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What separates a successful Instagram for Business account from one that falls flat? How does a company like General Electric have more than two hundred thousand Instagram followers? 

The theory is simple – a great Instagram account is one that is aesthetically pleasing, consistent, and provides value to its followers. In practice? Not so simple.  A great Instagram account requires time, effort, and a clear strategy. Done well, it can inspire the audience and fellow marketers. So, check out these ten companies who are nailing the whole Instagram thing and read about their best practices:

1. Sharpie Screen_Shot_2016-03-28_at_8.26.33_AM-805246-edited.png

Instead of pushing product, Sharpie has filled their Instagram account with art. Not only does this showcase the power of a few well-chosen Sharpies, it also involves users – they feature used-submitted art on a regular basis. (Which, by the way, is a win-win strategy – Sharpie doesn't have to produce quite as much content and they engage with their followers.) When they introduced their new line of neon colors, they only featured images that used the new colors to spark the imaginations of their followers. 

2. Petco

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By focusing on what their market loves, Petco has curated an Instagram account with 202k followers. It's filled with pictures of pets – mainly cats and dogs, but birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, and reptiles have all made an appearance. When Petco was pushing their Star Wars product line, they managed to improve their content by posting pictures of dogs and cats dressed as Star Wars characters. The Instagram force is strong with Petco.

3. General Electric

Screen_Shot_2016-03-28_at_9.31.28_AM.pngWe've all heard the phrase "like catching lightning in a bottle"– referring to doing something that's almost impossible. Using one of their research labs, General Electric did exactly that – and then posted it on Instagram using the hashtag #unimpossible. When they aren't posting something inspiring, you'll find an array of incredibly aesthetically pleasing pictures of everything from jet engines to windmills. GE and their 219k followers prove that Instagram is less about the topic, and more about how you showcase it.

4. National Geographic Screen_Shot_2016-03-28_at_9.39.18_AM.png

This almost feels like cheating, but at 46.7 million followers, National Geographic deserves a shout-out. Instead of featuring their magazines or their travel packages, they've focused on what they do best – amazing photography. 

5. Legal Cheek Screen_Shot_2016-03-28_at_9.47.53_AM.png

Legal Cheek is an online publication for current law students that offers everything from cheeky articles to legal career advice. Although they're only at about nine thousand followers, they have mastered the use of memes for their narrow audience (you can read more about memes here). Be wary of using any memes – if you aren't positive you're using the right meme, you probably aren't. I've seen a lot of companies use memes incorrectly, but Legal Cheek successfully uses them to create an entertaining Instagram account.

6. Applebee's Screen_Shot_2016-03-28_at_10.00.16_AM.png

Applebee's found a great way to capitalize on the fact that people love to take pictures of their food – they created #fantographer, and their entire Instagram account is fan-submitted photographs of their food. Not only does this alleviate work for the Applebee's team, they've created an incentive for their fan base to participate in their social campaign. You'll probably gain a few followers if your picture is featured on the Applebee's account!

7. Taco Bell Screen_Shot_2016-04-04_at_9.37.22_AM.png

Taco Bell is known for their quirky marketing campaigns, and their team has hit the mark once again with their Instagram account. Filled with bright colors, hot sauce, and people gazing lovingly at tacos, this account takes a completely different approach to food than we saw with Applebee's. The Taco Bell team knows what resonates with their market, and they've stayed the course with their Instagram. Is it still effective? Their 718k followers would say yes.

8. Frooti Screen_Shot_2016-04-04_at_9.53.39_AM.png

If you're not familiar with the company, Frooti is a mango fruit drink that is popular in India. Their Instagram account is filled with bright colors, incredibly creative pictures, and the most important thing – a consistent brand message. Anyone can see the time and dedication it has taken to curate the content on this account, and it's only a matter of time before they reach hundreds of thousands of followers. 

9. American Express Screen_Shot_2016-04-04_at_10.21.34_AM.png

American Express does a fantastic job of showcasing the possibilities that come with having an American Express card. From travel to sports games to shopping sprees, this account appeals to multiple personas within their market. The American Express team uses aesthetically pleasing photos to jumpstart your imagination – what would you do if you had an American Express card?

10. Nike (Women) Screen_Shot_2016-04-04_at_10.43.54_AM.png

It's no surprise that Nike is running a successful Instagram account, so let's take a look at one of their supplementary accounts – NikeWomen. Nike wants to capitalize on the ever-growing athleisure market, so they've created an Instagram account to rival the likes of Lululemon and Athletica. Aside from pictures of women exercising near mountains and beaches, Nike has come up with a great way to showcase their product while still creating value for their followers (see picture above). Brightly colored activewear can be difficult to coordinate, so the NikeWomen account does it for you in a beautifully designed way. 

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