Top marketing experts and analysts are predicting massive user growth from Instagram in 2018, many saying Instagram will be the most popular social media network. Last year, the popular photo app crushed rival networks like Snapchat and Twitter with over 700 million monthly active users.

So, Instagram is the place to start creating brand awareness for your business. Use it to get people excited about doing business with you. Attract top talented employees to your company by making your business look like an interesting place to work.

National Geographic has been using its award-winning photos to tell a visual story since 1888, long before social media existed! However, it’s almost like Instagram was built for it, and it only makes sense that National Geographic would be the most followed account with over 85 million followers to date.

The ability for its photographers to show their worldly perspective in real-time allows National Geographic to reach more people with Instagram than virtually any other media outlet.

Here are four key strategy takeaways from Instagram’s top account that you can apply to your company’s branding approach on the site.

1) Have a clearly defined goal for your account

The first step to creating a well-known brand on any social media platform is to have an established goal that gives your account an overall direction and theme. In a blog post on its website, National Geographic’s associate photographer producer Tyler Metcalfe says, “Our goal is to motivate our audience to travel in a responsible way, and our photographers have been doing this successfully for decades.”

The goal of your account should also be to motivate people to take action that directly relates to your company’s mission. Nat Geo has always been about the animals and capturing them in their natural habitat without disturbing them.

How can you not love this photo?

2) Post content that makes people stop scrolling

Your content doesn’t have to be as breathtaking as National Geographic’s to be highly effective in branding your business. But take a cue from the most followed Instagram account and remember that jaw-dropping photos are the number one thing that makes a popular Instagram account. Never post just to post, and only post your absolute best pictures.

While your company may not have 110 of the world’s top photojournalists running your Instagram like National Geographic, you can make sure that the most talented photographers within your business have access to your account. Don’t just dump Instagram on one person’s lap. A team effort usually works best with multiple contributors working toward a standard set of objectives.

Create content on Instagram that reflects your company’s human side, and that’s your employees! Post fun behind-the-scene glimpses of your office showcasing your work in a fun way. Also post pictures from special events, trade shows, scenes from off-site business travel, media appearances, and company parties.

This stunning photo of a cheetah through the grass made me stop scrolling. How about you?

3) Use both popular and branded hashtags

The way users find content on Instagram relies a lot on the proper use of hashtags. Accounts that use at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement. The top hashtags of 2017 included #love, #photooftheday, #picoftheday, and #travel. Most of National Geographic’s posts use these the top trending hashtags.

However, National Geographic also creates its own branded hashtags that are as unique as the photos and hint about the importance of travel or its brand. Branded hashtags are a great way to categorize specific images and videos into topic-based virtual catalogs.

The photographer, in this case, uses his own hashtag in the post (his name). When someone clicks on his hashtag it reveals a stream of his photos.

4) Write captions that move people

People use Instagram to come and look at photos and videos, but they want to know what they are looking at to give context. The caption tells the whole story! Never post with vague or incomplete captions.

National Geographic not only posts stunning photographs, but it also has attention-grabbing captions that draw in its audience. In the example post below, not only is the photo powerful, but the description really gives meaning and creates impact.

Instagram gives you about 600 words in your captions. I’m not saying use them all by any means, but rather to use the space wisely to draw in your audience and educate them about what they see in the photo or video. Clever wording on Instagram should be used to drive people deeper into a story and move them to engage with your company.

View this post on Instagram

Photo by @gerdludwig | A strange arrangement in an abandoned kindergarten in Pripyat (inside the Chernobyl Nuclear Exclusion Zone). In 1986 the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant blew up. Radioactivity spread over thousands of square miles, driving more than 250,000 people permanently from their homes. With more radiation released than in Fukushima, it was the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date. Since the Ukrainian government legalized trips to Chernobyl, the most riveting attraction for visitors is the ghost town of Pripyat, now in total decay: Dolls are scattered in abandoned kindergartens, floors are rotting, and paint is peeling from the walls. Now tourists and guides are creating a bewildering disturbance, as they assemble tableaux to illustrate the flight from disaster. The most repeated motif: a doll neatly arranged next to a gas mask. Follow @gerdludwig to see frequent post from Chernobyl. @thephotosociety @natgeocreative #Chernobyl #Pripyat #abandoned #doll #gasmask

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

While National Geographic is a B2C brand, there isn’t any reason a B2B brand can’t follow its example and use these tips to help define itself on Instagram.

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