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The Top Instagram Accounts to Learn Marketing From

Instagram has come a long way since it started in 2010. Back then, it was merely a photo-sharing app filled with pictures of food, pets, toddlers, people having fun, and more pets. In fact, the first photo ever uploaded on Instagram was of a dog, which was taken by co-founder Kevin Systrom.

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A post shared by Kevin Systrom (@kevin) on

Fast forward to today, and you’ll still see photos of pets, food, toddlers, and people having fun, but you know that Instagram is not the same anymore. From the new filters and stickers to stories and hashtags, Instagram has grown into something a lot bigger than everyone – including its creators – thought it would be.  

From the time it was bought by Facebook in 2012, Instagram has become a very lucrative marketing platform for brands, businesses, and even for people who only want to reach out to certain groups of people. Let’s take a look at five of the top Instagram accounts and learn some marketing tips from them.

Top Instagram accounts: Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese professional football player who became the most expensive footballer when he signed for Real Madrid in 2009. His move to Juventus caused some other movement in the world of football…

Although a bit funny, the tweet above is a reflection of Cristiano Ronaldo’s fan base. His followers are loyal and on Instagram alone, we are talking about 147 million of them. What marketing tips can we learn from the most followed person on Instagram?

First of all, Cristiano Ronaldo posts interesting content on his Instagram account mainly because he knows what his followers want to see. This includes snaps of him in action on the football field, to intimate moments with his wife and family.

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Mis amores ❤️❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

There are shots of him doing workouts because his followers appreciate the motivation, and like to see what makes him so great.

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Happy Sunday 👌🧘‍♂️😘

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

Ronaldo also partners with well-known brands on his Instagram account, and most of these posts (if not all) are paid. The good thing about Ronaldo though is that he doesn’t bombard his followers with paid posts. He posts regularly, sometimes two to three times a day, but when I looked at 100 of his posts, only 15 of them were paid partnerships.

Even though he owns a hotel, and has his own brand of underwear, fragrance line, and other merchandise, he doesn’t over-promote them on Instagram. The brands Ronaldo partners with are also those that are relevant to his image as a sports superstar. He also calls his followers to action in some of his posts, but does not overdo it.

Top Instagram accounts: Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez started out on the Disney Channel with Barney & Friends, and then moved on to appear as Alex in the Wizards of Waverly Place. She appeared on other TV series and films, then later on crossed over to the music industry with her band, Selena Gomez and the Scene. She went solo in 2013, and has continued crossing between the music and film industry since then.

While not exactly the biggest star in her generation, she was the most followed person on Instagram before Cristiano Ronaldo took over in October 2018. Her intriguing relationship with Justin Bieber and close friendship with Taylor Swift may have contributed to her popularity, and you can think of how these relationships acted as influcener marketing and collaborations. Other factors are at play as well.

Selena Gomez posts contents with a strong and intriguing voice, with a self-deprecating side. This makes her followers long for more of her, although she doesn’t post regularly as compared to other celebrities. Gomez even goes on social media hiatuses, which is probably why she lost the spot as the most followed Instagram account.

Selena Gomez’s partnership with A21 and WE Movement reflect her image as a celebrity who wants to make a difference and use her influence in the right way. She also has paid partnerships with brands such as Puma, but these posts do not take over her whole Instagram account.

As with all celebrity accounts, she keep the mix more towards personal content than advertorial content.

Top Instagram accounts: National Geographic

The official account of the National Geographic Society is the top non-celebrity account on Instagram, with over 94 million followers. It’s easy to dismiss the Instagram success of this scientific and educational non-profit organization as a natural phenomenon, owing to the fact that it has always been an expert in photography since 1888, with hundreds of great photographers on its payroll.

As a matter of fact, the organization says that their strategy involved giving their Instagram password to a hundred of their photographers and telling them to post photos often, but not too often. These photographers often tell the stories behind the photos in the captions, and make use of relevant hashtags.

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Photo by @FransLanting | King penguins molt before they start a new breeding cycle. On South Georgia Island masses of kings gather along glacial streams where they stand for several weeks while they shed their old feathers. During their molt, they cannot go to sea to feed because they are losing their insulation. So all these birds are fasting. They’ll drink water or eat snow, but that’s it. They lose a lot of weight but at the end of their molt, they look like brand new birds, with striking yellow-orange neck patches that indicate they’re ready to breed. @thephotosociety @natgeocreative @natgeotravel #Penguins #Kingpenguins #Wild #Antarctica #SouthGeorgiaIsland #Nature #WildlifePhotography #Naturelovers

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

National Geographic also posts Instagram stories and creates story highlights to make it easier for their followers to browse through their stories. They also have paid partnerships with brands and organizations within the same field of interest. The account also feature videos occasionally, which garner a high level of engagement. The video below, for instance, has over 321,000 likes and more than two million views.

