6 tips to play the Instagram game like Nike

The blog post provides six tips to play the Instagram game like Nike, which can improve your marketing strategy and make your business grow...

8 Aug 2018 3235 Views

Written by Paulina Haux

Lets be straightforward. Every brand manager should include Instagram in their marketing strategy (NewsCred, 2015). If you have not included Instagram in your marketing strategy, you should definitely keep reading.

Instagram is important because it is a fast growing and interactive social media platform with more than 600 million daily users (Mintz, 2017). According to Mintz (2017) brands have not only grown on Instagram, they have been born in Instagram. This fact is not a lie; a clear marketing strategy is therefore important to create brand awareness. People go through endless content on Instagram, so how to find your brand? (NewsCred, 2015)

Meaning is important

Digital natives interact on Instagram, not only with people but also with brands. But hold your horses, ten years ago, interactive marketing was not so fancy. It existed but was not used and it was not an alternative to make money as marketing. (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009)

Before the explosion of digital technology the society was characterized by marketer-to-consumer marketing, for instance through radio and TV (Barwise & Meehan, 2010; Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009; Gensler, Vollckner, Lui-Thompkins & Wiertz, 2013). As technology devices developed it enabled a more interactive communication, which would let people protect their social life that direct marketing used to disrupt (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009).

It is harder to create marketing strategies because people can control marketing messages using their interacting possibilities. From the marketer’s point of view, it can be a struggle to create a meaning with their marketing. (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009)

Indeed, there is one brand that knows how to use Instagram in their marketing strategy – Nike.Nike has the second most followers on Instagram after National Geographic if you exclude celebrities. Nike creates a purpose and meaningful content very well by instead of focusing on posting pictures of their products they show inspirational, motivating lifestyle content. (Mintz, 2017)

Therefore, the question that will be addressed is: How does Nike use Instagram in their marketing strategy? This will give you six tips to use in your marketing strategy.

Media is for people not for brands

There is no rocket science to become successful and create a meaning on Instagram, although, many companies struggles with creating good content on social media (Barwise & Meehan, 2010). Fournier and Avery (2011) proclaim brands are everywhere on social media but still is ignored and that it is hard to control frequency and timing as well as content and reach. Fournier and Avery (2011) highlight media is for people and not for brands because people have an impact on brands when they talk and share content. So what does Nike do being not ignored? Nike involves the audience and encourages people to share their pictures. Who would not like to share a picture through brand with millions of followers? Nike also gives regular shout outs of members of the community. This makes people sharing pictures and inspires the rest of the community. They also thank people that invite others to the community. (Matthews 2017; Ditty, 2015). Consumers have learned to leverage on social media by using brands for their own purpose (Fournier & Avery, 2011). Gensler, Vollckner, Lui-Thompkins and Wiertz (2013) agree that people have empowered brands and mean that people have power that marketers cannot ignore. Leverage on interconnectedness gives the consumers the opportunity to play “the brands game” by work on behalf of the brand (Fournier and Avery, 2011; Gensler et al., 2013). Nike creates a meaning for people; for instance, shout outs because people know that could generate traffic to their own Instagram account. One could argue that Nike sees this as an opportunity to play the on interconnectedness. Nike engages the audience.

Tip number one: Engage the audience – they do not want to be ignored.

nike instagram example of engaging the audience

Nikes Instagram Picture 1:The picture shows an example of how Nike engages the audience on Instagram by lifting up people with shouts outs. By doing so they create a meaning with their marketing.

People are active participants

A marketer should listen and respond to what people demand so they can play the “customers game” by trying to get cultural resonance. For instance understanding the cultural online environment (Gensler et al., 2013). Nike understands the cultural environment because they know people do not want sales pictures (just of a shoe) on Instagram. Instead Nike inspire with sharing stunning content, Nike motivate people to try new different things. By their slogan “Just Do It” they inspire people with everyone can do it. Nike has created a cultural environment that goes beyond their product, which makes people talk about the vision behind the product. It creates a storytelling. (Matthews 2017; Ditty, 2015). Nikes way to use storytelling can be linked to Singh and Sunnenburg (2012) which means that to keep the story alive it is important to understand the audience. If you catch the audiences attention they will keep the story alive. You do not only tell the story alone; but the co-creation of brand performance in collaboration with the people. (Singh & Sunnenburg, 2012)

Tip number two: Do not sell on Instagram – understand the cultural environment and inspire, that will generate sales.

