In a world obsessed with instant gratification, it’s no surprise Instagram has become a frontrunner for private users and brands alike. In fact, according to the Interbrand 100, nearly 40% of the world’s leading brands have adopted the platform, says Kelly Clay, a contributor. While shooting a quick photo and placing an artsy filter on top seems simple enough, there are brands who excel at Instagram and those who…well, don’t. Instagram is a fantastic way to show off company culture, connect with fans and influencers, and build your brand’s reputation; but it has to be done well. We’ll explore some brands leading the pack and recommend tips to maximize your Instagram impact.

In Our Industry
The Winner: Mashable (@mashable)

Colorful, newsworthy, and a little bit quirky; Mashable’s stream sums up its brand philosophy perfectly. From creative photos representing the top stories in tech, social media, web design, and more to a glimpse behind the scenes at Mashable’s offices, users immediately feel connected and compelled to interact.

Consumer Brands
The Winner: Sharpie (@sharpie)

Sharpie’s Instagram stream features impressive, inventive examples of how to use Sharpie products and sprinkles in humorous captions and hashtags. The brand gives its “normal” products a fresh outlook, does a fantastic job engaging its followers, and inspires creativity.

Food & Beverage
The Winner: Starbucks (@starbucks)

Starbucks’ images are consistent, inviting, and personal; just like you’ve come to expect from its stores and products themselves. Focusing on seasonal favorites (isn’t the Pumpkin Spice Latte the real start of fall?) and interesting locations to enjoy beverages and treats, the brand keeps its well-known voice strong with its fun collection of photos. Bonus points for encouraging fans to use #starbucks to curate a whole new group of content.

The Winner: NPR (@npr)

Lauded as exemplary by Instagram itself, NPR is a forward-thinking social brand across many platforms. Its diverse photos capture the latest news through entertaining, emotional, and beautifully executed photos; and its celebrity-backed “I Heart NPR” notes are genius.

The Winner: Oscar PR Girl (@oscarprgirl)

Haute couture fashion house Oscar de la Renta’s PR pro is also an Instagram aficionado. Although technically a personal account, her images represent her employer’s brand beautifully (and appropriately) and showcase a new point of view of a day in the life working for the iconic label. With photos of new designs and products, shots from Fashion Week, and more; her stream is well-rounded, consistent, and perfectly in line with the Oscar de la Renta voice.

So, what can you do to get on these brands’ level?

  • Create unique content—You know your brand is unique. Now show everyone else why! Instagram offers unlimited opportunities to be creative, and the fact that you can take it anywhere opens even more doors. So, for example, that ubiquitous “food porn” shot with a Toaster filter that seems to creep onto streams without much rhyme or reason? Just don’t do it.
  • Check yourself out—Search hashtags of your own brand name. This can provide great insight into how your fan base uses and perceives your brand, as well as predict how they’ll interact with you.
  • Be yourself… just not too much—Let’s be honest. The point of social media, or any marketing for that matter, is to promote your brand. However, Instagram and its users don’t take too kindly to shout-it-from-the-rooftops self-promotion. In other words, rather than snapping a shot of your logo (and that’s it), think of a creative way to represent it instead.
  • Consistency is a virtue—If you were following someone’s activity and they suddenly went on an unexplained hiatus, would you be interested in what they had to say when, or if, they returned? Probably not. Whether you post one time a day or one hundred, just make sure you do it, and with predictability.
  • Be authentic—All of the above brands are exemplary because they stay true to their “voice.” Whether you’re curating content or interacting with your followers, staying true to what your brand stands for and the tone you’ve created is essential. You’ll appear reliable, consistent, and in-the-know, and your fans will appreciate you for it.
  • Get connected—Cross-promote your Instagram feed on your other social platforms and sync your photos to post automatically.

With a bit of a strategy planned out, your Instagram account will reach buzz-worthy status in no time. Happy snapping…