Posts

Top 15 Brands on Instagram, for Inspiration

Following top brands on Instagram can help merchants understand what content works best and generate ideas for their own marketing campaigns.

Here is a list of the top brands (excluding celebrities) on Instagram ranked by followers. These brands use behind-the-scenes and personal content, video guides, inspiring images, stories, awareness-raising events, and even shoppable videos.

Instagram

Instagram's own profile pageInstagram's own profile page

Instagram

Instagram is the platform’s official account, so no surprise it has the most followers (twice the followers of the next closest brand). Guides let followers meet the creators of the platform’s compelling content. Reels feature short looping videos that are usually funny, while Videos feature longer content (usually between 1 to 2 minutes) profiling creators. Story Highlights include IG Tips with helpful clips for creators, Hello World with visionary futuristic content, and Moment with quirky content that’s perfect for sharing on Instagram. 505 million followers.

National Geographic

National Geographic Instagram ProfileNational Geographic Instagram Profile

National Geographic

National Geographic lets followers experience the world through the eyes of National Geographic photographers. With photos and videos of the planet’s animals and ecosystems, some of it through corporate partnerships, the content drives the mission of National Geographic to explore and protect our planet, including the evolution and impact of humans. Story Highlights include COVID Loss, Insurrection, and Dino AR221 million followers.

Nike

Nike Instagram ProfileNike Instagram Profile

Nike

Nike is known for celebrity athlete endorsements, but its Instagram content covers inspirational stories about athletes and sports most people don’t follow. Story Highlights include the Japanese mountain race Ekiden, the rules of 6-Man football, and Norwegian footballer Ada Hegerberg. 218 million followers.

The Ellen Show

The Ellen Show Instagram ProfileThe Ellen Show Instagram Profile

The Ellen Show

The Ellen Show uses its Instagram account to feature highlights and behind-the-scenes content from the television show. It also provides content for improving the lives of its followers, promoting worthwhile causes, and marketing the show. Story Highlights include Smile, the Bubble community of parents, and Ellen Shop. 119 million followers.

Real Madrid C.F.

Real Madrid C.F. Instagram profileReal Madrid C.F. Instagram profile

Real Madrid C.F.

Real Madrid C.F. is the official Instagram profile for the Spanish professional football team, the most popular sports team on Instagram. The team’s page features gameplay highlights and behind-the-scenes content with its players. 117 million followers.

FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona Instagram profileFC Barcelona Instagram profile

FC Barcelona

The Spanish football club, FC Barcelona, is just behind its rival, Real Madrid C.F. Current Story Highlights include Gameday Stories, New Kit 21/22, and new player Aubameyang. 108 million followers.

NASA

NASA Instagram profileNASA Instagram profile

NASA

NASA states its goal on its Instagram page, “Exploring the universe and our home planet.” The page mainly posts spectacular images and videos of space and our planet from the Hubble telescope, rovers, and satellites, such as the new NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. The Missions Story Highlight contains video links to learn about various ongoing NASA missions, such as returning to the moon, building new giant telescopes, seeking signs of ancient life on Mars, defending Earth from Asteroids, and more. 76.4 million followers.

Victoria’s Secret

Victoria Secret Instagram profileVictoria Secret Instagram profile

Victoria’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret features images and videos of its models and products. Reels and video content are short (15 to 30 seconds). Content is organized mainly along product lines or seasonal events. Story Highlights currently include Summer, Fabulous, and Swim. 72.5 million followers.

NBA

NBA Instagram profileNBA Instagram profile

NBA

NBA features images and video highlights of game performances, playoffs and NBA draft posts, and additional behind-the-scenes content. Current Story Highlights include Playoff Sched, Playoff Bracket, and NBA Awards. 66.9 million followers.

Marvel Entertainment

Marvel Entertainment Instagram profileMarvel Entertainment Instagram profile

Marvel Entertainment

Marvel Entertainment is the official Instagram profile for Marvel comics, movies, games, and more. Most of the content is from original Marvel feature-length and episodic television productions and promotional content around release dates. Current Story Highlights include Trivia! and three feature releases – Doctor Strange, Eternals, and Shang-Chi. 64.2 million followers.

ZARA

ZARA Instagram profileZARA Instagram profile

ZARA

ZARA, the Spanish fashion retailer, was one of the early adopters of Instagram’s in-app checkout, allowing merchants to sell products within Instagram. ZARA’s content focuses mainly on promoting its current and upcoming collections. Reels videos highlight quirky lifestyle shorts around young people wearing the brand. ZARA’s Instagram profile is a good resource for merchants to monitor the developments of social commerce. 50.4 million followers.

Chanel

Chanel Instagram profileChanel Instagram profile

Chanel

Chanel often posts images and videos of its high fashion products and models, mainly at runway shows, celebrity events, and photo shoots. In addition to highlighting the latest trends, there are also DIY posts to help followers create sophisticated looks. 50.3 million followers.

Gucci

Gucci Instagram profileGucci Instagram profile

Gucci

Gucci uses its Instagram profile to show its provocative designs in richly composed campaigns, highlight its products and accessories, and produce fashion events. Story Highlights feature GucciCosmogonie for a live fashion show on May 16, WearingGucci, and MetGala2022. Guides feature previous campaigns, such as Love Parade Campaign, The Hacker Project, and The Aria Campaign. 48.2 million followers.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton Instagram profileLouis Vuitton Instagram profile

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton presents its luxury fashions and accessories through fashion shows, campaign images and videos, and additional behind-the-scenes content like the LVCruise show. 47.9 million followers.

