Since their arrival back in 2016, Instagram Stories have quickly taken centre stage and certainly changed the way users now use the platform. Fern, one of our Social Media Managers here at SCS, takes a look at how Stories have evolved over the years and how, as a brand, you could be using them.
I remember the day Instagram Stories launched. ‘What’s the point? It’s a complete rip off of Snapchat and I don’t even use that…’ were just some of the words I think I used to describe it. Almost three years on and I’ll happily hold my hands up and admit that I was wrong. In fact, it didn’t take long at all for me to become a complete Instagram Stories convert.
Where Instagram was once Instant – snap a photo on your iPhone 4, select an appropriate filter (my personal choice: Valencia) and a few choice hashtags, all within minutes – it has slowly become a place for carefully curated feeds, considered colour palettes and thought through flat lays. The arrival of Instagram Stories provided an escape from this, a place for users to share without overthinking (or over-editing!) their content.
The turning point for me was the simple #ootd. I was never going to be a fashion blogger, but I’ve always been a fan of personal style and enjoyed sharing mirror photos of my outfits on the platform. The full screen, vertical format meant that I could snap a photo of my outfit, and upload straight to stories with a few outfit tags, without daily barrage of #ootds taking over my grid. Since then, I’ve never looked back!
Instagram Stories now has over 500 million daily active users and, with a third of most viewed Stories created by businesses, it seems only natural that brands should be paying attention!
The past few years have seen me running the social channels for various brands across various industries, and I’ve tried and tested Stories in a variety of ways. I’ve used it to showcase catwalk shows and speakers at and event, go behind the scenes at TV ad shoots, created weekly features and given followers a peek at new season styles at press events. Yes, swipe up links and product tagging is great, but Stories are so much more than simply trying to sell your product. Stories does what the name implies. They tell a story.
Whether it’s your first foray into Instagram Stories for your business, or you’re looking for ways to up your story-telling game, here are just some of the ways you can make the most of Stories for your brand.
Go Behind the Scenes
People are inherently nosy, so give them something they can’t get anywhere else. Use Stories to share behind the scenes content, an insight into office life, or what the team are up to that day.
For example, a fashion brand might use their Instagram feed to showcase their latest collection on the catwalk, but use Stories to share backstage videos and images. A café could share photos of their delicious cakes and pastries on their feed, whilst choosing to capture behind the scenes of their latest food photoshoot for Stories.
Keeping the content on your Stories different to your main grid will give people a reason to watch, instead of aimlessly swiping past.
Use the Tools
Stickers, polls, GIFs, questions – Instagram Stories comes with a wealth of in-app tools to enhance your stories.
Polls and questions are a great way to get your followers engaged and involved, as well as gaining a little insight for yourself too. For example, a poll asking customers whether they prefer X or Y product/colour/style is a simple yet effective way to help make buying decisions etc.
Using location stickers not only does the obvious and shows where you are, but also helps your Story to appear on that location’s Instagram Story, in turn showing your content to a wider audience.
Whether it’s a session with the founder of your business, a special guest, or members of the team, Stories are a great format for a Q&A session.
Try Tuesday, Marks and Spencer’s online styling service, use Instagram Stories to offer style advice to their followers, whilst Cath Kidston recently took to Stories to chat to some of their team members for International Women’s Day.
If you’re planning a Q&A in video format, ask your followers in advance for their questions – not only will you be prepared, it also gives you the opportunity to promote the session ahead of time and create a little excitement for it.
Make it a Series
This is where highlights come in. If you’ve tried out something new on Stories that has been successful, why not make it a regular feature? Save past Stories to their very own highlight, and add to this every week. Think Meet the Team, weekly roundups of a ‘new-in’ section, or weekly tips. If people like it, they’ll keep coming back for it!
Personally, I’m a fan of blogger Hannah Gale’s ‘The HG Ten’ – a handy edit of what’s new on the high street. My bank balance, not so much.
Think About the Format
Stories are made to take up the full vertical screen, so make use of this! When it comes to mobile, attention spans are short and it’s easy for the user to quick swipe past your story. Think creatively and create content specifically for the Stories format that will engage the viewer from the get-go.
Caption Your Videos
Uploading a chatty ‘vlog’ style clip to Stories? I tend to watch the majority of Instagram Stories with the sound off, so love it when users caption or summarise their videos. More importantly though, this makes your content accessible to followers who may have hearing impediments, and be otherwise unable to listen to your content.
Instagram Stories are made to be ephemeral (if we forget about highlights for a moment). The 24-hour timeframe makes them the perfect place to try out something new or share content that may look otherwise out of place on your feed. Be creative and have fun with it!
Instagram, Instagram Stories, social media