Four friends. A $700 pair of glasses lost on an airplane. And a big business idea.
This is how Warby Parker (WP) came into being. As fascinating as their story is, I won’t bore you with details.
What’s even more fascinating is their social media strategy, especially when it comes to Instagram (IG).
@WarbyParker is a pretty big deal on Instagram:
- 382k followers
- 4,000 likes (on average)
- 50 comments (on average)
- an insane amount of love on each of their posts and
- a host of successful Instagram marketing campaigns.
Fun fact: They’ve managed to built quite a loyal group of followers. Search for #warbyparker, and you’ll get 180,861 posts by their followers and fans (increasing as I write this post).
They’ve beat out several competitors, are worth over a billion dollars, and have become the go-to eyewear brand for millennials. Much of their success is due to their epic social media marketing strategy.
In this post, we’ll dissect their Instagram marketing strategy and learn what gives them an edge over others.
1. Culture-Jacking via Innovative Strategies and Clever Tricks
Culture-jacking is piggybacking on popular events to promote business. It works great if done right. And Warby Parker hasn’t done much wrong when it comes to this strategy.
Warby Parker uses Instagram to capitalize on current events and does it beautifully through original and outside-the-box marketing tactics. Some of their uber-successful campaigns include:
Solar Eclipse. Naked Eye. Sunglasses. Blindness. Eye safety.
How could Warby Parker NOT capitalize on this fascinating eye-related global event? It’s a perfect opportunity to showcase their brand and involve everyone in a keep-your-eyes-safe activity. They not only conducted multiple cool in-store and online events—eclipse viewing parties, a give-away of solar eclipse friendly glasses and whatnot—but also ran an interesting five-post Instagram campaign.
In their first post, they initiated a conversation among their followers, asking them where they’d be during the eclipse and posting a cute gif-ish video.
On the day of the eclipse, they shared a get-ready-for-the-eclipse post, a crazy time-lapse video of the eclipse passing over their Nashville store, and pictures of people wearing their eclipse glasses.
And finally, they partnered with professional storm catchers (I didn’t know they existed either!) and produced visually stunning pictures of the eclipse:
The best bit? It was one of the very few optical brands that used this event creatively and successfully. Others opted for a meh description of the eclipse and some do’s and don’ts.
- NYC marathon
Warby Parker encouraged NYC marathon runners by giving away super-cute finisher pins at their NYC stores. This was a clever marketing move as lots of people tagged marathon runners they knew so that they could grab a pin too.
This way, Warby Parker reached their followers’ friends (and friends of friends). This gesture was also wildly appreciated by their consumers. Just take a quick look at the comments section:
2. Leverage User-Generated Content = Viral Content
“We find that engagement fosters virality and builds loyalty. Our customers are telling their friends about us and it’s driving our growth. Over 50% of our sales are driven by word of mouth.” – Neil Blumenthal, Warby Parker Co-Founder
In a survey on user-generated content (UGC), 76% of respondents said they trusted content shared by “average” people more than by brands. Warby Parker preaches and practices this strategy religiously. Let’s take a look at their recent IG posts.
All the posts circled in red are UGC posts—posts created by followers, fans, customers, and the like, featuring Warby Parker in some way or another. This gives people a chance to get discovered by 382k Warby followers.
While some posts are completely random, others are a by-product of their super-creative UGC content campaigns.
Let’s discuss some of these campaigns.
“We love dogs and know that a lot of our customers do. Our customers are constantly sending us photos of their dogs wearing our glasses. And when we put together our 2011 annual report, we noticed that “Warby Barker” was one of our ten most misspelled keyword searches. Our head of customer insights came up with the idea of launching Warby Barker for April Fools’ Day.” – Neil Blumenthal
For two weeks, they ran the Warby Barker campaign, featuring stunning pictures of professional dog models (goals!) sporting WP glasses:
Result? 2.5 times more traffic on this website than on Warby Parker.
Next, they turned this campaign into a UGC campaign by asking followers and customers to post pictures of their dogs wearing WP glasses.
Then, this happened:
‘Select 5 frames to test out for 5 days and we’ll ship them to you—for free!’
