Instagram turns 10 in 2020, and the platform has certainly come a long way since its early days. Once a place for personal photos (mainly of cats and food), it’s now the dedicated home of creative and innovative brand content.

Ten years on, and Instagram is considered a key part of brand social media strategy, with marketers using the platform to reach and engage more than one billion monthly active users. Now seems like the perfect time to look at 10 of the very best examples.

National Geographic

National Geographic has built a massive following on Instagram; its 138m followers makes it biggest brand on the platform second only to Instagram itself.

Patrick Witty, National Geographic’s deputy director of digital photography, attributes this level of popularity to the brand’s ability to cultivate stories through visual imagery. He states: “Through @NatGeo we help people experience the planet and cultures as seen by our photographers—a special, unfiltered view.”

Captions are written by the photographers themselves, giving each image a sense of authenticity and personal perspective. The stunning nature of the photography itself is also what keeps followers engaged, with National Geographic continuously finding fresh and novel ways to look at the world we live in.

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Photo by @francescolastrucci A pilgrim takes a blessing by one of the fountains of the Pura Tirta Empul (Temple of the Holy Spring). The Balinese visit this place of worship to purify themselves under the sacred waters of the pools, fed by the springs flowing from the side of the sacred mountain. Built in 962 and dedicated to Vishnu, the structure is made up of a set of temples near the village of Manukaya in central Bali. The persistent scent of incense burnt on offer to the gods and the bright colors of the flowers on the fountains make the experience inside the temple highly evocative and mystical. Follow me @francescolastrucci for more places, daily life, and stories around the world. #bali #rituals #dailylife

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Etsy

Etsy’s Instagram strategy is simple but effective. In short, the brand uses the platform to showcase products from its own community of independent sellers.

Whether it’s ceramic vases or personalised photo frames, Etsy lists all featured products in its bio, allowing users to discover and shop products.

Recently, Etsy has also used Instagram to give followers more of an insight into its sellers and the importance the brand and its community has on their lives.

The #StandWithSmall video campaign effectively encourages users to support businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. This community-driven strategy is also a big focus on the Etsy Success channel, which is specifically designed to offer help and advice to Etsy sellers on how to build a successful shop.

Andie Swim

The DTC swimwear brand has become well-known for its body positive and diverse brand image, which it showcases nicely on Instagram. The fact that this type of content resonates with its audience is not a fluke, as Andie Swim has always used social media as a testing ground for what consumers want to see. According to Glossy, “the brand learned that selling swimwear didn’t need to focus on over-sexualising women, in the style of Victoria’s Secret.”

Consequently, the brand creates engagement through realistic and authentic imagery, highlighting the fact that women’s bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. Andie Swim also fosters a sense of community on Instagram, consistently featuring people from within the company on its Instagram in order maintain an authentic brand image.

Nike

Nike has 11 verified accounts on Instagram, including location-specific ones such as Nike London as well as category-specific accounts like Nike Running. No matter the topic, however, Nike ensures a consistent and cohesive approach to the platform, which mostly involves the brand creating inspirational and community-focused content featuring both sporting influencers and members of the public.

Video content is another area of focus for Nike on Instagram, with examples such as the recent ‘Common Thread’ series allowing the brand to tell the stories of black athletes and leaders around the world. 

The aim, like much of Nike’s Instagram and social content in general, is to “show the next generation what is possible when we believe our passions cannot be limited, and no barriers can hold us back.”

Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s is becoming just as well-known for its social activism as its ice cream, and the brand’s Instagram channel highlights this perfectly.

Of course, Ben & Jerry’s tries to combine the two categories whenever possible, often using creative illustrations to weave in current topics of importance, like the below example relating to Juneteenth.

It’s rare for brands to speak up on such divisive topics, for fear of alienating consumers, however, Ben & Jerry’s shows zero fear, also calling on its 1.5 million strong audience to spread the word. It’s up-front approach certainly makes Ben & Jerry’s one of the most interesting brands to follow on the platform, much more so than if its content only related to ice cream.

