3 ways to go viral on Instagram

Instagram has long since passed the point of being a place to browse heavily filtered shots of beaming selfies, soft-focus flat whites and avocado toast, although there’s still plenty of that to be had. With users numbering in the hundreds of millions, Insta is a popular target for brands to express themselves visually.

But unless you’re Kylie Jenner or Cristiano Ronaldo, going viral on Instagram is easier said than done. People are often skeptical of brands on social media, and the vast majority of the most-liked Insta pictures of all time relate to celebrities having babies or getting engaged, or big news from superstar sporting legends.

For most of us, achieving Instagram likes in the millions for a branded post may seem out of reach – but that’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement. Read on to discover five lessons to be learned from some of the most successful branded Insta posts…

01. Get an influencer endorsement


For two months in 2016, the most-liked Instagram post was an advert for Coca-Cola (above). Granted, it was posted by global superstar Selena Gomez, who comes with over 140 million followers attached – but it’s still an advert, and carefully art directed as such. It has almost 7 million likes to date.

The shot was taken by noted fashion photographer Guy Aroch, and features Gomez sipping from a Coke bottle with some of her lyrics on the label. “When we compose a shot like this, it feels real and authentic as well as complementary to the symmetrical Coke bottle,” James Sommerville, Coke’s VP of global design said at the time.

02. Build up anticipation before a launch

One of the most popular brands on Instagram, with almost 80 million followers – just over half of those commanded by the mighty Selena Gomez – Nike has a reputation for creative, unique takes on its Insta posts, including product launches.

By way of example, the post to announce the new Nike Epic React shoe came in two parts to build anticipation – the first, posted on 22 January 2018, a month before the official launch date – featured a conceptual, stylised image (above) designed primarily to entice and intrigue: “The inspiration for a running innovation that feels like this (without actually looking like this).”

In the image, the ‘shoe’ was a mannequin foot cushioned by three layers of foam, a pillow and some heavy-duty springs, all duct-taped together. It definitely caught the eye, and garnered almost half a million likes.

03. Provide a compelling experience

A brand like GoPro is something of a gift when it comes to engaging, immersive video content to post to a platform like Instagram – and it doesn’t disappoint. Like Airbnb, the account takes full advantage of user-generated content to show off all manner of experiences and adventures.

You’ll struggle to find a product photo here – it’s all about showing, not telling; a lesson many brands could apply. Their ‘photo of the day’ and ‘video of the day’ contests keep content rolling in, and enable GoPro to keep a finger on the pulse of how people are using their cameras, and what they’re passionate about.

That distinctive first-person perspective makes it truly immersive and compelling, as well as unmistakably ‘GoPro’ in flavour. One particularly successful recent post (above) shows high-adrenaline highlights from the winning run at the UCI Cycling DH World Cup 2018 – with over 650,000 views of the suspension-shaking ride to date.