For a while now, it's been clear that Instagram isn't just a social network for selfies and brunch pics. In fact, Instagram sees a whopping 500 million users -- a 25% increase in audience size over less than a year.
In a world where visual content remains a crucial part of any business' marketing strategy, Instagram presents a unique opportunity to visually represent your brand, celebrate its personality, and keep it top-of-mind for all those users who scroll through their Instagram feeds every single day.
Ready to get inspired? Check out this list of brands that are thriving on Instagram right now, and what about their posts sets them apart. (Here's a list of 15 Instagram hacks and features if you're looking to up your own Instagram game.)
17 of the Top Instagram Business Accounts
WeWork provides shared office spaces in cities and countries all over the globe -- so it only makes sense that they should post a lot of photos showcasing their beautiful co-working communities. They do an amazing job photographing the spaces in ways that make followers like us wish we could jump into the photos and plop down with our laptops and a coffee.
They don't stop at posting photos of their shared workspaces, though. WeWork uses Instagram to capture and share moments from some of the largest branded events that members (and their friends) look forward to all year, like WeWork Summer Camp. Hashtags are used to label these events -- like #WWCamp -- and to encourage customers to share their own photos of the spaces, using WeWork's memorable slogan: "Do what you love."
Our favorite is the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag. Not only is it awesome because, well, dogs, but it's also a great way for the company to promote their laid-back culture while also inviting customers to interact with their brand on social. Near the end of each year, they actually choose the best photo submissions to the #DogsOfWeWork hashtag on Instagram and Facebook and put together a calendar for the following year.
I couldn't possibly write about the best brands on Instagram without including National Geographic, which posts photos from contributors traveling anywhere from large cities to the Arctic to small African villages. They've built an enormous following -- over 60 million followers as of this posting -- and established themselves as one of the very top Instagram brands in the world.
That's pretty darn impressive for a brand that was founded in 1888 and largely known for its print magazines. In our opinion, this is one of the best examples of a company keeping pace with the ever-evolving world of marketing.
Zevia, a natural soda brand, prides itself on being a zero-calorie drink with no artificial sweeteners. But it strives to be anything but stuffy -- like other cola brands, Zevia aims to reach an audience that values fun, friendship, and wellness.
On Instagram, the brand's personality reflects that: It's bright, friendly, refreshing, and shows how Zevia fits into a healthy lifestyle, without losing a colorful personality. (Download our free buyer persona templates here to get to know your audience better.)
The city of Paris is known for many lovely things -- wine, cheese, and art are just a few. But that last one, art, is photographically captured on the Instagram account of the Paris Opera Ballet, or Ballet de l'Opera de Paris.
The account captures candid images of the ballet's dancers during performances, rehearsals, and backstage, giving viewers an artful glimpse at what goes into the ballet's productions. It also makes use of something called banners on Instagram, when larger photos can be divided into multiple pictures to create a tiled banner of smaller photos. (There are several apps available to pull that off, but to start, check out Tile Pic).
The way this account highlights performance venues is noteworthy, too. The lower-right photo below provides a look at the theatre when it's completely empty, conveying a calm-before-the-storm feel that can generate excitement for productions.
Here's another brand that's been around for the ages -- King Arthur Flour was founded in 1790 -- and uses Instagram to showcase their brand personality that is able to adapt to a changing marketing landscape, while maintaining its authenticity. It sets a gold standard for home and professional bakers alike, which is communicated through these photos of ingredients, chefs, and finished products.
King Arthur Flour uses a number of techniques throughout these photos, but one thing the brand aces is seasonality -- its photos reflect the goodies that people enjoy throughout different times of year, like cider season (a.k.a., "fall"), summer produce, and the winter holidays. Take a look at some of the examples below to see what I mean. You'll find more candid action shots of recipes being executed, stand-alone King Arthur Flour products, and other images that reflect the company's culinary, New England roots.
This wellness-themed digital magazine might have one of the most visually delectable presences on Instagram -- and that makes sense, since Organic Authority's motto is to "live deliciously." The photos reflect the publication's written content on food, beauty, home, and garden, with bright and clean-looking images that echo a mission to help readers live more sustainably and naturally.
Organic Authority makes good use of quotes on Instagram, too -- instead of badgering viewers into pursuing a certain lifestyle, the images and text captures both serve to be inspirational and encouraging of a happy, healthy approach to things. It also uses the hashtag #BeOrganic to encourage users to interact with the brand, sharing content from fans who use it to tag their own photos.
7) Lorna Jane
If your brand were a person, how would you describe its personality? Australian activewear company Lorna Jane has done an awesome job answering this important branding question with its Instagram content. Spend just a few seconds scrolling through these photos, and you'll quickly be able to name the target Lorna Jane buyer: a young, sporty, twenty- or thirty-something woman who values looking good while maintaining an active lifestyle.
The images posted by Lorna Jane, which often show the brand's clothing and accessories, as well as images of women who embody its target buyer persona, are colorful, playful, and inspirational, which is a perfect representation of the brand's essence -- in other words, its heart, soul, and spirit.
8) No Your City
The folks at No Your City produce a documentary series that captures the fascinating stories of people all over the world, but mostly in New York. The brand's Instagram account, though, is less about these stories and more about showcasing gorgeous images from the city itself.
What we love about these photos is how closely they follow the best practices for taking great photos with your phone. Each one of No Your City's photos seems to follow at least one of these recommendations, whether it's focusing on a single subject, embracing negative space, playing with reflections, or finding interesting perspectives. The photos are consistently stunning, and as a result, the brand has built a solid following.
Britain-based retail company ASOS doesn't just post great photos of its clothing and models to their Instagram account -- though it does that really well. But things start to get interesting when ASOS puts its stylists to work, giving them each an account associated with the brand.
