Trendsetters on Instagram

Jeffrey Young | @jeffrey_young09 Instagram is generally considered a private network.  These brands break that ideology, two of which have close to a million followers.  To give some perspective, Instagram has 90 million users.  Starbucks, the brand we will discuss first, captures 1.2% of users on the network.  Starbucks, Sharpie, and Nike all use the network effectively for business and have a unique recipe for success.

Starbucks Case Study (1.1 million followers)

Ingredients for Success:

Starbucks showcases coffee in nearly all of their pictures, but a physical coffee shop is rarely, if ever shown.  They focus on experiences with coffee outside of the coffee shop, not within the confines of the Starbucks environment.  Showcasing photos of coffee taken outside the small coffee shop gives the coffee more personality.  The photos take you on a journey, and a really good one at that.  They write messages on the cups for some pictures and it all seems so personal.  The photos all appear professionally crafted and personal and they take advantage of Instagram filters.  Lastly, they also take cues from current events.  For the oscars, they posted a photo with a quote printed on a Starbucks cup, shown below.


Starbucks has more than 1.1million Instagram followers.  Starbucks already had a huge following in the physical world, and the brand's attention to current events and experiences made it a success on Instagram.  Starbucks has shown us how the coffee they serve fits into our daily life and we like that.  Rather than forcing their brand upon us, they allow our unique individual journeys with the coffee to dominate the pictures they post.


The physical presence Starbucks has is surpassed only by McDonald's.  80% of Americans live within 20 miles of a Starbucks, and almost 50% live within 5 miles of a coffee shop.  The map shown below was crafted by Jim Davenport, who found that it's impossible to get further than 170 miles away from a Starbucks in the U.S.  Each dark green pinpoint represents an individual Starbucks location.

Starbucks Locations in the U.S.

Nike Case Study (992 thousand followers)

Ingredients for Success:

Nike promotes a lifestyle on their Instagram page more than the actual shoes and active wear they sell.  They use the tagline, "If you have a body, you're an athlete."  This makes Nike approachable and seem more human than they would otherwise.  It encourages you to scroll down to see what the Nike brand is all about.  They post pictures regularly to keep almost a million followers engaged.  Like Starbucks, Nike takes you on a pictoral road to show you the journeys real people take in Nike sneakers.  They post live tweets during football games for their active crowd, showcase new shoes for their consumers, and take you on journeys like this that follow real people globe trekking in their Nike sneakers.

Globe Trekking with Nike

Sharpie (60 thousand followers)

Ingredients for Success: Rather than posting pictures to Instagram, Sharpie posts original, handcrafted drawings made with Sharpies.  This technique for posting is incredibly endearing and very unique.  Sharpie has masterfully crafated its profile to match the products it sells.  Sharpie's Instagram page is like Draw Something on steroids, but in a good way.  The pictures have a fantasy and child like quality to them.

Drawing of Oscar on Sharpie's Twitter Page

Who can resist a hand drawn Oscar?  In addition to the drawings, they add the occasional photo along with short likeable quotes to the mix like "You can't beat awesome" and "Keep calm and Sharpie on."  These short little sayings give Sharpie a fun personality.  The photos are so varied that they're anything but boring.


All these brands showcase their products indirectly and in very tasteful ways.  They don't sell too much and don't do it directly either.  Rather, they include their products as a portion of the photo to remind you of the brand.  It's not too much and it's not over done.  One of the most creative ways to use Instagram is to integrate it closely with your brand, like Sharpie has done with pictures drawn with Sharpies.  Starbucks and Sharpie both play off of current events, especially with the Oscar's.  It keeps the brands relevant and shows they know what is going on in pop culture, always a bonus.

Jeffrey Young