Instagram’s latest feature enables brands to connect with followers via authentic content; here we explore the best practices.
The meaning of Insta-Fashion is continuously evolving. When Instagram introduced its Stories feature last August, fashion brands were handed a number of new tools with which to create content; whether it was by giving their audience behind-the-scenes access through a series of videos, interacting with followers through live Q&A’s or connecting with influencers for channel takeovers, Instagram Stories presented a wealth of opportunities for brands to connect with their followers in a more authentic, unfiltered manner.
How can I connect more authentically?
Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram, said that the launch of Stories was a reaction to users’ desire to see less highly produced content. According to Chen, the platform started as a casual ‘visual diary’, but soon evolved into a place where people had to broadcast perfection. This new feature seeks to encourage a ‘return to authenticity’.
Brands are encouraged to change the way they use Instagram stories compared to their regular feeds and produce more raw content that their followers and potential customers can relate to. Selfie-style videos work much better than highly produced ones, according to Chen.
British footwear designer Sophia Webster makes a point to use Stories as a way of letting her customer into her day-to-day life, from sharing videos of her daughter watching Frozen – her fall 2017 collection inspiration – to the daily mishaps in her East London office, while her feed is filled with more polished still life and red carpet images of her latest collections.
How can I reach more audiences?
Instagram Story takeovers by relevant influencers are another way to engage a brand’s audience, as well as gain new followers. The most successful partnerships tend to be timed around events and tap influencers the brand’s audience is already familiar with. Farfetch’s approach to takeovers is an example to follow: during international fashion weeks, the online retailer teams up with influencers who are local to the city in question, and can take its followers around the shows and their local haunts, blending fashion with more intimate, lifestyle content.
Utilizing influencers as part of the live video feature of Instagram Stories presents a further opportunity. Last New York Fashion Week, TRESemmé tapped Marianna Hewitt, Casey Holmes, Paola Alberdi and Amy Lee of Vagabond Youth to create branded content that was solely broadcast on their own platforms and, according to the brand, live videos yielded the biggest engagement. Live videos from Holmes, Alberdi, Hewitt and Lee saw average views of 70k, 27.5k, 40k and 8k respectively.
Continuous takeovers by lots of influencers, however – regardless of how large their social followings are – can tire the audience, so brands ought to be wary.
Stories also enable verified accounts to share links, providing another opportunity for fashion labels to redirect followers to their website and convert likes and views into transactions. As in the case of takeovers, the way a brand promotes its product needs to be targeted and curated to be effective. Instagram Stories presents a great platform for brands to promote new launches and key products, sharing direct links to the purchase page. Offering followers exclusivity or a discounted rate would give them the incentive to purchase through Stories and continue interacting with the brand through the platform. However, saturating a story with new products may seem inauthentic and runs the risk of losing the attention of the all-important followers.
How can people discover my brand?
The element of discovery is equally important. For instance, a retailer can use the feature to direct customers to lesser-known brands within their offer. A case in point is Selfridges; the retailer allows some of its smaller brand partners to introduce their lines via Stories. For example, Study NY recently shared a series of images and videos, to tell the story of its eco-conscious fabrics and educate the customer on how a collection is made.
At less than a year old, Instagram Stories is still a new feature and provides a testing ground for brands to explore different creative ways to engage their audiences. While the feature offers a more effective method of directly converting views and likes to transactions (via direct links), it is important to remember that it was born out of users’ longing for more spontaneous content. With this in mind, companies ought to embrace a more raw, unfiltered aesthetic as they explore the many possibilities Stories has to offer.