There's no doubt that Instagram has solidified its position as everyone's favorite social media platform over the past year, and with good reason. The rate at which Instagram innovates and releases new interactive features for its users is unparalleled. The past two years alone we've been exposed to Instagram stories, Instagram Live, and just this summer, Instagram Shoppable media. All of this certainly benefits the everyday user, but if you're a business, adapting quickly and utilizing these features can help you build an incredible brand on the platform, and ultimately have a profound effect on the success and health of your business.
When it comes to Instagram, there's no “one size fits all" or “magic bullet" that results in success. Maintaining an authentic, interactive, and entertaining presence that showcases content that your target demographic will love, and be willing to share, is basically the path you want to take.
It sounds easy, but some brands do this better than others. So, below we've listed 5 female founded companies that have built an incredible brand on Instagram and outlined how they've done it.
1. The Sill
Founded in 2012 by Eliza Blank, The Sill is an online plant store that is a plant heaven for everyone that loves some greenery in their lives. The 6-year-old company has built one of the most authentic and engaged communities on Instagram over the past couple of years. The Sill now boasts more than 307,000 followers, gaining on average 770 followers per day according to Social Blade. You're probably wondering, how has an online plant store achieved such explosive growth? 3 words, “User-generated content".
The Sill has done what a lot of other great brands on Instagram have done, they've tapped into a fanatical community on the platform, and this community just happens to be a community of plant lovers. Eliza and the guys at the Sill have a slogan “Plants make people happy", and this is also their own branded hashtag. Thousands of people per week post pictures of their beloved plants under this hashtag. The Sill then picks the most beautiful images and reposts them on to their feed.
The takeaway? Consistently reposting your audiences content is one of the best ways to build an incredible brand and community on Instagram, and it's a win-win for everybody. The user gets their imagery exposed to a large audience, and the brand curates a beautiful feed. Even if you have a small audience on Instagram try building UGC into your strategy.
Founded by Jen Rubio and Steph Korey, Away make suitcases and a range of travel accessories for the everyday traveler. A huge element of Away's success is a result of how they've built an incredible brand on social the past couple of years, and in particular, on Instagram. So, how does one make suitcases sexy in a way that results in hundreds of thousands of followers online? Well, Jen, Steph, and the guys have done two things extremely well.
1. They've tapped into a category of content that we all know and love, travel. Away's content doesn't just consist of their physicals products, but instead, their imagery takes their community on a journey around the world, showcasing the most beautiful locations that their customers visit.
2. We spoke earlier about how successful brands on Instagram utilize every new feature that the platform affords them, and Away is certainly one of the best at adapting early to every little feature Instagram release. From stories to highlights to polls to shoppable media. Away's Instagram account is not only set up to generate sales, but it is also optimized to take its followers on an interactive journey every single day, which is incredible for engagement.
Our takeaway? When Instagram brings out a new feature, don't be afraid to try it out, it might just be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors.
Glossier is the beauty juggernaut founded by Emily Weiss back in 2010. Glossier came off the back of the success of Into the Gloss, a blog created by Weiss out of her New York City Apartment while interning at Vogue. Glossier has created one of the most successful brands on Instagram out of anyone in the beauty business. How have they done this? In a nutshell, their content is just oh so relatable. Below we've listed 3 things that make them a standout brand on Instagram
1. A relatable tone of voice. How does Glossier speak on Instagram? Quite simply, just like anyone who buys their products. Their casual, millennial oriented language speaks directly to their community. Whether it's a meme, a video, or the showcasing of a new product, you can be assured that the copy will be casual and authentic.
2. They showcase their community on their feed. When it comes to brands as big as Glossier, not many post their fans pics directly onto their main feed, but, glossier has garnered such a following, that their customers can't help but post before an after shots of their glistening, reinvigorated skin after they have used their products, and Glossier team is only happy to repost this on to their feed.
3. They have a very distinguishable aesthetic. When you're scrolling through your feed, you'll know a Glossier post when you see one. Their pastel palette is instantly recognizable and incredibly cohesive when looked at on their feed collectively. A pro tip for building a great brand on Instagram, create an aesthetic that is not only authentic but is cohesive, with so much content now vying for our attention on Instagram, having an instantly recognizable look will lend itself to people not “glossing" over your content in the main feed, but will have users subconsciously recognise your imagery, so they are much more likely to stop and engage.
