Oct 10

Top Brands on Instagram and What We Can Learn from Them

Instagram is the place to be for brands. The visual platform has been growing exponentially since it was launched in 2010. With 1 billion monthly users, it is the second most engaged social platform in the world, just behind its owner, Facebook. So how can you standout against the other 2 million brands on Instagram? A good way to start is by studying the 10 top brands on Instagram. Sound like a lot of work? Not to worry, we’ve compiled this roundup with the most important lessons from each of the 10 most popular accounts on Instagram.

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#1 Instagram, 256 million followers (@instagram)

Instagram Profile

Unsurprisingly, Instagram’s own account is the most popular on the platform. It shares top content from users around the world, which inspires other Instagrammers to create and share beautiful content on their own feeds – a cycle that keeps on giving! They also engage with weekly trends, such as the #WeeklyFluff, a weekly post where they share a cute image of an animal. These posts tend to be their most popular post each week. Instagram knows exactly what people are attracted to, so they’re a great resource for inspiration for brands. They also do an excellent job of re-sharing user generated content which is something that all brands can do!

#2 National Geographic, 92 million followers (@natgeo)

National Geographic Profile

Known for their epic news stories and photography, National Geographic is an unsurprising leader on this list. Not only do they have some of the best images on Instagram, but they also truly understand their audience. While most articles live on their website, they know that most of their followers don’t want to leave the app to read more. Instead of constantly promoting articles on their site, they provide only the highlights on their posts and stories. They cater their content to the platform extremely well. Many brands struggle to find the balance that is selling themselves and fitting into Instagram’s landscape, and therefore struggle to grow a substantial following.

#3 Nike, 81.2 million followers (@nike)

Nike Instagram Profile

To earn their spot on the list, Nike posts a mix of content. From celebrity-endorsed, through to lifestyle-based performance shots. Using still imagery, animated imagery, and video to “define moments”. The brand also uses emotive motivation often in their posts (as evident with the viral Colin Kapernick campaign), earning them up to 500,000 likes per post. They also do a great job of highlighting the lifestyle associated with Nike without overly using their own branding. Nike continually promotes their products, but they do it via untold storytelling, a tactic that a lot of brands could leverage.

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#4 Real Madrid C.F., 64.1 million followers (@realmadrid)

Real Madrid Instagram Profile

Soccer (football), is the most popular sport in the world, and Real Madrid has been one of the leading teams for several years, so it’s no surprise they’ve cracked the list of top brands on Instagram. They obviously have a lot of team fans that follow them, but they have a clear lead against any other sports team because they do more than just provide team highlights and news. They also provide daily insights into players’ lives, which helps people feel connected to their favorite players on a more personal level. People love getting insight into seeing how others live their day-to-day lives. Think influencer marketing at its best!

#5 Victoria’s Secret, 61.4 million (@victoriassecert)

Victoria's Secret Instagram Profile

Victoria’s Secret champions influencer marketing. Besides posting images of models in their product, they often re-gram images of their Angels going about their daily lives. They provide style tips and workout advice directly from their team to give their audience the inside scoop on lifestyle topics they care about. The power of influencers is only growing as people shop online at an increased rate!

#6 9GAG, 47.5 million followers (@9gag)

9GAG Instagram Profile

9GAG is the star of Instagram comedy. They receive thousands of comments on each post and have mastered how to maintain an engaged audience. Their content is relatable and capitalizes on fun pop culture references. This encourages people to tag their friends and share their posts, which is basically free advertising! They also have daily “This or That” polls and “Guess The TV Show” stories where users can find the answer on their website. This is a great way to keep a loyal following base and drive traffic to your website without force!

#7 NASA, 36.1 million (@nasa)

Nasa Instagram Profile

NASA is a great informational resource with tons of stunning images on Instagram. They make some of the most exciting and complex science discoveries and make them accessible to their Instagram audience. Their captions and stories aren’t just for aerospace engineers, they’re easy to digest at any reading level. NASA’s popularity on Instagram proves that being an informational resource can be a strength, if you do it right!

#8 NBA, 31.1 million (@nba)

NBA Instagram Profile

The NBA is the place to be for those who live and breathe basketball. While basketball has not cracked the top 5 most popular sports, the NBA sure has adopted a strong and successful Instagram strategy. They post highlights from all teams, which simultaneously capitalizes on players’ fanbases and team rivalries, encouraging engagement on their posts.

#9 CHANEL, 30.4 million followers (@chanelofficial)

Chanel Instagram Profile

It’s a great achievement to be the most popular fashion house on Instagram. Many who have access to the best photographers and models do not understand their audience, but Chanel has found the recipe for success. The most powerful strategy that Chanel uses on their Instagram is nostalgia, a feeling that resonates well with their target audience. They often post black and white images of Coco Chanel, which connotes the timelessness of the brand.

#10 Adidas, 22 million followers (@adidas)

Adidas Instagram Profile

While Adidas uses a similar strategy to Nike, they use lots of influencers who aren’t associated with the sports industry, like Kylie Jenner, Alexander Wang and Pharrell Williams. This establishes Adidas as a lifestyle brand that can be worn for any purpose, not just athletics! Some of the top brands on Instagram benefit from a very narrow and strict strategy, but Adidas utilizes the benefits of a more general approach to reach a broader audience.

Click here to see 5 mistakes content marketers are making – and how to avoid them!

A brand’s Instagram is a powerful tool for spreading brand awareness, reaching new audiences, developing a loyal client base and driving users to your website. Using the platform strategically is essential for achieving your digital marketing goals. Considering there are 2 million other companies competing for attention, it’s important to learn from those already killing it on the platform!

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