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Marketing Social Media

5 Brands with Highly Successful Instagram Marketing Strategies—2016 Edition

7 Minute Read

Although some marketers are still stuck in the Dark Ages—read: the years between 1990 (when the world wide web was born) and 1997 (when social media was incepted)—the majority of the industry is well aware that social media marketing isn’t just a fleeting trend. Today, plenty of large companies have entire departments dedicated to the success of their brands’ social images, while others pay thousands each year to have their social strategies developed and implemented by agencies.

For social-savvy brands, the decision to embrace the advent of Instagram was a no-brainer—and when the app first launched in 2010, they jumped to claim their branded handles before they could get scooped up. From there, those brands went straight to work developing full-fledged Instagram marketing strategies.

Three years after Instagram broke into the social media scene, TrackMaven released its first Fortune 500 Instagram report, which was designed to “[examine] the Fortune 500’s usage and application of the social network with the highest average engagement levels for both B2B and B2C brands: Instagram.” The report revealed that 24.6 percent of Fortune 500 companies had established presences on Instagram. Just three years later, in 2016, the firm has released its latest iteration of the report, which now shows that 50 percent of Fortunes 500 companies have established Instagram accounts. This boost could very well be attributed to three of Instagram’s major strengths:

  1. As of around one year ago, brands of all sizes have been allowed to advertise on Instagram.
  2. The engagement ratio for businesses is 10 times higher on Instagram than it is on Facebook.
  3. B2B brands see 20 times more engagement on Instagram than on LinkedIn.

Back in 2014, the Content Standard highlighted five brands with highly successful Instagram marketing strategies. Two years later, we’ve realized there are a few new players who have entered the arena and are giving others a run for their money. Whether they’re offering products or services, the following brands are utilizing powerful, engaging tactics that both B2C and B2B brands can implement in their own strategies. We strongly recommend taking a peek at these handles, even if it’s just to admire their photos.

1. Patagonia

In the 1980s, Patagonia was a brand designed strictly for rugged mountaineers. But nearly 40 years later, it has built a loyal following of 2 million on Instagram—and you can bet they aren’t all die-hard outdoorsmen. The brand has a truly authentic social presence, managing to appeal both to its loyal mountaineering customers from the 1960s and 70s and to the Millennials who sport its pullover fleeces as a fashion statement. When developing its Instagram strategy, Patagonia skillfully remained mindful of both target audiences, while crafting content that aligns with its mission: to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

The brand frequently utilizes the power of Instagram videos to tell its stories. In under a minute, Patagonia’s videos captivate audiences and drive home a powerful message, all while making a subtle reference to a new product or its brand name. With stellar photography and the long list of environmental and human rights initiatives it supports, Patagonia’s Instagram has set the bar high for all other branded handles that are working to resonate with their audiences by instilling the mission they stand for.

Patagonia Vintage Instagram

2. Birchbox

Easily the youngest company on the list, Birchbox launched nearly six years ago—coincidentally right around the same time as Instagram. In a short period of time, it’s managed to build a very successful brand and execute a brilliant strategy. Its brand statement, “Beauty Picked for You,” is all about simplification, which is made clear when browsing through the company’s feed. The product and service Birchbox offers simplifies the process of shopping for beauty products, while its Instagram handle offers consistent tips and tricks for simplifying your beauty/grooming routine. The Birchbox Instagram feed gives all its followers little bits of added value that feature everything from quick hairstyles for your next date night to the details of morning skin care routines. In addition, the brand uses its handle to engage with loyal consumers. Each month, it encourages subscribers to snap a pic and, using the hashtag #birchbox, share the innovative ways they repurpose the colorful monthly boxes. The company then regrams its favorites, ultimately gaining priceless user-generated content (UGC) while showing its most loyal fans some love.

