How do you determine the ROI of your social media campaigns? 30+ social media marketers weigh in with their expert advice.
| Aug 10
Lily Ugbaja on May 18, 2021 (last modified on May 17, 2021) • 22 minute read
Instagram is fast emerging as a platform for brands who want to connect with more users.
Compared to Twitter’s 0.045% engagement rate, and even Facebook’s 0.08%, Instagram boasts of a 0.098% engagement rate.
So, it’s no surprise since 62.4% of people say they are more likely to interact with a brand on Instagram rather than on other social media channels.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a free for all on Instagram. In fact, 85% of users we surveyed said they follow at least 6 brands on Instagram. The competition is stiff.
Still, our survey showed that investing in Instagram marketing is worth it since it’s a buying market. 77.5% of users have bought a product or service based on an ad on Instagram.
So do you want to know what makes users interact with brands on Instagram?
Find out in this post, where 40 users share their favorite brands on Instagram along with an explanation why they find them so engaging.
So, let’s get started!
Maggie Lovitt of Your Money Geek says Disney Plus is the brand to watch on Instagram.
“They listen to fans and release bonus content, follow the trends within the fandom, and consistently put out engaging content that makes me want to interact with their products,” says Lovitt.
Like in this post where they share a special video announcement made by the actor where he talks about the why behind the movie.
It’s relatable and engaging, and it feels exclusive to users.
How to implement: Share behind-the-scenes clips that show the logic behind your product. Bonus points if it’s the founder making the video. It becomes easier to connect the brand to a face and a vision.
Nat Geo’s Instagram feed is simply stunning, it’s easy to get lost in it.
That’s what caught HJF’s Marissa Smith’s attention. Smith says “they are a visually stunning brand, understand the balance between engagement and activism and still remaining true to the core of their mission: committed to exploring and protecting our planet.”
How to Implement: Pay better attention to your brand photography. A few tips; choose a visual style that resonates with your brand, use proper lighting and adjust your white balance so your images are bright blue undertones.
Apart from the photos of delicious-looking cookies Megalicious frequently posts, one thing that keeps users on their toes and increases engagement is the fear of missing out.
John Frigo of Capitol Nutrition says “They have a rotating product selection and new flavors so you’re always wondering what’s going to come next and they drop their products randomly and you have to be following to have a chance to get them before they sell out.”
Like in this post where they share that preorder dates will be announced the following day.
This means that tomorrow, followers will be back to their feed to check out the dates released.
How to Implement: Build up anticipation for your posts by using an open-close loop. This tactic is a common email marketing strategy that makes readers anticipate your next update.
You simply introduce another story at the end of a story but tell them you’ll complete the new story with your next update.
Over 1 million posts on Instagram daily mention the word “meme”. It’s no surprise then that Slimjim’s meme-filled account is a favorite for users like Trisha Duchyns of Soundstripe.
Duchyns says “I’m constantly seeing Slimjim on meme accounts and contributing to comments/replying back to people and they’re hilarious”.
See if you don’t find this meme engaging yourself!
Memes humanize a brand so it’s very easy to engage with brands like this.
How to Implement: Create custom GIFs or static pictures that use your brand voice. You could also repurpose existing ones. The photo of a guy walking with a girl while checking out a passing girl is a great foundation for a meme. For the biggest effect, align memes with trends just like Slimjim does in the above post.
*Editor’s note: Memes can work for other Social Media Platforms too. Want to measure the performance of your activities across the major networks so you can understand where to focus your efforts? Download our Social Networks (Growth & Engagement) Dashboard Template for free.
The most successful Instagram brands are those who embrace a clear balance between selling, educating, and entertaining. Michael Schreiber of MediaFeed.org says that Amazing Ribs is one such brand when it comes to educating readers.
“Meathead Goldwyn’s @amazingribs is a BBQ lover’s dream. Not only are the images mouthwatering, but they serve up really good ideas.”
In this post, for example, they share high-level tips for making the best-smoked BBQ beef brisket.