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Video by Michaela Skovranova @mishkusk | A young Green Turtle is enjoying a jellyfish meal off the East Coast of Australia. Juvenile green turtles are omnivores and will happily feed on almost anything, jellyfish included. As they grow older their diet tends to shift towards consuming seagrass and algae. Because sea turtles are reptiles, they are much less likely to suffer from the adverse effects of the jellyfish stinging cells. Unfortunately for turtles, it is often hard to distinguish a piece of floating plastic from a jellyfish. Research has shown that a turtle has a 22% chance of dying if it eats just one piece of plastic. Us humans have excellent opportunity to help – we can opt for plastic-free alternatives, shop consciously or even collect a few pieces of debris on our walk home. Drains and rivers lead to the ocean, therefore, no matter where in the world you are every little bit counts. #plasticfree #ocean #underwater #nature #wildlife #australia #julianrocks #greenturtle

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

Top Instagram accounts: Nike

Nike is an American multinational corporation, which is one of the most popular brand for sports equipment, apparel, and shoes. It was founded in 1964, and has adapted to trends over the years – both in fashion and marketing strategies. This is evident in their Instagram account, which is the second most followed non-celebrity account with more than 82 million followers.

top instagram accounts nike

The company posts on Instagram once a week, and is one of the few companies that uses a brand-specific hashtag effectively. Their “Just Do It” tagline was coined in 1988 and has been famously associated with the company even before Instagram. It naturally became an effective hashtag as Nike inspires its followers with motivational captions and great photos.

Top Instagram accounts: Victoria’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret started in 1977 and has grown to become the largest lingerie brand with multiple international franchises. Aside from women’s lingerie, it also develops and sells beauty products and other women’s wear. The company’s fashion show, which features Victoria’s Secret models wearing the brand’s designs, is the most-watched fashion event each year, with over 800 million people watching all over the world.

It’s no wonder then that the company’s Instagram account has 62 million followers as of November 2018, becoming the third most followed Instagram account that’s not owned by a celebrity. The number of followers on the brand’s Instagram account can only increase as they take advantage of features such as story highlights and make use of brand-specific hashtags.

Victoria’s Secret also announces exclusive discounts and other promos through Instagram, which entice more people to follow them.

Marketing tips from top Instagram accounts

From celebrities like Cristiano Ronaldo and Selena Gomez, to organizations such as National Geographic, Nike, and Victoria’s Secret, you can learn effective marketing strategies that can help your Instagram account grow.

  • Interesting content: Victoria’s Secret, Selena Gomez, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Instagram accounts give their followers glimpses of what it’s like for the rich and the famous, with the authenticity people appreciate. National Geographic’s posts are mostly educational, while Nike focuses on motivating their followers.
  • Value added: This tells us that people are attracted to content that either entertains them or adds value to their life. Therefore, your marketing strategy should start with creating engaging content.
  • Post consistently and regularly: Four of the top five Instagram accounts in this article posts two to three photos or videos per day. This consistency helps them remain in their followers’ feed, but not to the point of spamming.

  • Hiatus: Selena Gomez goes on social media breaks, which is said to be the reason why she lost the top spot as the most followed Instagram account in October. While she is still in the second spot, this should teach us that going on an Instagram hiatus is not healthy for accounts who want to grow.
  • Hashtags: You may have noticed that these accounts do not use a lot of hashtags, but those that they use are specific and relevant. The tip is to create hashtags that can be associated exclusively to your Instagram account. Cristiano Ronaldo’s #cr7, Victoria’s Secret’s #VSFashionshow, and Nike’s #justdoit are just examples of brand-specific hashtags. For growing Instagram accounts, it’s advisable to also use a mix of specific and general hashtags so you can reach more people.   
  • Partnerships: While these Instagram accounts mostly have paid partnerships, this still teaches us the value of collaborating with other people on Instagram. It is also important to choose micro-influencers that are in the same industry or niche.
  • Videos: More and more brands are using videos to convey their message, banking on our most dominant sense: vision.

National Geographic posts videos that are educational, Victoria’s Secret’s videos are teasers, while Nike’s videos are inspirational. There is therefore no definite type of video that can make an Instagram account successful, just make sure that your videos can draw the attention of your followers and keep them on your account.

Even successful brands and personalities such as the top Instagram accounts we discussed in this article make use of marketing tactics, proving all the more that great content, hashtags, videos, and partnerships are effective in growing your Instagram.

Date: December 5, 2018 / Categories: Case Studies, Marketing, / Author: Rich Drees


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