10 Companies Winning at Instagram Advertising

Does anyone else remember the early days of Instagram? I’m talking pre-Facebook acquisition, when posting a mediocre picture from your iPhone became more appealing on the platform due to the beauty-enhancing filters. Highlighting your low-quality shot in all the right places. Giving your face a one-touch tan. Your friends list was intimate and limited. The platform felt more personal than any other social network that came before it…

Nowadays, things have become a bit more complex. Your feed is likely cluttered with long lists of imported Facebook friends, your favorite athletes, actors, and celebrity chefs. Oh, and then there’s that tiny announcement Instagram made last fall about opening up advertising privileges to all.

Unfortunately, early Instagram fans are heavily displeased with the increase in ads. According to Venture Beat, 58.3% of Instagram super-fans are unhappy with the way ads have been incorporated into their feeds. This study was published in early October of 2015, so the number of unhappy users has likely only gone up as more advertisers have jumped on the Instagram bandwagon.

The problem is advertisers are treating these platforms much like a regular banner or side bar ad, with text and promotions. Instagram isn’t the space to disrupt, it’s the space to blend in and share beautiful things to entice users organically rather then forcefully (which leads to pushing them away).

These 10 brands are getting it right so learn from the winners, and please stop telling me to buy your software when I’m just trying to look at images of food.

#1: Harpoon Brewery

Harpoon is a brand that continually hits the nail on the head. Their images feel authentic and un-commercialized, their posts often incorporate humor and/or cuteness (like the one below), and their captions are often clever. Not to mention, they’re able to brand their posts without it looking obnoxiously forced. Cheers, Harpoon! I’ll be picking up a six-pack of IPAs on my way home in honor of your Instagram appeal.

#2: JetBlue

I have a love-hate relationship with this brand. One day they’re woo-ing me with their customer service and clever marketing campaigns, and the next my TV is broken for the third flight in a row. Regardless of my on-again, off-again love affair with Jet Blue, their Instagram presence is spot on. The main appeal of Jet Blue’s Instagram is the beauty captured in each post. These are not the stock-images that come with every computer, but rather vivid photographs that could appear in the pages of National Geographic. They also use humor to lighten-up the mood in unfortunate flight delay situations, like in the post below.

#3: SweetGreen

Not only does SweetGreen run the best salad chain on the East Coast, but they continue to win my heart time and time again on Instagram. The food chain—which serves organically-made oversized salads—is not just about the salad, but about the cause to build a healthier world. They partner up to do a whole lot of good, from offering their customers free fitness classes, to leading movements in changing the food kids are served in school. They show this change beautifully on Facebook. Steal this inspirational style from SweetGreen to show your brand is not just about profits, but also about making real change. It will inspire people to not only engage with you, but to become loyal brand advocates for you.

#4: The Knot

This brand is set up for success. Their industry is weddings—where brides and grooms spend half their life savings to perfect every detail from the flowers to the venue; this is one day that often takes months and even years to plan. Regardless, several brands in the industry are posting stock photos or blending in with all the other wedding service brands pushing their name on the platform. The Knot takes a different approach by spending time carefully crafting each post to tell meaningful stories behind relationships, like the example below. 

#5: Indeed

The worlds largest job search website took quite sometime to hop on the Instagram bandwagon. While their Instagram follower base is not as large as one might expect due to their dominance in the field, they’re taking off to a decent start. Their posts often show the people behind their brand, whether it be the employees that help Indeed run or the people that Indeed is actually helping get jobs (like the guy below). Indeed uses the platform to tell stories and show the world that their brand is built by humans for humans, which is something that followers appreciate.

#6: Green Chef

This ad, which appeared on my feed recently, simply nailed what all advertisers on Instagram should be doing. They use appealing images, the carousel ad format to show multiple images in one ad spot, and include a subtle call-to-action and special offer to entice the viewer to want more information.

#7: charity:water

The main thing advertisers should learn from the non-profit charity:water is the importance of image quality. Every post put up by charity:water is clearly taken by a qualified photographer with an artistic eye, which is what Instagram is all about—sharing beautiful images. Their strategy is to show the world how they can help bring clean water to the people who don’t have it. The impact you can make by donating a small amount of money to the cause is huge, and charity:water tells that story through each and every post they share.

#8: BuzzFeed Tasty

These 30 second or less recipe video posts on BuzzFeed’s “Tasty” channel, have led me to lose several hours of productivity because they nail the art of marrying video and Instagram right on the head. Watch some of these quick videos and think of ways that you can mimic them. Short, intriguing videos will get people thinking about your brand and wanting more.

#9: Bustle

Bustle’s posts are often entertaining and humorous, which is what Instagram posts should be. People are going onto the platform to kill time or be entertained; Bustle shows how advertisers can play off others and create funny commentary to create life-long Insta-followers.

#10: Nike

As one the first brands with Instagram advertising privileges, Nike continues to create innovative posts, run engaging contests, and showcase their brand in creative ways. I love this creative idea below. If you can incorporate your logo and product in an out-of-the-box manner (like in food) do it and gram it—your followers will respond.

Whether it be through humor, mouth-watering videos, or heart-warming stories, emulating the strategies of these 10 advertisers will surely lead to Instagram success.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Screenshot by Margot da Cunha. Taken January 2016.
All screenshots by Margot da Cunha. Taken January 2016.