Personality, engagement, interactivity, and customization…
These are just a few of the many exciting ways to describe Instagram Stories.
Debuting in August 2016 as a way for Facebook to compete with Snapchat, Instagram Stories is now a key part of the social media arsenal for avid users, influencers, and brands alike.
In fact, every day over 400 million Insta-users express themselves via the Stories feature.
What started as a basic ephemeral content sharing feature within Instagram, has grown to become an all-encompassing interactive experience for users. Instagram has added feature after feature since the launch of Stories – including polls, stickers, swipe to link, different story types, ads, and a huge array of editing features that has seemingly left Snapchat scrambling for user engagement in the distance. (Stories now has twice as many active users as Snapchat.)
The evolution of Instagram Stories has upgraded it from a fun and novel feature to a genuine opportunity for businesses to interact with their audience.”
But what’s all the buzz about? Are Stories really worth your time?
Why use Instagram Stories for your business?
The pitch for businesses to use Instagram Stories is nice and simple…
Stories are given front-and-center prominence on BOTH Facebook and Instagram – meaning your message won’t get lost in the feed.
Stories prominence on Facebook and Instagram.
Sure, there are several other reasons I could harp on about with regards to user attention, consumption urgency, and shareability – but positional prominence at the very top of a user’s reading experience is reason enough to give Stories a go. Especially given the non-existent organic reach of other content shared on your Facebook Page – Stories are a no-brainer.
So, then, if Insta Stories are on your social media agenda in the near future, how can you make the most of them?
The rest of this article will break down some of the different ways you can use Stories, as well as some tips for improving their performance.
7 Ways to use Instagram Stories for your business
Not sure where to get started with Stories? Here are seven ways you can use this powerful feature for your business.
Tutorials are a great way to make the most of the Stories feature. A tutorial could be something as simple as a short how-to video, or it could be more intensive like a product demonstration. Either way, educational content is a proven way to pique the interest of your audience on Instagram.
The sequential nature of Stories make tutorials an interactive and highly engaging experience for your followers. For example, check out this snapshot of a step-by-step ice cream recipe that Delish released via Stories:
Tutorial example from Delish.
Makeup brand Sephora even has a whole section reserved for tutorials in their Stories Highlights:
Tutorial example from Sephora.
#2. User-Generated Content (UGC)
As we’ve mentioned in the past, UGC is considerably more memorable than other types of content such as ads or brand-generated content. The reason is simple, UGC reflects the true feelings of relatable individuals who actually use your products or services.
Below is an example of how UGC can be used in your Insta Stories from health and fitness training company 28 By Sam Wood. They have repurposed a before-and-after photo from one of their customer’s Facebook feeds:
UGC example from 28 by Sam Wood.
Another excellent way of collating user-generated content in your Stories is to use a unique company hashtag. For example, clothing brand French Connection has a Stories Highlights tab for their hashtag #MyFC where they show off customers and celebrities wearing their clothes:
UGC example from French Connection.
On top of people using your products and highlighting the benefits of your business, you can also use Stories to share testimonials or positive customer feedback. Online flower delivery service Hello Blooms has a section for Stories titled “Feedback” where they share their happy customers’ responses to their post-delivery survey:
UGC example from Hello Blooms.
Shining the light on your employees or taking your audience behind-the-scenes into the workings of your business can help humanize your brand and build trust with your followers.
This kind of story may be as simple as a “day in the life” kind of thing, or you could take it up a level like Marvel has below by showcasing their entire launch event for Captain Marvel:
Behind-the-scenes example from Marvel.
A cool feature of Insta Stories is the ability to run simple polls with your audience. Polls are an interactive way to engage users and oftentimes capture valuable information you can use in future marketing efforts.
Food delivery service Hello Fresh regularly runs polls and quizzes via Instagram Stories. Interestingly, they actually encourage participants to “Swipe up to finish” as a way of converting followers from Instagram into subscribers on their website:
Poll example from Hello Fresh.
#5. Special announcements
Given their prominence on both Instagram and Facebook, Stories are a perfect place to make special announcements or run promotions. For example, if you have a new product line coming out, are planning a Black Friday sale, or are running a giveaway, the urgency-factor of Stories makes it a desirable distribution channel.
Below you can see how beauty brand Frank Body leveraged Stories to announce the release of a new range of face products:
Product announcement from Frank Body.
For another example, check out home goods brand Pottery Barn who uses the “Swipe to link” feature in Stories to promote sweepstakes:
Sweepstakes from Pottery Barn.
#6. Customer feedback
The interactivity and high engagement levels of Instagram Stories mean that they are custom-made for obtaining valuable feedback from your customers. If you are eager to get product, service, or any other feedback from your customers, consider running a poll on Instagram Stories or even a live interactive Q & A session.
Uber, for example, ran a Q & A session about driver and rider safety where people could ask any question they wanted:
Customer feedback example from Uber.
