by Nitrogram, an analytics firm providing comprehensive statistics on how brands compare on the social app, with 2,063,755 followers. Now, Starbucks has over 12 million followers, and 167,000 on its UK account.

The success of Starbucks on Instagram has much to do with finding and sharing photos posted by consumers. This use of user-generated content engages with their audience on a daily, even hourly basis and acknowledges the creativity of others at the same time. Even if you don’t follow Starbucks on Instagram, it’s more than likely you’ll see someone post their own photograph. And this combined with a great use of hashtags, it’s no wonder this brand is so successful.


The 4 Biggest Brands Winning on Instagram

Pen pots and paper clips might seem boring to many, but if you look at Staples Instagram, the most common office supplies are displayed in the most inventive and colourful way. Apart from the creative showcases of their products, one of the ways this brand wins on Instagram is by engaging with their followers.

In the majority of Staples photo captions, you’ll find a question wondering how your day is going, or asking for opinions on products. If you scroll through a feed on one of their images, you will see interactions with followers and a bunch of fun responses, delivering great customer service. And with more than 70% of customers spending more with a company because of a history of good service, it’s no surprise these interactions provide good marketing outcomes for this brand.

Although Staples doesn’t have as big a following as many other brands, at 33,000 followers, the quality of customer care and customer engagement more than makes up for it.


The 4 Biggest Brands Winning on Instagram

In January 2015, Nike had 10.7 million followers. Fast forward nearly two years, and they have over 66 million followers, making them one of the biggest brands on Instagram. But what makes them so successful?

Thibaut Davoult, Nitrogram’s content manager said: “Nike really understand the psychology of Instagram. On its official account and all its ‘child accounts’ like @nikerunning and @nikefootball, you’ll only see photos that feel right on Instagram: beautifully shot landscapes, people using the product in context — the kind of real-life-and-in-the-moment feeling that Instagram is all about.”

Unlike images suited to Pinterest, which feature a more “mood-board-like design”, Davoult says Nike only use photos that feature something in the background. Whether this is a city skyline or the view of snowy mountains, Nike’s pictures are always engaging.

When using Instagram as a marketing tool, successful brands have a few things in common; their images are striking and represent brand continuity, they capture the objective of the brand and make use of their audience, turning them into content creators. They use the platform to target and interact with audiences that they wouldn’t otherwise engage with. So, if you can effectively master all of these common traits, there’s no reason why all brands can’t be winners on Instagram.

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