A Marketer’s Guide to Instagram Stories for Business

Since its launch in 2016, Instagram Stories has connected millions of users to the brands they love and follow in eye-catching and finger-tapping ways.

Instagram Stories, a feature of the Instagram platform, boasts more than 300 million active accounts. Instagram Stories put videos and photos that disappear after 24 hours in front of your target audience, and are a powerful business tool to engage with your fans and nurture lasting brand-consumer relationships. Here’s how you can best leverage Instagram Stories for your brand.

Popularity of Instagram Stories for Business

Instagram said 1 in 3 of its most-viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses. Brands are constantly updating their Instagram Stories with short videos, behind-the-scenes pictures, and more.

Instagram Stories showcase the voice and personality of brands in quick bursts, holding the attention of busy mobile phone users who are regularly scrolling through content and consuming mobile videos.

According to an Instagram study from 2017, the time users spent watching Instagram videos was up more than 80 percent compared to the previous year. Additionally, 60 percent of the platform’s users said they viewed more mobile videos on Instagram than in the previous two years.

How to Use Instagram Stories for Business

After opening the Instagram app that contains your business profile, users can either swipe to the right or click on the camera icon located on the top left of the screen to see options for Instagram Stories formats.

For brands who want to buy ads, there are three ways advertisers can create ads in Instagram Stories:

  • Ads Create Tool
  • Power Editor
  • API

For more information on using these tools and the design requirements for Instagram Storiesphotos and videos–including aspect ratio, resolution, and length–go to Facebook Blueprint.

When stories are updated, a ring appears around the profile picture to notify users of new content.

Brands often take advantage of the Stories Highlights feature to display stories at the top of their profiles. This helps categorize products or services together so consumers can quickly find content they’re interested in.

For example, Target’s Instagram account groups together seasonal items with its Spring Break and Easter stories. This also allows brands to organize and track the progress of their marketing campaigns.

Instagram Stories Analytics from Simply Measured

After posting a story, you can see view counts and other relevant key performance metrics via Instagram Stories analytics. See how Simply Measured and Sprout Social allow you track, analyze, and benchmark your most important Instagram data.

As for the ring that appears around profile images, this highlights when users search for accounts or hashtags using brand names. You can see that, when typing in “Starbucks” in the Instagram app, Starbucks Turkey has recently updated its Stories content because the ring draws users’ eyes to this account.

Users can interact with stories by messaging brands directly, sharing stories with their followers, or tapping on the screen to fast-forward content.

Instagram Stories Options for Content

Since its launch, Instagram Stories has added new features that make interacting and communicating with followers more fun and cost-effective. These features prove you don’t need a big ad budget or dozens of staff on a sound stage to create viral content.

This gives even the smallest businesses the ability to get a ton of views when armed with creativity and a smartphone. There are several ways to engage with users using Instagram Stories for business, including:

  • Type. Choose between different fonts to create text-only posts or add text to photos for captions or hashtags.
  • Live. Stream live video to your followers that will disappear from your feed in 24 hours. Or, if you want to replay or share videos for later, click Save after ending the video stream.
  • Boomerang. Record video that plays forward and then backward in a loop, similar to GIFs.

The other Instagram Stories options to explore are:

  • Normal
  • Superzoom
  • Rewind
  • Hands-Free
  • Stop-Motion

All of these options allow you personalize your content to fit into users’ feeds more organically. Plenty of users see these in action, and if your brand wants to get creative, you could use this to blend into a feed.

Display Full-Screen Ads

Source: Instagram Business

Instagram recently announced that it will support Instagram Stories ads in full-screen format. This allows businesses to go into Ads Manager and upload a photo or video on Instagram Stories. The ad will take up more screen space on cell phones, making more of an impression for mobile device users who are constantly scrolling through content.

Mobile-friendly features like full-screen Instagram Stories ads allow brands to take advantage of the growth of on-the-go social media users. With ads in full-screen format, businesses also have the option to include links that users can view by swiping up on their phones.

Play Video Stories

Videos on Instagram are versatile and can display short ads, customer testimonials, how-tos and tips, and other visuals. There are numerous ways to use videos of different lengths to highlight your brand, but videos that work with Stories are capped at 15 seconds.

When brands use Ads Manager to upload full-screen Instagram Stories video ads, they have 15 seconds or less to capture the attention of their followers. Add music or audio to the video to make more of an impact.

You can also share video ads on your Instagram profile that are in landscape or square format, and up to 60 seconds in length.

Stream Live Videos

Unlike videos uploaded to Ads Manager for Stories, live videos are not limited to a max of 15 seconds, allowing brands to stream product demonstrations, tutorials, Q&A sessions, and other long-form content.

Make a Stronger Call-to-Action

With the new ways brands are using Instagram Stories, they have to adapt their overall messaging to suit their audience, including their call-to-action. Since Instagram Stories caters to the mobile user crowd, there are CTAs that are made specifically for these devices to entice followers and hold their attention.

Calls-to-Action options for Instagram Stories ads include:

  • Apply Now
  • Book Now
  • Buy Now
  • Buy Tickets
  • Contact Us
  • Download
  • Shop Now
  • Watch More

You can include CTAs within the text of the video itself, including:

  • Swipe Up. Use the call-to-action “Swipe Up” to let users know there is a link to learn more about products or services.
  • Tap. Say “Tap” so users can tap the screen to speed up the story and get to the content they really want.
  • Share. Tell users to share the story by tapping on the paper airplane icon on the bottom right of the screen.

Ikea’s Instagram account encourages users to tap the screen to view images related to seasonal content. Mobile-driven calls-to-action bring to mind the more interactive features of Instagram, giving users reason to act now rather than later.

Another example of a brand employing creative Instagram Stories is J.Crew, which uses calls-to-action to convey a sense of urgency with its ads for “limited-time-only” sales, and they curate feedback from customers based on their own playful prompts.

Share Fan Photos & Videos

Starbucks frequently uses Instagram Stories to share follower images of its Instagram-worthy drinks.

Show your followers that you’re listening by sharing the photos tagged with or depicting your brand. Including follower photos in your feed or ads could encourage more followers to engage with you through likes and comments, or to share their own images.

If your brand works with influencers, ask these partners to record videos featuring or mentioning your brand in their Instagram Stories. These influencer videos can show the influencer using a product or service and giving a review. You can also highlight your brand’s relationship with influencers by interviewing the influencer on your brand’s Instagram Stories.

Instagram Stories & Analytics

Instagram Stories
Simply Measured Instagram Stories Analytics

With videos and photos widely viewed and shared on Instagram Stories for business every day, brands need to pinpoint which posts are actually success stories. Instagram has built-in analytics tools to get more insight on the number of impressions, reach, views, and other metrics connected to your posts.

Using analytics is crucial to understanding which posts are popular among your followers, how your audience is most likely to engage with your photos and videos, and if you are achieving your desired return on investment.

Whether it is for a single post or an entire marketing campaign, knowing the numbers behind engagement will help create more content with effective branding.

Cosmetics company CoverGirl used Instagram and Facebook to rebrand its image and tagline, reaching more than 30.1 million people combined on these platforms, according to Instagram’s Success Stories. CoverGirl found that it had five times higher message association compared with industry norms, and had 15 million video views.

The company created video ads for their target audiences, such as Hispanic and African-American women. This campaign includes a 15-second full-screen video ad in Instagram Stories that features a diverse group of women.

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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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