What began as a niche platform mainly for selfies and artsy photographs of food has blossomed into one of the largest and most important social networks in the world. As of December 2016 Instagram has over 600 million active monthly users, 100 million of which only joined in the previous six months. As Instagram has grown in mainstream popularity, the platform has emerged as one of the most valuable networks for retailers to build brand and community.

Creating and utilizing visual content is becoming an increasingly important part of developing an effective marketing strategy. A totally visual network, Instagram is where brands can show off their personality, get discovered by niche audiences, and keep top-of-mind with followers and customers who browse Instagram daily on their phones. And unlike Facebook, Instagram’s potential for organic reach is still extremely high. With so much of the consumer attention graph being focused on this network, Instagram is arguably the most important digital platform for a brand to be on right now.

When coming up with content ideas, it’s often helpful (and inspiring) to take a look at brands that are getting it right. We decided to select three diverse companies that are killing it on Instagram and highlight tips that you can learn from them. By emulating these best practices, brands large and small can make a splash on Instagram.


1) Engage your audience like Staples (36.4K followers).

The major office supply chain excels on Instagram, particularly when it comes to engaging with followers. In their photo captions, Staples often sparks conversation by asking questions and including effective calls-to-action. All throughout, the brand maintains a consistent voice that toes the line between fun and business-like.

In the following two examples, notice how Staples invites audience participation:

Staples 1


Staples 2

Staples has achieved tremendous success on Instagram by sharing appealing visuals and captions that inspire discussion. Last year, the retailer successfully boosted its brand by using the #OfficeHack hashtag on many of its posts. Staples’ success demonstrates that you can increase engagement between your followers and your brand by including conversation prompts in the copy of your posts.


2) Share content from your users like GoPro (11.5M followers).

Perhaps, no other brand has been as successful at utilizing user-generated content to its advantage as has GoPro. Depending on what it is you sell, you might be able to get your audience to create content for you.

Given that GoPro manufactures versatile cameras, it only makes sense that the brand would have a fantastic Instagram presence. GoPro encourages its users to take photos and video all over the world. Using its customers’ photos and videos, GoPro features exciting visuals of everything from extreme sports to exotic vacation destinations and scenes of natural beauty.

Brands that provide value are the ones who get noticed and engaged with on social media. GoPro provides its audience with enormous value by taking viewers on a tour of the world while simultaneously demonstrating the product in action.

Encourage your audience to post or submit photos and videos that relate to your brand or your products. Sharing user-generated content is a relatively simple and effective way to interact with your community and build an engaged following.


3) Focus on aesthetics like Tentsile (166K followers).

The art of the visual is what matters most on Instagram. If you sell products that can be professionally photographed in beautiful locations, take advantage. Tentsile is a company that sells “portable treehouses” or tree tents. Rather than simply displaying its products, Tentsile’s Instagram is replete with breathtaking scenes of the product being used in gorgeous natural settings.


Tentsile regularly treats its audience to remarkable photographs of tropical rainforests, empty beaches, coastal overlooks, cozy campgrounds, and windswept mountains. With such amazing imagery, it’s no wonder that the brand has managed to do so well on Instagram.

What works best for your brand on Instagram partly depends on the product you’re selling and its potential for virality. But, by using a mix of the methods described above, such as creating stunning visuals (Tentsile), featuring user-generated content (Go-Pro), and writing engaging text in the captions (Staples), your brand will be poised for Instagram success.

Next week we will talk about how to monetize your Instagram presence and drive conversions.

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