Do you love getting a glimpse of a friend’s Instagram feed? Maybe I’m nosy, but I find it so interesting to scroll through someone else’s feed – it usually reveals some passion or guilty pleasure of theirs (Mine? Cats. Oops, secret’s out!). I usually find some similar threads – people love perusing photos of dream vacations, pets, or fashion and beauty inspiration. Lucky for busybodies like us, Firebrand’s panel of experts from this year’s Firestarter Awards – our salute to the year’s best brands, personalities, apps and more – has narrowed down a list of the best brands on Instagram. Before you continue reading, can you guess what these brands are?

According to our panel of experts, there are a few select brands that are capitalizing on trends, and in turn have been awarded the Firestarter Brand Award for Instagram. Category topper, Emi-Jay nails the balance between product shots, lifestyle shots, and you’re just as likely to see inspirational quotes as you are to see a model in one of their T-shirts. While Emi-Jay is strictly a hair accessories and apparel brand, its Instagram feed touts photos of everything from interior decorating inspiration to craving-inducing food pictures. While the Emi-Jay account varies in subject, it never waivers when it comes to its audience and branding. All of their photos maintain the same color scheme and general feel. Take a look.

According to Lara Nicotra, Marketing Manager at 16 Handles frozen yogurt, “Emi-Jay nails the lifestyle message with a great mix of product shots that are always a great representation of the brand–without looking overly produced, then, they sprinkle in pictures like going on a hike or surfing, which I could see the ‘Emi-Jay girl’ doing.” What makes brands such as Emi-Jay stand out above the rest? They try not to pollute their followers’ feeds with too many coupons or sales promotions, but rather acknowledge that Instagram is a channel for showing their best assets to fans and understands to the need for a careful balance between advertising and lifestyle content.

Consistency is another key factor, as the best brands on Instagram understand their audiences and know the style and type of images that their fans prefer. Nordstrom, another Firestarter brand, absolutely falls under this category. Karianne Stinson, Social Media Manager at says, “I love Nordstrom’s social presence. Their Instagram content is beautiful, fun, and aspirational. They have great brand consistency with a strong look you can see in all their images. But, it also feels attainable. It looks like the images fans are sharing on their own Instagram channels. Nordstrom conveys the lifestyle of the brand without being overly promotional.”

The secret to success on Instagram isn’t all about beauty and fashion; many of the best brands on Instagram gain popularity simply by focusing on where their followers passions lie. Petco is an example of a corporate Instagram account that knows exactly what’s important to its audience. Instead of focusing on specific products, the company builds a favorable image by sharing real pet photos from real pet owners. By sharing pictures of the friendly and fuzzy faces that actually use their products, Petco is building a relationship with its customers that goes beyond advertising. “Petco wins because they don’t focus on their products, they focus on the thing their audience loves the most: their pets!” says Stacey Miller, Senior Social and Media Relations Manager at Cision. “This results in a significant amount of meaningful engagement.”

What are some of your favorite brands on Instagram, and what makes their feeds stand out? Comment below, or tweet us @FirebrandGrp!