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Where Marketers Go to Grow

January 28, 2016 // 8:00 AM

16 of the Best Brands on Instagram Right Now

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For a while now, it's been clear that Instagram isn't just a social network for foodies and teenagers. In fact, according to Pew Research Center, a whopping 26% of adult internet users use Instagram.

Given the number of people using Instagram, it's surprising how few businesses have adopted the platform -- or even taken it seriously. In a world where visual content has become a crucial part of any business' marketing strategy, Instagram presents a unique opportunity to visually represent your brand, celebrate its personality, and keep it top-of-mind for all those users who scroll through their Instagram feeds every single day.

Although they're few and far between, there are some brands out there -- in every industry, and with every type of target customer -- who are doing really, really well on Instagram.

Ready to get inspired? Check out this list of brands that are thriving on Instagram right now, and what about their posts sets them apart. (Here's a list of 15 Instagram hacks and features if you're looking to up your own Instagram game.)

16 Brands That Are Crushing It on Instagram

1) WeWork

WeWork provides shared office spaces in cities and countries all over the globe -- so it only makes sense that they should post a lot of photos showcasing their beautiful office spaces. They do an amazing job photographing the spaces in ways that make followers like us wish we could jump into the photos and plop down with our laptops and a coffee.

They don't stop at posting photos of their shared workspaces, though. They also post a lot of content related to their slogan "Do What You Love," and they have hashtags that encourage customers to share their own photos of the spaces. Our favorite is the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag. Not only is it awesome because, well ... dogs, but it's also a great way for the company to promote their laid-back culture while also inviting customers to interact with their brand on social. Near the end of each year, they actually choose the best photo submissions to the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag on Instagram and Facebook and put together a calendar for the following year.

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Here's an example of a hiring call they posted, featuring that slogan again, "Do What You Love":

2) National Geographic

I couldn't possibly write about the best brands on Instagram without including National Geographic, which posts photos from contributors traveling anywhere from large cities to the Arctic to small African villages. They've built an enormous following -- 42.4 million followers as of this posting -- and established themselves as one of the very top Instagram brands in the world. That's pretty darn impressive for a brand founded in 1888 and originally known for its print magazines. In our opinion, this is one of the best examples of a company keeping pace with the ever-evolving world of marketing.

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3) Coca-Cola Argentina

Coca-Cola's social media presence is impressive across all the social platforms. Turns out, the company knows a thing or two about branding. It all boils down to understanding their target audience, which tends to be young people who value fun, friendship, and sports. The brand's personality comes directly from that: It's happy, playful, friendly, refreshing, and all about sharing and having a good time.

Knowing this, take a look at how Coca-Cola Argentina uses Instagram to celebrate that personality and that target audience. (Want to understand your audience better? Download our free buyer persona templates here.)

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4) Frooti

Here's another brand that uses Instagram to showcase their distinctive personality. Frooti, the largest-selling fruit drink brand in India, posts images that are so unique and so consistent that anyone else posting similar content might be seen as a copycat.

Their images are simple, boldly colored designs with a lot of negative space ... and they're also really, really clever and well though-out. Take a look at some of the examples below to see what I mean. You'll find a desert scene that reflects into a winter scene, a mango that casts the shadow in the shape of a Frooti bottle, and a Frooti container being worked on by mini figurines as if it were a building under construction. 

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5) Frank Bod

This Australian body and skin care brand has one of the best presences on Instagram. Their products are coffee-based, so many of their photos include models covered in their product, which basically looks like coffee grounds. This is their signature play on Instagram, and we love how they make fun of themselves with photos like the dalmatian below. The caption paired with that photo is clever: "Some spots are cute, others are bothersome. Target blemishes with my Creamy Face Cleanser & Creamy Face Scrub, and join the #thefrankeffect."

In fact, my colleague Ryan Bonnici warns: "Their witty captions will be your new obsession." Their cheeky hashtag #letsbefrank often follows captions like this one: "I can't give you jewellery, but I can give you the smoothest décolletage to wear it on, babe. #letsbefrank." Fans of the Frank Bod use that hashtag to post photos of themselves covered in the product like the brand's own models, which is a great way for them to interact with and feel close to the brand.

(Warning: Some images on their Instagram page are borderline NSFW.)

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6) Lorna Jane

If your brand were a person, how would you describe its personality? Australian activewear company Lorna Jane has done an awesome job answering this important branding question with their Instagram content. Spend just a few seconds scrolling through their photos, and you'll quickly be able to name their target buyer: a young, sporty, twenty- or thirty-something woman who values looking good while living an active lifestyle.

The images they post, which often show their clothing and accessories, images of women their target buyer persona are colorful, playful, and inspirational, which is a perfect representation of the brand's essence -- in other words, its heart, soul, and spirit.

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7) No Your City

The folks at No Your City produce a series that capture the fascinating stories of people all over the world. Their Instagram account, though, is less about these people and stories and more about showcasing gorgeous images from the cities themselves.

What we love about their photos is how closely they follow the best practices for taking great photos with your phone. Each one of their photos seems to follow at least one of these best practices, whether it's focusing on a single subject, embracing negative space, playing with reflections, or finding interesting perspectives. The photos are consistently stunning, and as a result, the brand has built a solid following.

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8) ASOS

Britain-based retail company ASOS doesn't just post great photos of its clothing and models to their Instagram account -- although they do that really well. What the brand does on Instagram with their personal stylists is really interesting.

Each stylist has an account associated with ASOS, like @asos_megan and @asos_isabella, and they function as brand lifestyle ambassadors.