Readers are not only entertained by the mouth-watering photo, but they also learn how to make it themselves.
How to Implement: When you share links to your tutorials on Instagram, don’t just say “here’s this wonderful tutorial we created, click to learn how to do this thing”. Share some value for the person who’s not clicking through too.
One quick hack to create more engaging content for free is to showcase what your customers are doing with your product. Even better if you are simply telling a story without actively promoting your brand in the showcase.
LIFTOFF Digital’s Nate Rodriguez votes Etsy as the most engaging Instagram brand for this reason.
“Etsy has the most interesting brand on Instagram. They showcase their unique products and show real-life small business owners and I think that really resonates with a lot of users on Instagram” says Rodriguez.
Here’s Etsy showing Stacie, an artist on the platform.
It’s easy to relate to a story like this and maybe even get motivated to start your own Etsy store too.
How to Implement: Ask some of your best customers if they would like to record a quick video of their business story. You’ll be promoting your customers and they’ll love you even more for it, but you’ll also be subconsciously promoting your brand since you are an integral part of your customers’ stories.
Tip! Like Etsy, don’t just limit yourself to sharing on your feed only. Up to 30% of the users we surveyed said that they were most likely to engage with brands in Stories.
If you haven’t started already, use Stories to capture that extra 30%.
Christian Andrew of Hurrdat says Screenplayed is the Instagram brand to follow.
“They provide a unique look into what’s in a movie script and what actually ends up in the finished versions of both recent movies and classic films,” says Andrew.
Like in this post where they share the Script being played out between two actors on a scene.
From posts like this, their users learn how to interpret the movies they see into script form and maybe how to create scripts of their own.
How to implement: Think about some of the best products, services or results in your industry and break down the components that make them work. Bonus points if you can identify and share some loopholes or room for improvement with the product you are discussing.
If you follow Nike on Instagram, you’d probably agree that they have a good Instagram marketing strategy.
Natasha Rei of Explainerd says the company has always been “…top-notch in delivering meaningful stories.”
“Instead of highlighting their Air Max specialties, they bring out messages in every post (and even commercial) they make. This approach relates to people in the world, making them feel a part of the brand.” Rei says.
This post for example caught my eye when scrolled through their feed.
It’s an engaging story of sisterhood and the love of sports.
But they don’t just stop with organic content, Catriona Jasica of Top Vouchers Code says: “The brand runs regular campaigns on its Instagram. It also features sports personalities like Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, and many others. I really like their visuals, teasers, and videos.”
Considering that our survey found that 75% of users become more interested in a brand after seeing an advertisement, Nike is smart to run advertising campaigns on Instagram.
How to implement: Create a video or photo sharing a story your audience can relate to. The story could come from customer interviews where you ask them “What made you sign up for x name product?”, “How has your life changed since?”. Then you’ll want to film the videos using good video gear and editing tools. Once you have a good story shot in a high-resolution video to share, take it a step further and invest in Instagram ads.
Drew Mack of New York Motor Insurance shared an interesting Instagram brand with us; Icelandair.
Mack says “I never wanted to travel to Iceland until I saw the absolutely stunning photos of Iceland posted by @icelandair.”
“A few times per week, Iceland Air shares breathtaking pictures of Iceland’s volcanos, hot springs, beaches, mountains, cities, and wildlife. This account has made me become fascinated with Iceland, a country that previously never piqued my interest. Once international travel resumes, I am booking a long trip to Iceland. I simply need to see some of these beautiful places that Iceland Air shared on its Instagram account.” says Mark.
Looking at the above photos from Icelandair’s feed, it’s easy to see why Mark loves the brand.
How to implement: Step away from the regular product on white background shot for a bit. Instead, take photos of your product in use. Even better if you capture the final stages of your customer’s transformation. We admit that not every product can look as stunning as Icelandair’s hot springs and volcanos, but it’s important to understand that it’s not about the breathtaking photos themselves, it’s about the experience so focus on that.
