Contributed by Katie Kovar
You’ve probably heard of the popular social media platform Instagram, and most likely have created an account. In 2021, Instagram ranked as one of the top 4 social networks worldwide and boasted more than 1 billion active monthly users who spent over half an hour on the app each time they logged in.
While Instagram was originally known for being a free platform where you could share photos and videos with friends, over the years it has evolved into a powerful marketing machine that can connect you with brands and influencers.
In 2022 Instagram’s goal is to grow its e-commerce; they want all items in posts to be shoppable. We can expect to see more shopping options being tested in Instagram this year including advanced product search by image, product discovery panels in the main feed, and a big push toward live shopping. All of these changes will provide more monetization pathways for Instagram creators and brands.
In order to capitalize on this opportunity and grow your brand, you will need to learn from the best. Some brands have done such a great job building their Instagram presence that they have gained hundreds of millions of followers.
Below we have compiled a list of the top 10 best brands on Instagram based on follower count and content strategy, and we’ve included key takeaways for each.
The 10 Best Brands on Instagram in 2022
1) Instagram: 457+ million followers
Instagram is not afraid to lead by example and comes in at the number one spot as the brand with the most followers. Instagram reposts a wide variety of creators’ content, often highlighting those who are pushing social boundaries and norms. This account seeks to highlight powerful users who inspire others to interact with the platform and create their own content.
The message that Instagram conveys through their account is meant to show their followers that they can make this platform their own. For example, their bio simply consists of the hashtag #YoursToMake. This strategy is successful because their posts do not come off as an advertisement for the platform but instead feel more like a journalistic piece of art, which clearly resonates with their 449+ million followers.
Key Takeaway: Your content on Instagram should not feel forced. A good blend of simplicity and creativity is key.
2) National Geographic: 200+ million followers
National Geographic is one of the most widely read magazines of all time, due in large part to its award-winning photojournalism. This brand has stayed true to its roots; its wildly successful Instagram account showcases its photographer’s work which revolves around nature and celebrates the beauty of our earth.
However, their stunning photographs are not the only reason their account has garnered so much success. Their advertisements seem so natural (pun intended) that they don’t come off as advertisements at all and fit seamlessly into users’ feeds.
National Geographic also uses Instagram to advocate for social causes like climate change and poaching laws which resonate with their followers and contribute to the feeling that their posts are not advertisements but credible pieces of journalism.
Key Takeaway: Advertisements on Instagram should flow with your brand’s content and refrain from interfering with the user experience.
3) Nike: 191+ million followers
Just like Nike’s bio (“Spotlighting athlete* and ? stories”) says, their account revolves around championing athletes and their stories. Nike’s feed consists of visually stunning photos and videos of athletes which are paired with inspirational stories that captivate their followers. This brand stays true to its famous slogan “Just Do It” and every single one of their posts convey that message.
Nike understands the highly lucrative value of building relationships and communities on social media. This brand has built a global community of athletes on Instagram who have become ambassadors for their products. They also take the time to activate their community by frequently posting things that spark conversation and drive people to comment or share the post.
Key Takeaway: Nike’s strategy clarifies the importance of building a community and motivating your audience to take action through relatable stories.
4) Real Madrid: 107+ million followers
This account is the official profile of the Spanish professional football club Real Madrid C.F. Real Madrid keeps it simple on their profile; their posts mostly revolve around updating their massive fanbase on games, highlights, and players.
Real Madrid is the most followed football account in large part because they give their fans an inside look at players’ lives by posting behind-the-scenes pictures and videos from moments like private practices and team travel. This strategy is successful because it makes their 107+ million followers feel like they are connecting with the players and the brand on a personal level.
Key Takeaway: Take your followers behind the scenes and let them connect with your brand on a personal level.
5) FC Barcelona: 104+ million followers
This account, like Real Madrid, is the official profile for the professional football team FC Barcelona. FC Barcelona has found great success using Instagram Reels and they were the first sports team worldwide to hit 1 billion Reels plays. This brand uses Reels to share short, entertaining videos and has mastered creating content that captivates its audience by taking Barca fans behind the scenes.
For marketers, this strategy works because it has the potential to generate viral videos and attracts a younger audience who is gravitating towards the Reels style of short videos, made popular in recent years by apps like TikTok.
