Instagram Stories... hey, that sounds familiar, where have I heard that before? Hang on a second, Snapchat Stories anyone?
Yes, the two features are very, very similar - but no-one can blame Instagram for adopting the reactive, interactive nature of the 'Stories' feature, that works so well on Snapchat. Apart from Snapchat, of course.
Instagram has built its success around being a platform that delivers smart, polished visuals with a range of filters to make photos as attractive as possible. It's pretty darn successful too, with over 300 million active daily users.
'Instagram Stories' helps users to capture everything in between and create a bigger, richer story than a series of individual photos can provide. Stories are temporary too - they hang around for 24 hours and then they're gone, just like that cake you bought.
One of the bonuses for marketers is that due to the similarities to Snapchat, it won't take you long to get to grips with Instagram Stories - you probably already have experience at producing short, snappy content
So, why and how can your brand use Instagram Stories?
You won't be bombarding your customers
Posting lots of content is all well and good but you don't want to annoy your audience by posting too much. Instagram Stories is great because it lets you post as many videos and photos to your story as you want - without affecting your main news feed.
The 'stories' feature can be found on the top left of a user's Instagram feed and it's highlighted when it updates.
It's worth doing some research into the best time to post content and when your audience is most responsive. You can then plan the best time to add to your stories and utilize the 24 hour timeframe.
Tap the plus sign in the upper left corner whenever you want to add or start a new story.
Getting creative shows another side to your brand
You can have a lot of fun with Instagram Stories, that's for sure. Instagram enables you to show off your creative ideas and engage with your audience.
Once you've taken a photo or a video, you can select one of the three pen type options to doodle on your photo, add a cool emoji or swipe right to select a color filter.
Try showing some behind-the-scenes videos to give a taste of the people behind your products and their personalities. You could give people a sneak peak of your new offerings, post step-by-step guides or just an average day in your office.
Light-hearted, humorous content works really well and builds trust and rapport with your audience. Basically, they might like you more and buy more from your brand. Instagram Stories lets you humanize your business.
Interact with your Audience
The temporary, 24-hour time frame is a good way to promote discounts and competitions. The timeframe creates a buzz around a deal and gets people to take decisive action quickly by visiting your website or throwing your brand a Direct Message.
You can urge people into interaction with your brand by getting a particular message across through a story or asking them a specific question. An audience can be asked to vote on a certain topic by messaging your brand with a certain emoji for example. Or you could host a quick Q&A answer session (like Southwest Airlines did recently)
Asking your audience for their input about what type of content and visuals to post can garner some interesting results too.
Stories that are random and fun are effective, but it's a good idea to have strong calls to action too.
Build links with other Content Creators
A great way to use Instagram Stories is to allow takeovers of your account. You could get in touch with loyal customers and ask them to act as brand ambassadors by doing a 24 takeover of your Instagram account so they can show how they use your product. This is a really fun way to create content and get your audience involved.
You can also swap accounts with other brands you've made links or partnerships with to have a tongue-in-cheek Instagram Stories battle and combine both of your follower bases to create maximum impact and exposure for your brands. You can mutually grow each other's following.
There are lots of exciting and engaging ways that you can capture your audience's imagination with Instagram Stories. It's something that your brand should be using as customers find unpolished, zany and inventive content increasingly endearing. Instagram Stories can help you talk meaningfully to Millennials.
Experiment with content and test out what works best with your audience. The reactive, timely nature of Instagram lets you bring new ideas to the table and you'll quickly be able to see what sticks.