Let us tell you a story. In 2010, two friends named Kevin Systrome and Mike Krieger founded a photo-sharing app called Instagram. Within a month of its launch, Kevin and Mike’s brand-new start-up had attracted one million users. Over the course of the next year, that million blossomed into ten million. A second year flew by, and then a little social media platform called Facebook decided to purchase their app (and its 13 employees) for one billion dollars in cash and stock. Flash forward another seven years to the present, and you’ll discover that today’s Instagram now has over a billion monthly users – officially making it the third most popular social media platform in the world, right behind Facebook and YouTube.
Speaking of storytelling, more than half of those billion users–over 500 million in total–actively post Instagram Stories every single day. Even if you don’t use Insta Stories yourself, you’ve definitely seen them at the top of your screen whenever you log on to post; a row of cheerful circles linking you to interconnected pictures and videos that disappear within 24 hours, unless otherwise archived. And while you can debate about whether or not this feature is blatantly lifted from the similarly-named Snapchat Stories, what remains inarguable is that Instagram Stories are some of the most powerful tools that any modern video content marketer has in their kit.
Like all forms of video marketing, there is a nuanced art to optimizing your brand’s Instagram Stories; one that seemingly requires meticulous preparation and delivery. Let’s take another quick look at the story behind Instagram Stories, how and why it works, and break down some of the ways that you can use this cutting-edge feature to your advantage.
Stories By Numbers
First thing’s first – just because a platform is popular doesn’t mean that it’s worth your valuable time and money to invest in. This industry is a popularity contest, yes, but only if that popularity pays. Imagine for a second that you’re a movie studio, and you release the most-streamed film trailer in history…then later watch as the film itself crashes and burns in theaters. When content is available for free online, views are only one small fraction of the equation that your brand will have to take into account.
That’s why, while you might think that the capacity to bring in as many views as possible is the most important qualifier for a platform, this is far from the case. The same possibility of failure that we just discussed for our imaginary film studio also exists for video marketing content, where the #1 metric isn’t streams – it’s engagement.
Enter Instagram Stories, where 68% of users regularly engage with brand content. That’s already pretty impressive on its own, and becomes even more so when you stack it up to the comparatively meager 32% of users who engage with brand content on Facebook. Part of this high engagement rate is probably due to the fact that 1 in 4 Millennials and Gen Z-ers actively browse Instagram for the products/services that they are interested in purchasing. Instead of trying to convert disinterested casual viewers into leads, Instagram Stories are statistically a terrific tool for connecting with viewers who are already looking to be converted.
Another major reason that Instagram Stories have such high engagement is how intuitive they make it. Forget clicks – all they need to do is swipe and any Instagram Stories browser will be taken directly to your brand site. And swipe they do! In 2016, 15–25% of viewers swiped up on the links in branded Stories, and evidence points to that range only increasing over time as this features become a more omnipresent part of everyday life.
All of this evidence proves that Instagram Stories are a demonstrably effective method of not only connecting with potential leads and racking up millions of views, but also converting those leads with real, measurable engagement.
Post Like A Pro
So we know that Instagram Stories work – but that doesn’t mean they work for everybody. While this past year saw a 100 million increase in the amount of users viewing Instagram Stories every day, it also saw over two million advertisers buying Stories on both Instagram and Facebook. In short, your brand now has a lot of competition for a slice of audience attention, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change.
To succeed as an Instagram Storyteller, you cannot just post willy-nilly. While there are many types of video content ideal for Instagram itself, Instagram Stories features an additional lexicon of (to the uninitiated) esoteric features and possibilities – though some may be a little more familiar than you think. Here are a few features to keep in mind before you begin posting:
By selecting the little smiley face in the upper right-hand corner of your screen, you have the option to add stickers to any Instagram Story. This feature encourages your viewers to engage in a wide array of different engagement types, from the “product” sticker (that allows viewers to click and learn more about a specific tagged item) to the “poll” sticker (that allows you to directly reach out for audience feedback with custom questions) to the “music” sticker (that allows you to attach a snippet of a song to your Story). These are great for converting potential leads from passive viewers to active participants in your (literal) brand Story.
Instagram Live is a feature that gives your brand or company the opportunity to broadcast in real time, on the go. This creates an interactive feed, where viewers can comment and interact with you, which makes it perfect for everything from a live Q&A to a product demo. Your followers will receive a notification when you go live–encouraging further engagement–and once you finish your live stream, you will have the option to post it to your Story for the next 24 hours.
Just like a regular post, Instagram Stories allow you to share clickable hashtags that will direct viewers to similar content. For optimized effect, make sure that whatever tags you share are specific to your brand or company, and keep viewers from straying to outside influences. Also like regular posts, Instagram lets you share clickable geotags related to your current location. Share these geotags regularly enough, and you can eventually bump yourself up the list of visible posts for anybody searching that particular area.
While your average Instagram Story will disappear after 24 hours on your page, you also have the option to preserve your best content as a Story Highlight. By curating these Highlights under different titles, according to their intersecting themes, you can repurpose your old Story into an array of new content. These will then live at the top of your Instagram page for viewers to click on and peruse at their convenience. Next time you post, try creating Highlights centered on a specific product, or your favorite moments from a successful live event.
Making A Connection
Instagram Stories are big, and only getting bigger. By making sure to maintain your Stories with the same precision and planning that you apply to your paid content, you are giving your brand a firm foothold in one of social media’s most expansive frontiers. Just create your video content, schedule it, and post! Because with the power of Instagram Stories on your side, you will be forming a new, more personal connection to viewers around the world – and generate engagement while doing so.
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