Instagram Stories was rolled out in 2016 as a feature to help Instagram (and Facebook) compete directly with Snapchat.
Instagram influencer Sue B. Zimmerman wrote a great piece of content about how brands can make Instagram Stories work for their businesses. Andrew Medal, an entrepreneur with a massive social audience, also summarized why he sees value in brands that double down on Instagram Stories.
Over the last year, numerous updates were released by Instagram to better optimize Stories for social media experts (marketers and everyday users). Among those updates are:
The launch of geostickers, allowing users to customize their Stories with geo-targeted creative stickers.
A new and improved Instagram Direct feature, allowing brands to engage in exclusive conversations with followers.
The release of Instagram Live for social marketing gurus to engage in real-time conversations with audiences.
Instagram’s release of Ads in Stories to the global marketplace, allowing marketers to insert single media ads into their Stories content.
How do those updates affect your plans for Instagram Stories content? Let’s take a deeper look into Instagram’s latest releases and what those new features mean for your business.
1. Customize with Geostickers
At the beginning of March, Instagram announced that users can add geostickers onto their visual or video content.
Begin by taking a photo or shooting a video, and then tapping the sticker button at the top of your screen. A list of geographically-precise creatives will appear that are custom to the region or neighborhood you’re targeting with your content. The more neighborhoods you target, the more creatives you’ll have available for your content.
Why you should use geostickers in your content
Geostickers allows you as a marketer to really stretch your creative muscles on Instagram Stories. You can add as many stickers as you like to your content and use Instagram’s various tools to adjust things like the sizing or placement of the stickers on the screen.
While you should always strive to include the most high quality visual or video content in your Stories, there’s even more value in customizing your assets with unique stickers. These stickers add more personalized and localized touches to your content, allowing people within the targeted community to feel intimate connections with your brand.
People are clearly responding to personalized Instagram Stories content.
In October 2016, only two months after launching Stories, Instagram reported 100 million daily active users of the feature
By January 2017, the number of daily active Instagram Stories users grew to 150 million
As of April 2017, there are 200 million daily active Instagram Stories users
Instagram is betting that people will continue to flock to Stories with the ability to further customize content with geostickers. The usage base is organically expanding at a fantastic rate, and the response to customized assets is nothing short of extraordinary for Instagram.
Why not further diversify your brand by customizing Instagram Stories content with geostickers?
2. Get Personal with Instagram Direct
Instagram released its Direct feature in December 2013. The initial goal with Direct was to challenge Snapchat and other messaging services with its own private messaging application. The platform allowed friends to share photos that could sustain within private conversations.
Three years later, Instagram updated Direct by combining the feature with Stories. Users can now choose whether their content is permanently embedded within the conversation or if the photos and videos will disappear after the recipient views the content.
How the new Direct impacts social content
Given that Direct content can quickly disappear, you could use the feature to message a very targeted group of followers about sales, upsells, or even pending product updates. The notifications will soon fade from the conversation stream, but you can navigate people to a related post where you want them to take action.
Think of this as your Direct CTA!
Look at the example of J. Crew. The company is one of the several brands credited for their creative Instagram Stories, and J. Crew has built a reputation of using powerful CTAs within their Stories content. They created a story informing followers about “limited time only” offers on sunglasses in short supply, and drove people to a specific landing page where they could purchase the products.
You could develop a similar strategy for your own brand. Incorporate the J. Crew model into a private message sent to exclusive followers through Instagram Direct. Your offer should be available for a limited window, and drive recipients to follow the CTA to the end destination.
Make sure you have a custom CTA inspiring people to take action by visiting your site. According to a study by MarketingLand, 15 to 25 percent of people who see a link in an Instagram Story follow the link to the other side. Make yours count!
3. Hold Conversations with Instagram Live
The updates to Direct were very significant, but that wasn’t the only change Instagram made to Stories last fall. In November, they launched Instagram Live and created a teaser video informing followers of what to expect from the new feature.
Instagram described the live video feature as an opportunity for people to connect with their friends and followers at any given moment.
Instagram’s Help Center offers a brief summary of how you can create and share a live video in Stories. Also, remember that you can record your video for up to 60 minutes at a time.
What Instagram Live means for social media marketers
One of the best ways you can use Instagram Live is for engagement and community development rather than as a sales tool.
A live video allows people to see you discussing the merits of your brand and why your audience should care to learn more about it. Brands like Shopify have used Instagram Live to host Q&A sessions to describe products for sale or highlight the Shopify user experience. Links embedded on strong CTAs periodically appear throughout the sessions that direct people to other channels where they take action. This is a great example of cross-platform promotion.
4. Insert Ads in Stories Within Your Content
On March 1, Instagram released Ads in Stories and confirmed that the ads are available to businesses all around the globe. The release followed a preliminary test conducted by Instagram, which involved 30 of the world’s largest brands inserting ads into their own Stories.
Many of those brands calculated significant returns on the ad content. For example, Airbnb reached 125 million people and saw notable lifts in purchase intent throughout coveted target markets by running a series of Airbnb Experiences ads.
Airbnb’s Eric Toda and Jasmine Atherton, who head the company’s social marketing and editorial content, said creating content specifically for Facebook and Instagram Stories was paramount to the campaign’s success.
Why you should create Ads in Stories content
Creating Ads in Stories content is as simple as creating content for your main Instagram feed.
Simply visit Ad Creation or Power Editor to decide on your target audience, the duration you want the ad to run, and how much budget to allocate for the content. You’ll be prompted to insert single media ads in between your Stories content in the form of full-screen photos (for up to 5 seconds) or vertical videos (up to 15 seconds in length).
There are plenty of use cases for Instagram Ads in Stories. Airbnb featured exotic or enticing destinations to travel, which plays to the lifestyle of typical Airbnb followers.
You can use Ads in Stories for your own brand in ways such as:
One-time or seasonal sale promotions, both in-store or online
New product features or updates to your existing merchandise
Exclusive experiences and opportunities for a very targeted niche of customers
Promoting how-to guides demonstrating why customers should use your products or services
Behind the scenes images or videos showcasing life behind your brand to your prospective group of followers
Decide which use case is best suited for your social needs at a given time of year and run the campaign. Make sure you have a system in place to create the most high-quality custom content for Instagram Stories, and you can strive to match (or exceed) Airbnb’s achievements with Stories content.
Instagram Stories is one of the most powerful channels available to social marketers today. Download our webinar recording on “How to Think About Instagram Stories” for detailed tips and best practices for optimizing content for audiences and creative considerations on the channel.