How Brands Market With Top Instagram Influencers

Top Instagram Influencers How To Market Brand Guide
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How Major Brands Are Marketing With Top Instagrammers: A Quick Study Guide

UPDATE April 5, 2017 — Instagram has undergone a number of changes in the last year. With new features like Stories, Live, and Galleries, and phenomenal growth, many of the published statistics on Instagram are outdated. In the interest of keeping this guide as up-to-date as possible with the latest data, we’ve updated these changing statistics. We’ve also preserved the original text, clearly noting updates below passages with new information available.

As more companies discover the far-reaching impact and viral growth potential of marketing with top social media influencers, brands are looking to popular social publishing platforms and networks like Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat to gain a competitive marketing advantage by reaching millions of new consumers where they spend most of their time. Since Instagram launched in 2010, the photo- and video-sharing app has amassed over 400 million engaged users, making it one of the premier platforms for brands to craft effective social influencer strategies, execute high-reach, creative and engaging influencer marketing campaigns, and chart long-term Instagram influencer collaborations.

Why Everyone Loves Instagram & Instagram Influencers

While Instagram’s visual component is appealing to users of every age, the app has become especially favored by younger demographics who consider Instagram one of their top social apps. According to a research study conducted by YouGov, an internet-based market research firm, audiences perceive Instagram more favorably than both Vine and Snapchat. In Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ partner found that Instagram ranked first (ahead of Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Tumblr, respectively) in importance among trendsetting teens.

Instagram’s prevalence and immense year-on-year growth have spawned hundreds of Instagram influencers (called “Instagrammers“) who each command the attention of thousands or millions of followers by showcasing incredible photos/videos and engaging with audiences. What’s more, a recent survey conducted by Variety discovered that teens and Millennials closely identify with their favorite digital influencers and that social media stars outranked their mainstream celebrity counterparts in approachability, authenticity, and trustworthiness.

UPDATE: Instagram now has over 600 million users worldwide, 400 million of whom visit the app daily. One of Instagram’s newest features, Stories, has over 150 million daily active users.

Related Post: The Top Instagram Accounts To Follow

By coupling these positive attributes with a consistent stream of aspirational lifestyle imagery and high levels of engagement, top Instagram influencers have become the magnetic role models which audiences across several important demographics strive to emulate.

Related Post: Advertising On Instagram Without Sponsored Ads

How Brands Are Marketing With Instagram Influencers

In the wake of Instagram’s growing user base and the rise of celebrity-like Instagrammers, many of the world’s top companies like Levi’s, McDonald’s, Maybelline, and Mercedes-Benz, as well as a host of innovative startup brands like NatureBox and Blue Apron are proliferating on the platform, experiencing some of the best ROIs across all existing advertising options, and compounding the organic growth of their brand channels by partnering with strategically-selected Instagram influencers.

Related Post: What Is Instagram Influencer Marketing?

To help brands understand the benefits of developing partnerships with today’s top Instagram influencers, we’ve compiled a list of the best case studies and examples:

Understanding The Different Types Of Instagram Influencers

Many of today’s top Instagram influencers have attracted millions of engaged followers by focusing on a specific niche or content category. Here are some of Instagram’s most popular verticals and the most prominent Instagrammers that command each space, niche interests, and advertiser categories:

Top Beauty, Make-Up, & Fashion Instagrammers

Brands are drawn to influencers in this category because the photo-centric app enables Instagrammers to feature a rich image of their finished product and/or up to 15 seconds of video that features quick how-to guides and DIY branding opportunities. 


Amra Olevic is a top beauty Instagram influencer with an audience of 4.2 million. Her Instagram channel centers around makeup in addition to her fashion stylings. Followers can view info on which makeup brands she uses in the post description, which is linked to the brand’s social media channel or directed to company’s web page.

Off to Bahrain for my first ever makeup class in the Middle East ❤️✈️? #iluvsarahii #bahrain #makeupseminar

A photo posted by I L U V S A R A H I I (@iluvsarahii) on


Professional makeup artist Karen Sarahi uses Instagram to capture her lifestyle as well as featured products. When working with brands, she features multiple brands within a sponsored integration Instagram video. Sponsored content with influencers can be both dedicated (featuring a sole brand) or non-dedicated (as featured here). 

