How to do Storytelling on Instagram

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Instagram is an ‘image first’ platform. This means it works with images and not much else. Of course, you can put the ‘else’ into your feed, but unless you’re respecting the platform’s clear focus on imagery, you’re going to lose out in the long run. 

The good news about Instagram is that it has morphed into a great place for brands to tell stories. Businesses can simply put together a collection of images and text and tell a brand story to the audience. Storytelling (a marketing approach as old as the hills) leaps into the modern world, with crisp, vivid images that help to tell a story the audience wants and a story that resonates with the message too. So who’s doing it?

Charity Water

We will start with these guys, because they happen to be great at telling stories that touch the reader’s hearts in an inspiring way. They do a lot of good work overseas, helping people who simply don’t have regular access to clean, safe water. 

However, they’re capable of pulling off some amazing photography, along with clear ‘story’ behind the picture. Their work is compelling and engaging, and sometimes even moving. And it all works because the charity is able to identify its own story, and then tell it primarily through imagery.


This brand has managed to bring style and storytelling together quite effectively on Instagram. The imagery they use seems, at first, like so much cliched content about ‘behind the scenes’ stuff. However, it soon becomes apparent that the brand is trying to tell a bit of a story. The people who work at the company have stories to tell, the idea and message of teamwork are consistently displayed through the content.

It’s effective. While Apolis may not have huge million-dollar budgets, it has people at the heart of what it does. This is shown very well, through storytelling content that allows people to understand the context behind the company. 


Another example of ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that truly tells a story comes from this brand. Their brand message is all about fun and fitness, and their content often shows what is happening behind the scenes at the company.

This post, for example, shows how the idea of fun being part of fitness can lead to, well, fun behind the scenes. It’s a perfect example of a story about a brand being told with just a simple image and the right approach. It’s evidence of a brand knowing that its audience wants to know more about their story. 

Lonely Planet

This brand made a name for itself as a travel guide specialist. This has meant that the brand is essentially known as a creator of memories. And memories make for some great stores.

Go to their Instagram feed and you’ll find storytelling all over the place. Imagery from places people visit and tons of history combine to create a travel fan’s paradise. But here we have something a little different. 

The brand created a photo collection centered around a traveler going to Scotland. Look how they’ve arranged the objects carefully, all of them connecting audiences to a place they might not have even been to. This, plus the romantic description below, shows a brand that knows the stories it can tell.


This brand makes yogurt. The problem it had is converting people to using yogurt in a variety of ways, rather than a breakfast item, for example. In other words, it had to tell a story that would reframe what people thought of yogurt and to give their own yogurt a stylish kick.

So they told a story using Instagram. They used some user-generated content alongside their own fresh content. All of the content featured in the reboot allowed Chobani to show yogurt being used in interesting and exciting ways with food. What’s more, the whole thing felt like a story being told. Where yogurt was the star.


These guys know how to tell a story, and they’re kind of similar to other brands like Lonely Planet in that they offer memories to customers, and the stories that come out of them can last for decades.

They’ve also become very adept at creating captions that tell mini-stories. And this is perhaps best exemplified by a well known Instagram post of theirs. Here, we have two Influencers go on a bit of a road trip with Airbnb, and having a wonderful time with it. However, the caption really works, it sets the scene and tells a story. Stick in an amazingly vibrant photo, and you have expert storytellers doing what they do best.

Why it works

Instagram has a great reputation centered around its ability to provide evocative imagery. With these brands and their storytelling, each and everyone has chosen content that either tells a little story about brand history, people, or just a simple story told around the special service they give to customers (such as Airbnb).

People go to social media for storytelling. It can inspire them. It can make them feel better, warmer. And when it is aligned with the brand message, like it is in these examples, it works perfectly.

How Can I Promote my Business For Free?

Note: The following post originally appeared on the Marketing for Entrepreneurs website.

Thank you to Iain Hamilton for this very useful content.

