Ah, Instagram. Why do we love you so much? Each of the Top 25 Brands on Instagram could probably give us 25 reasons why they love it, which may have a lot to do with those dollars signs. Instagram has reached a whopping 130 million users and had 16 billion photo uploads in the last 6 months. Its editing ability alone gives this platform a decided edge when used in a promotional campaign. Of course, the high growth of this unique social media platform is continuing and seems to be gaining momentum. The public doesn’t seem to be losing interest, and with Facebook backing it, Instagram will be here for a long time.
Are Ads in Instagram’s Future?
Probably at some point, but make no mistake, Instagram is a branding platform. Several brands are heavily invested, and it is paying off for businesses of all sizes. On the other hand, some companies appear to be challenged by Instagram. They treat it like an online catalogue showing their products, even though Instagram doesn’t allow customers to click on images to be taken to a product page.
An online catalogue was NOT what Kevin Systrom had in mind when he created Instragram. Systrom wanted to create a way to enhance photos, even very large ones, and share them on the internet. This free photo-sharing application is made for smart phones, although you can also access Instagram on your computer.
For Photolovers & Sharers
Instagram was originally made for all of us who love to take photos with our phones, then instantly upload them to social media where people can comment on them. The $1 billion price-tag might have seemed a little pricey 16 months ago, but with its 130 million user base, it seems to be gaining upward mobility right along with Facebook’s 845 million users. Instagram has an unequaled (at this time), ability to reach audiences at a personal, emotional level. It is more like a TV advertisement, though not as long. You have 15 seconds of sharable photo and video time on Instagram. It’s comfortable. We can all stand 15 seconds.
Instagram has broad appeal for businesses. The set up on Instagram gives a way for the business to invite you to enjoy them rather than assaulting your senses. Many sites are humorous, sad, enlightening, fun, fresh, but above all – they are personal. Businesses cannot afford to let this social media pass them by.
To understand what these businesses are doing right on Instagram, and how they are accomplishing it, you have to get on the Instagram app and look for yourself. For instance, “The Onion” is obviously having loads of fun adding their captions to an otherwise common photo. Their spots reflect their unique satirical take on different subjects.
Additionally, “Starbucks” photos are so beautiful, you can look at them all day and it seems like you are tasting those photos! MTV updates on whomever they will be featuring. “Action Shots,” keeps everything light hearted. “ CNN iReport,” features its own photos plus they use crowd sourced photos through hashtags. “CNN iReport,” filters through and selects the best photos to feature. Even the “Playboy” Instagram account is pretty tame and tasteful, using photos of models and the events they are holding.
Peter Bregmany, “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, And Get The Right Things Done,” (Hatchettet Book Group; 2012), says, “People often eat poorly at a buffet because what they want to eat in the moment is different than what they wished they’d have eaten at the end of the day.” Believe me, Instagram is the buffet and the Instagram users will be eating and eating and eating. As businesses, we need to serve up our dishes on this social media. We can’t afford not to.
Here are your top 25 Brands on Instagram and what some of them are doing to attract such a strong following. These stats were sources from Nitrogram50, which is the go-to website to track the brand stats on Instagram. Also available on this site are the industry hashtag, like #Starbucks, so you can quickly navigate Instagram. These stats are kept current.
#25. Louboutin. This brand has shoes, shoes, shoes! Louboutin does a great job with their images. This Instagram has lots of fun color and intriguing staging ideas.
#24. Sephora. At first Sephora’s presence on Instagram seemed to be a little cold. It is like the marketing department was told, “Sell this product!” Now, they have relaxed into a nice rounded mix of ideas that still sell, but now it feels like they are trying to incorporate a personal touch. We needed that personal touch.
#23. Sneaker News. If you need a pair of sneakers and you really don’t know what kind you want, Sneaker News has great pics of shoes for just about every style. The followers love to engage with this company! The Instagram blogger asks a question, and it’s like the fans are voting on the shoe. And guess what? They are.
#22. Burberry. This profile is easy to navigate. Although they use Instagram more as an online catalogue, there is no frustration. We can click on the pic and the item comes up along with comments. This profile has fantastic photos with comments that just beg you to follow…and you want to.
#21. Audi. Audi uses so many pics with people interacting with the vehicle that even I can visualize myself stepping out of my brand spanking new Audi R8. Oh good, they added a video, so I stuck around to watch it. Companies not incorporating a video are missing a large demographic who just look through the profiles hunting for a good video. Dang, only the first part of the vid was good. It showed employees setting up for the show. I wanted it to last longer, or have another vid in the sequence so I would know what happened next. It would help make me feel like I had been there.