Peter McKinnon is a personal Instagram brand that stands out. Michal Hajtas of Overhorizon Media says “His enthusiasm, motivation, and drive are very inspiring, in order to get more creative in the current projects I am working on.”
Take the caption of this post for example:
It’s expressive, enthusiastic, and unapologetic. A great formula for amassing brand evangelists.
How to implement: Think of all the things that excite you about your brand and your audience. Assign power words to those feelings and use them in your posts. For example, Peter uses the words “simple” and “hot” in his post above. You could say “We’ll be sharing how to make the freshest cookies on the block” if you sold cookies that you pride as being fresh.
Keep in mind your brand voice as you share your enthusiasm.
One trend we are seeing across the most engaging Instagram brands is good aesthetics.
Tiffany & Co is one such aesthetically pleasing brand; “it has a very beautiful visual design. Checking its advertisements sometimes is nearly an aesthetic pleasure.” says Miranda Yan of VinPit.
Scroll down their feed and you see white and bright photos, evidence of a strong focus on aesthetics with branding.
How to implement: Take a look at the kind of aesthetics that do well on Instagram. It’s mostly bright and lit but that’s not to say that dark and strong aesthetics don’t work either. Create a unique style for your brand, pick a universal theme for your story-telling, consider the lighting and angles, and post-produce to bring out the magic.
I came back from Oatly’s feed smiling.
Let’s start at the bio;
It’s a strong brand message that makes you feel like you already know the person behind the brand.
Karolina Cala of Levitex thinks so too, “Their unique style of copywriting perfectly encapsulates their brand, making them stand out of the (big) crowd of brands trying to reach their audience via Instagram”.
And Steve Steinman of Ballistiglass says “They are so unique in the way they communicate with their audience, and they’re quite brave in raising social issues too.”
How to implement: Decide what you want your brand voice to sound like so you can communicate authenticity and uniqueness. A good way to do this is to create a picture of what an ideal user would sound like when sharing your brand with friends. Those words, slangs, and tone of voice that exclude people outside your ideal persona are what you are looking for.
Another interesting brand to watch out for is Gewurzhaus. Andre Oentoro of Milkwhale says “As a herb and spice merchant that started out small, they have a way of making their customers feel close to them.”
“They are really approachable and often feature their customer’s recipes and pictures. They also encourage their userbase to share their thoughts and opinions and even reach out to them to share some appreciation.” continues Oentoro.
How to implement: Start by interacting with your users in the comments and maybe even on their feed. You can share one of their posts, jump into the conversation, and share some snippets of everyday lives of your team members. The goal is to make your users understand that there’s a human behind your account so don’t just put your ideas out there, engage. I’ve even seen the Semrush team show approachability on Twitter by signing off comments with a name.
Melanie Musson of ClearSurance.com votes FHFGear the brand to watch. “Often, they’ll ask for opinions in their posts which gets people thinking and commenting.”
See how they do so in this post.
“They share just enough information about new products that you want to know more so you click on the link in their bio. They give shoutouts to their customers, so it makes you want to try to get the perfect picture and tag them so they’ll share it.” Musson adds.
How to implement: Ask questions that not only inspire responses but also action. Questions that get them to use (or want to use) your product. See the way FHF Gear frames a question around their product without making it about their product.
Sandeep Aggarwal of Skaology thinks Chipotle is great at sharing engaging content. “Chipotle delivers memes and burritos. Their Instagram feed is a hilarious collection of content, including screenshots of tweets alongside their very own Chipotle memes to keep their audience engaged and hungry.”
Here’s a post where they share a screenshot of a tweet and a hilarious response.
Humor is almost always a winner on social media.
How to implement: Trending ideas or hashtags are a good place to start. You could take a pun at a trending message and refine it to better suit your brand. But be careful not to offend your audience by saying the wrong thing. There are different types of humor. You can be a serious brand and still use humor. Just think of a few ways where you can give your message a humorous twist and do it.
