How Marks and Spencer uses Instagram Stories

Despite its growing influence on U.K. retailer Marks and Spencer’s social media following, Instagram is more an organic play than a paid-for one.

From shoppable posts to influencers, the social network is becoming central to the retailer’s social media marketing. But when it comes to Stories — the fastest-growing part of the social network — Marks and Spencer is still in test-and-learn mode, particularly when it comes to posts for its food business, said head of food content Emma Sleight. While some posts are either ads in Stories or boosted by paid support, the majority of those for Marks and Spencer’s food business are organic as it tries to understand what content chimes with its followers.

“We’ve increased our posting on Stories to at least three times per week for M&S Food, allowing us to maximize our organic reach beyond the main feed,” said Sleight. “We all know that the use of Instagram Stories is on the rise, which means brands have to respond in kind.”

Most of the Stories being shared focus on gamification and polls, said Sleight, with the aim being to “create meaningful engagement” as well as serving as a good test bed for various content ideas. A campaign for the retailer’s Percy Pigs candy range using Giphy last November gained 13.1 million views, for example. Indeed, the goal of stories for Marks and Spencer’s food marketers is to drive brand awareness on Instagram, not to nudge followers off-platform to convert into customers.

“We see Instagram Stories as a high-impact way of reaching our target audience and driving awareness of our innovation and product development,” said Sleight. “Anything that puts the customer at the heart of creative, like encouraging them to tap through gamification or stitching together customer-generated posts, sees a spike in engagements.”

The strategy for clothing, however, seems to be more focused on conversions. The Stories that promote specific products such as M&S Denim are driving users to purchase pages on its e-commerce site. The retailer was not able to share more information on the performance of its clothing brand on the social network.

The difference between the food and clothing parts of the retailer is evident across all of its Instagram activity.

Organic posts, which are posted publicly on the brand’s main timeline, feature lifestyle photos and videos with influencers intended to cement brand awareness on the social network. It posted over 210 different organic pieces of content across its main timeline and as stories in the last 30 days, according to an analysis conducted by analytics firm BrandTotal.

Sponsored posts, which are dark posts that are only viewable by users within the campaign’s target audience, have clear calls to action like “Buy Now” and “Shop Now.” These sponsored posts promote specific products like seasonal collections, include pricing and are conversion based ads.

Interestingly, all of the brand’s campaigns on Instagram, which covers the food, clothing and furniture parts of its business, are running all from its main account, which could become confusing to its audiences if they are not properly segmented.

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