The Instagram Guide: No. 3 — 3 Reasons Why Your Stories Should Be Next Level
This article is the third installment in a series going over how you to improve your business's Instagram presence. Click on the respective links to read the preceding articles: No. 1 — Staying Consistent; No. 2 — Posting with Confidence.
Here's the TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Instagram Stories's daily user rate has surpassed Snapchat's; the opportunity for reaching out and connecting with your community is greater than ever. You may be comfortable with the posts and aesthetic of your Instagram page, but don't neglect Instagram Stories! Because you have 1) a captive audience, 2) you can be more relatable, and 3) your creativity does not make or break you, there's no reason that you shouldn't be taking advantage of Instagram Stories.
Here's the long version:
Let's address the elephant in the room before we start. In 2016, Instagram copied the story feature that Snapchat launched in 2013. It's social, it's personal and, most importantly, it's ephemeral. It lets users peer through the behind-the-scenes lives of celebrities and brands without the obligation to like or comment, and posts disappear in 24 hours. In the beginning, Instagrammers used the not-so-new feature to advertise their Snapchat accounts to show their rejection of the stolen idea. Ironically, that helped spark curiosity about Instagram's spin on the beloved Snapchat feature.
Eventually, users began using Instagram's feature unironically. So much, in fact, that in just a few months, Instagram Stories surpassed Snapchat in daily users.
According to The Verge back in April (2017),
Instagram Stories now has more than 200 million users per day, measured by someone either posting an update to their story or viewing a friend’s from the carousel at the top of the app . . . As of the fourth quarter of 2016, Snapchat had around 158 million daily active users.
The article points out that Stories is just one feature, among many, offered on Instagram, and it's getting more attention than one of the main features on Snapchat!
Instagram now puts everything in one place—all the content that matters to you and your friends, and the variety of ways to consume it, are already stored in a network that boasts 800 million monthly active users. The trend for modern companies, whether it's good or bad, is putting everything in one place. I don't need to point out that Facebook is literally trying to be an all-in-one platform, and how Apple's closed ecosystem forces customers to buy more of their products. Instagram has that edge over Snapchat; but the most important feature that the former has over the latter is the fact that posts are kept on your profile indefinitely until you delete or archive them.
As appealing as Snapchat's disappearing posts are to users, users still have the innate desire to save, to remember and to re-experience life events. Instagram is the best platform that meets that desire.
It just sounds like we're talking about Instagram as a whole and not the Stories feature. Yes, but I'm giving a foundation for why you and your business needs to use Stories; because your audience is there and they're already engaged. You don't need to worry about having another account for another app that you need to learn so that you can hopefully connect with your community.*
*It looks like I don't like Snapchat; it's just that I'm comparing one aspect of it in an article that's about its biggest competitor. Snapchat has other features that could potentially be beneficial to your brand. Depending on your target audience and activity level, Snapchat may be a viable option for marketing and event promotions. Or not.
Okay, so why should my Instagram Stories be next level? Because of these 3 reasons:
1.You have a captive audience.
An advantage with using Stories versus making a regular post is that Instagram prioritizes unseen Stories posts. What that means, and what it looks like, is that Instagram pins all new Stories to the top of app. A rainbow around the profile photo will indicate that you haven't viewed that story yet. It's minimal, but attention-grabbing.
Instagram also creates preview cards for the unviewed stories (just in case followers ignored the pinned stories at the top). While your followers are scrolling down through their feed, they will get another reminder about the stories that they haven't seen yet. This time, they get a preview that can give them an idea of what's in the story. At this point, it's about making sure that you make at least the first post on the story appealing and worth checking out.
With advanced algorithms and the way Instagram integrates creative design to making sure your followers see your stories, there's no reason for you not to be doing it. Even though this doesn't guarantee followers tapping and seeing your content, it does increase the chances of them doing that.
We are so used to scrolling for so long on our phones that regular posts can be ignored quickly. Instagram is breaking that monotony by showcasing a variety of content in different styles to grab users' attention.