BirchBox origami

3. Reynolds Kitchen

Reynolds Kitchen does not, in any way, shape, or form, boast the most exciting or popular product to be featured on Instagram. After all, how many photos can you take of tin foil? But surprisingly, it’s managed to implement one of the most impressive Instagram strategies out there—search @ReynoldsKitchen on your phone and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. This stroke of genius is the Endless Table campaign, an Instagram cookbook that launched nearly one year ago. Each Instagram of a seasonal recipe looks scrumptious standing on its on in your Instagram feed, but once you zoom out on the handle to view the entire feed, you’ll see how that one recipe fits perfectly into an endless table of recipes they release weekly. Each individual Instagram either features the recipe in its caption, includes a link to the Reynolds website where you can find the pictured recipe, or hosts its very own separate Instagram handle (which features photographs and instructions for preparing it). The brand even makes the most out of the content creation process by hosting eight influencer dinners over the course of the year. At each dinner they photograph the next addition to the Endless Table, and spark the interest of influencers in the industry.

Reynolds Kitchen Endless Table

4. GE

Launching an Instagram strategy with a B2B mind-set can be difficult, there’s no doubt about that. But during a conversation with TrackMaven’s Director of Content, Kara Burney, I learned it is possible for B2B brands to find success on the platform. “General Electric is absolutely killing it,” Burney said—and after spending some time with its feed, I couldn’t agree more. GE has a remarkably engaging Instagram presence. And even though the majority of the content it features isn’t for your everyday consumer to purchase, any lover of photography, science, or mechanics would be inclined to follow its handle.

GE’s content features such a wide range of the products they create, from stunning photos of complex jet engines to low-magnification images of insects. The handle is all over the place—but in a way that works. Just this past Mother’s Day, the brand took its presence to the next level, featuring their #MothersofInvention campaign to celebrate and tell the stories of powerful women in STEM. This simple campaign humanized the brand while also inspiring women of all ages.

GE #MothersofInvention

5. Starbucks

Last but certainly not least, I had to include the Beyoncé of branded Instagram handles. Featured on our list back in 2014, Starbucks‘ Instagram strategy is still one of the most successful handles out there. Compared to other Fortune 500 Instagram accounts, it has the second-highest following and the highest Instagram engagement ratio. With colorful lifestyle images and quirky stop-motion videos of its products, Starbucks manages to make its followers crave its products with consistent imagery. Eighty-five percent of consumers find UGC more influential than branded photos—and similar to Birchbox, the social team over at Starbucks continues to generate priceless UGC. Just last month, the company launched its #StarbucksonIce campaign, encouraging fans to snap crafty pics with their iced coffees. Needless to say, while the top dozen or so were regrammed and received their 15 minutes of Insta fame, the remaining 2,000+ generated millions of free impressions among various communities. Granted, they have a very popular and appealing product to showcase, but every brand can take a page from Starbucks’ Instagram strategy and the way it promotes engagement within its community.


It’s important to note that these five brands do not all boast astronomically high follower counts. You can easily see that Starbucks has exponentially more followers than Reynolds Kitchen—yet they still both implement very successful strategies. When it comes down to it, if your branded Instagram has a consistent cadence, appeals to your target audience, engages loyal customers, and is providing followers with added value, you can give yourself a pat on the back and deem your strategy successful.

One last note: if your brand has yet to jump on the Instagram marketing bandwagon, don’t let these stellar statistics excite you so much that you rush to create a branded account the second you finish this piece. Remember—one of the biggest mistakes a brand can make is managing a social platform without a solid strategy in place. Not only is inconsistent social content noticeable (in a bad way), but it also leads to a lot of internal headaches for the employees who are tasked with the responsibility. Developing a social strategy before joining any platform as a brand is imperative.

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Lauren DiZazzo is an Associate Community Manager for Skyword, where she is responsible for fostering a community of contributors and creatives. After graduating from Emerson College in 2013, she immersed herself in the always-evolving industry of Social Media. Lauren enjoys exploring new ways to connect and engage with Skyword's Community through social, while also sharing a pop culture news update or two. Reach out to her on Twitter @laurendizazzo.

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