Here’s a humorous ad from DollarShave for inspiration. It’s on Youtube but you can mix and match to make it work on Instagram. I especially loved the part where the founder asks Alejandro “what were you doing before?” and “what are you doing now?”
Max Whiteside of BarBend loves Meg Squats for her authenticity.
“In one word, authenticity…although she has a background in athletics, Meg wasn’t always hyper-focused on her health and fitness like she is now. In college, she was just a normal person having fun and not worrying about counting macros.”
And she shares that and emphasizes giving oneself grace and starting small in her posts.
“I can imagine Meg and I would be friends if we were neighbors. I appreciate that she is intelligent and doesn’t take herself too seriously, and puts out positive supportive content,” says Whiteside.
How to implement: I always say being authentic is simple, be human. You don’t have to share only the good days and the end results, talking about a few bad days and how to overcome them is okay too. Just make sure to not share too much negativity on your timeline.
“Real Watersports. They are masterful at sharing their positive energy and passion for surfing and kiteboarding in a way that gets you amped to get out there. I love that it’s not just about performance and the unachievable… there’s also a great focus on making the most of what’s actually available to you. Great personalities behind the brand who genuinely care about your experience.” says Stephan Roussan of ICVM Group, Inc.
Just looking at their photos, you can actually feel the energy.
How to implement: This is almost the same as sharing enthusiasm. Use action shots and power words to convey positive energy. You can even use an invented word like Real Watersports does with “slezy”.
Many of us sign up for Netflix after viewing a trailer. That’s why they use trailers on Instagram to generate engagement.
InVideo’s Sanket Shah says “Netflix is the most interesting brand I follow on Instagram. They not only post short video clips and trailers of their shows, but they also keep posting memes to engage with their audience. They somehow push and inspire people to watch Netflix more through their posts and the stories they share.”
How to implement: If your business is on Youtube, this is a great idea to both engage users on Instagram and grow your YouTube channel. Just edit your videos to highlight what the post is about in a minute or less and share on Instagram.
“They post daily content, for a wide target, showing lots of different bodies and talking about so many topics that you really forget they sell clothes.” Dealers League’s Miguel Gonzalez said about Adidas.
But it’s not just about including different body sizes, Adidas also takes bold stands for marginalized causes.
Take this Black Lives Matter post in their feed.
Steph Boll of Spikes & Heels says “Adidas is aware of and speaks out about various inequalities that few brands dare venture to involve themselves with. They are using their resources to address these issues, both as a business and as a voice on the platform”
That’s a good way to endear your brands to users.
How to implement: Watch for trends and hashtags around diversity, equity and inclusiveness. Determine your brand’s stand on the matter, share a post that speaks to what you represent. This is becoming more and more important since 70% of consumers expect brands to speak up on social and political matters.
Just a look at the post below and you are definitely reeling with laughter.
That’s what makes the Innocent brand special according to Caroline Sumners of CarolineSumners.com.
“Irreverent, entertaining, and hold true to brand values,” says Sumners.
How to implement: What counts as entertaining will differ depending on industry but contests are a good place to start. You could also try Innocent’s idea and create a graphic with typos.
Huda Beauty is a very popular Instagram brand with close to 50 million followers. An engaged following like that doesn’t come by chance.
Daisy Jing of Banish says “They always post the right kind of content with a variety of influencers who post for them without the need to sponsor or pay for them.”
“They have a cult, it all started for the love for Huda until they love the brand as well” adds Jing.
How to implement: Find a few influencers who already love and use your product and get them to come teach what they know about it on your feed. An influencer in this context is another Instagram account with a good amount of engaged followers.
*Editor’s note: Want to monitor your follower base and growth so you can be more intentional with post choices? Download our Instagram Business (Audience Overview) Template for free.
One of the best ways to create engagement is to foster community. That’s exactly what Shopify does with their Instagram account.
Their “the best business advice I’ve ever received” posts, for example, encourages followers to engage with each other and the brand.
No wonder Mitchel Harad of Expert Opportunities loves them.
