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5 Brands to Follow (and Study) on Instagram


There was a point in time when to be accepted onto Facebook’s social network you needed to have an active college email address. As you can imagine, there weren’t 1.19 billion monthly active users, which is the amount of users Facebook surpassed last quarter, but it made Facebook a special experience for college students.

I can vividly remember when I got accepted into college; the most exciting part was that I would be able to join Facebook to interact with my friends as a high school senior. Mark Zuckerberg’s creation had the “Cool Kid” kind of vibe to it. Being on Facebook was the equivalent to being invited to the party that everyone was talking about.

Fast forward to 2015. My grandparents are now on Facebook and there are advertisements being served at an alarming rate. I can’t really complain about the advertisements since I place many of them each and every day (sorry guys).

Don’t get me wrong, people still use Facebook, it just doesn’t have quite the same allure as it did in the early days.

Zuckerberg in 2012, however, made a brilliant move to expand his social portfolio. He bought Instagram for $1 billion, a price critics at the time scoffed at. But the creator of Facebook clearly has a knack for knowing when something will be popular amongst a large user base as Instragram is one of the fastest growing social networks and also one of the most used among high schoolers and college students.

Yet when it comes to businesses and marketing, it is much harder to be “cool” on social media. When the high school quarterback posts a picture on Instagram, it’s instantly popular. Brands strive to obtain this type of organic interaction and pay lots of money to do so, but it’s not easy.

The five brands mentioned below are equivalent to the prom king and queen.

They’re popular on Instagram and are trendsetters in regards to the content that they post. Start following these companies on Instagram and you will certainly be able to pick-up techniques that you can implement for your own business.

Forever 21 // @forever21


If you follow the retail sector, the buzzword as of late has been “fast fashion.” Companies like Abercrombie have been struggling because they can’t keep up with the quick and trendy designs of companies like Forever 21.

When it comes to Instagram, Forever 21 follows a similar path to the path that has led to its fashion success. They create trendy photographs that seem natural and appeal to the everyday millennial lifestyle among female shoppers. This is one of the reasons why they have over 5 million followers on this social network.

Starbucks // @Starbucks



The coffee behemoth has a diversified plan when it comes to Instagram. Not only does the Seattle-based company post pictures of its different varieties of coffee, they also blend their filtered photographs with images that appeal to creative types. Whether it’s hitting its core demographic in Austin or the college population near Charlotte, North Carolina, Starbucks has the bases covered as to who they’re trying to target on Instagram with coffee-themed pictures that blend in plenty of creativity and fun.

Starbucks has over 3.5 million followers and clearly has a great strategy in place to reach an audience that will relates to it’s core customer base.

(For the record, I was not at Starbucks writing this article. Although, after looking through their Instagram feed, I am craving a chai tea latte!)

Homage // @Homage


If you’re not familiar with this clothing company from Columbus, Ohio, I recommend you start following them on Instagram immediately (especially if you like sports).

Homage is a company that has transformed itself into a national brand by creating an amazing social media strategy. They have nearly 40,000 followers on Instagram and have the perfect combination of messaging through imagery.  From showing off sports shirts that hit specific fan-bases to hitting the nostalgia button for Millennials, their Instagram game is superb.

Not to mention, one of their storefronts is within walking distance from my office. You can play the video game NBA Jam for free and they sell Big League Chew! How can you beat that?

General Electric // @GeneralElectric


According to its Instagram description, GE works around the clock and across the globe to build, power, move and cure the world.

Users might not think of General Electric as a top five brand to follow on Instagram, but they’ve done a great job of showing off their innovative projects around the world. They likely wouldn’t be the first brand you’d follow, but it’s definitely worth it to check out their account to see what you can learn about how to use Instragram for a non-exciting brand.

Who knew that there was a 140km external pipeline facility in Northern Norway? Based off of the amazing Instagram photos, you’ll learn of new and exciting projects like this taking place all over the world.

Nike // @Nike


If you’re looking for workout inspiration, make sure to follow Nike. Instead of sitting on the couch on a Saturday afternoon, their photographs will inspire you to throw on a pair of shoes and go for a run instead of eating that extra bag of potato chips.

Not only are their pictures motivational, they even have a viral component to them. During the 2015 National Championship between Oregon and Ohio State, they posted an amazing picture of the coin toss, which resulted in the entire world discussing the photo and interpreting whether or not it was real.

Later on, we found out that the image was photoshopped. Nike certainly knows how to generate buzz, which is why they have over 11 million followers on Instagram!

The Takeaway Points

So how exactly can you implement a winning strategy on Instagram to get more people talking about your brand? Here are some points to consider:

  1. Focus on building your following with relevant users. If you own an e-commerce golf equipment store, you will obviously want to find users on Instagram that are interacting with Callaway and Ping and following Phil Mickelson. These people will find your content more compelling and could become your customers.
  2. Incorporating hashtags pertaining to your line of work will get more exposure for your filtered photographs. Sticking with the golf example, when the Masters is taking place, this would be a great time to make golf related posts with the hashtag #Masters2015.
  3. Post fun and exciting photos your followers will want to like and share. Instagram isn’t the same as direct marketing where you’re looking for an immediate response. You need to post pictures that fit in with the other photos that are shared on Instragam. They should be interesting and fun to look at. Pay more attention to wowing your followers with cool photos than looking to close a sale immediately.
  4. Find an influencer to post on behalf of your company. If there is a casual golfer that happens to be a YouTube sensation and has an Instagram following of 20,000 people, reach out to him to post on behalf of your brand. You will be pleasantly surprised how inexpensive it will be to get someone to post pictures for your company. This has the potential to greatly expand your audience.
  5. Ask people to follow your company on Instagram. If Instagram can be beneficial for your business, make sure this an important part of your marketing messaging. Whether your sales reps are asking people after the sales call to follow your company on Instagram or if you give someone $5 off their purchase of golf clubs if they follow your brand on Instagram, customers need to be informed about what makes your company compelling.

And there you have it—five exciting brands to follow (and study) on Instagram. Do you have any brands you like to follow and would add to the list? Share them with us in the comments!


Jason ParksJason Parks is the owner of The Media Captain, a Digital Marketing Agency based out of Columbus, Ohio, that offers online advertising, SEO, social media, web development, and video production services.