Instagram posts starting to seem a little monotonous? Struggling to be seen amid all that competition? It’s just over two years since the launch of Instagram Stories, and judging by the stats, it’s been a huge success. Of the 500 million plus active users on Instagram every day, 400 million of those use Instagram Stories, a number that is growing by the second. Is it part of your digital marketing strategy? Inject new life into your Insta account with our guide on how to use Instagram Stories to stand out…
What is Instagram Stories?
Originally launched as a rival to Snapchat, Instagram Stories allows you to create short photo and video sequences on your Instagram profile page. The ‘story’ can be seen by your followers and non-followers alike, but ‘disappears’ 24 hours after being posted. It’s a great opportunity to add content that is more ‘in the moment’ than your regular posts, and can help your audience get to know you better. You can use it to give an authentic behind-the-scenes look at your business, announce an update, promote a new product, or simply share extra content that you don’t plan to add as a permanent post. And because it sits at the very top of your profile page, it grabs the user’s attention straight away. It’s also a no-brainer for businesses because on average, one in five Stories gets a direct message from users.
How does it work?
The success of Instagram Stories is largely down to the fact that it taps into Instagram’s simple, user-friendly interface. Creating an Instagram Story is easy – just log onto your Instagram feed, tap on your own avatar, take a pic or a short video of your Instagrammable moment, add some text or a sticker and you’re ready to publish your first Instagram Story. You can use existing images and videos from your camera if you prefer, add filters, customise backgrounds and even post GIFs. There are plenty of other fun tools to play around with, such as Boomerang mode which takes a burst of photos, then loops it over and over to create a moving image like this:
or Stop Motion which allows you to add a little animation to your Story by quickly playing a sequence of images to create a video like this one below. There are lots of creative ideas out there, just click here for some more inspiration.
What are the advantages?
There are no two ways about it. If you want to build strong relationships with your audience, increase engagement and get more eyes on what you are offering, then you need to add Instagram Stories to your existing marketing strategy. Here’s how to use Instagram Stories to really stand out from your competitors:
• Instagram Stories appears at the very top of a user’s Instagram homepage, meaning the Stories command attention the second a user logs on, before they even start to scroll through new images on their Instagram feed. The positioning of the Stories means that they’re powerful, captivating and a quick-fire way of boosting engagement rates and increasing traffic to your feed. The shelf life of any given story is just 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean they’re lost forever when that 24 hours is up. Expired stories are automatically saved under Stories Archive in the Instagram app. Stories in the archive are only visible to your followers if you chose to repost them as a Stories Highlight on your profile (see below).
• If you’re going to use Instagram Stories, then you need to add Stories Highlights into the mix too. These are stories that you are especially proud of and which you have selected to live on beyond their typical 24-hour lifespan. Instead of a story being relegated to the archive box, you can choose to display it at as a ‘highlight’ on your Instagram profile page. You can even group similar or related stories together under one highlight reel with a specially designed cover. Stories Highlights sits directly beneath your bio and above your Instagram feed. Each one will play as a stand-alone story when someone taps on it. It gives viewers quick access to the curated content you most want them to see for as long as you want them to see it, and its a powerful way of showcasing your brand and reinforcing your message. Treat it like a movie trailer for your Instagram feed and use it to highlight anything that you are especially proud of or which sums up your brand persona quickly and effectively.
• Hashtags and geotags – tags that mention a specific place or location – are just as important in Instagram Stories as they are in standard Instagram posts. Instagram Stories are searchable by location and hashtag using Instagram stickers, so tagging your Stories correctly means that anyone can see those Stories, not just your own followers. For example, if you’re posting a story from a restaurant in Bath, you can geotag the location ‘Bath’ with a sticker. Your story will then feature in an Instagram story ring at the very top of the Bath Instagram page, alongside other stories using that same geotag, meaning your brand gets seen by a much wider audience. To put it simply, using these two types of stickers correctly has the potential to pull your Instagram Story into the feeds for much larger location Stories (with potentially hundreds of more views).
