7 Ways That Brands Can Leverage Instagram Stories

Instagram launched in 2010. In the early days the then little-known mobile photo-sharing site crashed often — not a very promising start. But today, it’s a total powerhouse.

An increasing number of marketers use Instagram, and the social media tool is expected to soon reach unprecedented adoption rates, including a prediction that it will surpass Twitter in 2017. Nearly 50 percent of US brands used Instagram during 2016, but that number should rise to 70 percent this year, according to eMarketer.

Recently, Instagram rolled out “Stories” — a feature that’s capturing the attention of many marketers. During the first three months, Stories harnessed 100 million daily users. But why? What’s so great about Stories? And how can marketers use it to accomplish their goals?

Instagram Stories: What exactly is it?

Have you used Snapchat? If so, you’ll find it strikingly similar to Instagram’s new Stories feature. Yet Snapchat has far fewer users — 150 million daily active users compared with Instagram’s 300 million.

If you haven’t used Snapchat, it’s a popular mobile app that allows for the posting of pictures and videos that disappear shortly after being shared. Instagram Stories includes this same time element, with posts expiring within 24 hours. Stories also includes text and drawing tools, which provide an additional opportunity to spice up photos and videos.

Stories resides in a location separate from your brand’s regular Instagram feed. As a result, you can create a story and post frequently without the worry of oversaturating your audience. Unlike other social media channels, people can’t “like” posts or leave comments. As a result, some of the pressure is lifted, and brands can concentrate more on creating great content and worry less about the number of likes and comments they capture.

Here are seven strategies for adopting Stories into your marketing plans for 2017 for greater impact.

1. Cover an event

Do you have an event coming up? If so, it’s a great time to test Instagram Stories. With other social media platforms, audiences can become overwhelmed with the large amount of content posted.

In contrast, Instagram Stories allows team members to post content to just one story. Old content automatically disappears, keeping the story clean and organized.

Deloitte Digital recently offered a behind-the-scenes look at Advertising Age’s “Women to Watch in 2016” issue using this feature. The company’s Instagram story included mini-interviews with keynote speakers and brief clips of the presentations.

2. Create Q&As

Marketers are charged with understanding the pain points of their target audience. And even if you truly understand your audience, they may have questions that you haven’t considered yet. Post a question through all social media channels to learn what issues are most pressing to your target audience now.

After collecting answers, look for commodities and schedule an Instachat, which is basically a real-time chat with your audience. Promote the event through social media and carefully take notes on the content of that chat. Post important insights, photos, and videos related to that content in an Instagram story.

3. Deliver a special offer

Scarcity is one of the most powerful motivators in marketing and advertising. It moves buyers from the shopping or consideration phase directly into the purchasing phase — which is powerful. Instagram Stories naturally creates this scarcity, but you must know how to leverage it.

One of the easiest methods to do this is by creating a story that contains a special offer. Post photos, videos, and other related content and highlight the message that, as soon as the story expires, so does the offer.

Viewers can take advantage of the promotion by clicking a link to your Instagram bio, which you can connect to a landing page. Or you can ask them to send a message through Instagram to claim the offer, which would result in putting the customer in touch with the sales team.

4. Build buzz for your next product

Apple is notorious for creating buzz around its product launches. As a result, millions of customers flood its stores within the first few days a product launches, eager to be the first to purchase. Yet, how can B2B marketers create similar buzz about their products and services? The answer is simple: by strategically leaking information.

Start by building suspense. Partner with a handful of influencers in your niche and slowly release small bits of information prior to the new product launch. Give each influencer a different scoop. As you get closer to the launch date, create an Instagram story and disclose small pieces of information about the benefits of the new product.

5. Get real with customers

Personalize your brand by allowing customers to learn more about employees. For example, NASA recently used Instagram Stories to introduce its astronauts while showing off cool rockets and space equipment. By featuring individual employees and sharing personal details about them, the organization was able to showcase diversity among employees and drive greater engagement with the audience.

We Work, a company that provides innovative workspace designs, leveraged Instagram Stories to allow its audience to get to know the people who use its spaces. The company recently highlighted Tracy, the person who designed its new website. Through the story, We Work humanized its company culture and promoted innovative workspaces.

6. Let your audience speak through Stories

Empower customers to drive your content through Instagram Stories. For example, brainstorm a few potential ideas for a theme. Then take those ideas to your audience through a variety of social platforms and let viewers vote. Ask your audience to like or comment on the idea they like best.

Take the most popular concept and turn it into an Instagram story, complete with photos, videos, and valuable solutions to your audience’s challenges. Promote the story through various social media platforms — and emphasize that it’s only available for the next 24 hours.

7. Stage an Instagram takeover

Marketers spend a great deal of time engaging and promoting content through various social media channels. Using a “social media takeover” takeover, however, suggests that you take all that hard work and hand it over to a stranger for the next 24 hours. But why?

In short, this strategy is highly impactful and gives you a lot of bang for your proverbial buck. Start by strategically selecting an influencer who shares a common audience and has online clout. Promote the date when the takeover will occur and what the benefits are to the audience.

However, make sure to set a goal up front. For example, maybe you want to grow your Instagram audience, which helps you to move some members of that group from social media into your sales funnel. Define your goal, strategize with the right influencer, and create a strategy that is mutually beneficial for both of you.

For example, the clothing company Eddie Bauer regularly hands its Instagram account over to influencers. These are regular people who have built up large followings and talk about things that matter to the brand’s audience.

Moving forward with Stories

Stories have always been at the heart of engagement. Hundreds of years ago, people gathered around the fire to tell tales. If you visit Hawaii today, locals still “talk story,” an expression they use to describe engaging and catching up with friends and family. Instagram Stories is simply that: another way to engage with your audience.

Make them entertaining, valuable, and time well spent, and your audience will grow to love your stories and read them with a sense of urgency — not just because they’re interesting and engaging, but also because this platform demands it.

Have you tried Instagram Stories? If so, please share your results.