At the beginning of this year, Instagram reported 500 million daily active Stories users worldwide (up from 400 million in 2018).
If you love to create meaningful content to connect with your audience and show the human side of your brand, this post is for you. We'll explore why Instagram stories are 'the bomb' and how to use them in your marketing strategy to raise brand awareness and sales.
Why Instagram Stories are a Big Deal
Instagram Stories is a feature that lets users share photos and videos that disappear 24 hours after being posted.
There’s something about them that makes them so hip.
#1. They Trigger Instant Attention
The idea behind Instagram Stories was to let users easily share slices of real-life in no time. It's an authentic way to connect with followers through videos, photos, text, and music. Users can add stickers, emoji, text, links, and filters to their Stories and make them more engaging.
The platform also lets your followers know when you post a new Story by placing a rainbow circle around your profile picture.
#2. The Whole Concept is Special
The first peculiar thing about Stories is they don't appear on your profile grid or in the main feed. In an interview for Vox.com, Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom explained why Instagram needed Stories:
"The bar for what was 'Instagram-worthy' was so high that its users were starting to get intimidated. The biggest problem [people had] with Instagram is feeling the pressure of sharing really amazing photos. People want to actually share a lot more, but they don’t want it to hang on the gallery wall.”
One might argue Stories have a short life, but thanks to the feature called Highlights, you can post Stories to your profile and keep them for as long as you want.
Plus, you don't need to worry that your followers will miss your story.
Instagram posts a reminder in the feed about those that expire soon and the most popular ones.
How Instagram's Algorithm Works And Why You Should Care
First things first: Instagram's algorithm is not reverse-chronological anymore (since 2016). What does this mean? Here's how Instagram explains the change they made:
"To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most. The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. We’re focusing on optimizing the order---all the posts will still be there, just in a different order."
Hootsuite makes an interesting point about it: "Instagram’s primary goal is to maximize the time users spend on the platform. Because the longer users linger, the more ads they see. So directly or indirectly, accounts that help Instagram achieve that goal are rewarded."
If your goal on the platform is to maximize your engagement, you'll need to come up with a strategy that gives the Instagram algorithm exactly what it wants.
Lastly, here's something to put you in the right mindset:
As a graphic design expert, Louise Myers highlights, "The coolest part about IG Stories is they are featured at the TOP of the home feed. No beating the algorithm required! Simply add another element to your Story and you’re bumped to the front of the line."
Now that we covered the algorithm process, let's move on to how Stories create fruitful opportunities for businesses and how you can take advantage.
Why Use Instagram Stories in Your Marketing Strategy
Wondering why you should use Instagram for business? Here's Hootsuite's answer:
"Because it’s already proven to be business-worthy."
In other words:
If you're not using Instagram to connect with your audience yet, you better get started.
Instagram means business. Over half a million Instagrammers use Stories every day, and 80% of accounts follow a brand on Instagram. With these numbers, no wonder more and more businesses are leveraging the power of Stories to market their products and services better and connect with more followers.
According to Instagram's most recent internal data, 1 in 3 of the most viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses. Moreover, 50% of businesses on Instagram worldwide created at least one story during a typical month.
Not to mention Instagram reports that one in five organic stories from businesses gets a direct message, which means more chances to start conversations with your audience that can result in a sale.
Check out 99firm's infographic on why Stories should be a part of your business:
Okay, enough with the data. There are clear reasons why using Insta stories is a great move for companies.
Why using Insta Stories in your marketing strategy works?
Simply put, this feature "pushes your brand’s account to the front of your followers’ Stories updates, putting you quite literally front and center on their feed as a result. In short, Stories will consistently keep your profile popping up. This spells good news for engagement as your followers are constantly being encouraged to check out your content," explains Sprout Social.
We've seen why Insta Stories work. Let's see how you can make them work for your business.
How to Use Instagram Stories for Your Business
Got something to market? Instagram has users to target.
With Insta Stories growing like Topsy, your business can't afford to miss out on getting your brand in front of new fans. There are a lot of creative ways your business can use Stories, depending on your brand (think goals, products and services, and brand image).
Here are Instagram's five nuggets of wisdom on how to use Stories to market your business creatively and effectively.
#1. Keep Attention With Speed
Things move fast in stories. Try and land your message and showcase your brand quickly. Experiment with creating succinct narratives.
Use voice-over or music as creative tools to enhance the message and value proposition for your brand or product.