• Another sticker worth knowing about is the Instagram product sticker. Users can tap on product stickers to learn more about a featured product, and then tap again to be taken directly to the product page to make a purchase. They are easy to add, work brilliantly and are a great way of driving sales to your newest products and converting Instagram engagement into hard sales.
• Want to add links to your Instagram Stories? If your Instagram account has 10,000 followers or more, then you can – just follow this handy step-by-step guide. Don’t forget to add a call to action to your story, such as ‘swipe up to enter our amazing competition!’ if you want to make sure people actually know to click on the link.
• Last but by no means least, Instagram Stories provides the perfect opportunity to share any post on your feed (or someone else’s feed) to your Instagram Stories and have it link directly back to that post. Sharing your own posts to Stories is a great way to drum up more engagement for an individual post, while sharing someone else’s post is simply an easy way of ensuring that your news feed isn’t solely about you. Adding in some fresh content, anything from an inspirational quote from one of your followers to a local event linked to your city or industry, keeps your audience engaged and interested in what you have to say. It’s just another way of fine-tuning your Instagram Stories and maximising engagement…
What about scheduling Insta Stories all at once in advance for the following week? Thanks to a current limitation on the Instagram API, automatic scheduling is not yet available from the likes of Hootsuite and Buffer. However, tools such as Tailwind and free apps like Preview are still extremely helpful. Both work in a similar way, requiring you to upload any images or videos you want to use in advance, create and edit your Story and then schedule a date and time to publish each Insta Story. When it’s time to post, you’ll receive a simple notification from your mobile phone. There are some trailblazers out there, in the form of apps which claim to support automated story posting – Storrito is one, Instasky is another – so if you feel like experimenting, definitely give them a try (and let us know how you get on!).
Finally, what about that all-important performance measurement? There are several paid/premium Instagram analytics tools out there, some of which also provide a performance breakdown for your Insta Stories. But provided you have an Instagram business account, you can use Instagram Insights inside the Instagram app, which is completely free. Remember, Stories don’t have likes, comments and saves like Instagram posts. Instead, they offer their own set of ways to interact, such as taps forward (the number of times a viewer tapped the right side of the screen to skip on to the next story or video in your story) and replies (the number of times a viewer swipes up and responds to a story). What you are looking for here is the same upward trends that apply to your standard Instagram posts – daily reach, for example, will tell you whether or not your audience are interested in watching Stories at all (not every audience will be!) and if they are, how many people are viewing your Stories on a daily basis.
Once you’ve confirmed that Stories is an area worth investing your marketing efforts, look at the impressions and interactions and identify what is working best for you. What concepts or copy do your top Stories share and what is worth experimenting with? An obvious place to start are taps back – usually a good indicator that your audience wants to rewatch your content (as oppose to taps forward or worse still, exits) – followed by replies, probably the most powerful type of interaction. Want to track clicks on links for traffic? Provided your account has over 10,000 followers, then you can, provided you add URLs to your stories (see above). Users watching your story can then simply tap the ‘See More’ CTA on your Story and get redirected to your special offer, blog article or website. At the moment, you can only find this metric in good old Google Analytics – use UTMs to differentiate the URLs you are promoting on Instagram and then you will be able to identify the traffic from each URL. You can then assess how well individual Stories are doing in terms of driving traffic to a channel off Instagram. Remember to give it time to build momentum and don’t change direction too prematurely – give your chosen theme or creative copy a chance to resonate before you decide to try something new.
So that’s our guide on how to use Instagram Stories to stand out from the crowd! Do you use Stories? Have you got any top tips that we’ve missed? Leave a comment on our Facebook or Twitter page and share your ideas with us. Or if you need help with your Instagram account or any other aspect of social media or digital marketing, then get in touch by commenting below or contacting us via any of the links at the bottom of this page!