What makes an Instagram account great these days? The answer is subjective, but in my opinion, there are three things: creativity, consistency and a genuine voice. And I can’t forget: the ability to roll with the platform’s numerous changes, because those changes will keep coming.
Users who embraced 2016’s new features (Stories and the non-chronological feed, for example) while staying true to their followers will likely continue to prosper on Instagram in 2017. So, both brands and we common folk would be wise to follow them.
If you spend an embarrassing amount of time on the platform like I do, then you can imagine how tough it was to narrow down this list to just a handful of must-follows. But here they are, broken into category for (hopefully) a fairer comparison. Tell me who you would’ve chosen in the comments!
1) Art: @sean_charmatz
Instagram is proving to be an increasingly useful marketing tool for “makers”—visual artists, craftsmen/women, designers, etc.—and these people have raised the bar for Insta-quality. After all, it’s kind of what they “do”. Some notable mentions: embroiderer @sarahkbenning, writer/cartoonist @adamjk, whimsical #candyminimal founder @mattcrump, and mesmerizing potter @kowalskipottery.
But with his never-fail video vignettes, @sean_charmatz is a must-see. His animated series “The Secret Life of Stuff” gives human features to inanimate objects, to hilarious effect. Each one will make you laugh over and over again, meaning Sean’s account is a gift that keeps on giving.
2) Pets: @penguinthemagpie
Do you know someone whose pet is on Instagram? Of course you do. My cat even has an account. There are so many adorable, humanized characters on the platform that it’s difficult to choose a standout among the #weeklyfluff, but @penguinthemagpie deserves a mention for the careful, heartfelt crafting of its very unique feathery feed. Others have taken note—Penguin’s story will soon be made into a film starring Naomi Watts (!).
3) Packaged Food: @hendricksgin
It’s no secret that Instagram users are obsessed with food. New restaurants even design their spaces to be Insta-friendly now, which kind of blows my mind, but also makes sense. Brick-and-mortar eateries have legitimate reasons to be highly-photogenic, as popularity on Instagram is proven to drive foot traffic. For packaged brands? The connection is a little more tenuous.
However, one packaged brand that takes its Instagram presence seriously is Hendrick’s Gin. I began following this account when my agency took on a beverage client and I don’t plan on stopping. The copy is quirky, the art is equally strange and wonderful, and the whole operation is at once professional and entertaining. (Note: You’ll need to open this one on mobile, since there’s a requisite “Are you 21?” gate to pass before viewing.)
4) Lifestyle: @luciebfink
Lucie isn’t a celebrity (yet), but it’s fair to say that she is killing it on Instagram. The personal brand is strong with this one, and in my opinion, she’s the standard-bearer for a curated lifestyle feed that is neither cold nor ultra-edited (you know the type). High-brow influencers are having their day, but Lucie might herald the next wave of the “insta-famous.”
5) Comedy: @overheardla
Ah, memes. Impossible to avoid, but why would you even try? Meme-centric accounts like @f*ckjerry, @beigecardigan, and @girlwithnojob are some of Instagram’s most popular, but honestly, they start to blend together after a while. For comedy with a twist, try @overheardla, a hilarious curation of things that, well, you could only hear said in good ol’ Los Angeles. Some are truly cringeworthy, but all speak for themselves. That’s right—no photos necessary.
6) Human Interest: @renan_ozturk
For a more serious turn, consider following photojournalist Renan Ozturk, whose stunning portraits and storytelling will transport you to the world’s farthest reaches. His network of photographers (hello, National Geographic!) can take you even farther. Enjoy your journey.
7) Retail: @glossier
There’s no shortage of retail eye candy on Instagram, but I have to commend Glossier in particular, as many others have. This brand’s account actually convinced me (and, again, many others) to purchase their skin care products. They’ve owned an actual color, “Glossier Pink,” and have an uncanny knack for visually bonding with their target, which just so happens to be women on Instagram. If you manage a retail brand, join this follower club.