The Best Travel, Hospitality, & Adventure Instagrammers

An ideal social channel for travel and hospitality brands to market with top social media influencers, Instagram is a purely visual medium that lets brands target users through captivating, powerfully evocative, and aspirational imagery. For more information on how travel and adventure marketing can capitalize on Instagram’s growth, see our article “Travel Marketing With Digital Influencers: The Next Big Thing.” 

The ocean always feels like home. #lifewelltravelled A photo posted by Jessica Stein (@tuulavintage) on


Seamlessly melding travel and travel-appropriate fashion stylings, Jessica Stein of Tuula Vintage is sought after by the world’s preeminent travel brands including a 2015 #lifewelltravelled campaign with Cathay Pacific airlines. As a top Instagram influencer, Stein always conveys an ardent sense of wanderlust through her high-end travel photography.

I can’t get enough of this city ?

A photo posted by Carin Olsson (@parisinfourmonths) on


Carin Olsson is one of the top influential Instagrammers in the travel and lifestyle domain. Through aspirational visual content, she delivers elegant vignettes of her life in Paris. She has worked with top fashion brands including Cartier, Banana Republic, and J.Crew.

Men’s Lifestyle & Fashion

Instagram’s traction is growing exponentially, especially with millennial users. While there is strong, longstanding buzz regarding female social media influencers, the men’s sphere is rapidly growing and becoming a burgeoning niche. According to a 2014 study published in Ad Week, male and female users are equally engaged on Instagram (51% vs. 49% respectively).

Suited in skinny black @johnvarvatos for their show of #nyfwm〰 last one, let’s party! @shopstyle #MenWithSStyle

A photo posted by Adam Gallagher (@iamgalla) on


Adam Gallagher is a New York-based influencer who caters to the men’s demographic regarding style and fashionable adventure through inspiring, well-polished photography. He has worked with many of the top men’s fashion brands from John Varvatos to Topman to Hugo Boss.

Thanks to @cadillac for my ride this week #NYMD #NYFWM #StyleDriven ? @tommyton

A photo posted by Nickelson Wooster (@nickwooster) on


Nick Wooster is a leading men’s style icon who has worked extensively as a buyer for prestigious brands such as Neiman Marcus and Calvin Klein. His recent  collaboration with Cadillac was featured during New York Fashion Week Men’s. 

Design & Home Instagram Influencers

The best home and design Instagram influencer accounts feature the latest creative content on interior, exterior, garden, luxury decor, DIY, and finishings.


Joy Cho is the design influencer behind “Oh Joy,” where she curates her lifestyle within her eponymous design studio. Her content revolves around her daily life in motherhood, along with content that highlights her design aesthetic.


Emily Henderson is an LA-based interior designer who combines her lifestyle shots with decor inspiration. She recently collaborated with Target Home, which is featured in many of her posts.

Top Healthy Living & Activity Instagrammers

Whether it is an athletic performance company, consumer packed good (CPG), or apparel, brands can maximize their reach by targeting healthy living influencers to effectively encapsulate their product within a well-curated active lifestyle.

Me and phin. Winner announced soon! Wearing @Aloyoga

A photo posted by Kerri Verna (@beachyogagirl) on


Kerri Verna is a multi-discipline fitness instructor. She travels frequently and integrates relevant collaborations into her Instagram, such as her recent feature with Define Bottle.

Headed to Boston right now for tonight’s book signing and meet up at Barnes & Noble Prudential Ctr at 6pm! Bye NYC – you guys were fab! Time to do a GIVEAWAY! This is the ridiculous VIP crate that we gifted guests with at my book launch party. . -1 copy of Hot Body Year Round -Ingredients for coconut power balls from @thrivemkt, medjool dates, shredded coconut, raw walnuts -Free membership to @thrivemkt which is the Costco of Whole Foods -1 cookies n cream @questnutrition bar -1 s’mores Quest bar -2 Quest protein powder satchels -1 @jamberrynails set -1 @emcosmetics full size product -1 pair of @stylehaul sunglasses -1 baby crate Now I want to give one to you AND a friend. Here’s how to enter. 1. Comment and tag 1 friend who you think would be the happiest to get this VIP crate! You can enter as many times as you want. 1 tag per comment. You can be from any country, any age. Contest ends Friday night April 10th EST. GO!!! #hotbodyyearround

A photo posted by Cassey Ho (@blogilates) on


Cassey Ho is the creator of POP Pilates, a specialized form of Pilates, and arguably one of the most well-known digital influencers for healthy living. She integrates fitness-centric and inspirational content within her lifestyle images.