The Body Coach (Joe Wicks)

Joe Wicks has seen his popularity soar thanks to his daily PE workouts on YouTube during lockdown, but the fitness instructor has also simultaneously built an even bigger following on Instagram, where he has recently added over 200,000 followers to reach an audience of 3.8m.

Wicks’ channel has evolved from the original ‘Lean in 15’ concept – which saw him post 15 second recipe videos to his channel. Now, it involves a mix of food, family, and fitness, both from a personal perspective as well as to showcase transformations from the Body Coach fitness plan.

Wicks has also created a ‘Wean in 15’ channel on Instagram to go alongside a recipe book of the same name, where he posts content related to the weaning journeys of his two young children.

While Joe Wicks is a unique example – being both the face of a company as well as an influencer in his own right – but his growth demonstrates a savvy understanding of how to build a brand from the ground up using social media platforms like Instagram.

Tiffany & Co

Tiffany & Co has become one of the leading luxury brands on Instagram thanks to a varied mix of made-for-social content, which largely centres around emotive storytelling.

Its Instagram Live series, such as ’T Time’, features experts and social influencers on topics that resonate with the brand’s target audience, including style, fashion, love, and lifestyle.

The brand often uses Instagram to showcase behind-the-scenes content of its own campaigns, too, which enables users to feel more connected to the luxury brand. All the while, Tiffany ensures that it retains its signature brand image, consistently weaving in its famous ’Tiffany Blue’ to visual content.

Kayak

It’s hard to stand out as a travel brand on Instagram, with the majority choosing to use similar location-based imagery to inspire travellers. In order to create a point of difference, travel search engine Kayak infuses humour and relatability into its channel, often posting memes and other types of humorous content alongside standard inspirational imagery.

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Interestingly, the brand also uses data to create social proof as well as instil urgency, telling users when a particular destination is seeing a surge in interest, or when flights to a certain location are about to become cheaper. This gives users the sense that the brand is on their side, encouraging them to find out more by heading to the website.

IMAX

IMAX cinemas uses Instagram Stories to engage with its audience of dedicated film fans. As well as giving viewers behind-the-scenes access to premieres, IMAX also makes its Stories interactive, including polls, quizzes, and live Q&A’s in order to create greater brand awareness.

According to Instagram, an ad campaign launched ahead of the release of Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker generated positive results for the brand. By integrating polling stickers into Stories (asking users questions and to vote on whether they would turn to the dark side of the Force to obtain an IMAX ticket), the campaign generated a 12-point higher ad recall for ads including polls. The ads also included a ‘Book now’ button in order to prompt users to act on their decision.

Vogue

With 27.9 million followers, Vogue Magazine is one of the biggest media brands on Instagram. Its creative strategy sets it apart from other publishers, particularly in terms of how it uses the platform to build on the Vogue brand rather than simply direct traffic to its website.

Proving that it’s more than a fashion magazine, Vogue uses Instagram to drive conversation about important subjects such as diversity, sustainability, and gender identity.

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"The charge for everyone this #Pride Month is to reflect on and restore the roots of the LGBTQ+ Movement," writes @raquel_willis. "Beyond pride campaigns and social media gestures, our fight was literally birthed from a collective that was multi-racial, gender-expansive, and anti-police brutality. And that fight goes beyond a few weeks each summer. The Black trans community has especially heeded the call recently with a rally drawing more than 15,000 people in honor of our lives and marches across the country. But the fight doesn’t end here. You must make a lifelong commitment to ending the violence and discrimination that we face. After all, when Black transgender people are free, everyone else will also be free." Tap the link in our bio to read the full essay. Photos by @colewitter

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Stories has also become a popular format for Vogue, with the publication using it to drive interest in digital features, as well as showcase a behind-the-scenes look at events, photoshoots, and charity initiatives.

That’s your 10. Share any of your own examples in the comments below. Or visit our Instagram topic page.