Top 5 Instagram Influencers (and what brands can learn from them)
In this article, we explain what lessons brands can learn from the most successful Instagram accounts in the marketing niche.
12 minute read
The total number of monthly active Instagram users is 1.28 billion. As many as 500 million logs in daily.
This makes Instagram the most engaged social media platform. 59% of Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use Instagram and 33% of internet users between the ages of 30 and 49 use Instagram.
With this kind of usage, it’s not surprising that Instagram influencers are as influential (and in many cases more influential) as people that proved their expertise through other channels of distribution. Actually, top Instagram influencers charge more than $100,000 for a sponsored post.
Why is it so important to know more about Instagram influencers?
Firstly, because their tactics and strategies are the ones that you might be able to use for your business if you want to promote it on Instagram. And there is a large chance you do.
Secondly, social media success stories like that help us understand how to build a personal brand on social media. They are obviously different from traditional methods of building a personal brand and extremely important in times when the number of your Twitter followers directly influences your sales.
Here are some more reasons:
- Influencers oftentimes are the first to try new updates and content trends, so by keeping your eye on them you get to learn about trends
- They have a more personal approach to engagement with their audience which you can emulate
- Since not every post is approved by a team of marketers, they have more freedom to make truly creative content and take risks
We selected 5 Instagram Influencers from different niches. It's important to know that they are not celebrities and gathered their followers specifically through their social media activity. Let's see what we can learn from their Instagram strategy.
1. Travel influencer: @thebucketlistfamily
The Bucket List Family is the online name of a family of two bloggers, Garett and Jessica Gee. Together with their children, they travel around the world and post about their adventures.
Their Instagram account has 2.6 million followers, and the level of engagement is absolutely impressive. The content they post obviously is dedicated to travel: the story behind the account is that the family sold their house and decided to travel the world. But there's a lot that makes them stand out compared to other travel influencers.
First of all, the family angle. It's much different traveling with kids and other people might be more interested in this unique experience rather than solo traveling. They make extremely family-friendly content, which also attracts certain types of audiences i.e. middle-aged women and family men.
Secondly, they are very open to sharing their personal lives with their followers. Their blog doesn't just consist of travel recommendations or amazing destinations, they post videos of their children's first teeth falling out, share the struggles of running a business, and talk about interpersonal relationships. Their posts often aim to be inspiring, to help young adults that populate Instagram achieve more in life, and become adventurous and courageous.
Thirdly, they are very engaged with their audience: they ask them questions, respond to comments, and even crowdsource ideas for their trips and business decisions. For example, in this post, they ask their followers to participate in the photo shoot for their apparel brand. They also run giveaways and contests for their followers.
Lessons to learn
Here's what we can learn from the Bucket List Family:
- create social media profiles with quality content and aesthetics that resonates with your brand and audience
- track the reputation of the business and find out how people perceive your brand
- carry out social media contests
- engage with the audience
This might sound obvious, but consider this: most Instagram accounts created by companies only post photos of their products or related to their products or brand image. Most personal accounts simply post photos of themselves. That’s the whole “selfie” culture. This Instagram account does everything at once: shares exclusive and useful traveling recommendations entertains its followers with their crazy adventures, inspires them to take more risks themselves, and creates personal connections by sharing their life.
The lesson here for brands is to not get stuck on one angle: strictly educational content, or vice versa, entertaining and light-hearted content without any useful information and heavy topics.
The bucket List family completely refocuses that and makes the viewer the center of attention. The second lesson to be learned from the account might is not to be afraid of getting personal. As marketer Andrew Jenkins says, brands should remember that there are people on the other end of the screen.
Smaller brands especially benefit from sharing their personal story and business struggles to create an inspiring narrative of a successful entrepreneur.
2. Lifestyle influencer: @lilly
Lilly Singh is a comedian and entertainer with over 12.4 million followers on Instagram. Even though she boasts some TV appearances, she still fits our list since her career started and developed online. She continues to create, edit and direct his original content.
Lilly became a social media star through viral marketing: she posted funny clips and sketches that went viral. After that Lilly’s success has been attributed to her ability to embrace her culture and background by incorporating them into the videos.
Lessons to learn
The secret behind Lilly’s social media success that took him much further than social media is exactly that – her authenticity. Surely, she’s also funny and undoubtedly talented.
But the lesson that CEOs and marketers should take away is to embrace who they are and make it your differentiating feature.
3. Photography influencer: @jackharries
While Instagram started as an app for sharing pictures, it has definitely changed into something different over the years. It's not enough to simply post amazingly beautiful original photos right now to gather a massive following. So what does it take?