5-Minute Crafts

5-Minute Crafts Instagram profile5-Minute Crafts Instagram profile

5-Minute Crafts

5-Minute Crafts is the Instagram profile for the content creator of the YouTube community. It features images and videos on DIY projects and crafts to experience the joy of doing it yourself. Reels are under 30 seconds, while full videos are around 3 minutes. 46.7 million followers.

Instagram Shops: Tips and Strategies

Instagram shops can serve as an additional storefront for your products. Meta’s tutorial on setting up an Instagram shop is a helpful start. In this article, however, I’ll share my experience on essential features and key selling strategies.

To first step is getting all the components of your shop working in unison.

A mobile user who lands on your Instagram page with shops enabled can tap the “View shop” button. From there, she can view your products. You can also highlight on this page promotional products or new arrivals.

Screenshot of Vicidolls Instagram pageScreenshot of Vicidolls Instagram page

Clicking on the “View shop” button takes users to an Instagram Shop, such as this example from Vicidolls, an apparel brand.

To make your shop more visually appealing, feature products and collections. Vicidolls does this, using its shop section to promote top products, seasonal items, restocked bestsellers, and new arrivals.

Screenshot from Vicidolls Instagram shopScreenshot from Vicidolls Instagram shop

Vicidolls’ shop promotes top products, seasonal items, restocked bestsellers, and new arrivals.

Tags are a way to showcase products on your Instagram feed directly. You can integrate tags into photos, videos, and Stories. Clicking on a tag will take viewers directly to the product.

Consider adding tags to influencer posts. Also, stack multiple tags in a single photo or video for complementary products. Instagram allows up to five tags in a single post.

Check out how the skincare brand Murad tags its shoppable post.

Screenshot of a Murad shoppable post with two product tagsScreenshot of a Murad shoppable post with two product tags

Tags are a way to showcase products on your Instagram feed directly. In this example, Murad tags products in a shoppable post.

Collections allow you to organize products into groups. Instead of forcing users to scroll through an endless feed, group your products into categories and highlight the best selling and most relevant ones in order.

Here’s how Herschel Supply Co. features its uniforms and weather-resistant bags.

Screenshot fo Hershel Supply's Instagram shopScreenshot fo Hershel Supply's Instagram shop

Collections allow you to organize products into groups. Herschel Supply Co. does this with its uniforms and weather-resistant bags.

Product detailed pages – PDPs – are similar to the product pages on an ecommerce site. Add to your PDPs specs, shipping policies, and, importantly, unique and compelling descriptions.

Speck’s PDPs explain the key features of its phone cases.

Screenshot of Speck's iPhone case product page on InstagramScreenshot of Speck's iPhone case product page on Instagram

Product detailed pages on Instagram are similar to the product pages on an ecommerce site. Speck’s PDPs explain the key features of its phone cases.

Checkout is a critical feature of your Instagram store. Clicking “View on website” will funnel users directly to the product pages on your own site. This process is seamless, but make sure the Instagram PDPs match the general look and feel of those on your site. Otherwise, you risk losing users.

For example, at the time of writing, Sephora’s Give Me More Lip product on Instagram linked to a nonexistent page on its own site.

Screenshot of Sephora's web page showing a broken linkScreenshot of Sephora's web page showing a broken link

Clicking “View on website” will funnel users directly to the product pages on your own site. But make sure the process is seamless, unlike this example from Sephora.

Search this shop. Set up as many product categories as practical to help shoppers find the items that interest them. Plus, category names appear when users click the search bar, as shown below from Sephora’s shop.

Screenshot from Sephora's Instagram shop showing categories below the search barScreenshot from Sephora's Instagram shop showing categories below the search bar

Category names appear when users click the search bar. This example is from Sephora’s shop.

Key Strategies

Show off your products. You don’t need to follow traditional ecommerce image rules on Instagram. Colorful, realistic product posts and those that feature influencers and users are more appropriate.

Make actionable content. Actionable means, “Does it sell?” Design your photos, Stories, and Reels with shoppers in mind. Track your product post’s engagement and interaction. Switch tactics as needed.

Be authentic. Focus on the real-life benefit of your products rather than features. Sell the experience by combining the right image with the right message. Aim for 80% regular posts and 20% shoppable.

Drive engagement. Murad, the aforementioned skincare company, incorporates Q&As, product masterclasses, wellness testimonials, and tips and tutorials into its store. It’s a compelling way to integrate content with the shopping experience.

Behind-the-scenes Content Is Authentic Storytelling

Video content ranks number one in social media marketing these days. One of the best video strategies is behind-the-scenes storytelling.

Behind-the-scenes (BTS) content gives an unedited look into what is happening inside a business. Examples include posts highlighting employees, workplace culture, and company events.

BTS content is effective because it provides businesses with an authentic way to connect with their audiences and build trust. Good BTS content focuses on revealing company processes over products. The more authentic a video, the more successful it will be.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker, the eyeglasses retailer, produces BTS content that shows followers what’s happening inside the company. For example, Warby Parker’s Instagram page recently featured a video with lifestyle influencer Katie Duke and her journey to find a new pair of glasses at the company’s physical locations.

Screenshot of Instagram post with Katie Duke Screenshot of Instagram post with Katie Duke

Warby Parker produces authentic BTS content, such as this Instagram post featuring lifestyle influencer Katie Duke shopping for eyeglasses.

The video works because it takes followers behind the scenes, showing them how the in-person eyewear selection process works while providing a human experience and an unscripted glimpse into the company’s brick-and-mortar locations.

