Finally, Snapchat has a competitor. With the launch of Instagram Stories, there are now two social media platforms that allow users to post customizable, ephemeral content and share it with their armies of followers.
Marketers have taken a long time to realize the potential of Snapchat, but it has now become one of the most exciting frontiers in digital marketing. The nature of Snapchat enables companies to create direct relationships with younger customers and to harness the power of sharing content across user networks. Just by posting a few short videos every week, luxury clothing brands, musicians, app creators, and restaurants can gain a massive following.
The success of Snapchat meant that a response from Instagram (and its parent company, Facebook) was inevitable, and now it’s arrived. The question for marketers is, can Instagram Stories be a useful way to promote their products and build brand awareness? It certainly looks that way, and there are plenty of potential ways to make the new feature work for you.
How Instagram Stories Works
Before looking into how to use Instagram Stories as a marketing tool, it helps to know what it is. Put simply, Instagram Stories is a close imitation of Snapchat, with some important differences.
The idea is that Instagram users can post slideshows, videos, or images to their Stories feed. Like Snapchat posts, anything posted to this feed lasts for just 24 hours before it’s gone for good.
When you post to Instagram Stories, all of your followers can see the event in a bar at the top of their profile page, and your account is also surrounded by a red ring when new content is uploaded.
You can customize anything you post, with a large palette of emojis and the ability to draw doodles across the frame. As with Snapchat, this allows users to create their own style of video, and it helps companies add branded content too.
Another thing to note is that Instagram Stories posts do not come with a “like” feature, and there are no comments. If someone has a response to your content, they have to contact you via a post of their own or a direct message.
It’s a competitor to Snapchat that is networked to the millions of Instagram users, with more emojis and customization options but no filters. In other words, it’s another promising platform for digital marketers to use.
Create Branded Narratives for Your Followers
The slideshow feature of Instagram Stories might be the most obvious benefit for marketers. With just a few short videos, you can create quirky, easy-to-access stories that are beamed straight to your community.
If you make clothes, sell craft products, or whip up gourmet meals, these micro-narratives can show users how they are made and give them a flavour of what to expect if they make a purchase. It’s a good way to create immediate content that enables followers to see who you are and how you do things.
Add Some Humor to Your Brand
The customization options on Instagram Stories are simple to use and have plenty of potential for crafting witty, fun, and engaging content. You can add color to promotional videos, inject branded graphics with your logo, and even poke fun at your brand if you like.
It’s a great means of showing users that your company is concerned with more than money. By customizing your content, you can add some charisma to your public profile, which can be a priceless asset.
Run Instagram Contests
Using youthful platforms like Snapchat and Instagram is all about engagement. If users don’t feel involved in your everyday activities and you don’t reach out to them, they will soon migrate to your competitors. That’s why elite Instagram marketers always try to incorporate user-generated content into their strategy.
Running contests is an excellent way to use Instagram Stories. Every couple of weeks, you can set aside 24 hours for your followers to generate the most impressive comedy sketches or musical performances based around a common theme. By spacing your contests out, you give participants all the time they need to prepare.
Use Your Stories Feed to Announce Flash Sales
Instagram Stories also provides a brilliant way to announce short-term sales. You can frame these as exclusive offers to Instagram followers (which is a good way to attract more sign-ups) and make them time-limited.
After 24 hours, your promotional content will expire anyway, and posting short sales is a good way to keep users on the edge of their seats. When your profile goes red, they will rush to check out your feed, expecting great exclusive deals.
You could also run staggered sales throughout the day, with a series of posts about certain product lines or price points. It’s a good way to keep users interested, and it can attract users who log on at different times of day as well.
Tie Your Instagram Stories to Major Events
Event marketing is a proven way to generate followers and conversions. Every year, companies use major events like the Superbowl to tap into the flood of comments that are associated with such occasions. You can do the same.
Many sports viewers watch the game on their TV, but they keep their smartphones or tablets on to check updates. If your Stories content relates to the game, you can attract their attention even if they have one eye on the end zone.
The great thing about Instagram Stories is that you can create and post videos in seconds. If you have an agile and creative marketing team, major events can result in thousands of signups.
Go Behind the Scenes to Reward Your Followers
Instagram Stories and Snapchat both offer a unique chance to take your followers behind the scenes and show them how your products are made. This kind of content works well for a wide range of businesses, from T-shirt printers to pastry chefs. People love to learn about the skills and processes that go into making things, and they love exclusive content as well.
As you roll out new product lines, Instagram slideshows can be a great way to inform customers about what’s in the pipeline. This has applications for new, as well as old, products. Every day, you can release footage of your latest creations before building up to launch. For older products, short videos can be an excellent way to remind followers that they are still available.
Do you Need to Focus on Instagram Stories?
There’s not necessarily any need to make a choice between Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Many businesses will have overlapping communities at each site, and the same kind of content also works well on both platforms.
The major difference is that Instagram boasts twice as many daily users as Snapchat. If you can apply the techniques that work on Snapchat to your Instagram community, then the sky’s the limit.
Around 20 percent of marketers see Instagram as a “high priority” marketing channel, a figure that will surely rise thanks to its ability to reach out to young people via the Stories feature.
If you are seeking to attract younger customers, and you are willing to adapt to fast-paced content production, Instagram Stories is a powerful marketing tool that will be tough to ignore.
Originally published 9/15/16.