Instagram Stories are no longer a passing fad, and social marketers need to stop treating them as such. Instagram Stories live within the Instagram app. This is a huge reason why they’ve grown so popular so fast, why they pose such a threat to Snapchat, and why savvy brands are using them: you can use Instagram Stories to harness and leverage the Instagram audience you already have.
With 300 million daily active users and nonstop additions like being able to go live with a friend and camera roll uploads (and that was just in the past two weeks…), it’s wise to invest time and resources in Instagram Stories. That means, of course, you better be able to measure the impact of your efforts. More on that later...but here are the major benefits and risks of using Instagram Stories for your brand.
Benefit: Your Instagram Stories can be whatever you want them to be.
Some brands use Instagram Stories as a more interactive extension of their Instagram feed. Their Instagram Stories content reflects their larger Instagram strategy and branding. With this approach, you should be asking questions like: What information/experience can I deliver in Instagram Stories that I can’t in the Instagram? How can I repurpose my Instagram images and videos in a creative way for Instagram Stories as I work towards my engagement and conversion goals?
There is a second approach. Your Instagram Stories don’t have to be as polished as in-feed content. In fact, the ad-hoc, “let’s stop getting polite and start getting real” nature of the Instagram Stories feature is a huge part of its appeal for Instagram users weary of glossy visuals and impossibly perfect lifestyle shots.
With this approach, you’ll want to ask these questions as you’re putting together your Instagram Stories strategy: What’s behind the scenes? What’s happening right now? How can I enable other employees and department to create Instagram Stories content? What’s timely and relevant to my audience?
Risk: Taking this flexible, creative environment to mean you don’t have to put together a tight strategy—and measurement mechanisms.
All social marketers are spread too thin. But, like any marketing platform, if you don’t have a strategy, a goal, and KPIs, you’re doing something wrong.
And you’re doing yourself a major disservice, because when you’re asked why you are spending so much time on a new channel, you will need to be able to explain your reasoning, what you’re working towards, and what your results are.
Benefit: Constantly evolving and expanding features.
From Instagram Live (and, now, being able to broadcast live along with another user) to opening up Stories to any photos and videos in your photo library, to introducing polls in Instagram Stories, it seems like not a week goes by without a game-changing addition or modification to the Instagram Stories ecosystem.
This gives you a lot of opportunity to interact with your Instagram audience in new and exciting ways, spreading awareness about marketing initiatives and partnerships, and directing your audience towards key offers outside the Instagram platform.
Risk: Being overwhelmed by the warp speed developments, getting left behind, or making the “jack-of-all-trades” mistake.
With these perpetual new feature layers, it’s easy to make one of three mistakes:
Think you have to use every new feature immediately. And, in doing so, lose sight of your goals in a sea of tactics.
Fail to stay up-to-date on new features. And, in doing so, miss out on serious positive impact to your social marketing strategy.
Try to do it all. Jack of all trades, master of none.
It’s a balancing act here, and there is no easy answer, but there are a couple ways to avoid swinging too far towards one extreme or another.
Choose your goals, and check in regularly. For instance, I want my engagement rate to be 80% by the end of 2018. What do I need to do to get there? Constantly coming back to this intention will make sure you don’t grasp at a new, shiny thing just because it’s there.
Set up a Google Alert, sign up for industry newsletters, and spend time on Twitter. Do these things and you won’t skip a beat.
Benefit: The users are there.
Instagram Stories, as of November 1, 2017, has 300 million daily active users—that’s up from 250 million active users in June. Half a year, 50 million more daily active users. You can expect this growth to continue.
Risk: Instagram Stories is no longer a test or experiment. The users are there, and you’re risking a serious lack of market exposure, growth, and goal-crushing if you’re not.