How Brands Can Take Advantage of Instagram Stories

Opinion: When designing your ads, it is important to catch your audience's’ eyes quickly

NASA uses its Instagram Stories to share behind-the-scenes footage NASA/Instagram

Once Instagram launched Stories in August 2016, the feature spread like wildfire. As of November 2017, Instagram Stories topped 300 million daily users.

Instagram Stories offer social marketers a great opportunity to reach a higher number of people by taking advantage of one of the fastest-growing social networks.

Instagram has reported that Stories have encouraged users to stay on the platform longer and visit it more frequently. Users under 25 spend more than 32 minutes per day on Instagram, while those in the older age groups spend more than 24 minutes a day on the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing network.

You have 10 to 15 seconds to show up to 300 million people your product or service: What would you like them to see that would boost conversions?

Here’s how you can get started:

Take advantage of polls within Instagram Stories

Instagram launched a feature last October that allows users to add interactive polls to their Stories. These polls are a fun, frictionless way to get your audience engaged and hear their thoughts on any and all topics. By having the opportunity to get your audience’s two cents on a point or decision, you could save your brand time, money and energy.

On Travel Tuesday last November, Airbnb asked its followers to participate in a poll. As simple as it looks, it is both professional and well-structured.

Airbnb took advantage of content generated by followers or other Instagram channels. This way, it kills two birds with one stone. Airbnb engages with its followers’ content, and the task of creating a Story becomes easier by just taking already existing content.

Darian Kovacs of Jelly Marketing predicted that brands will focus on audience engagement and user-generated content with more accountability and measurable metrics to boost conversion on Instagram, and boy, was he right.

Influencers and brands alike have seen an increase in Instagram Live and Stories engagement after employing polls since the feature’s inception. Using Instagram Insights, they can track engagement per post or entire feed activity per time period. Third-party tools like Cyfe, meanwhile, are great for benchmarking own audience growth against that of competitors.

Use links in your Stories to increase sales, generate leads and gain traffic

One of the incredible essences of social media is the intimate connection brands can form with their followers. Stories (Snapchat or Instagram) have taken the opportunity for connection one step further. However, if your brand isn’t capitalizing on the attention it gets from Stories, then the connection is wasted. The easiest way to do that is through direct links.

One of the best things about Instagram Stories for business, and what sets them apart from Snapchat, is the ability to tag and link.

Brunch Boys uses both the “swipe up” function for verified users and the tagging feature by highlighting the restaurants where they eat.

With this amazing feature, you can link out to your own hosted content assets or, if you’re an ecommerce marketer, to product pages. Using BigCommerce’s buy button, you can even use an “add to cart instantly” type of call to action. All your followers have to do is swipe up on your stories and get redirected to your preferred URL.

Marketers can link to lead-generation forms from their respective email marketing software and boom, your email list is going off the roof.

Currently, this feature is only available to business profiles with more than 10,000 followers. You can use the alternative of writing a short URL, or just direct them to the link in your bio (which is ineffective).

It’s all about digital storytelling

One of the things the proliferation of Stories has proven is the value of real, uncut content in the eyes of audiences, so documenting your journey with Stories make your brand approachable.

NASA’s prowess is unquestionable when it comes to Instagram Stories. It uses the feature to go deep, offering background, additional information or research and more visuals that complement its regular Instagram posts. NASA uses its Stories to share behind-the-scenes footage.

Use Stories to tell an actual story. Tell stories about your product and services. It creates brand loyalty, which increases chances of a purchase and referrals.

Buffer uses Stories to share social media stats, discuss blog posts and take its Instagram community behind the scenes.

Perfect examples of digital storytelling include restaurants showing how dishes are prepared, sports teams share training sessions and fitness tips with their fans (e.g., UCLA Athletics) and fashion icons putting up tutorials on how to mash an outfit together.

Amplify CTAs with overlay text

The CTA is formatted into the bottom of the screen, but it is fairly small and easy to miss. Make sure viewers know what action to take by using text overlay to repeat the CTA in big, bold lettering, just as used by Pacific Northwest Wonderland in the image below:

When you create your Stories, make sure you choose the relevant CTA button that you want to appear. Your choice of words, color of the text and the size of the letters can have a big impact on whether viewers actually visit your website, sign up or convert.

Product marketers should use active verbs such as “Buy Now,” while lead generators can use “Sign Up Now,” etc.

Use the power of Instagram takeovers

Instagram takeovers are quick, easy and fun ways to grow your following by either taking over another Instagrammer’s account or having them take over yours, typically for a 24-hour period.

This is a great way to build a mutually beneficial relationship between yourself and another influencer and it provides a great avenue for expanding your audience. Imagine the possibilities.

Bustle does a regular “DIY With Sierra,” hosted by @sierrataylored, for exactly that reason.

To try it out with your own business, choose someone from your company for a “day in the life” story, or you can partner with other businesses in your industry to swap stories for the day. It will help diversify your content and keep your customers coming back for more.

When you align your brand with a host who contributes to your desired goal, it fosters authenticity and connects you to the followers that you want to engage with your brand, thus broadening your network.

Use Instagram Story ads

Instagram launched its Stories ads feature in January 2017 with big brands like Nike, Netflix and Airbnb. By March, it opened the feature up to businesses of all sizes.

When designing your ads, it is important to catch your audience’s’ eyes quickly. Photo ads last only 10 seconds, while video ads last for 15 seconds.

Therefore, you have to ensure that they get the message in the first few seconds of your ad so that they can decide to take action immediately after. You must interest the user with strong visuals, engage them with clear messaging and then urge them into action.

If you decide to try a photo ad, ensure you use a bright, bold photo with clear branding and simple messaging. The user should know who you are, what you do and how you can help them quickly before the ad runs out.

Instagram Stories can go viral if all conditions are met, and you won’t want your ad budget exhausted, so simply set up SMS alerts for when you exceed your daily spend in your ad manager using Cyfe.

Hootsuite ran a couple of experiments with Story ads and blogged about its lessons, which included:

  • Real life scenes convert better than animated or graphic videos.
  • Include a UTM (urchin tracking model) parameter to measure engagement.
  • Follow the recommended ad requirements.

Stories are still a relatively new medium across social media, so there’s no better time than now to begin capitalizing on all they offer. This year, show some love to Instagram Stories by making room for them in your social media marketing strategy.

Pius Boachie is a freelance writer and inbound marketing consultant who works closely with business-to-consumer and business-to-business brands on providing content that gains social media attention and increases search-engine visibility. He shares actionable marketing ideas for businesses on his blog, Digimatic.