How Top Brands are Winning on Instagram

May 10, 2016

Written by NewsWhip

Five must-do steps for brands on Instagram to grow their audience and build their engagement.

Over the past year, Instagram has turned into the place to be for brands. 90 percent of Instagram users are younger than 35. Millennials are now the biggest generation, surpassing Baby Boomers—so it’s important to reach them on their favorite social channels.
40% of Millennials follow companies and brands on Instagram: 48% because the content is funny or interesting, 62% because they love the brand, and 54% want to discover new things.
While users on Facebook usually stick to the people they know, Instagram also provides a place of social discovery, where people follow influencers, favorite brands, etc.  
Here are our five essential steps to boosting engagement on Instagram.

Step One – It’s All About Striking Visuals

Bold, unique visuals get attention on Instagram. According to a recent study by Facebook, photos on Instagram are more likely to be perceived as “distinctive”, “creative”, “imaginative”, and “inspiring”.
How can you visually translate your brand? 

View this post on Instagram

The best part of the cookie? The dough.

A post shared by Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) on

Ben and Jerry’s channel of course shows decadent photos of the ice cream, but also pictures that speak to cultural trends like 4.20 and deconstruct some of their popular ice cream flavors with neatly laid out visuals.  
Another interesting point to note. While videos are the hot thing on social media right now, engagement for video and photos vary on Instagram. While videos on Instagram drive more comments, photos generated 36% more likes in a study of 2014.

Step Two – Show Off Your Brand’s Experience

With Instagram’s algorithmic changes, it’s vital that brands on the channel appeal to their audiences as more than just an advertiser. Instead of just showing a product, brands can use visuals to show off the experience that comes from their product.
Users want to feel an emotional connection to the brands they follow. Instagram lets brands deliver on that. This means having a distinct, identifiable personality and message that people will associate with the brand.
Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Instagram channel is wildly varied, but still speaks to their message of drinking and having a good time. They use artistic shots, inspirational photos of people enjoying life, silly drawings, and of course, dogs.

New Year Goals #Pabst #brewski #PBRpet ?: @lordotispuggle

A photo posted by Pabst Blue Ribbon (@pabstblueribbon) on

All of their photos are bright and colorful and speak to being a brand that’s on point culturally, with their demographic, and emanating a positive brand message overall. Take a free trial of Spike to see the photography trends driving big Instagram engagement. 

Step Three – Make Your Audience Into Content Creators

Instagram is an ideal platform for user-generated content. By sourcing a photo from a user, you can also engage that user’s audience.
Instagram is a natural place for creativity and artistry. There’s an abundance of talented users out there, eager to have their work acknowledged.

FedEx, while by all means, might not seem like it has a lot of opportunity for dazzling posts, gets its users excited by turning its channel into a sort of “Where’s Waldo?” for FedEx. The brand uses almost solely user photos for showing off Fedex “in the wild” sightings.
It’s thrilling for these users to be acknowledged for their snapshots. This inspires fans to create more content and get recognized.
GoPro shows off its product capabilities by sourcing users’ videos. Their followers become the heroes of their channel.

User-generated content works beyond building an audience. 84% of Millennials say that user-generated content has an influence on what they buy.

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Step Four – Remember the Hashtags

Hashtags are a necessary part of growing your content’s reach on Instagram. Posts that include at least one hashtag see an average of 12.6% more engagement.
Hashtags include your post in Instagram searches for the latest posts for that keyword. It ups your chances for discovery. While Instagram lets you include up to 30 hashtags on a post, most brands use five to 10.

Using hashtags that work for your brand, such as Reebok using popular fitness and inspiration-related tags, help more people find your content when they’re searching for a particular hashtag. This way, you’re getting people who are already genuinely interested in what you’re posting. 
Then, there are ‘evergreen hashtags’  that can be used again and again. Websta has a good list of the most engaging tags, such as #TBT for Throwback Thursday, #selfie, or #PhotoOfTheDay.
Social media “holidays” also provide a good chance to jump in on a hashtag and current social media conversation.

Even the White House’s official social media account ramped up big engagement around Star Wars Day last week. 

Step Five – Check the Conversation

Not sure what to post on Instagram? One way to gather ideas is to look at what’s currently getting engagement in your market and around your core themes.
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Oftentimes, smaller brands and influencers are doing more innovative things on Instagram. Using NewsWhip Spike, we can create customized Instagram panels to have a one-stop shop for content discovery and temperature gauging.
From there, it’s just a quick click to check out what’s going viral for your brand’s audience.
food influencers spike
This panel of foodie influencers on Instagram shows us what’s trending for social media.
This doesn’t have to be limited to what’s going on in the sector. @BarbieStyle is a Barbie Instagram account that follows more closely the tactics used by fashion brands. For this account, following what works for highly engaging fashion brands is ideal.

Barbie’s Style Instagram account closely mimics fashion trends, like festival season

What to Remember for Instagram:

Take Instagram’s visuals-only approach as an opportunity to show your users’ a different viewpoint on your brand than they’d see on other channels.
And of course, always be genuine and true to your brand’s message. Interact with your followers in a way that shows you’re speaking to them on their level.
More and more, people expect transparency with the brands they follow. They want a connection to the brands they trust. By creating a personable presence and quality content, brands can grow a community of devoted and loyal fans.

Take a look at what’s buzzing on Instagram with a free trial of Spike


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