In today's competitive digital landscape, a key challenge that brands face is standing out from the competition in order to captivate and engage with their target audience.
Considering how Instagram is the world’s third most popular social platform with over 1,200,000,000 active users and 25,000,000 business accounts, this can be a daunting task. One of the best and often most overlooked ways to do so is by using Instagram Stories.
What is an Instagram Story?
Instagram Stories are temporary pictures and/or videos that can last for up to 15 seconds each. A Story can be made up of one or multiple slides, and unless you choose to highlight the Stories on your profile, they will disappear after 24 hours. Stories provide accounts with a great opportunity to share content that’s different from what they would normally post on their feed. Many Stories have a more spontaneous feel than feed posts. Highlighted posts are displayed on the profile page where followers and visitors can rewatch them at any time and can be categorized based on the topic they relate to.
Why should you use Instagram Stories?
According to Instagram, one-third of the most-watched Stories come from businesses. This is a shocking statistic given that only 2% of Instagram accounts belong to businesses. This tells us that Instagram users are interested in what businesses have to say on their Stories. Stories create an invaluable opportunity to engage with your followers, get to know what they like and want to see, show off your products and services, and have a little bit of fun while doing so.
People want to see authentic, organic content on Instagram – not ads. Your brand will appear more organic and approachable by posting Stories similar to what your followers’ friends and family post. One of the best qualities of Stories is the ability to provide followers with exclusive, behind-the-scenes content that they can’t get just by checking your profile every once in a while. Periodically doing promotions and giveaways that are only publicized on your Story gives people a convincing reason to follow your account and regularly watch your Story. Stories allow businesses to sculpt their brand voice beyond the often meticulously designed feed posts and answer the all-important question in followers’ heads: “what’s different about this brand and why should I choose you?”
Another tip: Stories are a great way to “cheat” Instagram’s content algorithm. If you are familiar with Instagram, you may be aware that Instagram uses a complex algorithm to decide which posts to show to which users. Unfortunately, many of your followers may not see the content you post because the algorithm may not prioritize it in their feeds. Instagram Stories are not subjected to the same algorithm as feed posts and are more likely to be seen by your followers.
How do I use Stories?
Stories don’t need to be (and shouldn’t be!) complicated, scripted productions. Instagram found that Stories ads shot on mobile devices have a 63% chance of outperforming studio-created content. Aside from being a less permanent alternative to posting pictures and videos in your feed, Instagram Stories have many interactive features – called stickers – that normal posts don’t.
Like we mentioned before, stickers are interactive features you can add to your Story to encourage engagement from your followers. Instagram has quite a few different types of stickers and each one can be used to further your social media strategy.
The location sticker allows you to tell viewers where your Story is taking place. If viewers click on this sticker, they will be taken to Instagram’s page for that location and will be able to see other content tagged with the same location.
If you’re talking about another person or brand in your Story, tag them! When tagged, users can repost your Story to their own Story. This boosts your visibility to audiences you may not reach otherwise. You can tag other people with the mention sticker or by simply typing their username using the text feature.
Much like on regular posts, hashtags on Stories help categorize your content and associate it with other related content on the platform. Using trending and relevant hashtags can increase the visibility of your content to other people who aren’t following you but may be interested in what you post.
Receive direct feedback from your followers with the questions sticker! Whether you’re asking a question and receiving answers from your followers or encouraging followers to ask you questions and posting the answers on your Story, the Q&A sticker is a great tool to learn more about your audience.
The poll sticker is a simple way to let followers pick between two alternatives. After 24 hours, you can post the results of the poll so followers can see how their answers compared to the general consensus.
Quizzes are a fun way to interact with your followers by letting them pick an answer from a list of choices. The correct answer is predefined by you and will be shown to followers after they select their choice. Use quizzes to test your followers’ knowledge of your products and services or to educate them on other topics.
The countdown sticker helps build excitement for important events. It shows the day, hours, and minutes remaining until a specific date. The countdown sticker is a great way to let followers know when you will be making announcements, releasing new products, or running a promotion.
Adding music to Stories using the music sticker can help set the scene without infringing on any copyrights. Instagram has a native library of music you can choose from, ranging from instrumental tracks to popular hits. You can show the lyrics on your Story or simply display a tile that includes the song name and artist.
GIF’s are illustrations that add more eye-catching detail to your Story. You can search Instagram’s selection of GIF’s to find images that relate to the content of your Story.
While Instagram’s GIF library is extensive, sometimes the perfect sticker just isn’t there. You don’t have to sacrifice your brand identity in order to add visual elements to your Story. The best way we’ve found to add custom stickers is to save them as .png files in your camera roll, copy them, and paste them into your Story. Whether you want to add your logo or a caption using a font that Instagram doesn’t have, all you have to do is open a program that allows you to create and save transparent .png files (our favorite is Procreate Pocket), create your design, save it, copy it, and paste it into Instagram. This trick is a great way to keep your brand identity cohesive on your Stories without having to use templates that can undermine the authentic nature of Stories.
It’s worth noting that templates aren’t always the bad guy when it comes to Instagram Stories. When used correctly, they can make your Stories more visually appealing and consistent. There are many apps that allow you to create your own templates or choose from existing options. A few of our favorites are Unfold, Adobe Spark, and Canva. Templates simplify the Story creation process by allowing you to simply drag and drop your images into frames and access other creative elements that aren’t available in Instagram’s GIF library. By combining custom stickers, templates, and Story features, you can create extremely eye-catching, consistent, and brand-appropriate Story campaigns.
Now that we’ve gone over the technical aspects of how to use Stories, here are some creative applications for you to try for your brand!
Encourage your followers to ask you questions using the questions sticker and then answer them! If you’re planning to do an interview using Instagram’s live video feature, ask followers what they want to know beforehand and answer their questions live during the interview.
Behind The Scenes
Show what a day in the life looks like at your company, how your products are made, or what goes on behind the scenes to bring your products and services to your customers. You could incorporate multiple stickers including quizzes, questions, and polls to create an interactive experience for your followers, or simply post a few videos and pictures that give followers a look at a side of your brand they may not be familiar with.
Show a glimpse of a new product before it’s released and encourage followers to guess what it is using a poll sticker. Follow up this Story with one including a countdown sticker to the release date to build excitement.
Contests and Giveaways
One of the best ways to use Stories to grow your followers is to post exclusive content that followers will only see if they regularly view your Stories. Running promotions and only posting the discount code on your Story, giving away a free product to one follower who reposts your Story, or doing flash sales that only last for 24 hours (as long as the Story) creates a tantalizing time-sensitive call to action, and – if using a unique promo code – gives you the ability to see just how many conversions came from the Story.
A major key to creating an engaged Instagram community around your brand is to regularly engage with your followers. If customers tag you in a Story with your product or at your business, repost it and share it with your followers. This shows you appreciate your customers and encourages others to engage with your brand. Pay attention to who tags you frequently and identify potential customers who could be a good fit to partner with for promotional campaigns.
Use Stories to determine which product reigns supreme! Create a bracket and use the poll sticker to let followers narrow down the options until a winner is revealed. If you own a restaurant, make a bracket with your most popular foods on it. Ask followers to choose their favorite between two foods using the poll sticker. Continue pitting the winning dishes against each other until only one is left. Not only does this engage your followers and allow them to see how their favorite stacks up against the majority, it also indicates which food is the fan-favorite.