It is also important to note that in order to come up with content that is as successful as FC Barcelona’s, you need to understand what your audience is consuming and how they spend their time on your page.
Key Takeaway: You can use Instagram Reels to generate viral videos and attract a younger audience.
6) NASA: 72+ million followers
NASA is a widely known and respected organization that features original content that highlights the natural beauty of our solar system. When scrolling through NASA’s feed, their followers will find out-of-this-world pictures and videos that transport them to the depths of space. This brand has mastered the art of posting educational content that also entertains and captivates its followers, whether they are space junkies or not.
The deputy social media manager at NASA, Jason Townsend, offered some advice to other digital content creators and shared the most important things he has learned while working for NASA:
- Tell your own news. Be in the driver’s seat when it comes to communicating.
- News—good or bad—doesn’t get better over time. It is important to act quickly.
- If you don’t tell your own stories, someone else will.
Key Takeaway: Act quickly and stay on top of posting so your brand can be in the driver’s seat when it comes to communicating on social media.
7) Victoria’s Secret: 71+ million followers
Victoria’s Secret is an American fashion and beauty retailer that has mastered high visibility marketing and branding. The brand was originally known for its famous catalog and fashion show which showcases the “Victoria’s Secret Angels,” a group of widely known supermodels. Now, the brand champions influencer marketing and uses original images and re-grams of their Angels to drive followers to their page.
Key Takeaway: The success of Victoria’s Secret shows marketers that it is important not to underestimate the power of influencers, especially while online shopping is growing at an exponential rate.
8) NBA: 62+ million followers
While many professional sports leagues like the NFL outperform the NBA in viewership, the NBA has still managed to become the most followed sports league in North America on Instagram. Despite lower viewership numbers, the NBA has over twice as many Instagram followers as the NFL. And it’s all due to their amazing content strategy.
In recent years, more and more people have begun to move away from watching sports on television and toward keeping up with games, highlights, and stats on social media or through streaming services. The NBA understands this shift and utilizes their Instagram account to keep their followers up to date on all things NBA by posting everything from power rankings to throwback photos from iconic games.
Key Takeaway: It is important to follow trends in traditional and digital media so you can meet your audience on the platform that they prefer to use.
9) 9GAG: 57+ million followers
While on the surface level this brand may seem like a simple account that just posts funny memes and videos, they are actually a well-oiled marketing machine. 9GAG (otherwise known as Go Fun The World) is the first online content platform on this list because they have mastered the art of engaging with their audience.
Aside from posting regular content in their feed, 9GAG has learned how to use Instagram stories and highlights to interact with their audience by posting engaging polls, trivia, surveys, and contests that prompt their followers to visit their website. 9GAG also uses IGTV to hold live Q&As with celebrities where their followers can ask questions in real-time.
Key Takeaway: This brand shows us that one of the best ways to grow your social media following is by using all of your resources to create engaging content that allows you to interact with your audience.
10) Marvel: 59+ million followers
Over the years Marvel has dominated pop culture and developed a devoted fandom. Now, marvel successfully uses social media marketing to connect with that fanbase on a global scale.
Some of Marvel’s engaging content includes teasers that generate curiosity among fans, popular clips from movies featuring A-list celebrities, and information about movies that prompts fans to start conversations in the comments.
Key Takeaway: Motivate your followers to engage with your account by posting content that encourages people to start conversations in the comments and share your posts.
Top 10 Brands on Instagram: Summary
After reviewing the best brands on Instagram, there are a handful of key takeaways that every marketer should keep top of mind when using social media:
- Make your advertisements fluid with your brand’s content to appeal to your followers and avoid disrupting their feeds.
- Build relationships and communities with your followers on social media by encouraging your followers to interact with your page.
- Understand what your audience is consuming and how they spend time on your page in order to come up with content that works best for your brand.
- Harness the power of influencers who can drive followers to your page.
- Make sure you are using all of your resources on Instagram (Reels, Stories, Polls, etc.) in order to create engaging content that encourages your followers to interact with your page.
Need help elevating your social media marketing? Contact TAE Nashville today.
About TAE Nashville
The Artist Evolution (TAE) is a full-service marketing agency located in Nashville, Tennessee. We help clients in a wide range of industries fill in the gaps on their marketing strategy and execution. TAE Nashville is your one-stop shop for all your marketing needs, from marketing plan creation to campaign execution and ongoing management.
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