October 22, 2018

What We Learned By Following 4 Pet Brands on Instagram Stories for a Month

Lindsay Cosner

The takeover of Instagram Stories is impossible to deny. Stories have become Facebook’s fastest growing products in the brand’s history, and Instagram as a whole is the fastest growing of all social networks today.

We were curious how brands that were already winning the social game and still receiving organic traction in the heart of a pay-to-play market were using this format to further extend their reach. We looked, specifically, at pet brands.

Animal content truly rules the internet, with 65 percent of pet owners posting about their pet twice a week. Brands playing in the space are well received also, seeing as much as 295 percent more comments on their content when it featured an animal, no matter the company or industry putting out the content.

In the $70 billion pet product industry, brands like Petco, PetSmart, BarkBox, and Chewy are leaders in brand recognition, sales, and market saturation. So we decided to follow them for a full month, capturing and documenting their Instagram Stories to deliver meaningful and actionable findings to anyone looking to inject some calculated cuteness into their social media strategies. Here’s what we uncovered.


  • Total # of Stories: 19
  • Average Per Week: 4
  • Average Segment Per Story: 4

Petco posted most of all the reviewed brands and supported the high posting volume by not custom producing content specifically for the format. Approximately 47 percent of the Stories included a “Swipe-Up” CTA and associated link. Just about half of Petco’s Story content from the month featured or supported the Petco Foundation in some way, be it through adoption spotlights, dog-owner features, or a listicle on 5 Ways Pets Change Our Lives. Of Petco’s remaining content mix, other key themes included influencer content (16%), adoption events (11%), and contests and giveaways (11%). The brand has a number of Story Highlights appended to its profile where it’s continually pinning new Story content.


  • Total # of Stories: 6
  • Average Per Week: 2
  • Average Segment Per Story: 3

PetSmart posted a total of six stories, the lowest volume of the four brands by more than 50 percent. Similar to Petco, the majority of its Story content (50%) featured either their PetSmart Charities or grant programs like Pets in the Classroom. Another key measurable trend was its use of the Stories format for behind-the-scenes content at stores and offices (33%) including a team birthday party and dog-friendly shopping experiences. It also used a custom designed, screenshot-to-share Story template to promote animals looking for forever homes during Adoption Weekend. The brand is using Story Highlights only for short-flighted seasonal purposes, removing them after a period of time has elapsed.


  • Total # of Stories: 14
  • Average Per Week: 4
  • Average Segment Per Story: 7

BarkBox used zero custom designed pieces, but instead captured scenes live onsite and in the app, utilizing features such as polls, the question widget, and video effects. BarkBox added a “Swipe-Up” least frequently of all brands, only about 21 percent of the time, using the format with a strategy closely aligned to its original, real-time coverage value proposition. Of all the brands, it had the most robust media mix and an even spread across still only, video only, and mixed media Stories. BarkBox used its Stories to feature behind-the-scenes content at the office and special events like the unveiling of their Bark Park. It posted quite a bit of influencer and UGC content, making up about 21 percent of the total mix. Contests and fan activations were also a key part of its Story strategy, including a “draw your dog” competition and #BillboardMyDog.


  • Total # of Stories: 12
  • Average Per Week: 2
  • Average Segment Per Story: 2

Chewy, now a part of PetSmart’s business portfolio, posted 12 Stories over the month review. Most notable was its heavy use of links, with 92 percent of its Story content including a “Swipe-Up” CTA. This is nearly double the number of links from the next closest brand, Petco, standing at a distant 47 percent usage. A near 75 percent of Chewy’s Story content was still imagery promoting blog posts and linking out to the featured article. The other content trend was giveaways, accounting for about 17 percent of the content.

The Biggest Insight: Using Stories to Build Brand Equity, Not Drive Sales

What we learned looking across all four brands’ activity was a clear commitment to the Story format and a preference for in-app, more informal use largely leaving custom design to other channels. Four key content themes emerged from our analysis: philanthropy, giveaways and contests, influencers and UGC, and behind-the-scenes, real-time footage. It was clear that the brands concept for Stories independently of the other channels and placements and the content reflects this targeted, differentiated effort.

All four pet industry giants have committed themselves to the Instagram Story format and are utilizing it regularly and frequently to extend the brand’s reach at a more one-to-one, personal level. Brands looking to move into the space should be mindful of the authenticity required for quality Story content. Across our four brands, very few Stories were used as product promotions. This is a notable discovery as all the brands studied have sophisticated e-commerce platforms and likely ambitious social revenue goals. They instead chose to use their Stories to give a value-add to their followers, offering a wider, more in-depth and uncut version of their content and brand than can be found on their other platforms. This allows their content to fit more seamlessly and organically into the natural use of Stories and the queue, among the friends and family customers follow.

Stories are a useful tool for building brand equity and bridging the gap between the mass market and personal interaction. These brands are doing incredible work to develop meaningful relationships with their customers and followers and providing value and support to the causes they are passionate about. Connecting on this level allows the brands to build loyalty and customer retention in an impactful way.

Want to use Instagram Stories to connect with your customers? Let us help.

Tags: Big Brands, Community Management, Content Marketing, Instagram, Real-Time, Strategy, Trends

Stay in the know.

Social smarts delivered to your inbox every week.
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Want to Work With Us?

Let’s Talk