Struggling business owners will spend time to save money, whereas successful business owners will spend money to save time. Why is that an important distinction? Because you can always get more money, but you can never get more time. So you need to ensure the stuff you spend your time on makes the biggest impact. There is no disgrace in struggling, but once we have the option, we try to avoid it!

As with many things in life, In business,  you have a choice. Do I start my business with money or without? Or perhaps circumstances don’t even give you the choice.

You might already have some money. It will may have come from on or more of several several places:

  • Revenue from existing business
  • Savings
  • Investment

If this is the case, while you probably want to be careful with your spending, you maybe happy to spend money if expect a return on your investment.

If you are starting with nothing, it is not a good idea to ignore marketing altogether. After all, how are customers going to find you? Are they going to know you even exist?

Free Marketing Resources for those who have nothing to spend or do not want spend what they have

Product Management

Product management is the process of deciding whether a product is worth offering and it is, getting it to market.

Your Value Proposition

The value proposition is an important consideration. Does anyone want your offering? Why would they want it? Please have a look at this free worksheet. Perhaps it will help you to decide whether and how to market your offering.

Download a Value Proposition worksheet

Create (and stick to) a simple marketing plan

Sometimes a marketing plan is large document produced by a specialist. This is fine if you have the money to pay the specialist to produce it for you, and if you or your team have time to read it. (You may not have a team at this stage). All you really need is to:

  • Identify what you’re selling
  • Identify who you are selling it to too
  • Say why they will buy it
  • Decide how you are going to get the message to them (so they will know you and your offering exist)
  • Decide how you will get them to buy your offering
  • Decide how to keep them happy so they will buy more or tell others about how good it is.

This will probably be an iterative process. That’s one of the reasons you should do it yourself rather than pay someone else to.

LinkedIn Profile

The first thing to say is LinkedIn is the place for B2B and corporate networking. At the time of writing there are over 600 Million users, that is something like one in three of professionals world-wide. The chances are some of them will be interested in your product or service.

Your LinkedIn profile is your shop window. Whatever you want to achieve on LinkedIn, your profile is the single most important asset. And it’s free. Here is my guide. There are lots of opinions about what to say and in your profile and how to say it. If you have time you could try a google search or just look at other people’s profiles on LinkedIn and see what you like.

Linkedin Groups

There are lots of Groups on Linkedin. Just do a search, there are probably several that cover your area of interest. See how many members they have. Some are easy to join and some you have apply to. It is well-worth joining a few. You can be involved in the conversations, meet people and demonstrate your knowledge of the area. Or learn something new. You may even be able to tell people about your wares, but beware, some groups. don’t like you doing that. Have a look at the group’s rules.

Linkedin Company Page

If you have a company, why not set up a company page? Again it is free and encouraged by LinkedIn and not difficult to set up. It means that your company logo is displayed on your profile. Anyone clicking it will be first taken to the company and from there they can click through to your website (if you have one).

The company page is one more place you can post content. You can invite your connections (100 per month at the time of writing) to follow the company page. Followers will be served the content.

Other Social Media

Do not forget other social media platforms. They all have niches, rules, and can be used to get your message out. Where are the prospective customers you want to reach?

List on directories

There are lots of directories out there. Some are multi-national, some national and some local. Some cover offerings for consumers and businesses. Some specialise in particular lines of business or products. Have a look what is relevant to your offering and your prospective customers. Then sign up if it is free. Yell, Google and B2Bgig all offer free or trial listings. You may get leads through directories, but even if you don’t listing will help your exposure and you SEO ranking.

Use tasks or reminders to remind you to follow up.

If you have a computer (and I’ll assume you do. I know that isn’t free, but the function I describe is, because there is no incremental cost….) it will probably have calendar, reminder/task and note functions. Why not use these to remind you to return a phone call or trigger some other activity you may forget otherwise.

Or free Customer Management Systems

Professional sales teams use CRMs. What they bring over reminders etc is the ability to share information across the team. Many offer a free tier. I may be worth using one.

Discipline and time

This is important! Even if you can do some effective marketing and business development without spending money, you need to invest time!