Instagram has evolved from a photo-sharing site into a powerful social and commerce network with two billion monthly active users.
While Instagram is no longer the new kid on the block, it’s still extremely popular. Instagram users spend an average of 30.6 minutes daily on the platform – more than on Facebook and Reddit. Instagram also has the 4th-most users of any mobile app, while 500 million people use Instagram Stories daily, and 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts monthly.
The social media landscape moves fast, meaning brands must continually assess and adjust their Instagram strategies to stand out. What does it mean to be one of the best brands on Instagram today? Read on for a look at 22 of the best company Instagram accounts:
@takearecess / 111k followers
Recess is so much more than a water brand. As their Instagram bio claims, Recess is “an antidote to modern times,” selling products to help you feel cool, calm, and collected.
Recess has found its audience by focusing on creating content that engages, entertains, and distracts from everyday life. While beverage brands are some of the biggest advertising spenders, Recess has taken a completely organic approach.
“I look at our Instagram strategy as a social commentary on the millennial existence… We’re speaking to the issues that we’re all going through that lead to stress and anxiety in a very unique, Recess way,” says Recess Founder Benjamin Witte.
The brand uses its organic Instagram to drive its audience to subscribe to a weekly, content-driven newsletter with a 25% open rate. That’s compared to the industry average of just 14.5%.
@teva / 593K followers
Teva created the sport sandal category in 1984 – with many millennials remembering the brand as the ‘dad-sandal’ of their youth. However, over the past few years, millennials (and other generations alike) have embraced the sporty, casual sandal as not just practical – but also a fashion statement. On Instagram, the company uses professional photography and user-generated content (UGC) submitted by Teva-wearing fans using the hashtag #strapinfreedom.
For fashion and beauty industry companies, it’s essential for customers to see themselves in the product Teva delivers. Teva displays its diverse customer base to communicate that its sandals are for everyone – making them one of the best brand Instagram accounts.
3) Girls Night In Club
@girlsnightinclub / 134K followers
Girls Night In is a lifestyle brand and community that helps busy young women make the most of their weekend downtime by recommending the best in culture, lifestyle, and self-care. GNI launched in 2018, and within a year, the newsletter-based business boasted an unheard-of 50% open rate among their 150K subscribers.
This early success made GNI a hit at a time when staying in became a lifestyle for everyone. The Girls Night In Instagram focused on sharing the type of content they knew best: how to make the most of downtime during the pandemic. This type of Instagram content served as a funnel to further grow the brand’s email list – allowing them the influence to launch a brand of ‘staying in’ focused products, Whiled, in late 2020.
4) Michigan State University
@michiganstateu / 228K followers
One of the biggest challenges for higher ed social media marketers is finding a way to engage students and convince them that this is the right school for them.
Michigan State does this by leveraging user-generated content (UGC) featuring current students enjoying life on campus, from touring rooms in different neighborhoods to exploring local stores, restaurants, and attractions.
This is a highly effective strategy, with four-fifths of consumers agreeing that UGC highly influences their purchasing decisions. In contrast, just one in eight say the same about brand-created content.
5) Bala Bangles
@Bala / 212K followers
Bala launched their stylish wrist and ankle weights line in 2017 and shortly after gained recognition for their deal with Mark Cuban on Shark Tank. The brand’s Instagram account doesn’t look like most of the content within the fitness industry. They take an artistic approach with photography and videos that are thumb-stopping and inspiring, catching the eye of major media outlets and large retail partners.
When the pandemic, and the need for at-home workout equipment, emerged, Bala had not invested in any paid marketing channels. The sharp increase in demand created inventory challenges, but Bala continued to engage their audience with Instagram Live workout videos that could be completed with or without its products. This positioned Bala to take preorders, all the while building their community.
6) New York University
@nyuniversity / 444K followers
Of course, prospective students aren’t the only target audience for higher ed social media marketers. Current students are another key demographic: if you can help them enjoy their time at university, they’re more likely to complete their course, recommend you to future students, and stay engaged once they graduate.
To this end, NYU demonstrates how Instagram Reels can be a helpful tool for supporting current students. The university creates regular informational videos explaining how students can get hold of commencement tickets, order academic attire, vote in elections, and much more besides.
@madewell / 1.4 Million followers
Madewell was created with a chic, tomboyish style for the modern city girl. This specific demographic focus makes it the perfect brand for Instagram, where 510 million women and 67% of 18- to 29-year-olds spend daily time.
Madewell’s visual content reinforces this demographic focus by tapping into the lifestyle this demographic is now leading. While the brand was initially known primarily for denim, it has adjusted its approach to include more loungewear and home-adjacent content.
Regardless of its product mix, the brand presents a clear, shoppable virtual storefront through its images and video. Posts frequently feature the shopping icon, with multiple products tagged in each photo.