Feelgrounds

BTS content can include even a tedious process, such as picking, packing, and shipping products. Feelgrounds, the German footwear company, did this on Facebook to good effect. The video is a sped-up version of the fulfillment process paired with a Benny Hill theme song. It’s both entertaining and shareable.

Screenshot of the Feelground Facebook postScreenshot of the Feelground Facebook post

Feelgrounds’s Facebook post is a sped-up video of the company’s picking, packing, and shipping process.

The video also states the Feelgrounds team is working “tirelessly throughout the weekend” to ship all pre-orders, creating a sense of excitement and “fear of missing out” around a new product.

Terrebleu

Terrebleu is a Canada-based online wellness business that showcases brand culture using Instagram Reels. The videos include the company’s farm horses, lavender fields, and staff. Terrebleu knows its audience (wellness consumers) and the types of content to connect with it — simple and effective to generate trust.

Screenshot of Terrebleu's Instagram Reel videoScreenshot of Terrebleu's Instagram Reel video

Terrebleu showcases its brand culture using Instagram Reels that include farm horses, lavender fields, and staff.

HelloFresh

HelloFresh shows off on TikTok its “day in the life” workplace. From following employees throughout their day to sharing what goes into a food stylist’s preparations for a photo, HelloFresh reinforces brand values by emphasizing the people that keep the business running.

Incorporating TikTok’s trending music and sounds is an added benefit — making the content relatable to potential customers.

Screenshot of HelloFresh's post on TikTok.Screenshot of HelloFresh's post on TikTok.

HelloFresh shows off on TikTok its “day in the life” workplace.

How to Make an Instagram Link-in-bio Page

Landing pages from links in social media bios can grow an audience, sell products, and promote content via social media. What’s more, setting up the page can be easy.

Instagram limits links in post descriptions. The limitations have led to the practice of adding the “link in bio” phrase to posts. The idea is that when someone wants to learn more about a post, that person can click a link in the company’s or creator’s bio.

Link Pages

The link-in-bio approach had a couple of challenges.

First, updating the link for each new post is a maintenance problem. Social media managers typically use tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer, and Later to schedule posts. But adding bio links is manual and cannot be scheduled.

Second, someone might want to learn more about an old post and click the link in the bio only to find that it had been replaced.

The solution to both problems is a link page, a mobile-friendly list of links associated with recent posts.

On the left is a screen capture of the Beardbrand Instagram page, including a bio link. On the right, is Beardbrand's link page.On the left is a screen capture of the Beardbrand Instagram page, including a bio link. On the right, is Beardbrand's link page.

On the left is a screen capture of the Beardbrand Instagram page, including a bio link. On the right is Beardbrand’s link page.

In some cases, updates to the link page can be scheduled — like the post itself — using a content management solution or social media scheduling software.

Grow an Audience

One of the challenges of social media marketing is growing an audience. Creators — musicians, artists, podcasters, coaches — and businesses need a way to “own” their audience.

This requires engagement beyond social media followers. Link pages can help.

Consider Arnold Schwarzenegger. His link-in-bio landing page featured an email newsletter subscription form.

Screenshot of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Instagram account.Screenshot of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Instagram account.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Instagram account includes a bio link to a landing page with a newsletter subscription form.

Schwarzenegger uses his Instagram account with more than 22 million followers to drive newsletter subscriptions. For a creator or a company, an email list is far more valuable than an army of social media fans. With engaged email subscribers, a business can promote products and drive revenue.

James Clear, author of the book “Atomic Habits,” also uses his Instagram bio link for newsletter subscriptions.

Screenshot of James Clear's Instagram bioScreenshot of James Clear's Instagram bio

Author James Clear promotes his newsletter via a bio link. Clear’s email newsletter has been an important driver of his success.

Sell Products

Social media bio or profile links can also sell products. A few link-in-bio tools, including Buffer’s Shop Grid, can link from the bio directly to an ecommerce product page, for example.

The product link page might include incentives to click, such as free shipping or a gift with purchase.

Screenshot of Mejuri's Instagram profile.Screenshot of Mejuri's Instagram profile.

Online jewelry shop, Mejuri has a shopping link in its Instagram profile.

Mejuri, an online jeweler, links from its Instagram bio to an Instagram collection page on Mejuri’s site, featuring many of the same rings, necklaces, and earrings in the company’s posts.

Screenshot of Mejuri's Instagram collection page on Mejuri's websiteScreenshot of Mejuri's Instagram collection page on Mejuri's website

Mejuri’s link page is an ecommerce collection featuring products that have recently appeared in the company’s Instagram posts.

Promote Content

Link pages can also elevate content marketing.

For example, BigCommerce recently posted on Instagram about its partnership with Tottenham Hotspur F.C. in the U.K.

Screenshot of BigCommerce's Tottenham Hotspur Instagram postScreenshot of BigCommerce's Tottenham Hotspur Instagram post

BigCommerce was excited to mention Tottenham Hotspur F.C., a new, high-profile customer.

BigCommerce also included a Tottenham Hotspur link on its link page to a press release.

Screenshot of BigCommerce's link pageScreenshot of BigCommerce's link page

Not surprisingly, BigCommerce included a link on its link page, too.

Ultimately, BigCommerce is driving traffic to its website and, in this case, a press release describing how the English Premier League football club is using BigCommerce to “modernize” its online store.

Any business could follow a similar pattern, promoting articles, videos, or podcast episodes.

Build a Link Page

There are at least four ways to build a link page.