Warby Parker’s Home Try-On strategy became instantly popular among their current and prospective customers. After a little encouragement, customers started putting up selfies with those 5 glasses, asking their friends and fellow networkers which pair looked best.
This program worked in Warby Parker’s favor, and here’s the evidence:
3. Utilize the Power of a Sneak Peek
Different social media platforms require different kinds of pictures. Instagram and Snapchat are all for raw, uncut pictures, and the Warby Parker team understands that perfectly.
Along with sharing aesthetically pleasing, stylized pictures, highlighting their newest styles and accessories, they post a whole lot of raw behind-the-scenes pictures, usually with the hashtag #teamwarby.
This time-lapse video of their annual potluck dinner is a great example of it:
4. Branded Social Media Contests + Freebies Done Right
According to Buffer, 35% of fans like a company’s page on Facebook so they can participate in a contest.
Warby Parker has upped its Instagram game by holding frequent giveaways and contests. They all revolve around their core product and are held in the funnest way possible. Let’s look at some of my favorite ones.
- “Glasses for Life” game:
In a press release shared with Bustle, Warby Parker’s co-founder and co-CEO Dave Gilboa said:
“The Glasses for Life game is our version of a ‘thank-you’ present to everyone who has watched us grow.”
They cross-promoted this online/offline giveaway on Instagram with great success, growing their leads exponentially.
- Free chocolate
Bribing their customers with donuts and similar yummy goodies to entice them to drop by their outlets is their favorite tactic.
Because—let’s face it—who can resist free chocolate or other sweet goodies!??
Also, hot chocolate!
5. Find Creative Ways to Collaborate with Like-Minded Influencers
Collaborating with influential Instagrammers is a great way to reach out to their gigantic fan-base. This is why most brands incorporate this strategy in their social marketing plans. Warby Parker gives its own little twist to influential marketing and has collaborated with:
- professional storm catchers
- painters, who painted their new space
- founder of Girl Gaze Project
…and soo many more. But instead of going with super-expensive, super-popular, celebrity-status IG influencers, they’ve stuck with creatives and people doing things in line with their core vision.
6. Stay True to Your Brand’s Core Vision
“Buy a pair, give a pair.”
Along with their affordable prices and quirky marketing tactics, Warby Parker’s philanthropic vision has played a huge role in making them what they are today.
They occasionally upload a post highlighting this cause, receiving lots of positivity and applause in the comments section:
They also encourage doing good in any way possible. Their latest post reflects that:
7. Make Social Video a Vital Part of Your Marketing Plan
When Instagram first introduced video in June 2013, more than 5 million were shared in the first 24 hours.
Video on Instagram has always been popular. However, much of its success depends on how you use video.
Warby Parker uses video in their quirky, fun manner. They’ve experimented with lots of different video types to promote different things.
- Great use of time-lapse video
You’ll find a plethora of cool time-lapse videos on their feed for different events and products. They made a time-lapse video of the solar eclipse activity, of their team working, of their annual potluck dinner, etc. They like to show behind-the-scenes moments through time-lapse videos.
- Lots and lots of short gif-fy videos
They love to create and upload short, 2-3-second-long videos. They usually use these videos for:
- special edition products
- limited edition products
- new #teamwarby events
- new products they’re launching.
It adds that, much-needed, oomph factor to their product posts and reinforces the fun vibe they’re going for. Each of their product videos is accompanied with the product details, reasons why it’s special, and information about where and how it can be purchased.
Here is a cute one:
- LOL memes
They’re unapologetically funny and enjoy infusing humor in their videos. Here is one of their super funny video series featuring people-who-absolutely-need-glasses:
- Promoting #teamwarby culture
Want to work at Warby Parker? I sure did when I watched this amusing video:
8. Get Your Whole Company Involved in Social Media Marketing
When you search for #teamwarby, you’ll see over 4,000 posts. A major chunk of these posts is by their employees, constantly promoting WP.
It’s a great way to reach out to an even larger audience and promote work culture.
