Social Media & Social Ads

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples

By Chantal India, on 20 March 2020

Are Instagram Stories an active part of your brand’s social media strategy? With over 500 million daily active users (aka half Instagram’s total user base), it should be. 

Instagram stories are great for brands because they provide another avenue for you to connect with your audience. The more casual nature of Instagram Stories means you can engage with them in a way that is different than a typical post, as well as show a different side of your company. 

But sometimes with so many options, it can be hard to come with ideas for your Instagram stories. Instagram stories can go far beyond just showcasing your products in the same way you’re already doing in your normal posts. 

In this article, we’ll breakdown ideas for branded Instagram stories and share some of our best practices tips, all while showing you some examples of our favorite brands using Instagram stories. 

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Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples


Brand Instagram Story Ideas

1. Questions, Quizzes, and Polls

Instagram offers its users a variety of different tools, stickers, and options that can help facilitate engagement opportunities. A great Instagram story idea is to engage your audience on different subjects and questions, related to your industry, product, or niche using these different stickers.
Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples

Using the questions sticker allows your audience to submit questions to you directly, which you can then view, answer, and post in your stories. This feature is a great tool for brands because it allows you to get direct input from your audience. A great example of a brand using this feature well is the makeup brand Glossier. They open up the floor for their audience to ask questions about skincare, makeup, and beauty, and then they consult people within their company or experts for the answers.

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples

Polls and quizzes are two other great Instagram stories for brands. Polls allow your audience to see what other people have answered, while quizzes function using a multiple-choice questionnaire to test your user’s knowledge. Take Lowe’s, an American hardware store chain, for example, who polled their audience on their lighting preferences. At the end of the story, they provided a link with all of the lights they featured.

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples


2. Talk Directly to the Camera

While this technique may not work for all brands, this is a great way to humanize your brand and connect with your audience on a more personable level. You can have a designated person, like your social media manager, or have different people take the reigns for different topics or days. 

Apartment Therapy does from this time to time with different members of their staff giving advice on topics or subjects they're knowledgeable about.

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples

This can be an easy Instagram story idea for brands, like Apartment Therapy’s where they are just speaking casually with the phone in their hand. Or, you can mimic Sephora’s style, with a full set up, background, and displayed products. The most important thing is to be personable, friendly, and unscripted and introduces the person who is speaking so that there is context.

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples


3. Tutorials and Demos

Another easy and effective strategy for brands using Instagram stories is to post tutorials or demos about how to use your product, or new ways to use a service you offer. A really solid example of this is Procreate. Procreate is a digital art app similar to Photoshop, thus it is at times technical and has a lot of hidden features. 

Every Wednesday they do a tutorial on their Instagram story and walk their users through a feature or tip to use on their platform.

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples

If you have a product that requires a bit of a learning curve this a great Instagram story idea, but this can also work for simpler products too. Take a look at Whole Food’s stories. They post different tutorials related to food products that their audience would enjoy.

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples


4. Behind the Scenes

Similarly to talking directly to the camera, posting behind the scenes Instagram stories is another way to get more personal with your audience. Behind the scenes, stories can include highlights of normal day-to-day actions of different team members or departments, like online store, Goop, who posts fun behind the scenes peeks into their office life.

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples

Behind the scenes stories are also perfect for brands who are attending or hosting events. Adobe, who hosts AdobeMAX every year, always highlights the event on their stories, giving special glimpses to viewers at home. This is always a great way to make your followers feel involved in an event, even if they could not attend. 

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples


Instagram Stories Best Practices for Brands

1. Story Lengths Can Vary

There is no magic number when it comes to Stories length. According to a study from Hubspot, “63% of consumers will tap through six pages or less”. However 20% also said “they'll tap through 10 or more.” 

Test different lengths and see what your audience prefers. You may even find that the optimal length depends on the type of content your posting. Some users may be willing to click on more behind the scenes stories as its more passive, than answer 10+ poll questions.

2. Promote Your Stories in Your Regular Posts 

You’re putting a lot of hard work into your brand’s Instagram Stories. Don’t let them go to waste. Promote your Stories in your regular newsfeeds posts to get more views and engagement. This will help you it he long run because as more of your followers interact with your stories your account will show on their newsfeed more. 

A brand that does this really well is Book Of The Month. Every week they post a question in their regular post, and then provide an option to answer using a poll or open-ended sticker. Then users can discuss their answers in the comments. This is a very clever and entertaining way to boost engagement on your posts and promote your stories.

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples


3. Mix It Up

If you’re feeling inspired to spice up your stories after reading this blog, that’s great! I recommend that you don’t stick to just one single style but instead mix it up. Come up with a schedule that works for you and your audience, and change up the different types of stories you post.

Over time you will find what works best for your audience and what they enjoy the most. But its also good to mix it up once in a while so you’re audience does not get tired of it.

However, consider also creating a known schedule for when each of your types of posts will come up. For example, saving your tutorial style Stories for Tuesdays, thus creating a Tuesday Tutorials Instagram stories series.

4. Grab Their Attention

Just like with any post on social media, you only have a few milliseconds to catch a users’ attention before they swipe. It’s important to make your brand’s Instagram stories stand out in order to get the views you’re working so hard for.

A few ways you can make your videos stand is out by using pops of color, fun text, interesting photos, good design, and well-planned composition. Although Instagram Stories feel more casual in nature because they disappear after 24 hours, it’s still important to plan for them and strategize in the same way you would a normal post.

5. Save your Stories

Our final best practice for branded Instagram stories is to archive your stories. You’ve planned, strategized, and designed your stories to be perfect. Don’t let them disappear after the 24 hours is up!

Of course, not all stories need to be saved. But tutorials, quizzes, polls, and informative or entertaining stories should be saved so that they are easy to find for future followers and users who already viewed the story.

I recommend organizing your stories according to their purpose, like Reese’s Book Club below. Every month they focus on a different book, and they archive all of the Stories they post about the book so that readers can access them whenever they want.

Instagram Stories for Brands: Ideas, Best Practices, and Examples

Clearly label your Stories and add a cover photo to demonstrate their topic. By having these live on your page, you make it easier for users to use your brand as a reference for different topics, thus establish trust over time.

IGTV and Instagram Live for Brands

Chantal India

Social Ads Strategist at Cyberclick