Since launching in August 2016, Stories has quickly become one of Instagram’s most useful features, with more than 250 million people using the format every day.
You might think that the disappearing nature of this format cannot be a particularly helpful piece of your overall content marketing strategy, but brands leveraging Stories are actually seeing quite the opposite effect.
If you want to get involved with Stories, but are not quite sure where to start – don’t worry – you’re in the right place.
1. Go behind-the-scenes
One of the most exciting aspects about the immediacy of Stories is having the opportunity to dive behind all of the perfectly curated images that are published on your feed, and instead, deliver transparent content in real time.
Using Stories to showcase and sneak previews of your offices, factory, your team, your products, and your projects gives your followers a first-hand experience of what goes on behind-the-scenes at your company. While the photos or videos captured during these scenes might not be of the most polished commercial quality, their authentic, off the cuff nature will help to humanise your brand. In turn, your audiences will be able to better connect with you and feel as though they’re involved in the daily processes of your business.
Behind-the-scene insights could be as simple as product development and testing, photoshoots, brand events, or in-house activities.
2. Poll your audience
The Instagram Stories format offers a tonne of ways to customise your content, including fancy drawing tools, fun fonts, and interactive stickers. One of the latest stickers to be added is a polling feature, which is an extremely useful way for brands to gain valuable insight into their audience’s likes, dislikes, and wants.
Once the poll is set up you are able to instantly track the results in real-time and view the participant breakdown. The data from this can help drive your future content and product development strategies. The better you understand your audience and their preferences, the better positioned you are to serve them.
Polls on Instagram Stories are a great feature for getting to know your audience and encouraging them to interact with your brand, simply ask for feedback on your products and services, or ask what types of content they’d like to see next.
3. Let influencers take over
Another great content idea for Instagram Stories is hosting an influencer takeover. This involves brands inviting relevant influencer(s) that have a vested interest in their products and brand values to temporarily host their Stories. The aim of the takeover is to get in front of new audiences via the influencer and raise brand awareness through cross-promotion. Following an Instagram takeover, brands are likely to experience more traffic on their Stories and feed as well as attract new followers in their niche.
Unlike hosting a Snapchat takeover, where you would actually need to pass over your account login information to the host, with Instagram, you can simply ask your influencer to send you photos or short video clips for your team to upload. Consider asking your influencer to test out some of your products pre-launch, attend an industry event, or participate in a Q&A or particular activity.
4. Entice followers to get involved
Social media has become a gateway for brands to connect with consumers at an authentic and personal level and this is why user-generated content (UGC) can work so well through Instagram Stories. In utilising UGC, brands give real users an opportunity to tell real stories – something that’s most likely to be underrepresented in the perfectly polished branded content.
User-generated content can be highly captivating for audiences due to the fact that the creator has no ulterior motive to create promotional content for your brand other than to simply get involved in your conversations. In addition to encouraging brand engagement and increasing reach, research from marketing startup, Crowdtap and global research company, Ipsos, revealed that millennials trust user-generated content up to 50% more than other types.
Given that Instagram Stories are only live for 24 hours, many brands see this as an opportunity to repost user-generated content without it having to permanently sit on their profile.
Tagging your followers is an effective way to drive engagement and entice them to generate their own content as well as making them feel like an important part of your brand, which can help to build a sense of brand advocacy.
5. Run a limited offer
Instagram Stories is a great channel for pushing out flash sales, competitions, and other limited edition deals and offers because of that 24 hour window.
Frequently running limited promotions gives followers a reason to regularly check in with your Stories and also to react with urgency. If you’re a verified user, then you can easily add a link to the offer in your Story, otherwise be sure to include a CTA encouraging them to react through clicking the link in your profile bio, getting in touch with you, or sharing a particular type of content themselves.
6. Get tagging
In addition to the poll stickers mentioned above, there are also a couple of other stickers that are well worth adding to Instagram Story updates from time to time.
Firstly, the hashtag sticker, which works in a similar way to hashtags on regular posts, helps extend the Story’s reach. And secondly, there is a Location tag sticker that can get the content discovered in location-level Stories (e.g. a particular city or tourist attraction). Tagging a location in a Story is a quick way to ensure it is seen by other individuals who are nearby or checking out that particular place.
Mentions (@username) tags are another way to give particular users or partner brands a shoutout and they’ll receive a notification in their direct messages telling them they’ve been included in your Story, too.
7. Include CTAs
Brands can use their Stories as an additional way to promote their products, services, blog posts, campaigns, videos, other social media channels, or areas of their website.
For example, if you’d like more eyeballs on your blog, then you can tease snippets of your latest post into your Story to encourage people to click through and access the entire article.
Currently, only verified accounts have the option to include a “swipe up link” in their Stories, but everyone else can still get in on the action, either with enticing CTA copy, or an instruction to follow the bio link.
A final bonus point: you can now pin your most important Stories to the top of your profile to give them more than 24 hours’ airtime. If each of your pinned stories contains a CTA then you are able to direct your followers and page visitors to as many external links as you like, rather than being limited just to a single bio link.
Time to shine
Instagram Stories provide brands with lots of exciting opportunities to entice new and existing audiences. And, with new features always dropping on the ever-growing platform, Instagram Stories is quickly becoming an appealing route to explore for brand storytelling, increasing audience engagement, and encouraging new conversions.
Posting a Story on Instagram is a fun and humanised way to take a break from your carefully curated feed and show off your brand’s truly unique personality. The 24 hour timeframe makes Stories an ideal way of testing the waters with new content concepts and ideas without having to invest too much resource. That said, it’s still vital to spend time planning a strategy that puts quality content first and foremost. Stories can be just as valuable and engaging as the more permanent content you are creating and sharing on your Instagram feed and other platforms.
- Put your audience first – Create content that your customers (old and new) would actually want to see from you. But don’t be afraid to trial new ideas.
- Protect your brand’s identity – Stories are an informal format and they are still evolving, but that’s not an excuse to completely abandon your usual standards of execution.
- Captivate your crowd – Keep your content engaging – encourage your get involved and give them a reason to keep coming back for more experiences.