Jack Harries is a traveling and photography blogger with 3.4 million followers on Instagram, one of the top photographers on the platform that feigned from Instagram itself, and not magazine photoshoots. But he's also much more than that.
In addition to sharing beautiful photography, he talks about social issues: climate, politics, and international relations. While his account started as a portfolio, he started sharing more and more opinions on the world and suggesting ways to make it better. Even his bio now says "Climate storyteller" in addition to "filmmaker".
The formula for his account would be 30% beautiful photography of people and nature and 70% of informational posts about the climate crisis. What's important is that these go together: Jack shares stories of communities and the environment affected by climate change.
Lessons to learn
It's natural for brands to be afraid of taking some kind of a social or political stance: after all, their audience may leave because they disagree with the opinions presented by the brand. But in 2022 people are no longer satisfied with aesthetically pleasing pictures and videos - they want to know your mission.
According to the Sensormatic Solutions study, 80% of customers in the USA consider sustainability when buying a product and 82% of shoppers want a consumer brand’s values to align with their own. So logically they want to know your values.
To properly express your stance, it's crucial to run regular audience research to understand what exactly people want to know about your values. Awario can analyze your customers' social media conversations and highlight the topics they care about. Remember, you don't have to be an activist, but people will feel more loyal to your brand if it aligns with their values.
4. Fashion and beauty influencer: @chiaraferragni
Beauty and style are the bread and butter of Instagram and beauty influencers probably conduct the largest group of influencers on the platform. So you can imagine how hard it is to get to the top of the beauty influencers list.
Chiara Ferragni managed to do that. One of her advantages is that she was very early to the influencer game - she started her online blog in 2009 and joined Instagram as soon as it became remotely known. She has a background in modeling which works in her favour since she can share behind the scenes of the fashion industry.
Behind-the-scenes photos are featured prominently on her account from her professional or personal life. While most creators leave the everyday photos and work process for Stories, she regularly posts them on the main feed.
As she says in an interview with Woman & Wear Daily: “After the initial fears connected to the pandemic, I wondered if my followers would be bored since I couldn’t post about my business trips or special events, but I realized that they were interested in me and my daily life. The more natural I was, the more I was appreciated. I see the difference if you do it yourself or not, and it does not make sense if you delegate. It’s a window on what you want to show of your life and the way you think — someone else might not think the same way as you do.”
Lessons to learn
We as marketers are often hung up on the quality of the product: we want the best production, the most elaborate design, professional photos, and so on.
But oftentimes that's not everything your followers want to see. Give them a peak behind the scenes: even if it's just Stories. Show them a day of an employee in your company or give them insight into how you make business decisions.
This engenders trust between your brand and followers and entices them to keep up with your updates.
5. Design influencer: @ashleytstark
Design and home decor is another niche that is flourishing on Instagram and Ashley Stark Kenner is one of the biggest accounts in that niche. Perhaps being a home design influencer was written in stars for her - she's an heir and CEO of creative director of STARKS, a legendary carpet and fabric company founded in 1938.
However, how many creative directors do you know who have more than 1.3 million followers on Instagram? It wasn't her roots or job that helped her reach influence, it was her amazing content.
On her Instagram, she shares both beautiful home interiors and tips and ideas for your own space. She also promotes STARKS products but not in an overtly sales-y manner: she just shows how their textiles can fit into your home.
While in this blog post, I mostly discussed the content itself and not its format, I wanted to highlight the use of video by Ashley. All the influencers on the list post a lot of videos - that's pretty much the law on Instagram right now. However, Ashley Stark Keener doesn't just post videos of her life or behind the scenes - she makes it a part of her social media strategy.
She packs her ideas and tips into a video format, which is a great way to get more reach.
Lessons to learn
Here's what Ashleys Stark Keener's success on Instagram can teach us:
- Encourage your employees to be public. Of course, you can't force your colleagues to become influencers, but if there are key figures in your company that have social media presence, consider them in your marketing strategy.
- Make your sales seamless by making your product relatable. Ashley shows how their products fit into her life - with no hired actors or preplanned campaigns.
- Repurpose content in different ways. Her video on 5 favourite things in the kitchen could be a blog post first, then a carousel post, and then a video - think about the ways to recycle your existing content.
If your field is one of the most popular fields of Instagram, for example, beauty, food, and entertainment, it’s time to go ahead and copy the strategies of the top influencers.
Some of their tricks are transferable and can be applied to any account, some not so much.
If your niche is very different from the ones discussed above, search for the niche influencers. Sign up for Awario and start a social media influencer marketing campaign based on your chosen keywords. Then look at their profiles or do the outreach, your choice!