In a short window, Instagram has gone from an online craze to part of our daily lives on the web. The platform launched just over five years ago, but hit 500 million users as of June 2016. It’s especially popular among young people, and 59% of Instagram users are on the platform every day.
Apart from the personal enjoyment that Instagram offers users, it’s also the platform of choice for many businesses. Although seemingly limited in what it can do, Instagram works exceptionally well as a marketing vehicle because of the highly personal experience it provides, combined with its mobile nature.
So just how can you get a piece of the Instagram pie by building your follower base and garnering more brand recognition? Take a look at some top habits of 17 entrepreneurs who have mastered Instagram, including how they use the precious real estate in their account bios (the bio is the only place on Instagram where you can include a live link), what they post, and how they engage with followers.
1. Daniel DiPiazza
Daniel DiPiazza is a marketing consultant, copywriter, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete, and above all an ever-evolving entrepreneur. His Instagram bio has a link to his YouTube channel, a bare minimum about himself, and a little about how he can help users. DiPiazza posts daily videos on his YouTube channel and promotes those using the allowed 15-second video clips on Instagram.
Piazza keeps his followers engaged by posting daily. He posts a variety of content including motivational quotes, pictures of himself and others, memes, and videos. On each post, Piazza uses captions strategically—mixing humor, shoutouts, questions, information, and calls to action.
2. Richard Branson
If you somehow don’t already know who Richard Branson is, Google him. This business titan is the founder of the Virgin Group and is estimated to have a net worth of more than $5 billion. Branson uses his personal Instagram bio to promote his Virgin Group Instagram account and his Virgin website, but he also weaves in his thrill-seeking personality and penchant for turning dreams into reality.
Branson uses his celebrity status to foster follower engagement, mainly posting photos of himself in beautiful surroundings or fun scenarios. He usually posts a few times a day. His captions are short, but filled with hashtags.
3. Michael Acton Smith
Michael Acton Smith is the founder and CEO of the children’s entertainment company Mind Candy, which created Moshi Monsters. The website Moshi Monsters is a huge hit with kids around the world and has created merchandise beyond the virtual world with books, soaps, action figures, trading cards, mobile and Nintendo DS video games, and even an upcoming film.
Smith’s bio is short and sweet—a simple list of the brands that he associates with. Smith posts consistently, two or three times a week. His posts are mainly photos that are intriguing and emotionally evocative. Smith’s captions are short and geared toward helping others or providing inspiration, a good formula for engagement.
4. Pete Cashmore
Cashmore is the founder and CEO of Mashable, a Technorati Top 10 blog covering tech, media, and business. He was named one of Huffington Post’s Top 10 Game Changers 2009 and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People 2012. In 2009, INQ named him the most influential Twitter user in the world.
Cashmore calls himself a chronic daydreamer. Unlike some more methodical entrepreneurs, he doesn’t follow a consistent Instagram posting scheduling. He opts for more sporadic posts that pack a bigger punch, like beautiful pictures and epic, attention-grabbing captions.
5. Dario Vignali
Italy’s number one digital marketing blogger, Dario Vignali describes himself as someone who lives by doing the things that he likes the most: discovering his passions and helping others. He’s a world traveler and uses his passion for travel to expand his influence.
Vignali’s Instagram bio briefly sums up his passions, links to his website, and includes other ways to get in touch with him. Vignali mainly posts fun, captivating, and highly relatable pictures. He captions these with a barrage of hashtags and simple statements.
6. Nisha Moodley
Nisha Moodley is a women’s leadership coach who works to help other women seamlessly integrate work and life. She offers retreats, coaching sessions, and even one-on-one, all-day sessions for female entrepreneurs. She founded Global Sisterhood Day and encourages and celebrates connections between women.
In her Instagram bio, Moodley identifies her business philosophies and strategically links to both her sisterhoodday Instagram account and her website. Moodley does not flood her feed, generally only posting once every few days. Moodley’s posts are fun and inspirational (fitting with her brand), her captions poetic, engaging, and obligation-free.
7. Brett David
The CEO of Prestige Imports and Lamborghini Miami, Brett David took the reins of the former, a multimillion dollar business, when his father passed away in 2007. At the age of 19, David began to show the world what he could do to not only maintain, but grow the business at an amazing rate. Now 27, David is praised as a marketing genius and unstoppable salesman.
His Instagram bio is simple, but unique. His inspirational hashtags fit with his public image and his one link leads to the Prestige Imports website. David’s posts also fit with his image, showing gorgeous cars, stunning scenery, and hard work. He favors hashtags and short phrases for captioning and only posts once every few days. His posts generate a high level of engagement, sometimes reaching several thousand likes on a single post.
8. Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder of several blogs and blog networks, notably ProBlogger. Rowse is also a speaker, consultant, and author, with much of his work being focused on helping others become professional bloggers. ProBlogger was listed on Technorati’s favorite blogs list and Rowse has received multiple awards for his work.
Rowse’s Instagram bio has only the words “Observing life” and a link to his page for fundraising event Ping-Pong-a-Thon. Rowse’s posts are often highly personal, including pictures of his children, meals, and everyday things. His captions are as organic and inconsistent as his posting schedule—sometimes there is a little, sometimes a lot, sometimes a hashtag or shoutout.
9. Elon Musk
A man who wears many hats, Elon Musk is an entrepreneur and business mogul who’s the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, the CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, and the chairman of Solar City. He founded SpaceX and also co-founded Tesla Motors, PayPal, and Zip2. Musk is taking the world into the future, working on things like high-speed transportation and self-driving vehicles.
Musk shows us that short, sweet, and to-the-point is an effective strategy. His photos are smart, cheeky, and future-oriented. His trifecta of short-yet-engaging captions, massive follower base, and clever content garner him thousands of likes per post, even when he’s just posting once a week.