  • Bio link tool. There are more than a dozen tools as of February 2022 for link-in-bio landing pages. They require no coding or development. Some offer a free version. Providers include the pioneering Linktree as well as Feedlink, Lnk.Bio, Link in Profile, and Campsite.
  • Existing website. Any content management platform — WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, many more — can publish a link page formatted like Linktree or a mobile landing page. The page would exist on the business’s own website.
  • Social scheduler. Later, Buffer, and several other social scheduling tools offer some form of a link page. The services also provide post scheduling, making it easy to coordinate post and link content.
  • Marketing platform. Any marketing platform capable of producing a landing page can also have a link page. The benefit comes from integrating newsletter- and SMS-subscription signup forms or similar to capture a lead for a marketing automation flow.

The Risk of Social Media Marketing

Ecommerce marketing decisions are difficult. Advertising, search engine optimization, social media, content marketing — all involve communicating a message to an audience. But depending on the channel, the marketer may not control the message, its distribution, or even the audience.

Thus a model of classifying media channels can help marketers think about communications in an integrated way. One such model is PESO — paid, earned, shared, owned.

By organizing tactics into paid, earned, shared, and owned media, you better understand who creates the promotions, who owns the audience for the promotions, and who controls the distribution.

MediaContentAudienceDistribution
PaidYour business creates the content, ad, or promotion.A third party developed the audienceA third party controls the distribution of your content.
EarnedA customer, company, or journalist creates the content.The customer or journalist developed the audience.The customer or journalist controls or influences the distribution.
SharedYour business creates the content or promotion.Your business and a third party co-developed the audience.A third party controls the distribution of your content.
OwnedYour business creates the content or promotion.Your business developed the audience.Your business controls the distribution of your content.

PESO vs. PEO

Social media platforms are an important part of “shared” integrated marketing.

However, some social-minded marketers disagree on the “shared” aspect, favoring three media distinctions over PESO’s four and lumping shared media platforms — e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok — into the “owned” category.

One could argue that reducing PESO to PEO still achieves the goal of helping folks think about communication strategies. But it’s a mistake to assume any company owns its social media content. And it’s harmful if it means a company overemphasizes a channel beyond its control.

Point of Distinction

When marketers apply the PESO model, it is important to consider the content, the audience, and the distribution. These three points differentiate the media channels and help identify how content and ads work together.

As the table above shows, “your business creates” the content for owned media and shared media. In both cases, “your business” worked to develop the audience. But your business does not control what social media platforms do with the content, and, despite growing followers, the business cannot take or easily transfer that audience to other channels.

In 2017 I wrote, “Shared media describes content your business creates that is distributed to an audience your business developed via a platform that someone else owns or controls.”

That control is the key difference, and it’s why social is not “owned” media.

Diagram of four overlapping circles: earned media, shared media, owned media, paid mediaDiagram of four overlapping circles: earned media, shared media, owned media, paid media

Organizing marketing media into paid, earned, shared, and owned provides an understanding of who creates the promotions, owns the audience, and controls the distribution.

Account Suspensions

As evidence that businesses don’t own their social media channels, consider account suspensions.

All social media platforms reserve the right to suspend, block, or remove accounts. Particular policies will differ, but any business could post mounds of great content, build thousands of followers, and suddenly lose access to the account, the content, and the audience.

This happens daily to small businesses.

Content Removal

Social media platforms can remove individual posts. This is common for YouTube creators, for example.

When a YouTube creator critiques content, it is common for the critiqued party to file a copyright complaint, instantly suspending the critique and forcing the creator to work through an arbitration process.

Businesses, too, experience suspensions. And, the fact that YouTube and other platforms have content restrictions and often remove individual posts confirms social is not “owned” media in the normal sense.

Creator Economy

Creators and the so-called creator economy also demonstrate that social is not something businesses or individuals can “own.”

While creators can monetize their content on a given channel, they don’t own their audience or the distribution of their content. YouTube does. Or TikTok does. Or Instagram does, and so on.

For example, in 2019, many YouTube creators complained that the platform’s efforts to comply with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act unfairly impacted creator income. YouTube could limit advertising and, therefore, revenue sharing on any content it deemed “made for children” regardless of what the content creator intended.

More recently, YouTube creators were worried that Google would let its contract with Roku expire, reducing views, ads, and income for many channels.

Creators often encourage their audiences to sign up for email newsletters or communities to counter this problem. If they want to grow their income, creators must break out of the platform. Hence another example of why social media is never “owned.”

MySpace

A final rationale against classifying social platforms in the “owned” category is that they can wane in popularity. MySpace and the now-defunct Friendster were significant Facebook competitors at their respective peaks. No more.

Nothing guarantees that Facebook, Instagram, or any other social site will survive the next five or 10 years. Some legislative bodies and Web3 advocates seek to break up and replace these platforms.

Not Owned

When companies start to think that they own social media content and audiences in the same sense that they own a blog or an email list, they risk losing control over content and customer relationships.

The PESO model aims to help marketers think about communications in an integrated way, to use all four channels appropriately.

Social media is most certainly an important part of the mix, but a company’s content should ultimately have a home on its website(s). The customer relationship should be direct, not via a proxy such as Facebook or TikTok.

The Best Ecommerce Content for Instagram

Instagram is a marketing powerhouse. According to Hootsuite, 81% of Instagram users have used the social network to research and discover new products and services. But ecommerce merchants often miss the opportunity. Too many focus solely on sharing product images, not connecting with prospects.

I’ve collected in this post seven types of content ecommerce merchants can use on Instagram to connect and engage with followers.

Ecommerce Content for Instagram

User-generated. Instagram may be the best social platform for engaging an ecommerce audience. Customers can use a merchant’s branded hashtags to share authentic experiences — videos or photos — with its products. Consumers view user-generated content as trustworthy.

