We all know Instagram is a lot of fun. This iOS photo-sharing app with easy filters and addictive social sharing already boasts over 15 million users and was recently named ‘app of the year’ by Apple’s App Store. As businesses look to broaden their reach in the New Year with new social networks, many are asking, “Is there a place for my brand on Instagram?”

Instagram can offer brands a couple of key opportunities. First, it provides an easy tool for content creation. While it’s true that content is king, many still struggle with or are intimidated by the act of content creation. Instagram turns anyone with an iPhone or iPad into a photojournalist for their brand with filters and effects that bring into question the very existence of a ‘bad shot.’ The journalism angle is key as the most compelling Instagram content also tells a story.

The other opportunity brands can gain from Instagram is a sense of closeness with their community. Like the email inbox and the Facebook wall before it, the Instagram stream represents special real-estate in your followers’ minds often reserved for relatives and close friends. Simply put, if they opt-in to your updates, you’re in good company.

A quick scan of Instagram’s users shows that several brands from a variety of industries are already sharing interesting photos here. As a means of igniting your creative spark, let’s take a look at the 12 most effective brands using Instagram.

1. GE (@generalelectric)

If the General can make advanced manufacturing sexy, there’s no way your product or service can’t be equally photogenic.

2. ABC World News (@abcworldnews)

Many news organizations have hopped onto Instagram but ABC News does a remarkable job of giving followers behind-the-scenes access to events such as the recent Republican debates.

3. Starbucks (@starbucks)

In addition to shots celebrating their product they actively promote the hashtag #starbucks for fans to share photos as well.

4. Burberry (@burberry)

We can’t all make it to the runways of Milan, so high-end clothier Burberry takes you to the front row.

5. New Belgium Brewing (@newbelgium)

The Colorado craft brewer serves up a mix of new product sneak peeks and the obvious shots of fans enjoying their favorite brew.

6. Chobani (@chobani)

This beloved Greek yogurt whips up social success on Instagram by showing another side of their company with photos of team members making charitable donations.

7. National Geographic (@natgeophotos)

As exposing far corners of the world through rich photography has always been a hallmark of National Geographic’s brand DNA, Instagram is a logical extension for this content.

8. Warby Parker (@warbyparker)

The online glasses shop combats the fear of brands over-sharing boring product shots by framing up images of glasses ‘seeing’ various seasonal tableaus.

9. Sharpie (@sharpie)

This bold and creative brand takes a different tack by showing bold and creative things you can do with their signature product.

10. Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys)

Among other things, the socially conscious ice cream brand basks in their fun products and celebrates their home state.

11. MediaTemple (@mediatemple)

While relatively new to Instagram, the web-hosting service is a great example of making an intangible business like web hosting tangible through photos of their workplace and team.

12. Barack Obama (@barackobama)

Politicians are brands too. The Obama campaign launched an Instagram account on the eve of the Iowa caucuses and was instantly trending.

Are You Ready to Rock?

Are you inspired by how these brands are using Instagram? Have you seen others that you think are doing it better? And, more importantly, could your brand be creating engaging content and valuable connections here as well?

Note: This post originally ran on 12Most.com

Photo via Flickr user jesus_leon