Established in 2010 and acquired by Facebook in 2012 Instagram has done a terrific job becoming indispensable in the social networking environment. Today the photo and video sharing application has reached the milestone of 300 million users who dish out 2.5 billion likes every day. The brand itself shines at the top of the most followed list counting 64 million – followed by Canadian singer/rascal Justin Bieber and Internet-breaking Kim Kardashian, both followed by a little over 23 million Instagrammers. It’s safe to say that there is more to Instagram than grumpy cats and #beliebers.
17% of all Internet users are on Instagram
Instagram appeals most to urban area residents and 18 to 29 year olds
20% of all Internet users on Instagram have an annual income between $30k and $49k
– Britton MDG, December 2014
The top 20 of most followed accounts is dominated by American celebrities and international soccer players. However, the twentieth place is taken by a brand. National Geographic, a brand inspiring people to care about the planet, is currently engaging with an audience of 40 million between Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The brand has 9.7 million followers on Instagram alone, which is a more than decent job for a non-profit organization. Success on social media is subjective and not easily achieved. So what can other brands learn from National Geographic’s strong Instagram game?
National Geographic owes its success to a cohesive cross-network strategy designed to lead people directly to its website. The brand is mostly renowned for the impressive photography in their magazine, which makes it the perfect fit for this social network.
Following National Geographic on Instagram is like going on a guided tour of the world
National Geographic wants people to explore the content offered on their website. This goal, however, is easily noticed by an audience. Brands need to keep in mind that followers are becoming increasingly smart and quickly define call-to-actions as being misled. Followers themselves are looking to engage with brands, on their own terms. High quality content does not necessarily mean high engagement. If you let your followers benefit from your posts – whether it is to inform, entertain or make them think – engagement will come naturally.
A best practice example of this is National Geographic’s post showing baby captive bred pandas in China. The post meets the basic requirements for engagement: it’s informative, score high on the cuteness level and is of emotional value. Result: 500.000 likes and 43.5000 comments.
After adding 15 seconds of film to its options, Instagram launched the app Hyperlapse in August of 2014. This addition allows its users to create time lapse videos using Instagram’s integrated stabilization. The development of this app was an answer to the increasing popularity of (amateur) time lapse videos.
National Geographic is an early adopter of Hyperlapse. It started experimenting with the app as soon as it was launched. What is an obvious next step if you own rich content? Give followers what they love more than images: moving images.
Allow user-generated content & provide incentives
National Geographic is employer to a large amount of professional photographers and reporters. Be that as it may, it has founded a photo sharing community called ‘Your Shot Community’. It currently consists of 491,208 members from 195 countries. National Geographic photo editors join hobbyists and pros in this community to offer tips, tricks and other helpful feedback. The brand selects their favourite photographs and publishes them online and in their magazine. Some of the posts on their Instagram account feature photographs with captions submitted by members of the ‘Your Shot Community’ – a great achievement for any hobbyist or pro to be viewed by 9.7 million followers.
Stay true to your brand identity
Being consistent is key when it comes to building a strong brand image and positive identity on social media. The core business of National Geographic is their magazine and TV channel, two channels that grant access to high quality content. Not surprisingly, the content distributed by them on social network sites is not shot with cellphones. Neither do they use the default filters provided by Instagram.
Instagram captures do not have a character limit and National Geographic takes full advantage of this to strengthen their editorial nature. Every post is like a brief magazine article informing and entertaining the reader as much as possible. Also, they always (hash)tag the photographer, the reporter, and the photo subject. A direct link to their website is included discretely.
National Geographic is not the only brand with a strong presence on Instagram. One year ago online statistics portal Statista published a chart on the 10 most-followed brands on Instagram. I looked up how all ten brands are doing nowadays and quickly did the math – National Geographic has well deservingly been highlighted in this post.
1. Ellen DeGeneres Show Oct 2013: 3.04 m Dec 2014: 7.7 m + 150%
2. National Geographic Oct 2013: 3.03 m Dec 2014: 9.7 m + 220%
3. Victoria’s Secret Oct 2013: 2.62 m Dec 2014: 7.6 m + 190%
4. Nike Oct 2013: 2.60 m Dec 2014: 8.8 m + 238%
5. Forever21 Oct 2013: 2.03 m Dec 2014: 5.5 m + 170%
6. Louboutin Oct 2013: 1.77 m Dec 2014: 3.5 m + 98%
7. MTV Oct 2013: 1.76 m Dec 2014: 2.9 m + 65%
8. Starbucks Oct 2013: 1.64 m Dec 2014: 3.5 m + 113%
9. 9GAG Oct 2013: 1.59 m Dec 2014: 8.3 m + 422%
10. Sneaker News Oct 2013: 1.55 m Dec 2014: 2.8 m + 81%
The nature or size of your organization should not play a role in the effective brand presence on Instagram. Engaging with a small audience is also done best by staying true to your brand and creating the right content!
Sophie is an International Communication and Media student at the University of Applied Science of Utrecht. Her combined interest of the three w’s and marketing every now & then result in a piece of text. These words happen to show up on this blog. Read it or weep!