Social media has exploded in the last 10 years, Facebook has well over a billion active users, with Twitter and Instagram claiming 300 million people each, and it’s a trend that is set to keep on rising. Instagram’s popularity has exploded further in recent years! That is perhaps part of the reason Facebook bought the media sharing site back in 2012 for $1 billion! If that’s not enough of a reason to invest your time, you should read of the importance of social media for further encouragement.

The Instagram platform was first set up as a simple image sharing service. These days, one can share both pictures and videos. People love using Instagram because it allows them to apply photo filters to images quickly as well as keep in touch friends and brands they have an affinity with.

When it comes to promoting a brand on the Internet, the use of Instagram is essential. The thing is; how can you effectively use Instagram to promote your brand? As with most marketing methods, research is crucial. That’s why we are going to take a look at three of the most popular Instagram profiles.

By doing so, we’ll find it what has made them so popular. You can then use some key takeaways to use in your Instagram marketing efforts.

1. Nike


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know Nike is a popular sportswear brand. They design and sell a range of sports clothing, footwear and accessories. Almost everyone on the planet has heard of Nike!

In most parts of the world, Nike needs no introduction. Still, even a popular brand needs some clever marketing ideas to stay competitive! One such example was when Nike launched a new marketing campaign named PHOTOiD. So, how does this involve Instagram?

Nike invited people to create custom footwear using their Instagram photos. Users could then click through to have those shoes made and shipped to them. As you can imagine, the campaign was a roaring success and put them ahead of their competitors.

The company is the first brand to launch such an innovative Instagram marketing campaign. At the time of writing, Nike has around 39 million followers on Instagram.

Nike’s key Instagram marketing takeaways:

  1. Nike focuses on their target audience. Instead of focusing on their brand, Nike uses Instagram to make their brand about people. They use all kinds of campaigns to focus the centre of attention on their fans and followers;
  2. Nike involves their audience a lot in their campaigns. The brand often gives shout-outs to their fans and customers in their Instagram posts. For example, they will share photos and videos from people that use their products. And they’ll give them credit by mentioning their Instagram profile ID;
  3. Nike inspires its audience. Brands have to think outside of the box to sell their products. It’s not enough to just talk about something’s benefits. You have to inspire your audience. For example, Nike does this by telling some good stories using photos and videos.


2. Red Bull


Another brand that you’ll see a mention of everywhere is Red Bull. Here is an example of a forward-thinking firm that has become power social media users. As you know, Red Bull is a popular brand of energy drink. All kinds of people use their drinks from students to celebrities.

Even sports personalities and office workers drink Red Bull for a much-needed energy boost. Today, Red Bull is a global brand. The drink gets sold in more than 167 countries and is as popular as other drinks brands such as Coca-Cola.

Since its introduction in 1987, Red bull has sold over 50 billion cans worldwide. Obviously Red Bulls inception was a few decades before any social media existed online, however since the creation of Instagram, Red Bull have gained over 4.3 million followers of their profile. Thats correct, 4.3 million for a drinks company! So, what is it that Red Bull share on their Instagram account?

You might think that Red Bull just talk about their drinks and post images with brand placement. What might shock you to learn is they talk little about their energy drinks! Instead, Red Bull captivate their audience by inspiring action.

Take a sneak peek at Red Bull’s Instagram page and you’ll notice a common theme. Each image and video posted show ordinary people doing extraordinary things! You’ll often see actions of people snowboarding down steep hills, for instance. And you’ll even see things like people drifting rally cars on snowy ground!

Red Bull’s key Instagram marketing takeaways:

  1. Each photo and video posted by Red Bull is high-quality, and with a high-resolution;
  2. Most of their content seldom features their branding or products. Images and videos motivate people to take an interest in high-action sports and pursuits;
  3. All content shared on Red Bull’s Instagram profile has a story attached to it;
  4. Many photos and videos contain relevant links to other people’s Instagram profiles;
  5. Red Bull likes to tell people that its drink will “give you wings”. Many of the images shared are action shots from incredible heights.
  6. The content they post inspires people not to give up on their dreams and visions. They serve as motivational tools with something to aspire to.


3. H&M


You’ll find it hard to avoid the fact that there will always be an H&M store near you! In case you didn’t know, H&M is a Swedish retail clothing store chain. They have stores across 61 countries from the UK and USA to the United Arab Emirates and Australia.

The company has a rich and long history that dates back to 1947. Today, it has over 3,700 stores globally. The firm opens up scores of new retail outlets each year. H&M is a clothing brand popular with those that seek the latest fashions. As such, H&M appeals to younger generations keen to stay on trend when it comes to fashion.

The H&M Instagram differs to Nike and Red Bull in many ways. For example, many of its photos and videos contain the latest fashion products they sell. They often have people modelling those items. Now, you might think they are just typical studio photo shoots. But, you’ll find no evidence of such an approach on their Instagram page!

Instead, H&M takes photos and videos of their products in a variety of settings. One recent image shows a model wearing an SS16 sweater and sitting at a table reading a book. She’s not walking down a catwalk, nor is she in some exotic location.

H&M’s key Instagram marketing takeaways:

  1. Product photos and videos get shown in a variety of ways. Examples include laid out on a table, on hangers, and worn by people doing everyday things;
  2. H&M use Instagram’s hashtag feature to launch competitions with their followers. One example was having people take selfies next to statues of David Beckham in New York and other U.S. cities;
  3. The company upload photos to remind followers they are on other social networks. A recent example shows a product next to an iPhone with the Snapchat app logo on the screen;
  4. H&M make good use of colour to emphasise the styling of their products. They also opt for stylish and artistic backdrops;
  5. They upload images advertising fashion show live streams. H&M is a good example of how you can use Instagram to cross-sell;
  6. H&M’s photos inspire people to choose certain clothing combinations. For example, a dress, handbag, shoes and sunglasses.


Social strategy

As you see, three very large brands using social media in different ways to engage with their audience and promote a brand message. Each of the three examples above deliver a brand message in a variety of ways that critically doesn’t feel marketing overload, which is a vitally important ingredient for your social media growth strategy. You don’t just have to be a big brand to take advantage of social media though, these tips work just as well for all businesses from blog startups through to eCommerce stores.

It takes time and effort to achieve this & doesn’t happen overnight. One consideration should be to build your social marketing into an overall annual plan, including paid for, brand, SEO and social activity.  Planning activity in this way across all online channels helps to deliver a consistent message that will ultimately help your audience identity you and set you apart from your competitors.



Matt Janaway
I am a digital & online entrepreneur and marketer, specialising in the retail & eCommerce arena. I have built, purchased, optimised and sold in excess of 10 eCommerce businesses with multi-million pound revenues and I’m now heading a team project optimising 30 websites with over 20,000 products. I consider my methods, scientific and incredibly advanced.