Our takeaway? Take some time to establish an aesthetic that is unique to your brand. Whether it's a filter, a Lightroom preset, or a particular color scheme. Creating something that your audience can become more familiar with over time will pay dividends when it comes to increasing your engagement and growing your following.
Co-founded by Carly Strife, Barkbox is a monthly subscription box of toys, treats, and chews to thrill your dog. The guys at Barkbox have built one of the best brands over the years by primarily being a dominant force on Instagram. Now, you're probably thinking, well isn't it easier to be successful on Instagram when you've got a pool adorable dog content to play with? The answer is yes, but Barkbox has built a following of over 1.4 million by investing time in sourcing only the most comical canine content out there. From memes to viral videos, Barkbox differs greatly from the accounts that we mentioned above in that its primary purpose on Instagram is as a platform to entertain. Collectively, their feed isn't in the same league as Glossier or Away when it comes to being cohesively beautiful, but it's viral centric content will have you scrolling for hours, and will ensure that you come back for more.
Our biggest takeaway from this? If incorporating humor throughout your Instagram feed is viable, go for it, although it might not be directly tied to promoting your product or service. It will act as a brand building mechanism that will deepen your community on Instagram and enlarge your pool of potential customers.
5. Rent the Runway
Founded by Jennifer Hyman, Rent the Runway is also an online subscription-based service that allows women to rent clothing, instead of paying the hefty price that would be associated with purchasing the same item. Like a lot of fashion brands, Rent the Runway has turned to Instagram to foster their community of users online. To date, they have more than 236,000 followers on the platform and are picking up on average 330 more every day, according to Social Blade. So how have they managed to build such a rapid and interactive following? Well, similarly to The Sill, the guys at Rent the Runway have invested heavily in tapping into the lives of their customers on Instagram, and utilizing all the amazing user-generated content that their customers create for them.
Women travel all around the world in clothing that they have sourced from RTR, documenting their journeys along the way. From the streets of Soho to the rustic cobblestones of inner-city Paris, RTR clothing travels everywhere, and their Instagram is the location where they present all of it. In addition to beautiful clothing in breathtaking locations, Rent the Runway also taps into who their ideal customer is, and if you scroll through their feed, you will find images of Sarah Jessica Parker or Sofia Vergara, and in many ways, these women embody who the celebrity Rent the Runway customer is.
A takeaway from this? Find influential individuals who embody your philosophy, then showcase and champion them on Instagram. This will allow your customers to establish a much more tangible connection with your brand and what it represents.
Above are just a few female founded brands that are killing it on Instagram. If you know of more, head over to our Instagram and let us know there.
Sweaty Palms & Weak Responses
Early spring 2018, I walked into the building of a startup accelerator program I had been accepted into. Armed with only confidence and a genius idea, I was eager to start level one. I had no idea of what to expect, but I knew I needed help. Somehow with life's journey of twists and turns, this former successful event planner was now about to blindly walk into the tech industry and tackle on a problem that too many women entrepreneurs had faced.
I sat directly across from the program founders, smiling ear to ear as I explained the then concept for HerHeadquarters. Underneath the table, I rubbed my sweaty palms on my pants, the anxiousness and excitement was getting the best of me. I rambled on and on about the future collaborating app for women entrepreneurs and all the features it would have. They finally stopped me, asking the one question I had never been asked before, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
Taken back by the question, I responded, "I just know". The question was powerful, but my response was weak. While passionate and eager, I was unprepared and naively ready to commit to building a platform when I had no idea if anyone wanted it. They assigned me with the task of validating the need for the platform first. The months to follow were eye-opening and frustrating, but planted seeds for the knowledge that would later build the foundation for HerHeadquarters. I spent months researching and validating through hundreds of surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
I was dedicated to knowing and understanding the needs and challenges of my audience. I knew early on that having a national collaborating app for women entrepreneurs would mean that I'd need to get feedback from women all across the country. I repeatedly put myself on the line by reaching out to strangers, asking them to speak with me. While many took the time to complete a survey and participate in a phone interview, there were some who ignored me, some asked what was in it for them, and a few suggested that I was wasting my time in general. They didn't need another "just for women" platform just because it was trending.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve. I became irritated. Just because HerHeadquarters didn't resonate with them, doesn't mean that another woman wouldn't find value in the platform and love it. I felt frustrated that the very women I was trying to support were the ones telling me to quit. I struggled with not taking things personally.
