Ever since Instagram copied (ahem, was inspired by) Snapchat’s Story format almost two years ago, the platform has been constantly innovating to introduce new features and make it more engaging for fans, influencers, and brands alike.
With the larger avid user base (now more than 300 million) and wealth of advertising options, it’s no wonder brands have caught on to Instagram Stories as their latest social media darling.
Take a cue from these inspiring examples.
Brands who are killing it with Instagram Stories
1. Coach: Get ready for the weekend
Coach used Instagram to tell a story around their Parker bag. They open by getting their fans excited for the weekend, imagining a night out on the town in New York. Then they highlight their bag and follow it up with a clear call to action to “Swipe up to shop.”
Coach did right by posting this Story on a Friday, a time when fans are visualizing their weekend. Instead of just showing their bag, they drew fans in first with a scene of New York, helping them imagine the places they would use the bag, before going for the sale with a closeup visual of the bag itself.
How can you help fans envision your product in their daily lives? Make your product relevant and essential like Coach did.
2. Anthropologie: Give your fans the spotlight
The #MyAnthropologie campaign shows off Anthropologie clothing and accessories, as worn by their Instagram fans. This Instagram Story is genius on several fronts:
- It lets Anthropologie highlight their products, but in a way, that’s not obnoxious. They’re reusing photos from real fans, instead of their own models. Plus, this is user-generated content that’s totally free for Anthropologie to source and use.
- Instead of perfect catalog images, they’re using lifestyle imagery, the specific kind of content that performs well on Instagram.
- Finally, it gives fans a reason to post about their latest Anthropologie purchases and tag the brand, boosting both brand awareness and customer loyalty.
With everyone wanting to be a social media influencer these days, Anthropologie’s call to “share yours” is a viable way for real-life customers to enjoy their turn in the spotlight. Anthropologie is smart to include markup to tell users what to do – inviting them to click through to view all the looks, before ending with the final CTA to join the campaign themselves. Each image includes a link to the featured product page, so fans can emulate the look themselves.
Turn your fans into brand ambassadors. Don’t just ask them to post about you on Instagram – give them a reason to by promising to shout-out your favorites.
3. Sephora: Engage fans with a poll
Sephora regularly polls their customers about their cosmetic choices and favorite brands. Not only does this allow them to gather free user research, but it’s also a way to get the customer in the habit of saying “yes” to Sephora. The psychology behind micro-commitments like polls is that the more of these small actions you can take with your customers to say yes, the likelier they are to convert more easily generally – following you on Facebook, opening your emails, and of course, buying your products.
Sephora takes care to highlight their bread and butter – using a simple but visually appealing background so the emphasis is on the makeup product. Each one includes a link so fans can click through to purchase. By going heavy on the emojis and tagging the featured cosmetics brand, the poll feels social and fun, and perhaps a bit more exciting than it really is.
Poll your customers. Ask them questions relevant to your industry, or simply related to a trending hashtag. Don’t be afraid to use lots of emojis.
4. NBC Olympics: Hype your upcoming event
You can never slack off on the marketing, even if your brand is managing one of the biggest events of the year. Even NBC knows that people can’t watch the Olympics constantly, which is why they created Instagram Stories to hype the individual events and encourage people to tune in.
In this one for the opening ceremony, they give sneak peeks of the exclusive interviews they’ll be having with influencers and top athletes, along with a preview of the artistic performances. And with television viewership on the decline, Instagram lets NBC bring the TV to their fans – they can simply swipe up to watch the Olympics from their phones.
If you have an event coming up, hype it with an Instagram Story! (Even if that event itself is yet another Instagram Story or an Instagram Live event). Don’t just tell people to watch; show them why they can’t afford not to like NBC did. Give them an idea of what’s coming so they have a reason to tune in.
5. Barkbox: Jump on a trend
Even if it’s not your event, you can still use it to promote your brand. Pet box subscription service Barkbox decided to photobomb New York Fashion Week with their characteristic humor, partnering up with an Insta-famous dog named “Fern.”
Barkbox demonstrates that any brand can earn some extra visibility by hopping on a trending topic, even if it has nothing to do with your particular industry. You just have to be creative about how you make it relevant to your brand like Barkbox did. They played on the photobomb trope and made it specific to the platform by partnering with one of the many #DogsOfInstagram.
Make a list of big events, both in and out of your industry, likely to merit a trending hashtag. Then plan Instagram Stories that center around these events. You can be playful, helpful, or serious – just be true to your brand.
6. Target: Go for the sale
Speaking of relevancy, Target figured the Olympics were the perfect opportunity to promote their gold, silver, and bronze products. With such a huge product catalog to choose from, there’s probably a way the company that can tie their products into any hashtag.
This Instagram Story is straightforward in its aim – to sell products. But it’s low-key and plays on the visuals of the Olympics, so it appears social and smart instead of sales-y and annoying. It’s a great way for the brand to keep themselves top of mind for fans.
It’s okay to go for the sale sometimes. Your brand wants to make money after all. Just make sure you tailor your message to make it fun, too.
7. REI: Offer a solution for everyday problems
Want a simple, effective way to demonstrate a use case for your product? Take a look at what REI did.
Their Instagram Story was timely since the winter season makes outdoor running conditions tougher for runners in North America, where the majority of REI’s customer base is located.
They start with a common excuse that keeps runners from heading out (“it’s too muddy”), and then instantly solve it with their running shoes. The shoe product name is prominently displayed, as the shoes themselves walk across the screen leaving muddy footprints in their wake, helping fans envision themselves running with them. The last shot reiterates the unique selling proposition of the shoes, with a link to purchase.
What are common problems your customers have – that your product is uniquely able to solve? Find quick, snippable ways you can illustrate the solution with Instagram Stories.
8. Google: When possible, use dogs.
Dogs are always a winning strategy, no matter your brand or industry. In their Instagram Story, Google worked with a photographer-influencer Sophie to talk about five of their Android photography apps.
Google achieves a lot with this single Instagram Story. They make their brand relatable, by using their own employee’s dogs to show how their products work. They partner with an influencer so they have another avenue for driving views. Finally, all the products they’re promoting are of particular value to someone using Instagram, since they’re photo editing apps.
The takeaway here is easy: if you want to instantly improve the engagement of your Instagram Story, find a furry friend or two.
9. WeWork: Highlight your customers
Sometimes the influencers you choose can be your own customers, as WeWork demonstrates. WeWork used #NationalPizzaDay to provide context for a case study of one of their customers, Two Boots Pizza. The Story leverages the timeliness of a trending hashtag, gives Instagrammers an inside look at content relevant to that hashtag (how pizza is made), all while showing the diversity of the types of customers who use WeWork – it’s not just office workers.
If you think case studies are only for videos or whitepapers, think again. Connect with your customers for a collaborative Instagram Story.
10. FedEx: Don’t let customers forget about you
When people shop for gifts, they often don’t think about the more-forgettable, yet equally important, parts of gift-giving – like shipping and wrapping. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, FedEx reminded customers how they can help them prepare gifts for all types of loved ones, from teachers to dads to significant others. It’s a heartfelt way for the brand to show they care and keep them top of mind for any gift giver who lives somewhere different than their giftee.
Remind your customers of the different use cases for your product, but in a way that provides value to them.
What’s Your Instagram Story?
Fans are waiting to hear your brand’s story. Show off your products, promote your events, and partner with influencers to share content that engage and excite.
Use Instagram’s editing features to make your images pop, and pay attention to popular hashtags. And whatever you do, always include a CTA and a link!