Some brands struggle to understand social media and to break through to fans, followers, and potential customers through this relatively new communications channel. Even those companies that have developed a reasonable funnel through major networks like Facebook and Twitter can face trouble when it comes to smaller or niche social networks, and Instagram certainly falls into this category.

    While the image sharing network has hundreds of millions of active users, brands have found the image-centered social network difficult to master. The audience is there, but reaching that audience, driving engagement, and ensuring click throughs has proved difficult for many.

    On the other hand, some brands and companies have had great success with Instagram. They’ve used the format to drive traffic, to engage with their followers, and to increase sales via conversions from an Instagram sales funnel. These Instagram success stories offer novice users and those experiencing problems on the network best practices to work towards.

    Today we’re highlighting five brands who are getting things right on Instagram. In each case the brand has done something different to take advantage of the Instagram platform and to reach out to current followers and future fan alike. In each case we’ve described the brand, the Instagram campaign, and the lesson to be learned. Let’s go!

    Example One: Burger King Goes Long


    Burger King was all set to open a series of stores in France and was looking to create some buzz. Sure, it had a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, both of which were at time hilarious. However, it was their work on Instagram that was particularly impressive for, as a mobile-driven visual medium, it provided space to be especially creative and play to the smaller screen size of their largely-young followers.

    Probably the most visually impressive of Burger King’s Instagram posts was the creation of the world’s largest hamburger. A series of Instagram shots published together created a long, tall, Burger King Whopper on the screen of visitors to the Instagram account. Users were encouraged to click on the burger and nominate their favorite part of a Burger King sandwich, driving engagement on even the most bland of the photos that made up the giant burger. After all, there’s always someone who likespickle, lettuce, or tomato, right?

    THE LESSON: Instagram is an app and most Instagram activity happens on smartphones. Keeping this in mind when designing an Instagram campaign is essential, and rather than limiting possibilities it can instead drive creativity for marketers seeking clicks and conversions.

    Example Two: The Boston Celtics with Nothing But Net


    Major sports franchises in the United States invest heavily in social media. They are convinced, and rightly so, that engagement with fans in social spaces online leads to better outcomes with regards to ticket sales, product sales, and of course in creating a buzz around major games. Among their NBA rivals, though, the Boston Celtics stand out as a team that has taken large advantage of Instagram as a social channel. The Celtics were an early adopter of Instagram in professional sports, and their commitment to the channel shows: the team’s official account has 664,000 follower and it’s still growing.

    The Celtics combine behind-the-scenes shots and action images with their own fan-centered images, whether deep in the crowd of a Celtics game, in a hospital being visited by Celtics stars, or iconic shots from Celtic history that true fans would recognize immediately. The Celtics are a 17 time NBA championship team, and they are currently leading the charge in US professional sports on Instagram, too.

    THE LESSON: Instagram is a fantastic tool for fan engagement. Flat out sales through the channel don’t work as well for the Celtics as reaching out to fans – past, present and future – directly though Instagram does.

    Example Three: Rip Curl and Instagram Videos

    Instagram is rightly known for its image sharing and image-centric approach to social media. Perhaps a little less well known is the ability for Instagram users to upload short videos to their account, too. While this is not a YouTube challenge on the part of Instagram, it is more than a simple and ultra-short Vine video, too. Instagram videos can be between 3 and 15 seconds long and there are few restrictions on the material in the video (save the typical platform-wide restrictions on allowed content). One brand that has used video footage on Instagram extensively and successfully is Rip Curl. The Australian-based surfwear brand posts at least one video per week to its Instagram page. The Rip Curl social media team told Iconosquare in an interview “Instagram videos might not get the most likes, but our followers love to comment on them, which is great engagement for us.” This focus on video helps set Rip Curl apart and the comments help drive a sense of community on their Instagram account. THE LESSON: Instagram videos can be a great way to create a feeling of community amongst follower and fans. If your product or company can find a way to integrate Instagram video into the wider Instagram strategy, it should.

    Example Four: Ithaca College’s Not-So-Hostile Takeover


    Engaging on social media without a plan or an overarching strategy is not usually a good use of precious marketing time. We’ve posted before on the importance of having an editorial calendar and having that calendar work in sync with your social media sharing (Buffer is a GREAT tool for helping to get this organized!). But what about giving away the keys to your Instagram account and having little to no say in how things turn out, what is posted, or the direction that the account moves in? Can this be a good idea.

    In short: yes. This is exactly what Ithaca College aims for in their regular ‘Instagram Takeovers’. For a short time – usually just a day – students at the College can post to the official Instagram account of the school. The social media team simply ask two screening questions beforehand (why does the person want to takeover the account and what activities are they engaged with on campus) and then hand over the keys to the Instagram castle. The result? Incredible. Other students adore the authenticity, participants adore the responsibility, and there is a payoff for the college when it takes things in even more innovative directions – has a puppy taken over your Instagram account yet?

    THE LESSON: Authenticity in engagement is key on Instagram, as on other social networks. Finding unique and innovative ways to engage your audience is essential and should be encouraged amongst your social media team.

    Example Five: IKEA and the Instagram ‘Website’

    The Instagram app does not come with a web browser built in, but this didn’t stop Swedish furniture and home decoration giant IKEA from building a ‘mini website’ inside the app in 2014. IKEA took advantage of two elements of Instagram’s model: the ability to open and operate multiple accounts at no cost, and the ability to tag photos with other users. After first creating an account for the new product line the company uploaded images of the products in that line to the main account. These were then tagged with other IKEA controlled accounts referring to the individual products, allowing users to access product images and pages with just a tap of the tagged image.

    With very little work – opening an account and tagging a photo is the work of just a few minutes – the company’s Instagram ‘mini website’ was up and running. In short time news of the innovative approach to Instagram broke and hundreds of review sites and mainstream media pieces were dedicated to the idea. The earned media mentions easily accounted for the time spent building the site, and the world’s most innovative furniture retailer proved that their magic wasn’t confined to large warehouse locations on the edges of cities.

    THE LESSON: Instagram tags can be great for linking different accounts together, but can also be used in innovative ways and to encourage unique branding opportunities such as that of IKEA.

    Do you have a favorite Instagram account? Let us know in comments below or on Twitter!

    Want more? Download our eBook: “Picture Perfect: Master the Filters and Market on Instagram


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