Consider “re-graming” customer posts on your Instagram page or using Instagram’s Stories to feature user content that highlights your brand.

Wayfair’s #WayfairAtHome campaign is an excellent example of employing user-generated content. The campaign highlights how Wayfair customers use its products in their homes. The campaign has roughly 56,000 post shares. It is a powerful way to build social proof around the Wayfair brand.

Screenshot of Wayfair's Instagram page showing customersScreenshot of Wayfair's Instagram page showing customers

Wayfair highlights how customers use its products in their homes.

Interactive content such as contests and polls is relatively new to social media. But it is an effective way to engage an audience and learn customers’ preferences about your products. Photo contests can help ecommerce businesses grow subscribers while producing fun and relatable content.

Sock Club, an ecommerce subscription service, uses Instagram’s Stories to feature contests that pit sock designs against each other to determine customers’ preferences.

Screenshot of Sock Club's Instagram pageScreenshot of Sock Club's Instagram page

Sock Club uses Instagram’s Stories to feature contests that pit sock designs against each other.

Lifestyle. A common mistake of ecommerce merchants on Instagram is not understanding lifestyle marketing. Avoid posting too many photos of what you’re selling. Instagram is not an ecommerce store. It’s a platform to share one’s lifestyle. Your posts should reflect that cultural ethos.

Do not fill up your feed with salesy product images against white backgrounds. Focus instead on telling stories and building connections. Lifestyle stories about your products are one of the easiest ways to do that.

Nike’s Instagram page does an amazing job selling shoes. But the page includes no product prices, just stories of folks wearing its shoes.

Screenshot of Nike's Instagram page featuring a female athlete.Screenshot of Nike's Instagram page featuring a female athlete.

Nike’s Instagram page does an amazing job selling shoes. But the page includes no product prices, just stories of folks wearing its shoes.

Products in context. Placing products in their proper context while telling a story can drive sales. Glossier, the online beauty company, does a fabulous job creating in-context makeup tutorials that explains how to use its products together. Showing customers in real-life scenarios how your products enrich their lives makes for shareable content.

Screenshot of a Glossier make-up tutorial on InstagramScreenshot of a Glossier make-up tutorial on Instagram

Glossier’s makeup tutorials explain in a real-life setting how to use its products together.

Behind-the-scenes. One of the best ways to connect with consumers is by addressing how your product is made or the daily operations of your business. I use this in my own business of original paintings. A more traditional ecommerce example is Warby Parker. Its Instagram page and Stories reveal behind-the-scenes footage of the company’s key milestones and moments.

Screenshot of Warby Parker on Instagram showing its early eyeglass framesScreenshot of Warby Parker on Instagram showing its early eyeglass frames

Warby Parker addresses its key milestones and moments, such as early eyeglass frames.

Funny and inspirational quotes spark engagement. Instagram users love to share and comment on quotes. But they’re most powerful when they align with your brand and help sell your products. User-generated quotes can bolster social proof. Reposting followers’ funny memes can trigger an organic viral campaign. Drunk Elephant, a skincare provider, posts jokes that often have nothing to do with skincare, but they are difficult not to share with friends.

Screenshot of a joke on Drunk Elephant's Instagram page Screenshot of a joke on Drunk Elephant's Instagram page

Drunk Elephant posts jokes that often have nothing to do with skincare, but they are difficult not to share.

Influencer partnerships, done well, can create compelling content. But avoid partnerships that solely promote your product. Instead, create authentic experiences that help grow your following. Daniel Wellington, an online watch company, reportedly used micro-influencers on Instagram to help drive sales to $180 million in five years. Talented influencers can solve two problems: advertise your products and generate quality images for later use.

Screenshot of Daniel Wellington's Instagram pageScreenshot of Daniel Wellington's Instagram page

Daniel Wellington used micro-influencers on Instagram to help grow sales to $180 million in five years.

Facebook Lead Ads Lowered CPA, Boosted Results

When your marketing plan requires newsletter signups, event registrations, and resource downloads, Facebook lead ads may be a powerful tool at an attractive cost per acquisition.

Lead ads feature a mobile-first form already filled out with a Facebook or Instagram user’s name and contact information. The ads transform the registration or subscription path as less form friction results in more conversions.

Lead Ads

Facebook lead ads have two parts: the ad and the form. The signup or registration is captured on the Facebook or Instagram platform. Registrants do not leave Facebook or Instagram to find and fill out a form. The form, again, is loaded with information from the user’s profile, eliminating the need to type in a name, phone number, or email address.

Two smartphone screenshots: a Facebook lead ad and the corresponding lead formTwo smartphone screenshots: a Facebook lead ad and the corresponding lead form

With a Facebook lead ad, the signup or registration is captured on the Facebook or Instagram platform.

The ad is identical to any other Facebook ad. The difference is the form. It even includes a familiar call to action, such as “learn more” or “sign up.”

Keeping the registration on Facebook or Instagram is, for many, a better form experience. Facebook presumably prefers this, too, since the user is not required to leave one of its networks.

I have been a fan of this ad form for some time, but recently I tested it for a software-as-a-service company.

Facebook Ad Test

The test was aimed at two educational offers: a four-week course with live sessions and an unrelated, weekly live workshop.

The offers deployed two types of Facebook ads: one linked to an offsite landing page, and the other used an on-site lead form. Both groups used identical audiences and ad assets. The test ran for six weeks and garnered thousands of registrations.

The results were not even close.

For the course, the lead ads produced 80% more signups at about half of the cost per acquisition. For the weekly workshops, the lead ads generated about 100% more registrations for half of the cost.

