what the Class-of-2014-can-teach-us-about-InstagramIt seems we’re always trying to make predictions about the future: what tech company will rule them all; what social platform will the upcoming consumer generation latch onto; will Bolt’s open letter to Facebook pull at the tech giant’s (hopefully existent) heartstrings, etc.

I don’t have answers to questions one and three. But, Niche, a company aimed at helping people make those big life decisions, like what neighborhood to move to or what school to send your child to, may have insight into number two: “In a survey of 7,000 Class of 2014 Niche users, students ranked 50 popular apps and websites based on frequency of use.”

The winners?

WINNER: Most Engaged Users

WINNER: Most Daily Users

While Facebook may have captured the most Class of 2014-ers, Instagram boasts the most engaged users. We could conclude that Instagram is the platform to connect with this demographic, but perhaps, before we try to sell to and engage them, we could learn from them.

I’d like to introduce you to two ladies: Gabi + Annie. Not only do they rock n’ rule pretty hard-core, but they also have a thing or two to teach us about marketing. They may still be still in high school. They may not have a business plan or social media strategy laid out all nice and neat. But their crush-worthy IG profiles probably have more Instagram followers than yours. Here’s why:

They’ve built an authentic, cohesive brand.

When you look at either of these girls’ profiles, even just a handful of their photos, you begin to understand who they are.



It’s the voice. It’s the language. It’s the photos, with their cool angles and dreamy filters. It’s all of it, and all of it is so them.

Every photo that Gabi + Annie post and every caption or comment they write builds their identity. Nothing feels out of place or character; it all fits into and contributes to their individual brand, brands that obviously have stories to tell.

They foster a community you so want to be “in” with.

Both Gabi + Annie have built communities around their IG profiles. They haven’t tried gimmicks or passionate, outrageous pleas for followers. They’ll use the occasional #selfiesunday and always respond to comments, but most importantly, they create stellar content.



Because of their respective consistent brand voice and aesthetic, these IGers have attracted like-minded people to their community. These followers flock to them because of sassy captions and telling photos they see themselves in.

… Which creates a story worthy of following.

IG profiles worthy of tapping “follow” are the ones that use each photo and each caption and each filter – in short, each piece of content – to tell their story. Photos and captions and followers are important, but pretty photos or quirky captions or random, bribed followers do not build a community. Rather, stories build communities.

You see, our world is chaos. People move. Places change. Things happen. And in our digital culture, this chaos is not only more rampant but also moves and evolves more quickly. In order to build some semblance of a solid foundation on which to live, we must make, or at least attempt to make, sense of our world. This comes from building connections within and finding meaning from our surroundings. Content and context are required to make these connections and meaning. When we encounter content, which may be any “thing” we come across, we begin to assign meaning to it in the effort to understand its purpose and relevance in our lives, i.e. it’s context in our lives. It is through this context, formed around the content, that we are able to form connections with people, places and things; we can’t connect, we can’t care, we can’t follow without it.

And that’s what these IG queens, Gabi + Annie, are doing: they are creating a story that fosters connection.

As I scroll through their IG profile, I feel as though I’m looking at honest, authentic portraits of people, real people. I begin to understand their likes, their dislikes, their hopes, their fears, their values. It is through this story, this collection of cohesive content relevant to me, that I begin to connect with these girls. I see my teenage hopes and fears and values reflected in their profile. I feel inspired. I know more about who I am and who I’m not.

And so I tap “follow,” wanting to read more of their stories and incorporate them into my own.