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Once a fairly niche mobile app, Instagram grabbed the world's attention in April when it was snapped up by Facebook for a cool $1bn.

That useful piece pf PR, coupled with the launch of an Android version of the app, has seen its number of users grow from 15m to 80m since the beginning of the year.

And brands are definitely taking notice, with new research showing that 40% of the Interbrand Top 100 Global Brands use Instagram.

The power of Instagram for marketing is obvious - even the most carefully drafted copy can’t hope to have the same impact as an eye-catching photo.

And the fact that Facebook redesigned its interface to place greater emphasis on visual content proves that images work well in social media.

But as the inevitable rush to join social's newest darling begins to gather momentum, I thought it would be useful to take a look at which brands are already using Instagram to good effect...

Red Bull

Red Bull uses Instagram to promote its image as lifestyle brand for extreme sports.

Its feed includes images of snowboarders, skaters, skydivers, F1 cars and people partying, interspersed very occasionally with photos of Red Bull cans.

                         

Red Bull makes frequent use of hashtags such as #flyingfriday and #instawings to encourage fans to contribute their own content.

Burberry

It should come as no surprise that Burberry is on Instagram as social media has long been central to its marketing strategy.

The fashion label has nearly 500,000 followers and its photos regularly get around 15,000 likes.

Burberry uses Instagram to showcase some of its products, but recently a vast majority of its post have been photos taken around central London. This helps to develop its image as a cosmopolitan, British brand.

                         

A few months ago Burberry also used Instagram to give its followers a look behind the scenes at the launch of its new range, teasing the campaign with an image of an invitation addressed to its Instagram followers.

This is a great way of building a community through the social network by rewarding followers with exclusive content.

ASOS

ASOS is another fashion brand that relies heavily on social media marketing, so it’s no surprise to see that it is leading the way with its use of Instagram.

As well as posting images of its latest ranges and behind the scenes looks at fashion shoots, ASOS places great emphasis on featuring user-generated content.

                         

It asks followers to post images of themselves sporting a particular look using a branded hashtag, then reposts several of the images in its own feeds.

It is a great way of building a connection with your audience and rewarding them for engaging with your brand.

Starbucks

Though nearly all of Starbucks’ photos include one of its products, the focus is on what people do while drinking Starbucks coffee rather than on the product itself.

So, for example, several of the posts feature summery scenes of parks and swimming pools with a Starbucks ice coffee somewhere in the foreground.

                         

As with Red Bull, the idea is to promote the brand as part of a lifestyle choice and as something to be enjoyed with friends.

Starbucks also used Instagram to cross-promote a Google Hangout with Maroon 5, showing how the mobile app can be used as part of a multichannel marketing campaign. 

Selfridges

One of the more active brands on Instagram, Selfridges frequently posts images of products and displays from its UK stores.

It attempts to drive engagement with its photos by asking questions about its followers' fashion preferences, which seems to have varying degrees of success.

Even so, it has clocked up almost 20,000 followers which isn’t bad for a UK-only department store. 

                         

Audi

Audi’s feed only includes images of its cars, yet it has managed to clock up 117,000 followers. All the photos are sleek and colourful, promoting the idea that Audi is a luxury, aspirational brand.

It also encourages followers to post images of Audis using the hashtag #instaaudi. More than 1,000 users have posted using the hashtag in the past month, showing the potential Instagram has for fan engagement.

                         

Tiffany & Co.

Another example of an aspirational brand performing well on social, Tiffany & Co. has attracted more than 118,000 followers mainly by posting images if its products.

                         

There are also occasional images of its New York stores, but in general Tiffany’s feed is very product driven.

Nike

All the brands on this list are obviously using Instagram for marketing, but Nike’s seems to be the most obviously corporate use of the social network.

All its recent posts are part of a campaign to get people to use its Nike+ and NikeFuel fitness products, featuring images of various groups of people working out and updates on how many people are using the products on any given day.

The messages are very on-brand but they lack the personal touch that other companies manage to include in their posts and comments.

                         

Each one is essentially a small advert for a specific Nike product, littered with branded hashtags. Compared to the striking cityscapes that Burberry uses, Nike’s feed comes across as a bit cold.

Innocent Smoothies

Innocent follows the trend of using Instagram to associate its product with a lifestyle rather than just pushing out cold brand messages.

Its posts include various images of fruit, the company’s staff and content to promote its sponsorship of the London Olympics.

                         

Innocent’s feed also includes frequent pictures of cute dogs, which is a clever tactic as photos of animals are always popular on social media.

The one that isn't...

eBay

It looks like eBay created an Instagram account about six months ago to promote its ‘Walk the Red Carpet’ competition where users could post photos for the chance to win a $100 gift card.