#7. Timebound deals
I’ve mentioned the “urgency-factor” of Insta Stories on a few occasions during this article and there is no better way to make the most of this than by offering a timebound deal or discount. Due to their disappearing nature, you can run mini-promotions on Instagram Stories that create urgency and entice your followers to take action immediately.
If, for example, you are an eCommerce brand who runs flash sales, Black Friday sales, or other seasonal promotions, consider promoting them via Instagram Stories.
Below is an example of how French Connection included an event-relevant coupon code in one of their Stories:
Deal example from French Connection.
These seven examples are just a small selection of the ways you can use Instagram Stories in your marketing efforts. But, is it as easy as throwing together a tutorial or showing off a coupon code? Unfortunately not…
7 Tips to improve the performance of your Instagram Stories
To make Stories work for your business you need to understand how to design, create, distribute, and engage with this feature to maximize performance. Here are seven tips:
#1. Make them interactive
The type of story you choose to use will determine how interactive people are likely to be with it. For example, if you conduct a poll or live Q & A session, they are designed specifically to garner interaction. However, you can also make the most of the huge list of Instagram Stories features to increase the chance of someone interacting with your campaign. Some of these features include; polls, swipe to link, overlay text, image editing, and tagging users.
Sporting apparel brand Under Armour runs a regular fitness challenge on their Instagram Stories using the hashtag #UAChallenge. As you can see from the still image below, they are enticing interaction from users with overlay text, swipe to link, a unique hashtag, as well as some psychological persuasion for those competitive people out there:
Interactive story example from Under Armour.
For another example of a brand using interactivity in their Stories, check out Starbucks. Below you can see a story image where they use the interactive text element to encourage user engagement:
Interactive story example from Starbucks.
#2. Re-use stories on your page
Without the Highlights feature, Instagram Stories would be far less effective for brands because a lot of your best content would disappear after 24 hours. The Highlights section, which you can see on your account page, allows you to extend the life of popular Stories, as well as categorize your Stories so that new followers can see the great content you have been sharing.
See below where you can find the Highlights area on your Insta page:
Story highlights from Daniel Wellington.
All you need to do to activate this visual carousel on your page is to turn on the Stories auto-archiving feature from your settings and begin choosing Stories to feature.
#3. Run a Stories ad
It’s suggested that an epic 1 in 5 Stories on Instagram get a direct message from viewers. These sky-high engagement rates make Stories an intriguing place to run ads, especially considering not a lot of brands are doing it yet – when compared with other advertising channels.
Instagram Stories ads are seen by viewers as they swipe through the Stories of their followers and can be set up just like any other Facebook or Instagram ad – using the ads manager or power editor.
Below is an example of one of these ads from eCommerce ad platform StoreYa. As you can see, they are using similar techniques to brands that have success with organic Instagram Stories such as using overlay text and emojis:
Instagram Stories ad example.
#4. Work with influencers
Working with influencers, big and small, is one of the most effective marketing tactics on Instagram due to the visual nature of the platform and engagement of users. By collaborating with someone who already has established trust with your ideal customers, you can run promotions, get product reviews, and significantly decrease your customer acquisition cost when compared to other paid marketing channels.
Using the Stories component of both your profile and the profile of your chosen influencer during a campaign will maximize the reach and exposure of your promotion. For example, shoe brand Windsor Smith worked with celebrity influencer Scott Disick on an Australian store roadshow which they featured on Stories:
Instagram influencer campaign example.
#5. Test the different Stories options
There are currently nine options available when starting a new Instagram Story; Type, Music, Live, Normal, Boomerang, Superzoom, Focus, Rewind, and Hands-Free.
Instagram Stories options.
All of these story types have different quirks, from looping 3-second GIFs (Boomerang) to reverse filming (Rewind), you are only limited by your creativity. Consider using a mix of these options in your Stories strategy and over time you will determine which ones resonate most with your audience.
#6. Get creative with text and visuals
With so many fancy features and options with Instagram Stories, it’s important not to forget about the basics. Overlay text, emojis, moving graphics, and image/video editing is what Instagram is all about. Aim to get creative with your Stories by mixing up these visual components, like FuzzYard does below (That llama is actually moving!):
FuzzYard creative Stories example.
#7. Geotag and hashtag
To increase the reach of your Instagram Stories, consider using geotags and hashtags so that users will find you when searching on the platform. Branded hashtags help you gather valuable user-generated content as well.
Below you can see how a geotag shows up on an Instagram Story. In this example, the Greenbay Packers are highlighting that the photo has been taken at Lambeau Field, their home stadium:
Geotag example from the Greenbay Packers.
Geotags are also very effective if you are using Stories to promote an in-person event. If we take another look at the Scott Disick/Windsor Smith promotion, you can see how they have tagged the location of one of his in-store visits in this story:
Geotag example from Windsor Smith during an influencer campaign.
At the end of the day, there are so many different ways to execute a Stories strategy and an array of various features to use – how you do all of this will depend on your business and customers. Consider testing a few approaches, styles, and interactive elements over time to determine an effective formula for your brand.
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