But what exactly should a growing SME want to learn from the top brands on Instagram?
Well, for the younger generations, Facebook is becoming a non-entity, with Snapchat and Instagram cementing their status as the preferred visual-based social media sites.
Indeed, Instagram now boasts eye-popping metrics, with the site having more than 600m monthly active users that share nearly 100m photos a day.
And major brands are taking notice of Instagram’s reach and influence among people of all ages. According to 2016 survey data from Forrester, top brands on Instagram post on average 4.9 times per week and the number of followers for such a company is now averaging more than one million, five times higher than in 2015.
Success for top brands on Instagram comes to those who present creative and authentic imagery and text content. There’s a cohesiveness between the posts and the overall look of the company, with of course an emphasis on visuals that are imminently sharable.
There are many top brands on Instagram building legions of followers through authentic, yet carefully considered and planned posts.
The North Face brand utilises Instagram well, as the company’s page features individuals partaking in grand adventures, whether it’s ice climbing or heli-skiing. The imagery is what’s important, as the page features big landscapes as well as personal shots of athletes, including The North Face-sponsored climbers.
Some posts focus on social justice and sustainability issues, further strengthening the brand’s reputation as a concerned corporate citizen, and reflecting the broader sentiments of the average shopper.
Another of the top brands on Instagram that is building relationships with the public through amazing content is National Geographic. Well known for its print magazine, the brand currently boasts 100,000 more Instagram followers than global clothing and equipment powerhouse Nike.
The success of the National Geographic page is tied to the brand’s expertise in photojournalism and also its ability to present interesting facts and photography tips to accompany some of the images. And this engagement and sharing presents the brand to new generations of followers.
Promoting focused and original content
When building a brand, it’s important to present content that supports your overall message, and reflects the fundamental “who we are” statement. With Instagram, you want to stay focused with your messaging by picking the right images that convey your brand while also promoting your product or service.
Original content is essential, and is a great way to encourage discussion and get people to think, but the content has to have contextual relevance.
Observing other top brands on Instagram, the Starbucks page is a good example of leveraging unique content that spurs conversation balanced by the majority of images including actual images of Starbucks beverages.
The visitor never loses the connection with Starbucks tasty offerings, but they aren’t overwhelmed by a “BUY NOW” message because it’s broken up by the other content. Users are encouraged to post images to the account, providing Starbucks with authenticity and a global source for personalised content.
Dictionary.com offers (as the name suggests) a simple online dictionary for users around the globe. The company’s Instagram page stands out because it presents a “word of the day” along with posts featuring memorable quotations.
The emphasis is on the beauty of language and establishing the site as the go-to location for interesting words.
Expertise can come in many forms. Consider AirBnB’s Instagram page which includes glorious shots of various residences throughout the world, which reinforces the company as the source for eclectic and exciting accommodations.
The posts also subtly reinforce the positive outcomes that can come with the service, such as the benefits of booking a private home when traveling with kids due to access to a kitchen and more space. The imagery and text of the brand’s posts combine to present the company as an authority on authentic travel experiences, not just a source of alternative lodging.
The success of Instagram does increase the number of potential followers, but also the competition for attention. The top brands on Instagram that are standing out from crowd are those that have the right balance of promotion, entertainment, and information.
Nike’s Instagram page offers some posts about a new running shoe alongside iconic shots of LeBron James or Tiger Woods. But all of the images evoke strength, resilience, and the “Just Do It” ethos that’s an essential part of the brand.
Companies that want to create impactful Instagram accounts should look closely at top brands such as FedEx, Starbucks, and The North Face. The goal isn’t to copy their look and feel, but to see how imagery, colours, text, and content should all work together harmoniously to match the brand.
Noelle Federico is CMO of Dreamstime