“It’s easy to assume the Shopify IG account would only be beneficial to eCommerce businesses but rather than show off their impressive branding the social media minds at Shopify shine a light on businesses using their platform and have created a community that educates and informs other business owners,” says Harad.
“Not only is their aesthetic colorful and easy on the eye, but posts like “The best business advice I’ve ever received is…” allow real business owners to share their experiences.
Instead of talking down to people, Shopify has created a platform for people to talk to each other.” Harad continues.
Harad says that “The value on offer covers broad marketing and selling spectrum from identifying pain points to upping your IG storytelling game and how to use videos to catch attention. Whether you sell products online, services online, or you just want to sharpen your business tool kit, the Shopify Instagram account is an engaging and eye-opening profile.”
How to implement: Talk to people and encourage them to talk to each other. This best business advice prompt from Instagram is a very good way to start a community. To take things further, when you reply to comments draw advice from other comments and tag them so you can foster discussions between users.
For example, responding to a comment that says “it’s not about if you make a mistake, it’s what you learn from your mistake”, you could say, “exactly Brianna, like Josh (tagged) said in a comment below, he’s worst mistake was the landing pad for his biggest success”
Ashley Cummings of Searchlight Content LLC voted Simply Straws the most engaging Instagram brand. Here’s why.
“Simply Straws speaks to me as a consumer. The whole brand is built on promoting ways consumers can participate in more sustainable consumption, and their Instagram account revolves around this topic. I think the most interesting brands are the ones that know who their consumers are and find ways to provide easy information to consumers via a quick picture or story. Simply Straws is getting it right.” says Cummings.
How to implement: Stick to one topic on your Instagram account. That way it’s easy to share a quick pic or a story that provides the info your readers follow you for. You could even share info on longer topics in series and build engagement doing that.
Giveaways are always popular with users. People love to win things for free so if your account is constantly giving away free products, there’s a good possibility that people will engage more frequently.
Maria Stadler of The Natural Gem says Stephanie Davis is a power woman who does just that.
“She also does a lot for her follower. She follows back on a regular basis and provides gifts for the most engaged follower (of the week and of the month). She also does giveaways quite a lot. You have the feeling she only sells and advertises stuff she really likes.” says Stadler.
How to implement: Run a giveaway or a contest. Make use to keep the price relevant to your product so you don’t attract freebie seekers who aren’t even interested in your industry.
When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.Meredith Hill
Xbox uses language that is unique to their ideal audience in their posts on Instagram.
Michelle Dees of Guinea Pig Owner thinks it’s super engaging. “They use a real tongue-in-cheek style of communication that engages directly with gamers (their audience). I love that they don’t take themselves too seriously!” says Dees.
How to implement: Share posts that only your audience would understand. But it’s also important to consider who the majority of your audience are. It may be smarter to vary your posts so you are speaking to both the advanced users and newer users who don’t yet understand your industry terms.
“Bonobos is one of the most engaging brands I follow on Instagram. Their brand voice is informal and engaging, which makes them fun to follow. They do a fantastic job leveraging user-generated content to create dialogue and encourage consumers to interact with their brand.” says Kimberly Smith of Clarify Capital.
User generated content (UGC) is one of the most effective content types you can share on social media. A TurnTo Networks study found that 90% of consumers are more influenced by UGC than promotional emals and search results when it comes to buying decisions. And that’s reasonable, after all who would you believe? A web page written by someone with obvious sales intent, or an unsolicited review by a user like you?
How to implement: Use brand monitoring tools to watch for praise your brand receives. Take permission from the poster where possible then share on Instagram with a suitable caption.
Instagram’s user base is growing rapidly. With engagement rates and brand visibility on the platform up to 2 times higher than with some other platforms, it’s a mistake not to invest in marketing on Instagram.
The tactics these engaging brands in our post use will help you better engage your followers.
And if you want to track engagement in order to grow, use our free Instagram Business (account overview) Template to understand what posts drive the most engagement for your account.
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