8) Tiffany & Co
@tiffanyandco / 14.8m followers
Tiffany & Co. is an excellent example of how a heritage brand can use Instagram to evolve its appearance and reach a new customer base. The brand leans into its signature ‘Tiffany Blue’ to create consistency and strong brand association – while allowing freedom to experiment with fresh creative. In the luxury industry, Tiffany infuses fun and playfulness with modern marketing tactics, such as their Instagram Live series.
The result is an Instagram grid that instantly identifies as Tiffany but moves the audience deeper into the world of the brand through storytelling and modern visuals. This approach to content has made Tiffany & Co’s posts generate more interactions than the average watch & jewelry brand.
@away / 608K followers
While most luggage brands focus on product features in their marketing, Away has grown out of their desire to shift this conversation. Instead, they use their Instagram to talk about the experiences that a suitcase can enable.
While recent years haven’t been great for travel experiences, Away continued to engage its audience of travel enthusiasts by embracing themes of wanderlust and a bit of good, old-fashioned humor. Away’s ‘At Home’ Instagram Stories featured dream itineraries, recommendations for travel-themed movies, and alternative uses for luggage.
Despite the setbacks, their Instagram profile keeps travel (and the Away brand) top of mind for their audience – inspiring them to think about everything they could do with a suitcase and positioning the company as more of a travel brand than a luggage one. After all, travel enthusiasts didn’t stop loving travel during the pandemic. If anything, they learned to appreciate the freedom to visit new places even more.
10) Transportation Security Administration
@tsa / 1.2 million followers
No roundup of the best Instagram brands would be complete without mentioning the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which has grown a cult following based on its unlikely blend of practical travel advice and dad jokes.
The agency’s Instagram success is primarily attributed to former social media branch manager Janis Burl, who realized puns would be more effective than bland instructions when educating and informing travelers.
“Nobody remembers what was on the news in the morning, but they’ll remember the joke you told them,” she told the New York Times. “If it takes humor to help you remember what you can and cannot do when traveling through security, then humor is what we will provide.”
The TSA’s strategy has proven so effective that author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek has cited it as “a great example of how government can have a good relationship with the public on social media.”
@glossier / 2.7 million followers
Glossier is a beauty brand that, from its beginning, has distanced itself from the typical polished luxury of other brands in the industry. This is exemplified on Glossier’s Instagram, where posts feel human and down-to-earth. Their approach to content makes it feel more like users are following a friend rather than a brand, with frequent memes and customer messages.
Instead of starting with a product and trying to build a community around it, Glossier began with a community first and created a product to reflect its needs. Glossier’s products, with millennial pink packaging, are designed to be shared on Instagram. This strategic decision made it easier to tap into the platform’s community of beauty enthusiasts, turning them into brand ambassadors. Glossier frequently reposts user-generated content, incentivizing fans to share and driving community engagement.
12) Baylor Athletics
@baylorathletics / 71.2K followers
With a campus community of around 20,000 students, Baylor certainly isn’t among the largest universities in the US. But it punches above its weight on social media, with its athletics team growing an Instagram account with over 71,000 followers.
Rather than focusing on the school and its facilities, Baylor Athletics instead celebrates the achievements of individual teams and athletes, which helps put a human face on its sporting programs.
It also does a great job at branding, with the school’s colors appearing prominently on its Instagram grid, profile picture, and Instagram Stories logos:
This visual consistency might seem a no-brainer, but many brands get it wrong. Indeed, research shows that while 85% of organizations have brand guidelines, just 30% enforce them consistently.
13) So Worth Loving
@soworthloving / 73.3K followers
So Worth Loving is a clothing and accessory brand that promotes self-love and worthiness. Its Instagram profile is a platform for reinforcing its mission, spreading positive thoughts, and promoting its line of products. So Worth Loving frequently posts quote-style graphics between product-oriented images to balance mission and promotion.
Content on self-worth, positive thoughts, and diversity is almost ever-present on Instagram – but So Worth Loving’s comes off as authentic and sincere thanks to their clear brand mission.
They also embody their mission by investing heavily in community management. Despite their nearly 75,000 followers, they respond to each comment and communicate with their audience regularly. The result is a fan base that feels acknowledged and engaged.
@beardbrand / 233K followers
Beardbrand is a line of high-quality grooming products with a niche audience: urban men with beards. They use Instagram as a vehicle for creating and sharing the sophisticated lifestyle of their target market.
Beardbrand’s visual content combines professional model images with styled product shots to appeal to its audience and elevate the idea of men’s grooming in general. They use Instagram to build brand awareness and discovery and then work to convert followers into email subscribers. Beardbrand frequently promotes the exclusive content available via their newsletter, a key tactic for driving brand sales (helping them grow to monthly revenues of $100,000).
@chubbies / 579K followers
Another brand that’s excellent at engaging men on Instagram is Chubbies. While Beardbrand inspires a more aspirational approach to lifestyle content, Chubbies embraces diversity and authenticity in its content creation.