What’s more, in both cases the CPA dropped over time, presumably as the algorithm improved targeting.

Fictitious Names

Registrations from lead ads were not perfect. The information loaded into the form comes from a person’s profile on Facebook or Instagram.

I observed a couple of problems with this.

First, some Instagram registrants did not have a real name in their profile, resulting in monikers similar to “Mrs. Magic Woman” in the lead form. This did not necessarily reduce the quality of the lead, but it didn’t help, either.

The second issue was more troublesome. Follow-up emails sent to registrants from lead ads had relatively fewer clicks and engagements.

This likely has to do with the email address associated with some user accounts. My own Facebook and Instagram accounts, for example, are associated with an email address that I have had since the 1990s. I check it once a week or so. Perhaps some of the registrants included similar secondary email addresses.

Moreover, the email address in a Facebook or Instagram profile is likely personal versus business, making it less desirable for a B2B SaaS company.

Nonetheless, the lead ad performed much better than the landing page version.

Lead Collection

Another challenge with using Facebook lead ads has to do with collection and automation. How does an advertiser get the leads created on Facebook? How are those leads added to marketing automation campaigns?

The SaaS company had two existing automated campaigns: one for the courses and one for the workshops.

Our solution was Zapier, which has integrations for Facebook lead ads and several popular form providers. A registration captured on Facebook or Instagram was automatically added via Zapier to the existing automated follow-up.

Other, more burdensome solutions include employing an application programming interface or manually downloading the leads.

Screenshot from Zapier showing the Facebook to Gravity forms zap.Screenshot from Zapier showing the Facebook to Gravity forms zap.

A simple Zapier integration can transfer the leads from Facebook to a marketing automation platform.

21 New Social Media Tools for Merchants in 2021

New and updated social media tools can enhance an ecommerce business.

Here is a list of new social media tools and platform updates in 2021. There are tools for shopping, influencer marketing, live streaming, payments, dynamic advertising, and more.

Facebook

Facebook introduces Horizon Workrooms. To help people work remotely, Facebook has launched an open beta of Horizon Workrooms, available for free to download on Oculus Quest 2. Workrooms is a virtual meeting space where you and your colleagues can collaborate from anywhere. Join a meeting in virtual reality as an avatar or dial into the virtual room from your computer by video call. Use a huge virtual whiteboard to sketch out ideas, bring your computer and keyboard into VR to work together with others, or have expressive conversations as if you are in person.

Home page of Facebook Horizon WorkroomsHome page of Facebook Horizon Workrooms

Facebook Horizon Workrooms

Facebook Pay expands to additional platforms. U.S. businesses that use participating platforms can now enable Facebook Pay as a payment option directly on their websites, giving their customers the ability to check out without re-entering their payment information. Facebook Pay uses encryption to safely and securely store payment card numbers, removing the need for merchants to manage that data. Facebook started the rollout with Shopify merchants and will be expanding to other platforms.

Facebook expands Shops. Facebook has made it easier for people to discover and buy from Shops. In the U.S., businesses can bring Shops products into Marketplace. Facebook has also expanded ratings and reviews to products in Shops on Instagram, including photos and videos from the community. Also, Facebook has introduced Shops ads based on people’s shopping preferences.

Facebook introduces Bulletin newsletter app. Facebook has launched Bulletin, a standalone newsletter platform for free and paid articles and podcasts. To launch the platform, Facebook has recruited prominent writers, including Malcolm Gladwell, Erin Andrews, and Mitch Albom.

Instagram

Messenger API for Instagram opens to all developers and businesses. Facebook has opened the Messenger API for Instagram to all developers and businesses to integrate Instagram messaging with their preferred applications and workflows.

Home page of Messenger for InstagramHome page of Messenger for Instagram

Messenger for Instagram

Instagram introduces ads in its Shop tab. Instagram has launched ads in its Shop tab globally, making ​​it easier for people to discover and shop from brands. These ads appear as tiles on the Instagram Shop tab home page. Clicking on an ad takes users to the product details page.

Instagram introduces affiliate and shop features. Instagram has launched new ways to help creators monetize their digital efforts. Creators can now tag products from the brands they work with or use Shops for their own product line. Instagram is also testing a native affiliate tool to allow creators to discover new products available on checkout, share them with their followers, and earn commissions for the purchases, all within the Instagram app.

Instagram launches Live Rooms. Instagram’s Live Rooms gives users the ability to go live with up to three people. With Live Rooms, viewers can buy badges for the hosts and use other interactive features such as Shopping and Live Fundraisers.

Home page of Instagram Live RoomsHome page of Instagram Live Rooms

Instagram Live Rooms

Instagram introduces Content Publishing API. Facebook has launched Content Publishing API, a feature on the Instagram Graph API platform to make it easier for businesses to publish content. Instagram Business accounts can now schedule and publish posts to their Instagram feeds from third-party platforms. With the Content Publishing API, businesses can easily plan campaigns and build internal processes around publishing content using the platform of their choice. Content Publishing API will support scheduling and publishing single-photo or video posts to Instagram feed for Instagram Business accounts.

Pinterest

Pinterest launches Shopping List and expands shopping features and merchant tools. Pinterest has launched Shopping List, a method for pinners to have their product pins automatically saved in one place. Pinners are also informed of compelling deals on products they’ve saved with price drop notifications. Pinterest has also expanded its suite of merchant tools with the launch of (i) the verified merchant program in the U.K., Australia, Canada, France, and Germany, (ii) a shop tab on profile, and (iii) product tagging in Australia, Canada, France, and Germany.