9. Customer Service + Marketing = Improved Customer Relations
Customers spend 20-40% more with companies [that] engage and respond to customers via social media. – Social Media Today
And Warby Parker is one of the best in customer service in the online world.
“Don’t view social media as just another way to push your marketing messaging, think of it as critical customer service gateways and take the time to respond to each and every customer who reaches out to you there. Each comment, photo and tweet gives you an opening to directly communicate with them on a meaningful, personalized basis that encourages brand loyalty.” Co-founder and co-CEO David Gilboa
On Instagram, they make sure to:
- reply instantly to comments on their own posts
Ask them what glasses they’ve put up, where their outlets are, whether they plan to open an outlet in a specific city, and they always answer. Their replies aren’t robotic and impersonal, but casual and fun—like you’re talking to a friend. Their customer service on IG is also super quick.
- Likes and comments on customers’ pictures
The Warby Parker team takes customer service to a whole new level by commenting on their customers’ pictures and offering advice:
10. Practice Gary V’s “Jab, jab, jab, right hook” Content Strategy
Everybody and their granddads know that the key to engaging with followers and consumers on social media successfully is using the 80/20 content strategy, where 80% of your posts are non-promotional and 20% promotional. Super simple.
Warby Parker does exactly this on Instagram, implementing Gary Vaynerchuck’s “Jab, jab, jab, right hook” strategy to a T. Along with uploading UGC and #teamwarby posts, they also upload a plethora of quirky non-promotional posts. However, instead of posting just anything, they have a clever strategy in place. Every non-promotional post is indirectly linked to their brand.
Let’s look at this post as an example. A library:
A library contains books, and most people who wear glasses love reading. See, there’s a connection. They frequently post interesting library pictures, and their followers love it!
Instead of posting random stuff just to fulfill the 80% requirement, they use data to find out things that appeal to their target audience and create posts based on that.
11. Accentuate Your Brand Color: Hashtags, UGC Content, and Non-Promotional Content
What color do you predominantly see in this IG feed?
Shades of blue? That’s right. And guess what? It’s Warby Parker’s brand color.
Color increases brand recognition by up to 80%.
The WP team is very smart. You know that a gorgeous hue of blue is called tiffany blue now, right? That’s what team WP wants. They want their followers and fans to know their brand color as warby blue.
They do that by highlighting this shade. Whenever they come across anything in this shade, they take a stunning picture and post it on their official account:
They encourage their followers and customers to post similar pictures, and their employees also post a ton of #warbyblue pictures:
They use this color in their accessories and holiday gifts as well to further establish it as Warby Parker’s official color.
This is a great way to not just reinforce your brand color but also create an aesthetically pleasing, cohesive IG feed.
12. Geotagging – Increase Your Post’s Reach
Posts with location have 79% more engagement than those without.
Warby Parker implement this strategy on Instagram well. They put up locations of their stores all across the country, and for their non-promotional posts, they share locations of libraries and coffee shops.
13. Use Instagram Stories for Higher Brand Awareness
More than 50% of businesses on Instagram produced an Instagram Story in the last month, while one in five organic stories from businesses generated a direct message from a follower.
Everything the WP team posts on Instagram has a purpose. They use Instagram Stories to introduce their new glasses, show some behind-the-scenes moments, etc. And they do this in their usual fun and quirky style. No boring pictures of their new frames. For them, it’s mostly cute videos:
Notice that in the last post, they’ve added a link to their website so viewers can easily purchase their latest designs.
Want Warby Parker’s Instagram Success?
Social media is now more powerful and popular than ever. More and more brands are hopping on Instagram to market their products or services and connect with their audiences. But not everyone is successful.
The Warby Parker’s team are successful because they’ve identified what their audience wants from them and have created a brand image that appeals to them. They post innovative content. They’re constantly experimenting with different post types. They’ve stayed true to their core values.
Do the same. Understand your audience. Create epic content that resonates with them. Follow proven Instagram strategies, but give your own twist to them. Don’t be afraid to show your brand’s personality on Instagram.
And most of all, have a proper Instagram marketing strategy in place that aligns with your brand’s goals and core vision.