Tip number three: Co-create with people – use storytelling

nike instagram example of inspire people

Nike Instagram Picture 2:The picture shows an example how Nike inspires people on Instagram. In the text they touch upon the understanding of the customer. They tell a story which people can recognize them themselves in.

Light an epidemic

Social media could be a type of cultural exchange, which means it is a medium for people to use interactive technologies to observe and participate in cultural production and exchange. It is a tool for people to create and compete in a buzz market. (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009). Nike takes the opportunity to compete in the buzz market by making people share their content. Indeed there is a reason to believe that product, messages, content, challenges, competitions and of course, from Nikes point of view, “hidden” marketing message are content that can be spread in the same way as virus. In other words, there is more than one way to light an epidemic (buzz).

Tip number four: Create a buzz.

Just do it

The best approach is to enhance the marketing playbook is for companies to offer a clear and communicative customer promise. Trust deliver that promise, marketers should continuously improve that promise and seek further advantage by innovating that promise. The customer promise is the opportunity for marketers to develop honest, innovative, fun and valuable marketing content. (Barwise & Meehan, 2010). Nikes clear and communicative promise is that everyone can do it. Nike deliver that promise in their Instagram feed by inspire and motivate people. They deliver the promise by giving examples of how other people “Just Do It”. Nike improve and innovate the promise by create new buzzes.

Tip number five: Enhance the marketing playbook by communicating a customer promise, deliver that promise, improve that promise, innovate that promise.

Monitor conversations

It is important to monitor social media to see what people say about the brand to improve the brand promise. Trust is mainly to deliver the best service, for instance informing the people if something happened. Conversations on social media are hard to control, but a brand can learn from what is on the grapevine to improve the brand promise. Another alternative is to join the conversation and influence the conversation in the right direction. (Barwise & Meehan, 2010)

Tip number six: Learn from conversations to influence in the right direction.

Thank you

Thanks for reading all this. Hopefully these six tips will improve your marketing strategy and make your business grow.



Barwise, P. & Meehan, S. (2010), “The One Thing You Must Get Right When Building a Brand,” Harvard Business Review, available on http://hbr.org/2010/12/the-one-thingyou-must-get-right-when-building-a-brand/ar/1, [Accessed 11 November 2017]

Deighton, J, & Kornfeld, L 2009, ‘Interactivity’s Unanticipated Consequences for Marketers and Marketing’, Journal Of Interactive Marketing, 23, Anniversary Issue, pp. 4-10, ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 November 2017

Ditty, A. (2015) Inside Nikes Instagram strategy. Avible Online: http://blog.seenmoment.com/inside-nikes-instagram-strategy[Accessed 9 November 2017]

Fournier, S, & Avery, J 2011, ‘The uninvited brand’, Business Horizons, 54, SPECIAL ISSUE: SOCIAL MEDIA, pp. 193-207, ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 November 2017.

Gensler, S, Völckner, F, Liu-Thompkins, Y, & Wiertz, C 2013, ‘Managing Brands in the Social Media Environment’, Journal Of Interactive Marketing, 27, Social Media and Marketing, pp. 242-256, ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 November 2017.

Matthews, T., (2017). How Nike uses Instagram and is winning. Avible Online: http://www.fourthsource.com/instagram/nike-uses-instagram-marketing-20141[Accessed 9 November 2017]

Mintz, L., (2017).  How Successful Brands Use Instagram for Marketing, Avible Online: https://www.inc.com/laurel-mintz/do-it-for-the-brand-how-successful-companies-are-u.html[Accessed 9 November 2017]

NewsCred (2015). Why Instagram should be a part of every marketing strategy. Avible Online: https://insights.newscred.com/why-instagram-should-be-part-of-every-[Accessed 9 November 2017]

Singh, S, & Sonnenburg, S 2012, ‘Brand Performances in Social Media’, Journal Of Interactive Marketing, 26, pp. 189-197, ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost, viewed 11 November 2017.

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BrandBase | @BrandBa_se
Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.