The Story of Us: Leveraging the Power of Instagram Stories

looking at Instagram with a coffeeInstagram’s latest offering speaks to our human need to connect with one another—brand or not.

Several months ago, Instagram released a Stories feature that changed the way users could post on the platform. Here’s how it works: Rather than the usual Instagram formula (post a photo, apply a filter, and call it a day), Stories lets users post a series of photos in a collective group.

Users can’t comment or publicly “like” these Stories, and the photos get deleted after 24 hours. In many ways, these changes might seem like downgrades from the typical format.

So what’s the advantage?

It’s all about the narrative. Stories is an intriguing new way for brands to bring an emotional component to its feeds.

instagram ad revenue

The projected growth of Instagram’s net ad revenue into 2017, as found by eMarketer

Bringing the Humanity Back to Instagram

The main marketing advantage of Instagram Stories is giving brands new ways to get viewers invested in its content. And with ad revenues in 2017 projected to reach 2.8 billion, Instagram is the place for brands to be.

Instagram marketing has always been visual, and up until now, users have focused on sharing only the best content. With the internet being written in stone, it makes sense that people (and brands) wouldn’t want half-baked images cluttering up their feeds.

But this tendency toward exclusivity may be hurting the brand as much as it’s helping. While we all want to put our best foot forward, it’s hard to argue that applying endless filters and lenses gives images a manufactured quality. After all, when we spend hours carefully editing and cultivating a perfect online persona, authenticity gets lost in the process.

Instagram knows this, and its Stories feature is an attempt to change the game. Instead of carving out each image like Michelangelo carved out David, Instagram wants to bring genuine expression back to the platform. Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s co-founder, touched on this when describing Stories:

If Instagram is built around highlights, we’re filling in the space in between — and becoming more about visual expression in general. We’re capturing all the world’s moments, not just the best ones.

Marketing Your Story

So, with Instagram Stories bringing a stronger narrative structure to the posting process, how can brands use it to tell its own story? There are two ways that brands can do this, depending on how a business wants to approach the process:

  1. Using the narrative structure to tell a story that can be saved to the brand’s main Instagram feed
  2. Posting exclusive content about the brand that will get deleted after 24 hours

Users love knowing about the people behind a business. They love getting a behind-the-scenes look at operations that create the products they use every day. They love hearing the personal stories that brought a company to life. These ideas are tough to get across with singular images, but Stories gives brands more room to play with visual content marketing.

As we know, there are three big content trends that tend to resonate well with viewers:

Instagram Stories provides all three.

Saving your story

While it’s true that Stories default to deletion after 24 hours, marketers needn’t worry. Each individual image can be saved to the user’s primary feed, immortalizing the content as if it were any other post. But grouping the images together has some advantages, particularly when describing a brand.

Consider using Stories on your brand’s Instagram feed to give your viewers information about your company. Do you have a unique story about how your company came to life? Were there hardships to overcome? Consider creating a brand inception story that tells viewers how it all began. Connecting a business with real people’s stories can do wonders for engagement.

The same goes for behind-the-scenes looks. What may be routine to you is fascinating to others—this is why guided tours of facilities and businesses are so popular. Build a visual story that guides viewers through the day-to-day of one of your employees to help them form human connections with your business.

Stories for Deletion

Remember, unless you save the images, Stories self-delete a day after being posted. Although marketers may blanch at the idea of their created content disappearing into the online nether, the default deletion of Stories can be used as an advantage. The short shelf-life of Stories make it an ideal choice for giving loyal customers or brand followers special, limited-edition content.

We all know how effective loyalty programs can be at building and keeping consumer interest. These programs don’t always have to involve real dollars—people are equally motivated by feelings of inclusion. We like being part of exclusive groups.

Stories, even more so than normal Instagram posts, feature privacy filters and limits on who may view them. Businesses can push fascinating brand content and limited promotions with Stories. This type of real-time content will generate continual interest in your social page and will guarantee that users keep coming back to make sure they’re not missing out on anything. And given that 60 percent of Instagram users already log in daily, Stories can play on this and crank engagement up to the max.

Tell Us Your Story

Instagram use has doubled over the past several years, and the Facebook-owned site likely has plenty more up its sleeve. Stories is just one example of a social media platform tapping into the needs of its users and giving them more of what they want. Use the built-in storytelling aspects of Stories to connect with your audience and get them invested in your brand. Every brand has a story to tell. What’s yours?

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