Instagram. It’s a little ship that brands started jumping on board in 2013. In fact, in that year alone, brand adoption on Instagram jumped 80%. It was easy to pick up. Post a great photo, add a fun caption, hashtag, hashtag, hashtag, reap the rewards of organic reach then repeat.

Brands were lightning quick to pick up Instagram, but many feared (and still fear) Snapchat for just general “not-getting-it-ness” — How does a brand ‘market’ on Snapchat to Millennials who ignore marketing and where content just disappears? Oh, and it’s vertical video! Gasp!

And then Instagram showed up to the party wearing Snapchat’s clothes throwing everything off. What’s a brand to do? What’s a talent brand to do?

We’ve posted here before about how Cisco’s Employer Brand team looked fear in the face and created our WeAreCisco Snapchat account. Yes, it took some time, and diligent planning around a consistent content calendar. But we’re now off and running with daily employee takeovers and behind the scenes fun from the Cisco Life, and we haven’t looked back, with nearly 3 million minutes viewed in the four months since we started.

Now, we’re bringing the same general formula to Instagram Stories, mixing up the math a little, and getting similar results. How?


1.We made sure Instagram stayed Instagram.

You can’t simply regurgitate content from Snapchat (or Twitter or Facebook) onto Instagram. We also wanted to stay true to the platform’s base with that one, great, curated photo moment in the feed. Plus, if you consider the overlap of fans/followers across platforms, why would they come to Instagram if you’re showing them the same exact thing on your other channels?

In the social family, these platforms are all kids — with extremely different personalities, and different audiences.

This was not our Snapchat channel. It was not going to be “Snapchat Light.” Employee takeovers (in the sense of handing over the channel keys like we did on Snapchat) didn’t feel like the right way to proceed for Instagram Stories. But . . .



2.We continued to feature our employees, just in an Instagram-Stories way.

When we first took to Snapchat, we built an incredible team of super ambassadors who host our daily employee takeovers. So they were naturally some of the first people we asked for photos, vertical videos (which we’ve now fully embraced) and content ideas.

But Instagram Stories also lets us reach outside of our super ambassadors. We make sure that within these Instagram Stories we ask our employees (and possible future employee followers) to “Send us a Message” to answer fun questions, or to send us a photo or video that we will actually ADD TO THE END OF THE STORY.

Having employees who are excited about these initiatives and what we’re achieving throughout social media helps us tremendously when it comes time to try something new. They feel as if they’re part of the process, and they truly are.

“Hiring great people isn’t the challenge, attracting them is,” says Macy Andrews, Director of Culture and Talent Brand. “By harnessing the power of the We Are Cisco tribe, we are able to change existing perceptions of our culture and truly make those personal connections.”

3.We helped our employees get familiar with Instagram Stories:

Training our teams is a big part of what we do. The Talent Brand social team is face-first into social media all.the.time. This is what we love, but we get that we’re way more invested than most employees. So we quickly developed a recorded training to help walk our employees through this new feature on Instagram – how it works, why they might want to use it, and how they can interact with us on there as well. We then extended this message out to our Talent Acquisition team and encouraged them to become familiar with Instagram Stories to reference when interacting with future talent.

4.We helped our followers get familiar with Instagram Stories.

That one highly curated photo a day we’re still sharing on Instagram? Yeah, we’re tying that into our Instagram Stories. We’re using the space that people are used to looking at, taking the one shining moment captured in a photo, and prompting them to see “the rest of the story” in our Instagram Story when we feature one.


The hashtags we use open up the doors for a new audience who is searching for similar content to walk in and check out our Instagram Stories.

5.We had a content plan before we launched.

It took a full week of just watching what was happening on Instagram Stories for a concept to emerge. It took another week following that to develop a plan that kept to our Instagram voice and tone. Yes, we wanted to be “one of the first” brands to use this feature, but it was more important that we do it right. Taking the time to step back enabled us to focus on a direction, develop a well thought out strategy, and gave us an opportunity to really consider the many possibilities ahead of us with Instagram Stories.

We realized that we didn’t need a daily story, just stories when it made sense, once or twice a week. Plus, we created a content calendar that is already full through the end of the year. It’s not enough to just be in a social space, you need that actionable plan as well to help build your success.

“As a team, we have a strong belief in storytelling,” says Carmen Collins, Social Lead for the Talent Brand Team. “We’re not marketing. We’re not trying to PR our way to an employee culture. We’re just continuously adapting in the social media space to show what it’s like to work at Cisco in an authentic way.”


Watch our full Instagram Story below of Cisco Portugal’s Give Back Day:

Tell us what you think about our WeAreCisco Instagram Stories, and participate with us!


Casie Shimansky

Content Strategist | Provider of Pixie Dust

Employee Storytelling