"They're almost like fashion bloggers," my colleague Elissa Hudson told me. "Each has their own persona, has a huge Instagram following, and publishes content to their individual Instagram accounts that's very similar to the type of content fashion bloggers post. Some of them actually are fashion bloggers, actually, which I imagine is a huge factor in why they were hired in the first place. Can you say ready-made audience?"

The folks who run ASOS' main account post a combination images of their clothing and accessories, their stylists (like the third image below, featuring "beaut hair inspiration from @asos_isabella"), and stuff their target buyer personas would like -- such as the ridiculously indulgent milkshake below, which garnered above-average engagement.

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9) Califia Farms

Califia Farms' natural beverage products have some of the most attractive packaging I've ever seen. In fact, their packaging is so iconic that it won top honors in the global packaging design category from Beverage World Magazine. Instagram is a perfect platform to showcase that cool, curvy bottle, and the folks at Califia don't shy away from doing just that: Most of their posts feature their bottles in some way, whether it's is the main subject of the photo or it's more of an accessory in the context of the active, healthy lifestyle their buyer personas love.

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Something Califia does really well on Instagram is create fun, playful videos and GIFs. Check out this one, which they posted to announce a new product:

And this one, which was just plain clever:

10) Shore Projects

British watch brand, Shore Projects, has a unique relationship with Instagram because they've been active on the platform from the very beginning. “For the first six months of launching the business, the only platform that we actually focused on using was Instagram,” says Neil Waller, the company's co-founder.

The first chunk of text on the company's homepage reads, "Shore Projects is a watch brand inspired by the beauty and fun of the British seaside." Clearly, the brand has a strong connection with some very specific imagery, which meant they already had a great foundation for image-based branding on Instagram. Many of their photos are taken on the beaches and coasts of the U.K., and those that aren't maintain the look and feel of the British seaside with faded colors and a lot of grey and green hues. (Read this blog post to learn more about creating color schemes for your brand's Instagram content.)

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11) New York Air Book

This Instagram account is run by New Jersey-based photographer named George Steinmetz. While Steinmetz's general photography covers all sorts of subjects outside of New York City from the air (including "Brazil Dunes," "Florida Sea Level," and "Tree People"), he created an Instagram account specifically to post his aerial photographs of New York.

We love that he picked a niche subject and dedicated an entire account to it where he publishes stunning photographs on a consistent basis. While his followers know what type of content to expect from him, he somehow comes up with cool, surprising subjects that make for posts people love to engage with by Liking and commenting.

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12) Staples

The folks at Staples do a lot of things right when it comes to their Instagram content, but they do two things particularly well: engaging their followers with questions and calls-to-action in their captions, and staying true to their brand's playful-yet-practical personality.

When it comes to engaging their followers, it's all about asking questions in the photo captions. For example, check out the second photo below featuring a series of emojis. The caption paired with this photo reads, "That's pretty much our day. How about yours? Tell us in emojis." Scroll through the comments on that photo, and you'll see followers had a lot of fun responding. The caption paired with the first photo below of the bulletin board is paired with a caption asking people to share comments and photos of their bulletin board ideas to help get teachers ready for the school year.

Staples does a great job staying true to brand by posting fun photos such as the "2016" shot written in office supplies and using the #OfficeHack hashtag to engage their following. 

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The folks at Staples also use Instagram to post cute videos and GIFs, like the one below celebrating the fall season:

13) Everlane

Just like your written content should have a consistent voice, your visual content should have a consistent look and feel. People like consistency because in many people's minds, it equals trust. Everlane has their brand consistency down pat. Whether the subject of a post is one of their products or a city landscape, they stay true to their signature faded, grey/black/white look.

We also love their captions. For example, the first photo below (which is already funny) is paired with the caption, "About how cold we feel right now." Their captions convey a funny, familiar voice that their buyers can relate to -- and their posts get a whole lot of Likes as a result. 

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14) Headspace

Like Frooti, Headspace's Instagram content boasts bold colors and a lot of negative space. Whereas Frooti's posts were clever and whimsical, though, the folks at Headspace -- who are in the business of guided meditation -- post a lot of graphics featuring tips, tricks, and reminders for practicing mindfulness and meditation.

For example, the second photo in the examples below challenges followers to turn their phones off for 10 minutes. Since Instagram is primarily a mobile app, the post serves as a timely, friendly reminder of how much time we spend staring at our phones.

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15) Saturday Night Live

While a lot of the best Instagram accounts are all about super high photo quality, in some cases, what's in the photos themselves matters a whole lot more. This is the case for the famous sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. Their followers aren't expecting these folks to post meticulously edited, perfectly framed photos. In fact, doing so would feel a little off-brand from its kind of informal, off-the-cuff personality. Instead, they use Instagram to give fans of the show a sort of "backstage pass" with the hashtag #SNLbackstage -- and people love it.

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They also include short videos of the actors doing silly things offstage, or clips of their live shows:

16) FedEx

The theme of FedEx's Instagram posts is really cool: It's basically a curation of "FedEx in the Wild." While this isn't true of every photo, the vast majority of them are taken and submitted by external contributors. They don't just post any old photos submitted to them, though: The quality of the photos is so darn good that it's clear they're carefully choosing only the best ones. This is a cool way to keep their brand top-of-mind for followers who might, as a result, look for or notice FedEx trucks, planes, or delivery people more often.

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Which are your favorite business-run Instagram accounts? Share with us in the comments.

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Topics: Social Media Ecommerce Design Content Marketing Pop Culture

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