I hadn't expected pushback, specifically from the women I genuinely wanted to serve.
The Validation, The Neglect, The Data, and The Irony
The more women I talked to, the more the need for my product was validated. The majority of women entrepreneurs in the industries I was targeting did collaborate. An even higher number of women experienced several obstacles in securing those collaborations and yes, they wanted easier access to high quality brand partnerships.
I didn't just want to launch an app. I wanted to change the image of women who collaborated and adjust the narrative of these women. I was excited to introduce a new technology product that would change the way women secured valuable, rewarding products. I couldn't believe that despite that rising number of women-owned businesses launching, there was no tool catered to them allowing them to grow their business even faster. This demographic had been neglected for too long.
I hadn't just validated the need for the future platform, but I gained valuable data that could be used as leverage. Ironically, armed with confidence, a genius idea, and data to support the need for the platform, I felt stuck. The next steps were to begin designing a prototype, I lacked the skillsets to do it myself and the funding to hire someone else to do it.
I Desperately Need You and Your services, but I'm Broke
I found myself having to put myself out there again, allowing myself to be vulnerable and ask for help. I eventually stumbled across Bianca, a talented UX/UI designer. After coming across her profile online and reaching out, we agreed to meet for a happy hour. The question I had been asked months prior by the founders of my accelerator program came up again, "how do you know your target audience even wants this product?".
It was like déjà vu, the sweaty palms under the table reemerged and the ear to ear smile as I talked about HerHeadquarters, only this time, I had data. I proudly showed Bianca my research: the list of women from across the country I talked to that supported that not only was this platform solving a problem they had, but it's a product that they'd use and pay for.
I remember my confidence dropping as my transparency came into the conversation. How do you tell someone "I desperately need you and your services, but I'm broke?". I told her that I was stuck, that I needed to move forward with design, but that I didn't have the money to make it happen. Bianca respected my honesty, loved the vision of HerHeadquarters, but mostly importantly the data sold her. She believed in me, she believed in the product, and knew that it would attract investors.
From Paper to Digital
We reached a payment agreed where Bianca would be paid in full once HerHeadquarters received its first investment deal. The next few months were an all-time high for me. Seeing an idea that once floated around in my head make its way to paper, then transform into a digital prototype is was one of the highlights of this journey. Shortly after, we began user testing, making further adjustments based off of feedback.
The further along HerHeadquarters became, the more traction we made. Women entrepreneurs across the U.S. were signing up for early access to the app, we were catching investor's attention, and securing brand partnerships all before we had a launched product. The closer we got to launching, the scarier it was. People who only had a surface value introduction to HerHeadquarters put us in the same category of other platforms or brands catering to women, even if we were completely unrelated, they just heard "for women". I felt consistent pressure, most of which was self-applied, but I still felt it.
I became obsessed with all things HerHeadquarters. My biggest fear was launching and disappointing my users. With a national target audience, a nonexistent marketing budget, and many misconceptions regarding collaborating, I didn't know how to introduce this new brand in a way that distinctly made it clear who were targeting and who we were different from.
I second guessed myself all the time.
A 'Submit' button has never in life been more intimidating. In May 2019, HerHeadquarters was submitted to the Apple and Google play stores and released to women entrepreneurs in select U.S. cities. We've consistently grown our user base and seen amazing collaborations take place. I've grow and learned valuable lessons about myself personally and as a leader. This experience has taught me to trust my journey, trust my hard work, and always let honesty and integrity lead me. I had to give myself permission to make mistakes and not beat myself up about it.
I learned that a hundred "no's" is better than one "yes" from an unfit partner. The most valuable thing that I've learned is keeping my users first. Their feedback, their challenges, and suggestions are valuable and set the pace for the future of HerHeadquarters, as a product and a company. I consider it an honor to serve and cater to one of the most neglected markets in the industry.