Social media has reached critical mass, but with new channels emerging on the regular, how do brands hit a continuously moving target? The answer is simple: prioritize the channels that are most relevant and most used. According to Pew Research Center, nearly 30 percent of adult Internet users use Instagram—that’s 400 million active users (to put this in context, that’s more than the U.S. population.)

While Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are social media mainstays, marketers are increasingly embracing the power of Instagram. In fact, eMarketer reported that by 2017, 71 percent of U.S. companies will use Instagram for marketing purposes, edging out Twitter.

So, why is Instagram the new “it” channel for brands?

  1. It’s Unique: Images are worth 10,000 words. The highly visual nature of Instagram allows businesses to create interest and action through a more engaging type of storytelling.
  2. It’s User-Friendly: Instagram recently unleashed advertising for brands; it offers custom targeting, call-to-action buttons, and an API that easily pairs with Instagram ad partners.
  3. It’s Native: In a world inundated by marketing messages, Instagram offers a more subtle opportunity to reach audiences—without sidebars, pop-ups or blatant advertisement.

Brands are achieving real results with Instagram. Here are some of the best Instagram accounts and why they rock:

National Geographic


Brand Continuity

With 44.9 million followers, National Geographic is one of the most popular branded Instagram accounts today. It’s tagline reads, “Life is an adventure—enjoy the ride and the world through the eyes of the National Geographic photographers.” The account captures exactly that.

Why they rock: National Geographic’s Instagram images are an extension of its printed magazine, giving its audience a consistent brand experience. The photography showcases unique natural environments, evoking viewer emotion. For a brand founded in the 1800s and



Cross-Channel and Video Integration
Absolut Vodka is a famous lifestyle brand known for its iconic advertising. Its Instagram account features a mash-up of video and images highlighting the Absolut bottle and inventive cocktails. Warning: it might make you want to throw in the towel and head to the nearest bar.

Why they rock: Absolut knows no social channel should live in a silo. As such, it frequently cross-promotes captivating video and images through its other social media networks, like Facebook. In fact, Absolut recently leveraged Facebook to design a video campaign called “Spark Your Night”. It drew a trendy crowd, and then Absolut cross-promoted on Instagram. The multi-channel campaign successfully lifted fan favorability and ad recall.

Ben & Jerry’s

Ben and Jerrys

Advertising Strategy

Ben & Jerry’s was among the first brands to advertise on Instagram, and perfected the recipe for success by realizing that desserts and visual storytelling go hand in hand. Not only do the posts induce salivation, the Vermont-based ice cream maker dominates Instagram advertising strategy in terms of content, targeting, and frequency.

Why they rock: Ben & Jerry’s used Instagram to spread the word about a new Anchorman-inspired ice cream flavor “Scotchy Scotch Scotch”. Over an eight-day period, the brand posted a series of sponsored posts featuring the flavor and targeting Millennials.

Ben & Jerry’s is known for being easy-going and natural, which plays into its advertising strategy. The company manages the frequency of sponsored posts, posting only three times per day, on average, per account. Ben and Jerry’s has done a fantastic job of synching advertising parameters so Instagram users don’t feel bombarded.



User-Generated Content and Practical Application

Chobani, the top-selling Greek yogurt in the U.S., is another amazing food brand on Instagram. Chobani uses sponsored posts that feature playful food imagery in realistic settings. The goal is to demonstrate how to enjoy yogurt as part of a meal; on the account, yogurt is paired with toast, with granola, with fruit—even with pancakes.

Why they rock: Chobani has a clear-cut content strategy that goes beyond posting beautiful food photography. The seasonal strategy features inventive ways to try integrating Chobani’s product into major holiday celebrations, like Valentine’s Day or Christmas. The community management at Chobani is also prolific: the company encourages followers to post images of Chobani-inspired recipes with the hashtag #madewithchobani, further drawing people to the brand.



Unique Calls to Action and Brand Personality

Trips to a Staples store may seem like a snore, but this isn’t the case with the company’s Instagram account, which is inventive and colorful as it creatively displays common office supplies.

Why they rock: On top of posting practical products in playful settings, Staples further engages users with its use of call-to-action captions, making the most of the Instagram real estate.

Check out this recent example; the caption paired with this photo reads, “Clean. Coordinated. There’s nothing better. Don’t you think?” Scroll through the post comments and you’ll see a lot of action. Like other forms of marketing, content that prompts reader response—like posing a question—is a best practice.

Like other top brands on Instagram, Stapes has seasonally-inspired posts that feature unique, real-life product applications; the company even implements the hashtag #OfficeHack to encourage user engagement.

Final Thoughts

Instagram’s community is connected, urban, and progressive, making it an amazing channel for brands to communicate to prospective customers. While users upload 80 million photos each day, it’s important to stand out by being mindful of Instagram best practices. Hopefully this article gave you a few ideas on how to further drive brand engagement, action, and conversion on Instagram.