Like it or not, the way we use social media is changing. And Instagram knows it. The photo-sharing network recently launched its most significant and talked-about feature to date: Instagram Stories. It allows users to share—in a slideshow format—photos and videos that then disappear after 24 hours.
Yes, you're right, it does sound a lot like Snapchat, which has been at the forefront of a shift toward ephemeral, transient posting on social media; in this new era of social media, content is no longer created or curated, edited, and scheduled; it's fleeting yet constant, and everywhere all the time.
Instant video was initially brushed off as a micro-trend but the stats show that it's a force to be reckoned with: Snapchat boasts over 100 million daily active users, with a staggering 10 billion snaps being viewed every 24 hours, and it's now the third most popular social channel, creeping up just behind Instagram and Facebook.
In short, it was really only a matter of time before other networks hopped on this digital bandwagon.
Key Points About Instagram Stories
- Instagram Stories appear in a bar at the top of your feed, and you can easily scroll across them.
- To add to your story, simply select the plus symbol at the top left-hand corner.
- You can then record a video or take a snapshot and edit it with text or finger drawings.
- Users can't like or comment on your story, but they can send you direct messages.
- You can see exactly who has viewed your story.
- Swiping down on the Stories camera allows you to add content from your own camera roll.
- Content on Instagram Stories is separate from your existing curated feed; however, you can add a part of your Story to your feed by using the share button.
Instagram Stories: Benefits for Your Business
A chief benefit of instant-video marketing is that it's quicker and easier than painstakingly editing picture-perfect images and scheduling endless pieces of content for, say, Twitter or Facebook. Instagram Stories is immediate, reactive. and authentic. You simply hit record and upload. No editing required.
It's all about the little moments and telling your audience what's happening in the here and now. It gives you a chance to be creative, lighthearted, and to refresh the feel of your social media channels. And because Stories are separate from your existing curated feed, you can share more content than ever before, without fear of spamming your followers.
Of course, if your brand already has a following on Instagram, using the Stories feature is a bit of a no-brainer, as it offers you another, more intimate and engaging way of connecting with your audience.
You have the chance to enter the world of real-time video marketing without the stress of setting up and building a following on a new channel, such as Snapchat or YouTube.
Five Ways to Use Instagram Stories for Your Business
1. Behind the Scenes
With live video, audiences tend to be more captive; you can use that to your advantage by taking followers on a journey with your content. Office tours or product demonstrations will give them more insight into the workings of your business and allow them to better understand what you do.
Give your audience exclusive behind-the-scenes access that's not visible on your other, more polished social platforms.
2. Content Teasers
If you have a new product or service in the pipeline, you can tease it on Instagram Stories by showing your followers snippets of what's to come. For example, give them flashes of new logos or branding to keep them intrigued and interested in your business.
3. Introducing Yourself
Instagram Stories can be much more personal than other social media; your followers will be able to see your face and hear your voice, allowing them to feel that they're getting to know you.
If you have some interesting personalities within your team, consider doing Q&A sessions with those staff members, asking your followers to send in questions to boost interaction.
To increase your followers on Instagram and heighten engagement among them, you can offer exclusive discounts or promotions. Providing voucher codes or running competitions solely for Instagram viewers will give people reasons to follow you.
Influencer marketing through video can be particularly effective. On Snapchat many brands have used this idea well. Glamour magazine, for example, allows celebrities to take over its account for the day to diversify its content and keep followers guessing.
If you have a niche brand or product, reach out to influencers in your industry to take over your Instagram Stories account. Doing so can help to significantly increase your reach and create a bit of buzz about your brand.
Tips for Marketing on Instagram Stories
With every new social media feature or platform update, there comes some trial and error, and it will take time to analyze what kind of content your audience best engages with.
Regardless of what techniques you're experimenting with, focus on providing value to your audience. Even though posts are impermanent and more off-the-cuff on Instagram Stories, it's still a content marketing channel; therefore, giving your audience what they want should be a priority.
Keep your content in line with the lighthearted tone of the channel. Be conversational and authentic and avoid heavy sales pitches.
If you're feeling unsure of your efforts, don't be afraid to ask your followers for direct feedback. Ask them what they'd like to see more or less of; let them steer you in the right direction.
Putting time and energy into another social media feature can seem daunting, especially when it's so difficult to measure your return. However, instant video marketing is a long game. For many brands, it won't instantly result in direct sales, leads, or conversions, but the engagement and loyalty you build through consistent posting could be invaluable.
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