Instagram is one of the hottest social media platforms available right now, in part because of its youthful demographics, and in part because of its sharp upward growth trajectory. Owned by Facebook, Instagram has more than 400 million monthly visitors (with no signs of its growth slowing down), and brands everywhere are looking to jump into the platform to earn more brand engagements and inbound traffic.
But what is it that makes a good Instagram campaign? The basics, like posting unique, emotionally captivating, functionally useful content, responding to your users, and engaging with influencers apply here. But rather than recite Instagram best practices, let’s take a look at some of the brands that have dominated the platform with their own strategies:
1. National Geographic. If there was ever a “perfect” brand for Instagram, it’s National Geographic. With a reputation for publishing printed magazines and a history that dates back to the 1800s, it would have been easy for National Geographic to stick with what it knew best and avoid social media altogether. Instead, it now has contributors all over the world posting engaging, intriguing images. So far, the organization has built up a host of 53 million followers — a number that consistently continues to grow thanks to the multiplying popularity of the account.
2. Grand Central Station. I’m turning now from an account that features images from all over the world to one that features images mostly from one specific spot. Not a company, per se, Grand Central Station has been doing some amazing things on Instagram. As one of the most popular travel hubs in the world, the location sees millions of locals and tourists alike every day. Rather than leaving these opportunities unexploited, Grand Central Station launched a handful of hashtags, encouraging users to share their experiences via photos and videos. Currently, its Instagram account boasts almost 70,000 followers — which is impressive considering the nature of the brand.
3. Saturday Night Live. Saturday Night Live probably would have attracted a ton of followers regardless of what it posted, but it’s done a phenomenal job of keeping its users engaged (and probably drumming up a bigger viewership for their live shows). Rather than staging any elaborate photography or videography setups, SNL follows close with the brand that viewers have come to know and love, relying on in-the-moment snaps and behind-the-scenes views to give followers the sense that things are unfolding in real time, and naturally.
4. GoPro. Claiming to make the “world’s most versatile camera,” it would be strange if GoPro didn’t have a kickass Instagram account. GoPro encourages users of their product to take exciting pictures and video from all over the world, capitalizing on everything from extreme sports to traveling and vacationing. You get glimpses of places from all over the world, but even more importantly — you get to see the company’s core product in action, with the people who love it the most. It’s built-in marketing and advertising that basically creates itself.
5. ASOS. ASOS is a British retail store that has a unique approach to Instagram marketing. It posts lots of photos of its core products, as you would expect, and has a sizable following of more than 9 million, but what differentiates ASOS is its connectivity with individual accounts. Each individual account functions as a personal brand ambassador, with tags that begin with “asos,” such as “@asos_megan.” These individuals are given a great deal of flexibility to post whatever they want, fashion wise, accumulating their own followings but also tying back to the main brand. It’s led to highly increased visibility for everyone involved.
6. FedEx. FedEx has an interesting approach to Instagram marketing, following a theme of “FedEx in the wild.” The brand encourages its followers to take and submit images they find of FedEx as it exists naturally; for example, a user might take a picture of a FedEx plane as it flies overhead, or a FedEx truck in an unexpected location. This helps its followers keep the brand top-of-mind almost constantly, looking out for opportunities to snap pics. Plus, the brand seems very picky about the content it allows through — only the best-crafted images end up making it onto the brand’s profile.
7. Airbnb. Airbnb is another brand that has a lot of opportunities for high-quality images from all over the world — and it takes advantage of that. The brand and its contributors publish photos of places all over the world, posting about events like SXSW and capturing little-known locations that could be advantageous to tourists and other visitors. Airbnb is especially good at keeping its users engaged, rewarding them for commenting and attracting tons of click-throughs. The quality of the images alone is enough to warrant its inclusion on this list, but the engagement factor takes them to the next level.
The best brand strategies are ones that are unique, ones that get users involved directly, and ones that remain true to the brand (preferably all three). If you can do this, and maintain a steady stream of content over the course of months and years, you can build a similarly massive, engaged following with your Instagram account. Start by prioritizing your customers’ wants and needs, studying the competition, and carving a niche for yourself in your crowded market. From there, a handful of tweaks and adjustments are all you’ll need to perfect your campaign.