Just four weeks and 22 photos later, the account became inactive. Assuming this is an official account, eBay should really have deleted it by now as leaving it up makes the brand look a bit sloppy.

                         

Have you seen any other brands with quirky or interesting Instagram feeds? Let us know in the comments.

David Moth

Published 22 August, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Carol porter

Interview Magazine was selected by guest of a guest as one of the Top 6 Instagrams in NYC! A young social media whiz kid guy named Guyton Porter started it for them. http://guestofaguest.com/new-york/social-media/6-nyc-instagrams-to-keep-you-in-the-know&slide=3

almost 4 years ago

Tom Howlett

Tom Howlett, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Instagram isn't the first platform that comes into mind when thinking about marketing a brand. When reading the post title, I assumed it was brands just jumping on any popular platform.

But I definitely see the brands in the examples given being put to good use.

I'm wondering if smaller, lesser known brands/businesses could use it to their advantage? Any examples of these?

almost 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Tom, I agree that it's useful to try and find examples of small brands using social media in innovative ways, but unfortunately they tend to be quite tricky to find!

I'll keep searching and will try to do a follow-up post focusing on SMEs.

almost 4 years ago

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Stuart Witts

David, With respect to your reply to Tom's comment about how smaller, lesser known brands are using it. How are the examples you gave above innovative?

Each one of the popular brands you mention are simply posting pictures. Any 'lesser' known brand could do that , but as you well know is unlikely to see any success.

I find your reply extremely patronising. It is glaringly obvious that your article is simply designed to highlight famous brands in the hope of gaining views. It offers no advice whatsoever as to how others might benefit from Instagram except to suggest that it would be helpful if you were already a well recognised brand.

almost 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Stuart, at the risk of you calling me patronising again, my previous comment @Tom isn't at all patronising.

With emerging social networks you do often see smaller brands taking the lead and using them in ways that more established brands hadn't thought of. That doesn't seem to be the case with Instagram at the moment, but I do intend to see if I can find any examples for a follow-up post.

almost 4 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hi Stuart. In some respects, I agree - all brands on Instagram are 'simply posting pictures’; however, I don’t think that this is the necessarily the‘point’ of Instagram.

Starbucks crop up regularly as an obvious example of a brand doing social well. The reason behind this is simple; they concentrate on being a ‘local coffee shop’, on a global level.

On Facebook they’ve proven this with their many regional pages showing images from local stores, and engaging with different communities in a more targeted way than many global concerns manage.

They’re continuing this trend on Instagram, with different regional accounts, using hashtags to share and interact with users posting images related to their brand.

In other words, as much as this is a basic extension of an existing community hub, they are gaining large amounts of valuable user-generated content, which will further increase in value now that there is increased integration between Facebook and Instagram.

Pinterest has shown that image–based posting can be extremely valuable for brands (even rather niche ones like our own), so I think it would be foolish to ignore such a readily available stream of content.

I don’t feel that the value here is defined by traffic or conversions, but I do think there’s definite value to be gained from sharing and curating content relating directly to a brand, or its values. It also offers a useful insight into user-perception for brands.

I think that saying that smaller brands won't see success is a bit of a misnomer. Instagram is a huge channel, but (in my opinion) it's probably not a primary one for marketing.

Even taking the example of Starbucks, the UK account only has a few hundred followers, (but that doesn't mean they aren't gaining a lot of valuable content there), so smaller brands do tend to be somewhat elusive, but for those concentrating on extremely local audiences, there are rewards to be had – check out brands like Naked Pizza, or buttercup Cafe for a couple of examples.

almost 4 years ago

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Jen DeAngelis

Instagram makes sense for consumer brands, but it could be really useful for smaller enterprises and B2B. My blog post gives simple tips for successfully using the social network to support your communications/PR program: http://www.inkhouse.net/how-we-can-use-instagram-in-public-relations/

almost 4 years ago

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Christina

Great to see how brands are effectively integrating Instagram into their social media strategy. However, are you able to elaborate on how Starbucks actually used it to cross-promote a Google Hangout with Maroon 5, and whether this was rated a success?

almost 4 years ago

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Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Personally my dislike of Instagram weighs on my ability to see it in a marketing perspective. It seems too many dinners and 'vintage' photos of hipsters killed it for me.

I think these examples are showing good use for marketings sake but perhaps it isn't really the best use of their time. They could give us all discounts with the instagram savings :-)

almost 4 years ago

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Instagram Followers

Hello,
Thank you for the sharing this great article I think here are the many info about social networking sites.

almost 4 years ago

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