#20. Gucci. Gucci is trying to mix it up a little with a unique layout. The first sequence has color photos, then, they seamlessly transition to all black and white pics. Fantastic effect! I scroll down and find a blank square spot in the row of photos. Dang, I looked and watched it load. I REALLY wanted a video here. Overall, I think Gucci uses too many celebs. You know, us normal people love Gucci, too! Gucci has failed to exhibit a key element that nearly every other company has optimized for their profiles. Namely, the use of fans in their imagery. By failing to utilize this option they are sacrificing a sense of community.
#19. Louis Vuitton. This Instagram has lots of fun stuff to look at, but this site is not personal at all. I loved the scene shots, but I felt left out of the action. I’m glad you went to Moscow for the #Louis Vuitton GUM reopening, but so what? I arrive to the pic that shows a backstage venue. I click on this and the caption says, ‘Waiting for the show to begin.’ Yes! Now I’m there! This is what I NEED to feel a part of the action.
#18. Hollister. I love this product, but, seriously, you are NOT listening to your clients?! People, including me, are bugged by so many photos of what’s her name. Look at the comments. The main key to running a good campaign on Instagram is to HEAR what the consumer is saying and change your Instagram accordingly. By ignoring the place where users congregate and chat, Hollister is sacrificing potential followers. Instagram users have to listen to its fan base.
#17. Converse. Can Converse do anything wrong? I mean really. Converse is great at using their fan base in their photos. There are so many Converse moments showing the fans doing the things they love with the shoes they love. Over and over I wanted a video and there is only one shown a few months ago. One thing I didn’t love is Converse seems to be tuned mostly to the musicians but fails to include the rest of us who love this shoe.
#16. Zara. The Zara brand has unique garments, shoes, and bags. They even have cute kid apparel. The selection, however, is very limited, as are the photos on Instagram. You are missing what this social media can do for you by not updating your photos on Instagram and ignoring the communications with your client base. Instagram is a market that no brand can afford to ignore.
#15. NFL. Yes! Just what you would expect from a sports page, and we love it, right down to Adrian Peterson on the Wheaties box. This spot seems to be trying to soften and humanize the dynamic sport of football by showing lighthearted moments between the teams and the fans. They have done a great job. This Instagram shows the funniest moments and the most intense, climatic, and powerful memories that will please any NFL fan. Also, thank you for remembering our troops on 5 August, 2013!
#14. H&M. H&M’S Instagram has masterfully put together photos with a wide variety of visual pleasure. Your eye travels around and back through every pic. H&M has also included photos of their fans, which makes interest soar. The large fan base loves to comment and H&M listens. The H&M company blogger always has interesting tidbits about trends that fans go crazy over.
#13. BMW. Oh, the Welt!! The photo showing the people looking down from the staircase gazing at a BMW has emboldened me to emphatically state, “I need another BMW!” There is a comparatively large diversity shown in their pics, especially when you consider that they are selling only one item. Love it. This Instagram displays so many personal interactions with these cars!
#12. MTV. Any business characterized by a news or music scene is a natural fit for Instagram. People love to watch MTV and they are looking for a taste of MTV’s distinct style here. The MTV Instagram needs VIDEOS! I look forward to even more offerings from MTV on Instagram. Those brands that are not in the news or music industry might want to catch some inspiration from the MTV Instagram and try out some new concepts in selling.
#11. GoPro. Here it is: Presenting incredibly cool photos. They are so dramatic that I almost feel like I’m in alternate reality. However, after watching hours of vids from a GoPro cam my nephew had a couple of weeks ago, I truly wanted, no, EXPECTED, GoPro to exhibit the most distinctive sequences, live, on this social media site. I EXPECTED I would be on the ride like I was with my nephew at Disneyworld, via the cam. I wanted a few twists and turns that I could thrill to! Notwithstanding, this Instagram is truly an exceptional experience photographically. These photographers have taken quality, timing, and excitement to the next level. I gotta have a GoPro!
#10. Michael Kors. We love the 1M pic because it shows appreciation for your fans. However, have you looked at the comments? Pay attention to the fans that REALLY matter to your business. The ones that say your charity is the reason they follow you. You could have said, “Thank you.” Your reply was, “sporty, sexy, glam.” When I came across the great pic, with great intrigue which said, “Sneak peek behind the scenes,” I got excited about it and clicked on the “exclusive video on Facebook…” Nope! It didn’t take me to Facebook. I clicked on the photo to see if that is where I could get to Facebook or twitter. Nope. No link. Most of the Instagrams let us click on a hashtag and we arrive where we want to be. We want that. We DEMAND that. Michael Kors items are well known for being very GLAMOROUS! The photos are glamorous as well, but, please stop blogging the same thing, “sporty, sexy, glam,” on every pic.
