How Brands Are Learning to Use Instagram's Latest 'Guides' Feature

Kevin Best, Contributing Editor,

When Instagram first launched its new feature “Instagram Guides” back in May of 2020, the immediate focus was on providing a better platform for mental health awareness and wellness content. The goal was to connect users with experts and organizations who could share more robust tips and resources on how to stay connected and manage anxiety and depression during the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Heads Together, and other international organizations were some of the early adopters who put together messaging around the importance of talking about mental health. While Instagram is obviously known for focusing more on photos and videos, Guides allowed these orgs to use the platform more like a blog, sharing and curating text-based content like articles and lists that would be easy to find on their profiles.

The reaction was positive, and Guides has expanded since then, with Instagram announcing they were allowing other influencers and brands to use the new feature starting in November 2020. A way to quickly tell if a brand you follow is using Instagram Guides is to look for the clickable Guides logo, the simplified image of an open magazine, on their profile page. Instagram has placed Guides between a brand’s saved highlights and its grid of posts, alongside the icons for posts, Reels, IGTV, and tagged posts.

Now that the feature has been rolled out more widely, brands have been testing the water in distinct ways, with some use cases more straightforward than others. Starbucks highlighted different items on their menu that are vegetarian, under 200 calories, or have less than 10 grams of sugar. Travel Alberta posted different ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the Canadian Province. Customer relationship management platform Hubspot has posted tips on how to manage a team remotely. And furniture and decor brand West Elm has made several Guides of the best bedrooms, living rooms, and design crew makeovers of 2020.

Other companies have branched out more, using the space to amplify the voices of smaller brands and causes they support. Lululemon made two “Five to Follow” Guides about people to follow in the wellbeing world. The lifestyle and crafting brand Brit + Co covered 15 women-run small businesses they were supporting, while digital marketing agency Huge Inc. did the same with a list of “25 black owned businesses in Our Hearts and Carts.” Instagram itself has used the feature for three posts about social issues and brand values. One titled “Take Charge, Create a Positive Instagram Experience,” helps users improve their experiences posting and commenting by explaining how to combat cyberbullying and hate speech. Another, titled “Act for Racial Justice,” educates users on structural racism, a “recipe for creative resistance,” and steps on how to be an ally.

Two industries that have really begun to embrace Guides are beauty and fashion. Brands like Prada, Kate Spade, Sephora, Morphe, Lush Cosmetics, and Anastasia Beverly Hills have all used the format to highlight their various “Holiday Gift Guides” and new product lines. Gucci</