Last year I wrote about my relationship with Instagram Stories which – to make a long story short – was rocky at first but soon turned to true love. Since then this love has truly blossomed into a steady, long-term relationship and let’s say Snapchat is firmly in the “ex” column. That’s not to say that Snapchat has become that for everyone (I was never Snapchat’s demographic anyway), but for many individuals and brands, Instagram stories has been a true revelation, giving them access to the unique storytelling style popularized by Snapchat, but with features that allow brands to make a more measurable impact through this medium. With the ability to share external links (through verified accounts only right now, unfortunately), tag other accounts, incorporate clickable hashtags, upload photos (added to your camera roll in the last 24 hours), tag locations and connect with your already established Instagram audience, Instagram has come out as the clear winner over Snapchat, which remains a niche player in the 14-24 demographic.
As a marketer I have been admiring the way brands have developed their approaches to Instagram Stories since its launch last August. Below I’ve rounded up some of the creative ways brands have been using Instagram Stories that goes far beyond the expected live coverage of events or running narrative that is common among individual users of the platform. Let’s get into it, shall we?
FEATURE USER-GENERATED CONTENT (UGC)
User-Generated Content is a key tactic to use as part of any content strategy, and Airbnb utilizes this regularly across their social media channels. Their Instagram stories are no different. Airbnb often feature UGC shared on Instagram by guests at Airbnb’s all around the world in their stories and creates a narrative with them by centralizing them around a particular them. In the story depicted here they utilized tools that can all be found within Instagram Stories to encourage their followers to think of Airbnb the next time they have to travel for business. By simply uploading a solid “Airbnb coral” background and using high contrast text within the app they created a branded experience from the off without any graphic design required. Then, uploading attractive UGC from Airbnb’s around the world they featured some of the inspiring spaces you too could work from, tagging their locations and crediting the users who generated the content using features built in to Instagram stories. They wrap up the story with a few simple calls to action and a final “swipe up” link. This feature, as I mentioned earlier, is only open to verified users or users who have access to the beta test version of the app. I suspect that they may open this to all business accounts in time, but for now the classic “see link in bio” would be the best way to go.
Overall, I love this incredibly simple approach to Instagram stories. It’s easy to do, yet still feels like Airbnb. This is something your brand can do daily to fill the gaps between events and stay connected with your audience.
HIGHLIGHT ARCHIVED CONTENT
Admittedly, this is one story that largely benefits from the “swipe up link” feature, but regardless it is a great tactical use of the platform by Bon Appetit magazine. In this story, Bon Appetit collected some archived recipes that are perfect for a Monday when you want nothing but a quick meal. Not only is it a perfect example of using context to build your editorial calendar, but it’s an effective way to share your archive of content in a way that is appealing and impactful.
Like Airbnb’s story, this uses nothing but some preexisting photographs and the text feature within Instagram Stories. But it also uses a clever tactic that I have seen used frequently by brands: splitting text over several posts. To do this, upload an image to stories and then add some text. Before adding it to your story, hit “save” in the bottom left corner and post that image to your story. Then, upload the image you just saved to stories to the editor and add some more text. Do this for up to 3 images. This way you can help ensure that users are taking in everything you have to say before the 10 seconds are up, and they are also more likely to pay attention when quickly tapping through your story as they can read each portion quickly as they tap. Simple, but effective!
INCREASE AWARENESS OF A PARTNERSHIP OR CAMPAIGN
With Instagram’s algorithmic news feed making it increasingly difficult to guarantee all your followers will see each of your regular Instagram posts, Instagram Stories helps brands reconnect with the followers they may be missing in feed and to share the initiatives they are undertaking. This is especially important for non-profits that want to increase their exposure among their followers to drive support during campaign period’s. In this example, Monty’s favourite non-profit Lonely Whale uses Instagram stories to feature their pARTnership (get it?) with beauty brand La Mer and their #LaMerWaveWalk campaign. In this story Lonely Whale takes viewers on a “virtual walk” to feature artists and their waves located throughout New York city. At the end of the story they use the “swipe up link” feature to allow viewers to learn more about the campaign and how they can get involved.
EDUCATE YOUR AUDIENCE ABOUT A PRODUCT
Instagram Stories is a great way to quickly educate your audience about a product without requiring them to commit to watching a long video or reading a whole article. The great thing about Instagram stories is that it allows users to almost “choose their own adventure” when it comes to engaging with your content. they can skip through quickly or watch each 10 second clip in full, they can engage with links, visit other profiles or drop out completely and come back to where they left off later. It’s challenging for marketers knowing that our followers aren’t engaging with content in the way we want them to, but this knowledge helps us adapt our content to various mediums.
In this example, Lush used Instagram Stories to educate their audience about what is probably one of their more unusual products: shampoo bars. By repurposing imagery and video (the 2nd & 4th images in the above composite are actually videos) from existing campaigns, Lush created a short vignette that allows viewers to be as engaged as they want to be while still learning about the product. Bite sized content like this works perfectly on Instagram Stories and is a great way to educate and inform your audience about a product or service.
SHARE USEFUL BRANDED CONTENT
Given the bite-sized nature of Instagram Stories content, it is the perfect platform on which to share quick tips and tricks and important info that is pertinent to followers of your brand. In this instance, Lululemon Toronto used Instagram stories to share some pro-tips and info for racers in the upcoming Toronto 10k, and have been sharing these daily in the lead up to the run.
What also sets this example apart is the use of entirely branded graphics as opposed to using editing features within Instagram stories. This a great option when brand consistency is important. Here, Lululemon uses these graphics to set apart 10K-related content apart from other content they are putting out through stories at the same time. As Instagram Stories stay live for 24 hours, if you have multiple narratives you want to share in that time it’s important to make them distinct from each other, and using branded graphics is a great way to do that. It also makes sharing a large amount of text much easier, leaving little room for error as it has produced in advance of uploading, rather than on the fly. This can also be a great option if your brand is one where social messaging needs to be heavily vetted in advance as all graphics and language can be pre-approved.
SHOWCASE & BUILD COMPANY CULTURE
Day One Agency, a digital ad agency based in NYC – has recently opened an LA office and every Wednesday they have been using Instagram Stories to showcase their West Coast team. The way they showcase this team is different every week, but this time they took an approach similar to Lululemon with pre-designed branded graphics, while also using some of Instagram’s built in features to tag the featured staff members’ accounts.
Take a page out of Day One’s book and showcase your company culture by featuring your employees, a behind the scenes look at a day in your office, or a company day out. The possibilities are really endless.