#3. Begin With Your Brand
Seconds matter, so integrate branded elements like logos and packaging at the start of your creative.
#4. Design With Your Objective in Mind
Focus on people for brand objectives and product for conversion objectives.
#5. Split Your Story Into Scenes
Use fast-paced narratives and quick messages. Top-performing ads have shorter, more succinct scenes.
Need more advice on how to use Instagram Stories for your business?
Essential Instagram Stories Tips&Tricks
#1. Tell a Story
Hootsuite makes a great point when they say "there’s a reason Instagram stories are called, well, stories. You can’t treat this format the same as your Instagram feed." Here's a previous post on the perfect Instagram Story size and keep in mind using videos and behind-the-scenes stories are highly effective.
Whatever you do, keep in mind your main purpose is to create a genuine, in-the-moment connection with your followers.
And if you ever need to make thumb-stopping videos in minutes, Lumen5 is your tool.
#2. Make It Interactive
Since you can't like or comment on Instagram Stories, an effective way to engage with your followers is to give them something to interact with. Trust us; it will bring them closer to your brand.
Instagram's data shows 60% of businesses use interactive elements in their Instagram Stories, including hashtags, @mentions, and poll stickers every month.
#3. Make It Personal
With 1 in 5 organic stories resulting in a direct message, you have no excuse when it comes to responding to your direct messages.
To show your followers your authentic side, showcase your product or service and share inside peeks---it will help you build a strong community.
#4. Use a Call to Action
"If you want your audience to take action after viewing your Story, you need to tell them so," says Hootsuite. "An effective call to action can turn your Story from simple entertainment into a driver of real business," so make sure you encourage people to swipe up.
Moving forward, we found three examples of how small and medium businesses leverage Instagram Stories to connect their brands and customers to get real business results.
Instagram Stories Done Right: How Brands Use Stories
#1. How Vogue Sold Out its September Issue
According to Abby Sjoberg, Vogue’s Director of Audience Development Analytics, Vogue increased magazine sales and advertising revenue through its successful Instagram campaigns, which brought them more than 22 million followers.
“We convinced stakeholders that Instagram is a platform they should be investing in by showing [them] results. When we were able to show the number of impressions we get through swipe-ups or the amount of click-throughs that we can bring to an advertiser, the numbers speak for themselves.”
Their Instagram Stories campaign for the September 2018 issue (featuring Beyoncé on its cover) was a huge success, adding 20% new subscribers. "By focusing on the lifetime value of the follower, the team used the opportunity to bring this new audience into the broader Vogue World with offers to listen to a podcast or download the Vogue World app."
#2. Bloom & Wild, U.K.'s Leading Online Flower Delivery Service
According to Instagram's Stand Out video series, Bloom & Wild (@bloomandwild) rocks in the U.K. "They specialize in letterbox flowers, bouquets that fit through standard letterboxes so customers don’t need to wait at home to receive them. Bloom & Wild uses Instagram to showcase its bold and beautiful bouquets, to share arrangement tips and to alert customers to giveaways and special offers. The actions customers take, and the questions and comments they post, give Bloom & Wild direct insight to refine their service."
"We post Instagram stories frequently and that drives the most traffic to our website. Instagram helps us discover what customers are doing and saying, it is the best way to create advocates for our brand." -
Sara Gordon, Brand and Creative Director
#3. Coffee Circle, a Certified B-Corp that Combines Economic Success With Social Impact
This Berlin-based Specialty Coffee Roaster (@CoffeeCircle) delivers the best coffees in the world to your door. "Ethically minded and committed to transparency, it buys coffee directly from Colombian, Ethiopian, Laotian and Burmese producers and works with them to keep traditional and ecological cultivation methods. Coffee Circle uses its main feed and Stories to introduce its coffee partners from around the world. These slice-of-life videos and images show the real-world impact the brand is making and reinforces their commitment to openness."
"Instagram is the place where we can tell our brand story and engage with our customers. With Instagram Stories, our community travels with us in real-time." - Maria Hänel, Marketing Manager
Over To You
Now that you gathered all this info on how to use Instagram Stories like an expert, it's time to get a move on and make your mama proud.
And remember---Insta stories are the present, so whatever you do, do it like there’s no tomorrow.
Alex helps businesses create content that converts users into customers. She flips over wording challenges while keeping her zen. When she’s away from her desk, you’ll probably find her doing yoga, surfing, reading, camping, or walking her dog on the beach.