With 200 million monthly users uploading a staggering 60 million photos a day, Instagram has seen some of the most significant and rapid growth of any social media platform. Brands who negate it are now missing out on a crucial digital marketing channel, so how can they make the most of what Instagram has to offer?
To find out, we analysed the top 5 brands on Instagram using the Totems list, which orders companies according to their number of followers and contributors (posts on their hashtag). It currently ranks Nike, Starbucks, Adidas Originals, Topshop and the NBA as the top five most popular brands on Instagram.
Top 5 Brands on Instagram
The NBA Instagram account has just under 3.5 million followers, which is almost double that of the next biggest sports franchise, the NFL. So why such a massive difference? The main reason the NBA carries such an advantage over other similar brands is that they understand their fans’ interests, and specifically tailor their content to them.
Sports fans are far more likely to be interested in videos than images, as this allows them to watch recent match highlights. This is much more valuable to them than stills, so the NBA takes this into account; more than half of their uploads are videos. While Instagram is mainly known as an image-sharing platform, it’s important for brands to bear in mind that video content might be better suited to their demographic.
Topshop have the prestigious title of the most popular brand on Instagram, despite having almost 2 million fewer followers than nearest rivals Forever 21. The reason for this is the amount of engagement their account generates, with Topshop attaining over twice as many posts on their hashtag than Forever 21.
This user engagement that they inspire comes from not only having a solid understanding of their target market’s interests (music concerts, holiday destinations, fashion shows, etc.) but also from their use of interactive strategies, such as competitions. For example, when marketing a new range of prom dresses, Topshop offered a fully personalised prom dress as an Instagram-exclusive competition prize. Unsurprisingly, this proved extremely popular and, in the first hour after uploading, the relevant post received almost 25,000 Likes.
The Adidas Originals account exemplifies exactly what a brand should try and communicate through Instagram: personality. The standard Adidas account previously used a more corporate approach, but that has since been completely overhauled to bring it in line with the far more successful and suitable Originals template.
And now, it seems Adidas have a better grasp than ever on the benefits Instagram can have for their business. Iconic as the clothing lines themselves are, the ecommerce site still struggles to really capture the true personality of the brand that Adidas Originals are trying to convey. Like most corporate channels, it’s limited by the necessity to present a clear product range, whereas Instagram is not; the brand are free to present themselves however they want, using a range of trendy images to represent their urban style, including cityscapes and featured celebrity, Rita Ora.
Starbucks’ approach to Instagram is absolutely spot-on, and this is reflected in their position as the second most popular brand on the platform. The reason behind their success is their focus on people; everything they post is specifically tailored to what their followers want, as Starbucks analyse the popularity of their users’ pictures and latch on to any trends in terms of colour, style and composition. As well as taking inspiration from their more than 3 million followers, they also directly reference and reproduce their photos, using a technique known as ‘regramming’, which not only improves their image output, but also creates a sense of worth and community for their users.
Another reason behind Starbucks’ success is their ability to tell stories using their pictures. While many of them are technically still branded with the famous coffee cups, they also include people, places and times of year (Christmas, summer holidays, Valentine’s Day, etc.) that everyone can relate to.
With more followers than any other of the other top five brands, and almost as many posts on their hashtag as the NBA, Topshop, Adidas Originals, and Starbucks combined, the TOTEMS List puts Nike firmly at the top of the pile for brands on Instagram. So why have they proved such a monumental success?
They have the same level of user-tailored content as the NBA and Topshop, the branded vibe of Adidas Originals, and the beautiful storytelling of Starbucks, but Nike’s true strength lies in its interactive content. Namely, the Nike PHOTOiD campaign. Thibault Davoult from TOTEMS commented, “Few other brands have ventured to build a campaign that is so well integrated with Instagram.”
And he was absolutely correct. The idea was simple and creative enough to provoke a mass response, and accessible enough to allow users to share their images instantly. It gave followers the chance to design their own Nike shoe colour scheme, then combine it with a relevant image, and share it with their friends – the addition of multiple social buttons also allowed this to be done across various platforms.
The campaign was extremely well received and it really resonated with Nike’s target market. It was specifically geared towards Instagram and executed perfectly. This, combined with their already strong following and deep understanding of how the platform works, is what has made Nike the champions of Instagram.
See also: Tips for Using Hashtags on Instagram