Piloted by Snapchat in 2013, “stories” have seen a significant increase in usage across participating social media platforms. This temporary, 24-hour content format is available today on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, both in organic and paid options. While personal platform users have widely accepted and engaged with the format since its inception, brands have adopted the tool at a slower rate. That being said, many brands are beginning to take notice of the format’s potential benefits–as they should. Incorporating these stories into your owned content channels is a critical tool to authentically engage with your audience on an ongoing basis.
As each new functionality emerges, it’s easy for social media marketers to be skeptical of the new tool and view it as just another avenue that will occupy resources with unclear returns. But as digital marketers, we’re confident that adding this tactic to your social media plan will be crucial to your success.
While the benefits and uses of the format have many similarities across the array of platforms that have adopted it—Instagram, Facebook, WhatsUp App, and Snapchat—we recommend focusing your efforts on Instagram as it has the largest user base and the most business-friendly features.
The Good, the Bad, and the Organic
Stories come in two formats: organic and paid. Organic stories are currently the only place left on social media where brands don’t need to worry about “over-posting.” Simply put, users strongly dislike having their social feeds flooded with content from one brand or one person (don’t be THAT person). The story format, however, not only allows for over-sharing, it’s almost expected. Since the content expires, users can swipe away, and users (not the algorithm) choose when and if they open the content.
Stories are an ideal place as a brand to share your raw, non-curated, timely, or behind-the-scenes content without worrying about clogging your other über-planned social feeds.
Flash sale? Story.
Live event coverage? Story.
Influencer takeover? Story.
The rules are vague, lower-quality content is acceptable, and personality is a must.
Stories are specifically mobile and the only place on social media (aside from Facebook or YouTube videos when the user chooses) where you occupy the viewer’s entire screen. This means that while they’re viewing your content, even if just for a few seconds, the consumer is not distracted by other brand messages, just yours. Another benefit includes being able to mix stills with video and text, and including more information than you otherwise would be able to in a single-image post or ad.
Instagram Stories: the 411
Organic First and Foremost
If your brand is on Instagram and is not using stories regularly, it’s time to start. Not only do 60% of Instagram’s daily users use stories, Instagram itself wants you to use the feature. So much so that their algorithm rewards it. Start using Instagram stories and you’ll notice a boost in profile views, increased performance of your regular posts, and improved placement in the Discover feed.
While there are many benefits to using Instagram stories, the top ones to focus on are:
With this new feature, applying hashtags within a story opens a new avenue for organic discovery of your brand. Utilizing event hashtags or hashtags that are culturally relevant helps to expose your content to a group of individuals that may not be familiar with you. For this reason, this feature can help organically increase followers.
Of the 8 million businesses that use Instagram, over 50% have created a story. Of the stories created by these businesses, one in five organic stories received a direct message from a consumer. This highlights the opportunity this feature provides to brands as a way to create lasting relationships with their consumers.
As a result of being owned by Facebook, Instagram stories now come with the strongest analytics function. With this feature, you can learn more about the content your followers are interested in, which allows you to shift your content accordingly. The story polls also prove to be incredibly beneficial to brands as it enables you to get instantaneous feedback from consumers. Deciding on which product to promote in your new line of spring heels? Put up an image of both products and include a poll asking which pair fans prefer, wait 24 hours for the final number and promote accordingly.
This feature (available to accounts with 10,000+ followers) truly sets Instagram Stories apart from Snapchat. The ability to link out not only brings a whole new capability to your Instagram presence, where it was previously limited to the one link in your bio, but the analytics behind them can also add valuable insight when creating your content strategy. As a brand, you can see the link opens, taps forward, taps back, hashtag clicks and impressions of each individual story, making it a great place to test new content or research what is resonating with your main fan bases. However, the most important benefit of the link feature is its ability to drive users to channels outside of Instagram. This functionality allows you to use Instagram stories to generate leads, increase sales and drive traffic to your website.
Due to having the same parent company, you can cross-post from Instagram stories to Facebook stories, which will then appear within both the Facebook and Messenger apps. This allows you to quickly hit three different applications and audiences with one set of content increasing reach with limited efforts.
To increase results, you should also consider adding Instagram story ad placements to your paid strategy. When executed properly, these ads can generate more link opens at a lower cost per click than regular Instagram ads. And, because Instagram is still owned by Facebook, you can leverage Facebook’s entire ad platform, unique audience targeting, and any previous efforts you’ve made with advertising on Facebook to inform and set up your Instagram story ads. For our client partner New Hampshire Travel and Tourism, Instagram story ads resulted in the lowest CPM and lowest cost per link click we’ve seen to date for Instagram ads of any kind. In addition, the ads were served to more people AND saw a higher rate of clicks/spend than average.
Instagram is also the fastest growing social network, with 90% of its users under the age of 35, which means you have the largest, most engaged audience at your fingertips. So, make the most of it!
The Social Story OG: Snapchat
Unsurprisingly, the launch of Instagram stories in 2016 has led to a 15–40% decline in Snapchat stories. What’s even more alarming is that 47% of those Snapchat users who have also used Instagram stories now prefer to use Instagram. These statistics certainly need to be taken into consideration when planning your social media strategies, but we still recommend continuing to keep Snapchat as part of your social media mix—-especially if your target audience skews to the younger generation.
Over 60% of Snapchat users are under the age of 25. So, if your target audience is in their teens and early 20s, it’s still an important tool to utilize. Additionally, as more marketers turn to Instagram stories, there’s less competition on Snapchat increasing the likelihood of your story making a splash. Knowing that resources are often limited, we suggest you simply repurpose Instagram story assets on Snapchat to continue to reach and engage with this group of users while minimizing workload.
One area Snapchat still dominates is through the geofilter. If you want to increase reach and brand awareness or if location is a big aspect of targeting (your products vary by region, you work in tourism, or you have an upcoming marketing event), geofilters can hold a lot of value for you. While you pay for your geofilter to be served among users in a specific area at a specific time, the reach of your filter once it’s been used by Snapchatters isn’t limited by price. The better your filter design, the more people will use it, the more their friends get exposed to your brand organically.
Tips and Tricks Across All Platforms
- Live action videos convert better than graphic videos.
- Be human. The best performing types of stories are “story takeovers” or guest stories by influencers that showcase your personality.
- Let fans peak behind the curtain. Share behind-the-scenes moments like product creation, company parties, or photo shoots. Giving your audience a look into moments they otherwise would not see, helps create a sense of personal relationship with the brand.
- 70% of Instagram stories are watched with the sound on, so create assets that tell a story and fully immerse viewers in your brand.
- Organic story content is a great way to test content before putting money behind it.
- Complement your regular Instagram posts with corresponding content.
- Amplify your call-to-action with overlay text. Ensure that your viewers know what action to take by repeating the CTA in large lettering on the story image.
Long story, short, when planning your social media story strategy, make Instagram the priority. We have tested all the various platforms and believe this channel has the most to offer. The benefits range from creating brand awareness and leads to driving a purchase. With a daily audience of over 300 million people using Instagram for an average of 30 minutes per day, businesses are flocking to the platform. 71% of U.S. businesses use the platform and 80% of users follow a business on Instagram. That said, developing a strategy for Instagram stories will not only set your brand apart from the competition, but it is something you cannot afford to overlook.