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Updated: Dec 23, 2019
Despite Instagram’s huge popularity, many brands struggle to create a relevant identify for themselves on the platform. Admittedly, a visual medium with seemingly minimal opportunities for multi-dimensional engagement can appear limiting at first, and some brands could be forgiven for thinking it’s not the right forum for them.
Rather than thinking about social media as this endless procession of platforms that you have to appear on if you want to get in front of the public’s eyeballs, think about it as an ever-expanding toolkit for creating interesting opportunities to connect with your customers. There’s not really just one way to use Instagram. You can use it to showcase bigger creative campaigns as some brands do, or you can simply share your world with your customers by creating a feed that’s wonderful to look at.
If you’re struggling to find your footing on Instagram, take inspiration from some of the 10 brands featured below. These companies have figured out how to do Instagram the right way.
No article on brands succeeding in social media would be complete without a shout out to GoPro. How is it relevant to small business owners? Every bit of content on GoPro’s Instagram feed is curated. All of the exciting content they publish is generated by users of their products. How are your customers using your products? It may not be as thrilling as GoPro, but it could give people a chance to see your offerings in the real world.
Sharpie is another brand featuring user generated content. The reason they’re able to get so much high quality content from users is because they’re so ubiquitous that the type of pen they manufacture is simply referred to by their brand name. However, the key point here is that they’re showing the world what their product does. What does your company really do?
The whisky maker has a few feeds on Instagram. Their main feed is exactly what you’d expect: pictures of whisky bottles. It also features a mix of advertising and illustration. However, the really interesting stuff Ballantine’s is crafting on Instagram is something that they’re calling the first Instazine. Perhaps you’ve seen one of the many profiles that features mosaics that make use of the user feed to show bigger, scrolling imagery, as opposed to the individual pictures. Ballantine’s Instazine, W, features a bunch of cool articles about whisky related stuff, all accessible through creative use of the tagging feature. Make sure to view on your phone to get the full effect.
Curation is an option for brands that can’t or don’t want to create original content. After all, excellent curation is the calling card of any store worth shopping. Totokaelo, retailer of luxury fashions, presents evocative pictures from the formative days of Yohji Yamamoto, Jil Sander and the Belgian 6, signifying their brand’s overlap with some of the most innovative figures ever to work in fashion. Any business who wants to give their customers a history lesson, or to show their influences, can do the same.
It’s kind of amazing how many different ways you can make bread look beautiful. In fact, this feed is a masterclass in how you can take something as elemental as a simple loaf of bread and style it, or present it in its natural context, or show how it’s made, or show people enjoying it, or show the crumbs left after it’s gone, or show the delicious things you can spread on it… Instagram makes it easy to make your products look good, it’s up to you to imagine how people would like to see them.
Gin Lane is a creative technology studio that make cool stuff for the web and other devices. Their Instagram profile showcases their company culture and vibe in a way that should feel accessible to any small business. By showing their office, sharing bits of their work, and offering a window into the lives of their employees, they’re telling their followers that they’re a nice place to work, they’re proud of the work, and you should check them out if you need something that they can do. Instagram doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be a sales channel. If nothing else, it can be another place for you to remind people that you’re there.
Instagram’s filters are so good that they even make garbage look good. As they say in their bio, Waste Management are the biggest provider of ‘environmental solutions’ in North America. Of course, another great thing about Waste Management’s feed is that gives us a peek into a world that many of us don’t think about. Giving us a peek into a world that few of us know can be a gratifying experience.
General Electric’s feed is full of captivating imagery and cool opportunities for learning. They share beautifully shot photos of incredible machines and many of the photos are captioned with a miniature lesson in some obscure science. If you ever wanted to feel like you were looking at Ridley Scott film while learning a bit of electrical engineering or materials science, this is the feed for you. The takeaway here is to not be afraid to get technical. Feel free to teach your audience something they didn’t know they wanted to know.
Much like GoPro, Old Spice has been so frequently praised for their presence on social media that it almost seems unnecessary to put them on this list. However, much like GoPro, they really are an example of how to do one certain thing exactly the right way… That one certain thing is to be very, very weird. It’s not an easy feat to pull off, because weird can easily be off-putting, but in the case of a product that one applies to their armpit, the brand identity might allow for a few idiosyncrasies. If you can do weird and funny without alienating your customers, it’s something that always works on the internet.
Michael Jones is a Senior Editor for Funding Circle, specializing in small business loans. He holds a degree in International Business and Economics from Boston University's Questrom School of Business. Prior to Funding Circle, Michael was the Head of Content for Bond Street, a venture-backed FinTech company specializing in small business loans. He has written extensively about small business loans, entrepreneurship, and marketing.