Pinterest introduces Idea Pins. Pinterest has released Idea Pins, a multi-page format to help users engage and explore videos directly. Idea Pins make it easy for creators to publish quality, long-lasting, saveable content directly to Pinterest via a suite of publishing tools, including video recording and editing, voiceover recording, ghost mode transition tools, detail pages for instructions or ingredients, and interactive elements such as people tagging and stickers.

Home page of Pinterest Idea PinsHome page of Pinterest Idea Pins

Pinterest Idea Pins

Pinterest introduces new ways for creators to earn money and partner with brands. Pinterest has launched new ways for creators to build their business and earn money with the ability to make their Idea Pins shoppable, earn commissions through affiliate links, and partner with brands on sponsored content. Creators can tag their Idea Pins with any Product Pins. Creators producing branded content have an easier way to disclose paid relationships with a new tool to add a “paid partnerships” label.

Twitter

Twitter launches Shop Module to let users shop from profiles. Twitter is testing Shop Module, a new ecommerce feature that lets brands, businesses, and merchants showcase products directly on a business profile. Followers can scroll through a carousel of product images and tap on a product they’re interested in purchasing. That tap opens the business’s website inside Twitter for additional product info or to make a purchase.

Twitter tests new ecommerce card and Shop button. Twitter is testing a new card format that links to ecommerce product pages. The experimental new tweets include a prominent Shop button and details, such as product name, shop name, and price.

TikTok

TikTok launches AR development platform, Effect Studio. Joining Facebook and Snap to support third-party developers via augmented reality, TikTok has launched Effect Studio, currently in private beta. The experimental resource seeks new ways for creators to bring their ideas to life for the TikTok community.

Home page of TikTok Effect StudioHome page of TikTok Effect Studio

TikTok Effect Studio

TikTok releases Creator Marketplace API. TikTok is helping brands and agencies work with influencers by rolling out a new Creator Marketplace API. Marketing companies can now integrate more directly with the application’s influencer platform. The new API allows partnered marketing companies to access TikTok’s first-party data about audience demographics, growth trends, best-performing videos, and real-time campaign reporting for the first time.

Shopify introduces in-app shopping on TikTok. Shopify has announced a new way for entrepreneurs to reach consumers on TikTok. Shopify merchants with a TikTok For Business account can soon add a shopping tab to their TikTok profiles and sync their product catalogs to create a mini-storefront that links to the ecommerce store for checkout. Shopify and TikTok have also partnered to tag and link products in organic TikTok posts. TikTok users can shop directly from a merchant’s mini-storefront or click a tagged product in a merchant’s TikTok video to shop directly on the merchant’s Shopify store.

Web page on Shopify Blog announcing new in-app shopping experiences on TikTok.Web page on Shopify Blog announcing new in-app shopping experiences on TikTok.

Shopify Blog: Introducing new in-app shopping experiences on TikTok.

YouTube

YouTube unveils brand extensions. At its Brandcast Delivered event, YouTube previewed a new interactive feature for advertisers called brand extensions, designed to make the platform more shoppable. Brand extensions, available globally later this year, invite viewers to learn more about a product with one click, without interrupting their viewing experience. Brands can measure conversions in Google Ads.

YouTube introduces Super Thanks, letting creators monetize video content. As its fourth Paid Digital Good function, YouTube launched Super Thanks, allowing viewers to pay for pre-recorded or uploaded content. Similar to Super Chats, a monetization tool for YouTubers who live stream, Super Thanks lets a fan contribute to any uploaded video, as long as the creator is a YouTube Partner and has monetization enabled. There are four price points for viewers to purchase a single Super Thanks: $2, $5, $10, and $50.

Snapchat

Snap expands Dynamic Ads. Snap has announced the global rollout of Dynamic Ads. The product lets advertisers automatically create ads in real-time, using a product catalog. Snap provides various mobile-ready templates for advertisers to choose from, then serves the ads to the platform’s 229 million daily active users based on their interests.

Snap launches Creator Marketplace. Snap has launched a Creator Marketplace to help businesses discover and partner with Snap’s creator community. Snapchat’s Creator Marketplace is available via Business Manager to users with a Business Account. It will initially focus on helping businesses discover and partner with AR Lens creators. The marketplace will gradually extend to different types of creators (e.g., video creators and Snap Stars) and launch additional features to make it easier for brands and creators to work together.

Home page of Snap Creator MarketplaceHome page of Snap Creator Marketplace

Snap Creator Marketplace

What’s the Future of Social Media Advertising?

Many businesses recognize the need for social media advertising. But describing social media ads is a bit like counting raindrops in a thunderstorm. The trends are many, fast-moving, and often gone in a flash.

At least one industry practitioner believes social advertising is growing in acceptance despite tracking concerns and may soon be a full-fledged ecommerce channel.

Let’s take these three trends one by one — acceptance, signal loss, and shops.

Acceptance

A segment of the commerce industry that includes ecommerce, omnichannel, and B2B has had a long and successful relationship with social media advertising. But this is not the case for everyone.

“I think a lot of brands, retailers, grocers have finally accepted that social is the best platform upon which to reach their customers at scale with personalized messaging,” said Conor Ryan, chief information officer at StitcherAds, a social media advertising platform

Ryan believes the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the acceptance of social advertising. Companies that may have been planning investments in social advertising were forced to take action.

The pandemic “put so much pressure on so many businesses to move quickly that [digital transformation] was crammed into [a few months],” said Ryan during a live interview with the CommerceCo by Practical Ecommerce community on July 8, 2021.