The Best Food Instagrammers

Brands are using food-based Instagram accounts to promote their products in a way that is both inspiring and visually appealing. The foodie scene is growing and with more people looking to be more active in the kitchen, culinary influencers are providing brands with unique and natural content.


My Healthy Dish is about eating healthier, and eating less processed foods. My Nguyen is the social media influencer behind the brand who works with brands that she knows will resonate strongly with her viewers.


Joy Wilson is the creator and self-taught baker behind the brand and Instagram channel, Joy the Baker. With upwards of 262K followers, she takes her audience on a savory visual journey.

The 5-Step Instagram Influencer Strategy For Brands

Step 1: Get Clear On Marketing Metrics

While marketing with Instagram influencers and other emerging social channels may be relatively new, standard marketing parameters still apply. Before embarking on an influencer marketing campaign, establishing such baseline metrics like cost per acquisition (CPA) and customer lifetime value (CLV) from previous marketing initiatives will help determine whether partnering with an Instagram influencer will be cost effective. In most instances, marketing with social media influencers provide one of the highest ROI marketing channels for brands and companies.

Step 2: Find The Right Instagrammer For Your Brand

Although platforms or SaaS solutions exist for finding influencers, all will either necessitate a prerequisite knowledge of the space, and/or require a steep learning curve to achieve optimal results. As such, brands oftentimes prefer to expedite the entire process and ensure success by working with established influencer marketing agencies or companies. These companies can (and should) provide year-long case studies (demonstrating longterm client satisfaction) as opposed to one-off examples. Additionally, these companies have longstanding relationships at negotiated rates with social media influencers who not only boast impressive followings, but perform in terms of engagement and traffic conversion.

Step 3: Develop Creative And Strategic Collaborations

Both Instagram influencers and the agencies they work with have a time-tested sense of what works when it comes to successfully orchestrated brand sponsored Instagram posts. Part of a well-synced brand integration involves allowing the Instagrammer ample creative direction while ensuring the appropriate brand messaging.

UPDATE: With Instagram’s new features, there are more ways than ever to create compelling sponsored content on Instagram with Influencers. With Stories and Live, there are now opportunities for campaigns that span different types of media. See our guides to Live and Stories to learn more.

Step 4: Implement Tacking Measures And Monitor Campaigns

Working with Instagrammers can help brands and companies quickly build favorable brand awareness while also significantly bolstering followers, likes, shares, and comments. In order to ascertain the effectiveness of both the Instagrammer and the overarching campaign, set up tracking measures to adequately monitor the marketing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) established in step 1. Brands can use dedicated landing page URLs, customized promo codes, or specific hashtags to track conversion and interact with potential customers.

Step 5: Assess And Optimize

Lastly, take note of what worked and with which Instagram influencers. Frequently, favorable trends and valuable consumer insights can be extrapolated from influencer campaigns and used to further optimize ensuing campaigns.

For an in-depth look at proven influencer marketing strategies, see our free white paper guide here.

The Best Instagram Influencer Brand Examples

@RACHPARCELL for NatureBox
@WENDYSLOOKBOOK for David Yurman
@TAZA for Blue Apron
@RACHMARTINO for Hallmark
@BLAIREADIEBEE for Starbucks

More Instagram Influencer Resources For Brands:

Also See Our Posts On:

The 3 Biggest Instagram Marketing Trends For 2016

How To Spot Fake Followers On Instagram

Which Is Better? Instagram Sponsored Ads vs. Instagram Influencer Marketing

How The Best Brands On Instagram Built Their Channels