3 Companies That Crush Instagram and What You Can Learn From Them
At some point each month, more than 800 million people worldwide open up that pink camera icon and scroll through their Instagram feed. The Facebook-owned photo-sharing app isn’t just globally popular. It’s fundamentally changed how brands shape their public image and reach new audiences.
To get noticed, businesses have to do a lot more than add trending hashtags, write amusing captions, and post catchy images. They have to build a unique brand presence exclusively on Instagram, cultivate a lifestyle based on the products they offer and connect with followers about their business. It’s an ongoing, evolving process.
The most successful brands on Instagram don’t necessarily have the most followers. They have the most engaged followers: people who leave comments, ask questions, and like posts.
All brands on Instagram aren’t created equal. Here are 3 brands whose Instagram game is so strong you can’t help but take notes.
1. Tesla Motors
On April 22nd, Tesla announced that its electric cars were responsible for driving 7.2 billion miles. That amount, the Palo Alto car manufacturer argued, meant that the protagonists from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins, and Samwise Gamgee, could travel from their fictitious home on Bag End to the end of their journey at Mt. Doom exactly 5,390,117 times.
The post featured an understated black-and-white sketch of a volcano erupting. It had more than 158,000 likes, meaning that its engagement was right at the sweet spot coveted by all major Instagram business accounts—just above 3 percent.
What can your brand learn from Tesla’s Instagram? Stay niche and stay relevant.
Any vehicle manufacturer can post exciting Instagram videos of a new prototype, spinning its wheel on a dusty track in the middle of the desert. Only Tesla can get away with posting a graphic that compares the notoriously long plot of a beloved J.R.R. Tolkien novel to the amount of CO2 emissions its electric cars have saved.
This touch of obscurity is what audiences love about Tesla. Its relatively small Instagram audience (about 4.7 million people) is by design. Tesla’s brand isn’t for everyone. It’s meant for well-educated, professional people who not only have disposable income but believe in the future of electric cars. For every fun post about science fiction, Tesla shares arguably 100 posts about battery performance, solar panel technology, and Model 3 updates.
In summer 2018, Airbnb announced that it would now be hosting a highly unusual Instagram promotion: an overnight stay on the Great Wall of China. The one-time-only stay was part of Airbnb’s regular Instagram campaign called Night At (#nightat).
As part of the campaign, Airbnb invites Instagram followers to win a free night at a unique location. For example, one Night At contest gave two people a free trip to celebrate Halloween at Bran Castle in Transylvania. Another contest offered the experience of a total solar eclipse in a custom-built geodesic dome in the middle of Oregon. In a cross-promotion with Lego, Airbnb gave one family a trip to spend a night at the Lego House.
What can your brand learn from Airbnb’s Instagram account? Choose content that’s decidedly unexpected.
Any hotel can share posts of comfortable rooms overlooking a Caribbean beach. Only Airbnb can build enough excitement to convince people to sleep on the Great Wall of China. The room-sharing app succeeds on Instagram by leveraging its most unique experiences. It features out-of-the-way locations and sometimes strange, thought-provoking places to stay.
How does that translate for your audience? Even if most travelers just rent a $50 per night room, they feel like they’re participating in something that specifically suits their tastes. Over time, that helps to grow brand loyalty.
During a recent wildfire, Reuters photographer Alexandria Sage captured the rubble of now-blackened car fires and burnt homes outside of Keswick, California. The image looks apocalyptic. Smoke swirled. A Forest Service helicopter speed across the horizon. It’s unclear what time of day it is. It’s dark and cloudy.
Though the image didn’t feature a single person, it conveyed the human impact of the devastation. As a result, Instagram followers wanted to know more about the current wildfire season and how it was affecting people in rural California. The post was informative and helpful. It also broached a challenging topic in a personal way for readers.
Not every Instagram account is about fun. Some brands need to strike a more serious tone and focus on using Instagram as an information-gathering and information-sharing tool. No brand does this better than Reuters, which uses photo sharing as a means to provide their audience with real-time information about world events.
What can your brand learn from Reuters’ Instagram? Choose photos that deliver a clear message and create captions that stick to the facts.
Instagram is as much about brand building as it is about building trust, particularly for more traditional businesses.
Instead of worrying about Instagram contests and unique hashtags, focus on sharing high-quality images. Compose captions that contain newsworthy information about your business and its industry. Share links to reputable studies in your bio line. Feature industry experts. Don’t shy away from citing sources and curating articles you think your audience will appreciate.
More serious-minded brands use Instagram as a kind of microblogging platform. Every post gives your business the opportunity to inform and the account serves as a stand-alone news channel for your company.
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Social media complements, not supplants, your business website. Every company featured on this list has dedicated significant resources to building a world-class professional site, developing content, and growing a well-rounded online presence.
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