#9. Red Bull. Most of the action shots in these pics don’t really have to do with the Red Bull product, but they are fun anyway. The pics that contain actual Red Bull Ads are amazing. It is definitely worth the time to feast your eyes on these photos and to take a sight-seeing tour of this Instagram. You get energy just looking at it.
#8. Victoria’s Secret. You can’t go wrong with a Victoria’s Secret bra. “All The Flirty Details,” says it. Sexy!
#7. Vans. Vans is exceptional at showing social media can include every demographic in their photos. This Instagram is so fun and thrilling. (Warning: don’t look at Vans Instagram at work, because rather quickly everyone will be standing behind you making comments, pointing, “Go back, go back, go back!”)
#6. Topshop. Topshop is running their Instagram campaign pretty much the same as any other media. However, one thing that really sets Topshop apart is they have listened to what their enthusiastic fans want. These fans want to relate by blogging, texting, and getting feedback from each other. Topshop’s Instagram blogger asks a question and the teen scene answers and answers and answers! If this is your demographic, catch a clue! Also, Topshop puts unique events in a photo where fans can watch what’s going on, win tickets, and comment on it. Strategies such as these seem to be what is catapulting Topshop higher in the ratings, not to mention the dollar figures being garnered here.
#5. Forever 21. You can’t help but love this Instagram. I wish there were a few more up-close shots with more detail, but it doesn’t even matter. Forever 21 is listening to its fan base and responding to them. Maybe Forever 21 is at #5 because the younger girls are on the social media sites more often? This reasoning would make sense if the NBA was not third. What do you think? Turns out, “What do you think,” is asked everyday on the Forever 21 Instagram, and the fans love, love, love to respond.
#4. Adidas. WOW! Love it!” “Unite All Originals.” Does that mean that everyone is invited to this party? It did to me. Adidas gives the dates of when new shoes will be in-store on a poster type pic. Like, “The City Marathon PT. In-store 01.SEPT.2013.” They also entice fans to make up a rap and upload themselves performing it. The campaign is called the “Drop a Rhyme” competition, and it’s nothing short of brilliant.
#3. NBA. The NBA has a great presence on Instagram. This Instagram had the best comments section. Man, these fans are serious about everything! The NBA takes us live, with vids, behind the scenes on SO MANY pics! I could have stayed on this NBA Instagram all day. The NBA has taken this sport and allowed it to become deeply personal and accessible on Instagram. The NBA delivers on so many levels with the calendar circled for opening night and even a Christmas Ad.
#2. Starbucks. At the beginning of this article I mentioned Starbucks. They are surely the most striking example of taking a common everyday item and making the idea literally worth its weight in gold. How? Check out this Instagram now! Their Instagram is fresh, lighthearted, cheery, thought provoking, and FUN. It is striking and distinctive. For example, “What will I share with my team?” And, “Best Day Ever!”
#1. Nike. This Instagram is stunning in every way! Incredible photos. There are photos of everything – every sport, every unique shot a brilliant photographer could possibly think to shoot. Wow! The Nike Instagram is virtually a profusion of bright, clear, interesting, and engaging pics. The Nike Instagram writers have unusual posts that are characterized by extremely thoughtful and thought provoking copy. How about the fans? You can’t very well be #1 without your fan base. Nike caters to their fans. Over and over, Nike shows that they listen by posting things their fans might be interested in. An example would be the international #goskateboardingday comment.…who knew? Nike knew about it and posted to Instagram, and their fans love them for it.
It’s understandable for a small, overworked and understaffed business to feel social media is a waste of time. But you better dive in the pool and dive in the deep end: don’t just stand around just getting your toes wet. Get your pics together, write some copy, stick in a 15 second video, show pics of your fans, and respond on as many social media platforms as you can.
By constantly paying attention and moving from one platform to another, social media levels the playing field in business. If your brand is small or local, social media gives you an edge that you would not otherwise have.
People want to be heard, and if we respond from Instagram and other social media, you will quickly see that your fans, clients, and customers are there waiting for you. The fans are waiting for us to give them choices to purchase. So get on Instagram. You can’t afford not to. In the famous words of Nike, ‘Just Do It!”
All images created by Search Engine Journal using images from the aforementioned Instagram accounts.