10. Danielle Cuccio
Danielle Cuccio is a lifestyle and health blogger, yoga instructor, and aesthetician. Based out of L.A., she is the embodiment of the California lifestyle and mindset, using a holistic approach to help people look and feel more beautiful. On her website, Cuccio Somatology, she offers classes, retreats, workshops, private sessions, and plenty of health and nutritional advice.
Cuccio has a very business-oriented strategy for Instagram. While she generally posts at least once a day, displaying a mixture of personal and professional photos, she’s careful that each post reinforces her public image. She keeps her audience captivated with longer captions, and stays connected and relevant with a list of hashtags that promote her brand.
11. Matt Potts
A lifestyle guru who helps people follow their dreams, Matt Potts offers coaching services, webinars, and podcasts. He also blogs on his site The Free Person. Potts’ Instagram bio is a short, two-sentence summary with a link to his blog page, the name of which is also his Instagram handle.
His Instagram posts are inspirational quotes that fit with his brand and personal vision, sometimes with words overlaying beautiful pictures. Potts’ captions are lengthy and contemplative, with hashtag lists and personal calls to action, an important strategy for those who seek tangible engagement from their followers.
12. Dennis Crowley
Dennis Crowley is the co-founder of Foursquare and previously founded Dodgeball, one of the early mobile social networks in the United States. Crowley was named one of Fortune’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2010 and 2011. He was also named one of the Top 49 Most Influential Men 2010 by the online magazine AskMen.com.
His Instagram bio is a short listing of “hobbies,” which includes Foursquare. His Instagram posting style is silly and light-hearted, with a focus on sharing laughs and good times. He attracts the type of user base who seeks social media for a quick breath of fresh air.
13. Rameet Chawla
Rameet Chawla is the CEO and founder of the mobile app design company Fueled and the Fueled Collective. Fueled has created mobile apps for Coca-Cola, Chicago Bulls, Wendy’s, and American Express. Chawla was listed as one of The Next Web’s 50 people to know in the New York City tech scene and was also named one of the 50 Most Stylish New Yorkers by StyleCaster in 2012.
Chawla’s posts are mostly photos of himself in attention-grabbing clothes and funny or artistic settings, prominently featuring his signature long black beard. His captions bring his followers into a world of playfulness. With his minimalist posting schedule of roughly once every week or two, he shows us that we don’t have to blitz our account to keep a loyal following.
14. Arvin Lal
Instagram loves to follow the Cinderella-style success story of Arvin Lal, who started nutritional supplement brand Shredz with a credit card and a dream. Now the co-founder and CEO, his entrepreneurial career started by combining his Internet savvy with his vision of helping people change their lives. This has helped shape his business into a multimillion dollar company in just a few years, garnering an impressive social media following.
His posts are inspirational and stunning, with a mix of videos, photos, and quotes. The captions are lengthy appeals to followers encouraging them to chase their dreams. Lal posts every day and each post receives tens of thousands of likes.
15. Sean McCabe
Sean McCabe is a hand lettering artist who became a business visionary. He began offering online hand lettering courses, which were a hit on a global scale, allowing him to expand and begin focusing more on the business and media side.
McCabe’s Instagram bio is as humble as the rest of his philosophy, with a link to his Learn Lettering site and an invitation for people to take advantage of the free starter class. He posts about once every few weeks, always something simple and inspirational. His captions are usually one short sentence, though occasionally he includes hashtags or a longer description with a call to action.
16. Farokh Goodlife
Farokh Goodlife’s Instagram profile chronicles his adventures and presents motivational quotes. The 21-year-old social influencer, entrepreneur, and student focuses on design, travel, business, architecture, and fashion & style.
On Instagram, Farokh Goodlife talks about upcoming trends as well as entrepreneurs he has collaborated with or finds inspirational. His personal achievements are a symbol of a positive attitude toward life for followers who are striving for big goals and dreams. His profile description contains a link to his other Instagram account where he posts followers’ content when they use his hashtag.
17. Steve Mehr
Steve Mehr is a serial entrepreneur, a successful attorney, and CEO of marketing agency WebShark360. He draws on his own life experiences and accomplishments on Instagram while providing insights on winning habits and steps that make up the formula for achieving goals. Mehr goes into further detail about building an empire from ground up and dominating your goals in his e-book Dominate Your Goals: A Guide to Achieving Results.
On Instagram, Mehr shares successful thinking and motivational posts. He also showcases his famously elegant collection of cars and occasionally family adventures around the world. Mehr knows how to keep it fresh and light by varying content. Followers of this Instagram account can expect to learn a lot about life and business over time.
Knowing Your Audience
What can we learn from all of these Instagram success stories?
They’ve all cultivated their own style of influence. They’ve defined their identities—some personal, others more business-related—in the social media realm. They stay consistent with their images and goals, and they keep their audiences captivated and engaged by telling their individual stories.
Likes are Instagram currency, good measurement tools for determining how engaging posted content is. All of these entrepreneurs have found what resonates with their followers and figured out how to create content that consistently strikes a chord with them. Importantly, they have also figured out the “sweet spot” for their posting schedule that gives followers just enough to keep them wanting more.
You could say the biggest lesson to learn from these examples is that there is no solitary path to popularity on Instagram. Strategies for business success are carefully defined and maintained by the best users, but they are also personal and varied in a way that reflects the user experience of this unique platform.
What works for you? We’d love to hear your success stories.
As you can see we’ve become increasingly enthusiastic about Instagram as a great way to build an audience, and have developed some in-depth, highly useful tools be sure to check them out here:
- How to Get Your First 10,000 Instagram Followers (free eBook)