You might understand the basics of how to use Instagram Stories, or heard marketer’s top ideas for Stories engagement. But we know that, even when you have the facts, sometimes you need a little creative inspiration to get your social content machine whirring. That’s why I’ve done some scouting and found the early adopters of Instagram Stories. Here’s what the savviest, most forward-thinking brands are doing with Instagram Stories right off the bat, along with tips on how you can replicate these tactics for your own organization.
1. Beyond Yoga
Yoga apparel brand Beyond Yoga, widely renowned for their supple and durable yoga pants, posted an entire Instagram story following a woman getting through her workout in their gear.
What Your Brand Can Try: This is one of the most effective techniques a brand can try on Instagram Stories, especially retail brands. Instagram Stories enable your brand to get followers so close to your product they can feel it breathe and can connect to it more deeply.
Yes, your dress looks beautiful in that highly stylized Instagram photo — but what does it look like on a real woman’s body, moving around? That’s the question a prospective customer is going to want to know the answer to during the consideration phase: right before they click through to visit your website and purchase your item.
2. Pacific Northwest Wonderland
Pacific Northwest Wonderland used Instagram Stories to get followers to click through their bio link with a limited-time promotion.
What Your Brand Can Try: Give a limited-time promotion or offer a shot on Instagram. It doesn’t have to be a huge giveaway — experiment with small tokens like stickers to see what kind of participation you get.
Instagram Stories offer the perfect venue for this kind of promotion, because you are reaching people who care enough about your brand to follow it, ensuring that you’re cultivating a community and treating your existing followers well instead of giving away swag to people unlikely to become advocates. You might find that your engagement rate on Instagram Stories involving promos is greater than on other networks, though you will have to conduct regular testing to make sure this hypothesis is true.
Clothing brand Aritzia used Instagram Stories to highlight the press pick-up it got.
What Your Brand Can Try: Use Instagram Stories to remind followers of pick-up in more “traditional” media outlets. This is a great way to lend your brand legitimacy, especially if you are a smaller or more niche brand. It also pushes your followers towards more brand-related content they can indulge in.
BarkBox, a monthly subscription box service for dog toys, treats, and goodies, put together a cute Instagram Story consisting of multiple clips from a “doggie interview” between an employee and a delightful little pug. It was hilarious and adorable.
What Your Brand Can Try: Put together an Instagram Story that actually tells a story, leveraging the skills and creativity of your employees. Go beyond just snapshots and videos from “a day in the life.” There are plenty of these out there, and one more probably won’t make your brand stand apart.
But don’t tell just any story: tell a story likely to resonate with your social media audience, which includes some kind of reference to your product or company culture. For instance, BarkBox’s Instagram Story features a dog and tells a humorous, engaging story — all without coming off as salesy or forced.
5. E! News
Unsurprisingly, E! News has taken to Instagram Stories like a fish to water. Click through the gallery below to see screenshots of one of their latest stories, which gives a daily rundown of the latest entertainment news with pictures and clear, bold text overlay.
What Your Brand Can Try: E! News knows what people are coming to them for: entertainment news. They deliver just that, in a straightforward, “let’s keep it moving” way. If you want more, they recommend going to their site, but they’re giving followers an entirely different avenue for consuming their content and tailoring delivery accordingly.
Try telling an Instagram Story which straight-up “tells the news” your audience will be interested in. If you aren’t sure what kind of news this is, or you think your audience is too varied to hone in one subject area they’d all want to hear about, conduct an audience analysis and then experiment with posting Instagram Stories which appeal to the different interests you find within your audience(s).
6. NBC Olympics
The NBC Olympics Instagram account is killin’ it right now with Instagram Stories. It recently posted a “socialception” Story in which it used Instagram Story to spread awareness about their upcoming Facebook Live video broadcast.
What Your Brand Can Try: Congratulations! You now have another promotional social channel. Keep your followers abreast of brand events (both on- and off-line) using Instagram Stories. This imbues event-based content with a different, immediate sensibility than good ol’ fashioned Instagram posts.
7. Travel + Leisure
Travel + Leisure recently used Instagram Stories to play a game with its followers, asking them to guess where in the world the brand was:
What Your Brand Can Try: Get playful with Instagram Stories. Curiosity is a natural human emotion, and if you keep followers guessing, you’ll keep them watching. Travel + Leisure knows what people are coming to them for: good trips, good food, and good wine. But they also know that people don’t just want to come along for the ride — they want to be stimulated, challenged, and delighted.
8. UCLA Athletics
UCLA Athletics uses Instagram Stories to go behind the scenes at practices and games.
What Your Brand Can Try: This should go without saying, but use Instagram Stories to go behind the scenes. If people are following your team or brand, they’re likely big fans of yours. Make them feel closer to you by spotlighting your team members and drive brand awareness by showcasing your unique personality.
9. The Outbound Collective
The Outbound Collective, an app devoted to helping folks discover amazing outdoor adventures, activities, and events, tells Instagram Stories which take followers along on their trips. This screenshot, for example, is a video from a trip to the Columbia Gorge:
What Your Brand Can Try: Outbound Collective Instagram Stories have a lot of teaching moments in them. It’s like following an expert or amazing tour guide around a beautiful place (but not an obnoxious one, an awesome one). Try this yourself: find an expert in your space, and have them give a tour you think your followers would be interested in.
J. Crew posts Instagram Stories that are cohesive creative journeys — with hella strong CTA’s. They provided a unique early access deal through Instagram with a pink-infused story:
What Your Brand Can Try: J. Crew does something very important in its Instagram Stories: it stays true to its larger brand creative vision and vibe. Keep this in mind, no matter what kind of content you end up creating for this new feature.
Try telling an Instagram Story which features a CTA — J.Crew’s direct CTA with the sunglasses and the “limited-time-only” urgency is smart, because it is great way of testing whether this feature is worth their time and resource investment. If the sunglasses move from Instagram Stories, they’ll know it’s definitely a method they should keep using. If not, they’ll have to consider tweaking their strategy. This is an important analytical reminder for all you smart marketers out there.
If you already use Instagram Stories in your marketing plan or are itching to try them out, be sure to track the success of your efforts with Sprout Advanced Analytics powered by Simply Measured.