They launched in 2012 in response to the lack of swimwear options the founders could identify with. Since then, the brand has grown around treating its customers like friends. They use humor on their Instagram account to engage their target audience of 18-40-year-old males and use real customers as models in marketing campaigns.
This relatable approach to content has helped Chubbies grow to 3.5 million subscribers without using traditional media to spread the brand’s message.
@gopro / 20.2 million followers
GoPro uses its Instagram to tell stories from the product’s unique point of view. The feed is a source of inspirational and aspirational content, full of pictures and videos taken using GoPro cameras by actual customers. The brand’s goal with its Instagram is to use that content to drive consideration for how you could use its unique camera in your life, ultimately leading to purchase.
GoPro has expanded the amount of content they share by opening regional handles featuring localized content and customers in over ten markets. This decision resulted in growing their total follower base to over 20 million.
@amtrak / 248K followers
Instagram is the perfect fit for a travel-centric government agency like AMTRAK, giving it a platform to showcase aspirational imagery featuring trains traveling through beautiful scenery.
But AMTRAK’s Insta isn’t solely about big trains and fancy backdrops. The agency goes out of its way to demonstrate the passenger experience, highlighting everything from beautiful stations to tasty-looking dining car food and spacious seats.
AMTRAK also speaks to common traveler pain points, such as baggage allowances (hint: you get a lot more when you travel by rail than if you fly). It’s all designed to position trains as a convenient and comfortable way to get around.
18) Carnegie Mellon University
@carnegiemellon / 67.8K followers
Sounds obvious, but Instagram is a visual platform. When users scroll their Insta feeds, they often look for attractive, aspirational imagery and videos — so it makes sense to lean into this, just like Carnegie Mellon does.
The university’s grid is packed with beautiful pictures showcasing the school at its aesthetic best. Helpfully for their social media team, much of this imagery comes from UGC. This is a huge asset, helping Carnegie Mellon build up a library of evergreen content it can share whenever there are no timely campaigns or important announcements in its calendar.
19) Liquid Death
@liquiddeath / two million followers
Canned water company Liquid Death is one of the best brands to follow on Instagram if you’re looking for inspiration on how to build a (massive) following by adopting an edgy tone of voice.
Liquid Death isn’t afraid to push the boundaries with its messaging, from its in-your-face slogan (#MurderYourThirst) to its collaborations with celebrities like Steve-O and Travis Barker.
While many brands are eager to tap into viral trends, Liquid Death’s social media strategy is built around being funny, regardless of any broader context. Vice president of creative strategy Andy Pearson explained: “We are always just trying to create relevant content that feels more timeless, because our whole thing is entertainment over marketing. We’re posting the things that make us laugh, whether they’re relevant or not at that time.”
@cheetos / 482K followers
Mascots feel like a relic from a bygone age of marketing, with many brands either sidelining or killing them off (literally, in the case of Planters Peanuts). But Cheetos has turned the opposite by dedicating its Instagram to its mascot Chester Cheetah, with its bio describing the account as the “official Instagram of the official spokescheetah of Cheetos.”
Chester crops up regularly in Cheetos’ Insta posts. And the strategy seems to be paying off, with the brand amassing almost half a million followers on the platform.
Still, it’s not all about cheetah-based content; the snack food company also enlists high-profile names like Drew Barrymore and rapper MIMS to promote its products — typically in a tongue-in-cheek way that makes for highly engaging content.
@oreo / 3.5 million followers
It’s almost an unwritten rule of social media marketing that you shouldn’t post about your products too much; it’ll seem too promotional, which risks turning off your audience.
Oreo bucks this trend. A quick look at its grid shows that almost every post features the iconic black-and-white cookie or the brand’s packaging. You’d assume people would get tired of looking at pictures of Oreos. But with 3.5 million people following the brand’s Instagram account, it seems you’d be wrong.
Perhaps its success stems from Oreo’s classic, layered construction. The company’s senior brand manager Rafael Espesani explains: “Our product is core to our brand mission around sparking playfulness; our sandwich cookie, two chocolatey biscuits filled with creme inside, almost begs to be played with.”
@nasa / 92.4 million followers
With over 92 million followers (and counting), NASA is undeniably one of the top brands on Instagram.
The agency is helped out by its fascinating subject matter — who wouldn’t want to see regular images of distant constellations and videos of rocket launches in their Instagram feed? But NASA goes beyond simply sharing spectacular photos and videos by educating its audience with detailed captions that help followers better understand what they see.
Despite its galactic focus, NASA is surprisingly good at tapping into terrestrial topics. For instance, on Mother’s Day, it shared an image captured by the Spitzer Space Telescope of a nebula that looks like a flower.
Jason Townsend, lead communications program manager at NASA, explains: “We pride ourselves on finding conversations that are happening and connecting with those other audiences out there. We’re always asking, ‘What’s the next audience that we’re not currently reaching and what do we have that might be of interest to them?’”
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