These ASOS-affiliated stylists, like @asos_debbie, function as brand lifestyle ambassadors. "They're almost like fashion bloggers," says HubSpot Marketing Manager Elissa Hudson. "Each has their own persona, has a huge Instagram following, and publishes content to their individual Instagram accounts that's very similar to the type of content fashion bloggers post. Some of them actually are fashion bloggers, actually, which I imagine is a huge factor in why they were hired in the first place. Can you say ready-made audience?"
The folks who run ASOS' main account post a combination images of the brand's clothing and accessories, stylists (like the third image below, featuring "@asos_debbie looking as flawless as ever"), and stuff that target buyer personas would like -- such as the ridiculously indulgent milkshake below, which garnered above-average engagement. (Also -- more dogs.)
Coca-Cola has an impressive social media presence across all platforms -- turns out, this company knows a thing or two about branding.
That really boils down to understanding its target audience, which tends to be young people who value fun, friendship, and sports. And the brand's personality directly reflects that: It's happy, playful, friendly, refreshing, and all about sharing good times.
Knowing this, take a look at how Coca-Cola Argentina uses Instagram to celebrate that personality and target audience.
Notice that the top two photos also incorporate Coca-Cola's signature red. Since 80% of consumers say that color boosts their recognition of a brand, using that consistency helps to keep the brand recognizable to someone quickly scrolling through an Instagram feed.
11) Califia Farms
Califia Farms natural beverage products have some of the most attractive packaging we've come across. In fact, it's so iconic that it won top honors in the global packaging design category from Beverage World Magazine.
Instagram is a perfect platform to showcase that cool, curvy bottle, and the folks at Califia don't shy away from doing just that --most of the brand's posts feature the beverage's containers in some way, whether they're the main subject of the photo, or more of an accessory in the context of the active, healthy lifestyle Califia's buyer personas love.
Something Califia does really well on Instagram is create fun, playful videos and GIFs. Check out this one, which they used to teach viewers how to used steamed non-dairy milk for coffee cocktails:
And this one, which is just plain fun to watch:
12) Shore Projects
Shore Projects, a British watch brand, has a unique relationship with Instagram because it's been active on the platform from the very beginning.
“For the first six months of launching the business, the only platform that we actually focused on using was Instagram,” says Neil Waller, the company's co-founder.
The first chunk of text on the company's homepage reads, "Shore Projects is a watch brand inspired by the beauty and fun of the British seaside." Clearly, the brand has a strong connection with some very specific imagery, which meant it already had a great foundation for image-based branding on Instagram. Many of their photos are taken on the beaches and coasts of the U.K., and those that aren't maintain the look and feel of the British seaside with faded colors and a lot of grey and green hues. (Read this blog post to learn more about creating color schemes for your brand's Instagram content.)
This Instagram account is run by a New Jersey-based photographer named George Steinmetz. While Steinmetz's general photography covers all sorts of subjects outside of New York City from the air (like "Brazil Dunes," "Florida Sea Level," and "Tree People"), he created an Instagram account specifically to post his aerial photographs of New York.
We love that he picked a niche subject and dedicated an entire account to it where he publishes stunning photographs on a consistent basis. While his followers know what type of content to expect from him, he somehow comes up with cool, surprising subjects that make for posts that people love to engage with through Likes and comments.
The folks at Staples do a lot of things right when it comes to Instagram content, but there are two that particularly grab our attention -- engaging with followers by asking questions and including calls-to-action in captions, and staying true to the brand's playful-yet-practical personality.
When it comes to engaging Staples' followers, it's all about asking questions in the photo captions. For example, check out the second photo below featuring a series of emojis -- its caption reads, "That's pretty much our day. How about yours? Tell us in emojis." Scroll through the comments on that photo, and you'll see followers had a lot of fun responses. The caption paired with the first photo below -- the one with the cupcakes -- asks users to tag someone who they want to thank.
Staples does a great job staying true to brand by posting fun photos such as the "2016" shot written in office supplies and using the #OfficeHack hashtag to engage their following.
The folks at Staples also use Instagram to post cute videos and GIFs, like the one below that promotes its Office by Martha Stewart line:
Headspace's Instagram content boasts bold colors and a lot of negative space. But instead of using boldness to evoke playfulness, the folks at Headspace -- who are in the business of guided meditation -- post a lot of images featuring tips, tricks, and reminders for practicing mindfulness and meditation.
For example, the second photo in the examples below challenges followers to turn their phones off for 10 minutes. Since Instagram is primarily a mobile app, the post serves as a timely, friendly reminder of how much time we spend staring at our phones.
While some of the best Instagram accounts are all about super high photo quality, there are some cases when the subject matter of the photos says a lot more.
Such is the case for the famous sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. The show's Instagram followers aren't expecting these folks to post meticulously edited, perfectly framed photos -- in fact, doing so would feel a little off-brand from its kind of informal, off-the-cuff personality.
Instead, Saturday Night Live uses Instagram to give fans a virtual "backstage pass" with the hashtag #SNLbackstage -- and people love it.
Saturday Night Live's Instagram account also includes short videos of the actors doing silly things offstage, or choice clips of live shows or promos:
For some, there is the phenomenon known as "food porn." And for others, there's "decor porn." Enthusiasts of the latter, take note: HomeGoods is on Instagram.
What we love about the HomeGoods Instagram feed is its ability to combine both decorating tips with the idea that interior design can be personal. So while the brand conveys home decor trends through these photos, it does so in a way that shows viewers how products from HomeGoods can be used in a variety of ways. Take a look at the top two photos -- the mirrors in each one are visually similar, but are used for two contrasting design schemes. It makes the HomeGoods product offering multi-purpose.
Which are your favorite business-run Instagram accounts? Share with us in the comments.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.