The brands that made this transition accepted that they needed to use social advertising out of necessity, “but then it started performing as it was always going to do. Lots and lots of advertisers have come to the platform — many of them have played around with it before — but now really embraced it as one of the core pillars to achieve marketing and advertising goals,” Ryan said.

The long-term impact of this acceptance is unclear. But it could be that if more and larger brands enter the social ad space or increase their investments (sometimes spending millions of dollars), there could be more promoted products and more competition to promote.

The most impacted segments could be digital native direct-to-consumer brands that used Facebook or Instagram advertising, for example, as the foundation for their business growth and success.

Signal Loss

The businesses having success on social media advertising platforms are concerned about signal loss — the absence of tracking data that has made some social ads work so well.

“There is a lot of concern about the ability to track conversions due to some of the changes” coming from Apple and various web browsers, Ryan said.

Apple dramatically changed how tracking works on its iOS devices. App makers had unfettered access to Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers, which allowed Facebook and others to track individuals across apps, networks, and (when combined with cookies) across websites. But recent versions of iOS allow iPhone owners to decide if they want to be tracked.

Depending on the source, between 65% and 90% of iOS users choose not to be tracked. Thus, the signal loss.

This trend has driven “a lot of focus on attribution models, measurement, reporting, and the accuracy of that reporting,” Ryan said.

Shops

Social networks and their advertising platforms are embracing ecommerce and launching “shop” solutions.

Examples include “Facebook shops, Instagram shops, shops moving to WhatsApp and other social networks,” said Ryan, adding that the trend toward shops helps address signal loss.

“I mentioned the challenge of measuring conversions … but the ability to retarget is also impacted [by the new privacy settings]. So if you show somebody a product in a shop on Facebook or Instagram, Facebook knows what product they saw and can retarget them for you. But, if that happens off of the social media network, there might be no way to track them,” Ryan stated.

While the value of having a shop on a social media network is not limited to solving for signal loss, it wouldn’t hurt businesses concerned about social advertising performance as third-party tracking is restricted.

What’s more, social media shops may extend a commerce company’s portfolio of sales channels, allowing sellers to reach consumers where they are.

How to Supercharge an Instagram Bio

I’ve addressed Instagram captions and advanced selling strategies. I have not addressed Instagram bios, however. Many companies use bios to simply state what they offer. But an Instagram bio can be much more.

In this post, I’ll review how to make the most of your Instagram bio and the related Highlights.

Instagram Bio

The Instagram bio is prime real estate. It’s one of the first things users see when they land on a profile.

The bio is limited to 150 characters. The screenshot below of my own bio is 148 characters. It’s not a lot of space to convince the audience to browse your photos or give you a follow.

Screenshot of Kaleena Stroud's Instagram bioScreenshot of Kaleena Stroud's Instagram bio

Instagram bios are limited to 150 characters. This example from the author’s bio has 148.

First, be wary of emojis. Emojis can count as two characters. Use them wisely. Sometimes they can help, such as:

  • 👉 Here’s the link,
  • 👇 Check the link below,
  • ⚠️ Time-sensitive sale.

To overcome the 150 character count, add text to your name. For example, user @yourlightspace, shown below, includes her name (“Paige”) and her profession (“soulpreneur mentor”).

Screenshot of the bio of Instagram user @yourlightspace. Screenshot of the bio of Instagram user @yourlightspace.

To overcome the 150 character count, add text to your name, such as this example from “Paige,” who added “soulpreneur mentor.”

Moreover, the name field is searchable, meaning Instagrammers have a better chance of finding you.

Note that Paige’s profile has special characters. Insert these characters using Microsoft Word:

  • Open a Word document and paste or type your bio.
  • Where you want to place a special character, click Insert > Advanced Symbol.
  • Add the icons of your choosing.
  • Copy and paste your bio from Word into your Instagram bio.

These special characters are only one character long and may fit your brand better than an emoji.

Once you’ve written and uploaded your bio, extend it through Highlights.

Highlights

Instagram Highlights are a collection of the 24-hour stories a user has posted and archived on her profile. They appear directly below the bio. Note the Highlights screenshot below from user @socialandstuff, a social media coach.

This user strategically placed highlights according to the priorities of her ideal prospects — “Start Here,” “Client Love,” “Services,” and “Weekly Q&A.”

“Start Here” is presumably listed as the second highlight because she recently updated or added a story to the “Client Love.” Otherwise “Start Here” would be first. Any time you add or archive a story to a Highlight section, it will move to the first position.

Screenshot of Instagram Highlights for user @socialandstuff.Screenshot of Instagram Highlights for user @socialandstuff.

User @socialandstuff strategically placed highlights according to the priorities of her ideal prospects — “Start Here,” “Client Love,” “Services,” and “Weekly Q&A.”

Extend Your Bio

Instagram allows only one link in the bio. It’s tricky to know which one to include, but there are tools to help.

Consider user @thehomecakerycoach, below.

Screenshot of @thehomecakerycoach's Instagram’s bio page.Screenshot of @thehomecakerycoach's Instagram’s bio page.

User @@thehomecakerycoach included the URL “linktr.ee/thehomecakerycoach” in her bio, which linked to a page with many more URLs.

Clicking “linktr.ee/thehomecakerycoach” opens a page with four destinations.

Screenshot of the "linktr.ee/thehomecakerycoach" page.Screenshot of the "linktr.ee/thehomecakerycoach" page.

Once clicked, “linktr.ee/thehomecakerycoach” opens a page with four other URLs.

Bio link tools give new and returning Instagrammers the option to go to the page that suits their needs. My favorite link tools are:

  • Linktr.ee,
  • ContactinBio,
  • Rebrandly.com/linkgallery.