February 28, 2019Published by: Shannon Leahy

Insta success! How National Geographic hit 100m followers

National Geographic (@natgeo) recently reached a major milestone by becoming the first brand to reach 100 million followers on Instagram. The publisher's social account has been wowing Insta-scrollers for years with its daily doses of breathtaking photography featuring wildlife, landscapes and culture.

No surprise that it’s also one of our favourite accounts here at Battenhall. In our Instagram Brands 100 report, released last November, we used it as one of our central case studies and called it the ‘darling of Instagram’. The stats back it up too: our study ranked @natgeo third for follower growth out of the top 100 brands operating on the platform, and highlighted how the account had increased its following by more than 10 million in a year.

National Geographic’s follower numbers are extraordinary, and it has sent brands scrambling to try and replicate the success on their own channels. Below we’ve highlighted three key ingredients vital to @natgeo’s content strategy success:

  1. Trust your content creators

The @natgeo account is run by a large team of loyal photographers who plug their personal accounts in the image captions. Granting a team of wandering photographers the responsibility to manage the brand’s flagship social account is incredibly rare. Often, brands are reluctant to give up control of their channels and are too worried about compromising their corporate image. This can restrict creativity and lead to generic content, all of which can hinder brand awareness.

National Geographic has done things differently. By showcasing the work of freelance photographers who dedicate time to getting the perfect shots for the Instagram channel, National Geographic is demonstrating its trust and commitment in their creativity, while also humanising their content.

  1. Detailed captions captivate audiences

A couple of emojis only go so far. National Geographic’s posts always demonstrate interesting variation. From long-reads to bite-size captions, the copy is tailored to provide education, inspiration, and entertainment on a number of topics. Take my favourite post of a smiling leopard seal.

If it wasn’t for the caption, I wouldn’t know that behind that cute face is a set of sharp front teeth used when hunting penguins. Each post aims to educate the audience, whether it’s about a species, an ancient community, or climate change. It’s these nuggets of trivia about the world that add significant value to the account and the content it publishes.

  1. Image matters

When the most liked image on Instagram is a simple egg, it’s important to remember that thoughtful photography is king when it comes to multimedia platforms. In @natgeo’s case, the audience wants to engage with the content as the skill behind the photo is immediately obvious.

Across its last ten posts, @natgeo has received an average of 500,000 likes per image. It doesn’t quite reach the giddy heights of certain celebrities (*cough* Ariana Grande *cough*), but it’s the consistency of engagement that's important. Followers of the brand are loyal and want to engage with content that has thought and passion behind it.

Unfortunately, there is no surefire method to guarantee a huge boost to follower count. But by following the three tips above, brands would certainly be on the right path to growing their audiences.

About Battenhall

We look after brand profiles on social media, and we're proudly the world's #1 at what we do. Named The Drum's social media agency of the year for the last three years running. Get in touch! hello@battenhall.com

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