2.You can be relatable.
Most Instagrammers use the Stories feature to show a more raw and unpolished version of themselves. Even though it's still a limited and redacted view into someone's life, this way of using Stories creates a connection that wasn't possible before. Try watching any celebrity's Instagram story, you get this sense that it's a real person on the other side—instead of someone who's unreal and only exists on the TV or movie screen. Moreover, after watching their stories for a while, it's like you know them personally!
In the same way, businesses and brands have the opportunity to show a less edited and polished version of themselves. Try showing off the workplace, or giving a preview of new events or products you're releasing. What about a work party, show how it looks like a party from The Office, or how it looks nothing like a party from The Office. Show off the fun people that makes going to work exciting everyday. Or just talk about how everyone in the office is struggling to be productive because the box that the new printer came in is filled with bubble wrap, and everyone needs to pop some bubbles.
Being a relatable brand creates affinity with followers and customers. People will have good associations with companies with whom they identify. Your relationship will be rooted on more than just your product, but also your brand's identity. That stage is where every business should aspire to be.
3.Your creativity will not make or break you.
This goes alongside with relatability. If your business's goal with Instagram Stories is just to show behind-the-scenes of the company and show your community what's it like in the workplace, then you don't have to worry about much. Instagram users understand that posts in Stories are temporary so you can get away with content that isn't innovative and mind-blowing. It's about connecting and relating with your community.
On the other hand, if you want to extend your promotional reach, posting creative content will definitely go a long way.
Example No. 1 Photos — Posting professionally edited photos that fit the dimensions of the phone screen are engaging and immersive. When the entire image fills up the screen, the user makes an instant connection with the content and will pay more attention to the message. For Instagram accounts with large followings, like Utah Valley Bride, they have the option to add a link to a product or page outside of Instagram. Through a swipe-up gesture, users are taken to the linked page while still inside the Instagram app. Browsing outside links while in the app helps keep users in Instagram (which is good for Instagram), but also offers a smooth experience that is beneficial also to the brand. If your business relies heavily on photos for content and promotion, this is most definitely a great technique to include in your Stories.*
*Instagram Help Center states that linked Instagram Stories is in testing phase and only available to verified accounts (accounts with the check mark beside the username). As you can see, it may not be completely true since Utah Valley Bride isn't a verified account; it just has a large following. That limitedness is something to keep in mind when using Stories for your own business.
Example No. 2 Videos —
Creating video content optimized for Instagram Stories takes a lot more effort and time. This may not be ideal for many businesses, but it is a viable option when trying to set your brand apart from the rest. Having professional video content that is edited to fit a vertical screen and edited to the appropriate length is really incredible, though. Take a look above at lululemon Men's Instagram Story. They not only catered the entire video for the vertical screen, but also integrated the link (demoed at the end of the video). If you can emulate something like that for your business, your engagement will most likely take off.
Whatever path you choose to take on how you present your brand on Instagram Stories, know that the feature is just a supplement to what you're doing with your regular Instagram posts. It is important to have a grasp of your brand's identity to be able to have effective and engaging content. If it is more important to stick to the aesthetic and feel that you've established on your Instagram page, then it may be better to spend more time on professional-looking content to post on your Instagram story. Stories has a lower bar as far aesthetic goes—because posts are ephemeral and user expectation is different for that feature than regular posts—so it's okay if your posts are not as good looking or as polished. Ultimately, Instagram Stories is great for creating a another avenue to connect with your followers. The more interactive ways you can get to your customers, the better. So the biggest lesson to take away is that you should not neglect the feature because the opportunity for engagement is just too great.
Please come back next Thursday for another installment of the Instagram Guide. Next week, we'll be going over Finding Inspiration!
Check out last week's article, Posting with Confidence!
Jave Bjorkman is the founder and director of And So We Go Productions, Inc. located in Macon, GA. He works with non-profits, agencies and businesses to tell great stories with videos and photos. This series also appears on andsowego.co's blog and reflects his 6 year experience on Instagram as an avid content creator.