Instagram Stories is a new(ish) feature on the Instagram app that continues to confuse people as much as it entertains but how can they fit into your marketing strategy in a way that enhances it?
The Elephant in the room
First of all, if this sounds familiar it's because it is very familiar. The look, feel, and even the interface of Instagram Stories is incredibly similar to Snapchat Stories.
This is somewhat of a philosophy with Instagram's owner, Facebook — if it ain't broke don't fix it — so to me it wasn't particularly surprising how similar Instagram Stories was to Snapchat when it was released. They saw something that worked and found a way to adopt it.
What Makes Instagram Stories Different?
Most of the time, an app can rely upon its unique interface and, more importantly, it's user-base ensuring even if something very similar is made that it won't be fast adopted outside of that particular app.
So what makes Instagram Stories successful? With 300 million active daily users (of which 200 million use the stories feature vs 160 million on Snapchat), Instagram has a huge audience and that makes seeding such a feature much easier. They also have a different way of working to Snapchat. Where Snapchat feels private, and many report using it to talk to family or friends, Instagram's interface — a feed that feels quite traditional and familiar — lends itself to audience growth.
On the surface the two seem similar but the fact that Instagram Stories surpassed Snapchat in April of this year suggests they're very different.
So How Do You Use Instagram Stories?
A benefit of Instagram Stories being so similar to Snapchat is that once you've mastered one you'll find the other easy to adopt too. With Instagram Stories, a user's stories appear at the top of your feed in circular icons you might also been familiar with on Snapchat.
Click on the icons, and you'll be taken through a user's stories over the last 24 hours. Tap to skip and if you're viewing a verified account you can swipe to access links. Very straight forward.
Posting Instagram Stories is just as simple. Tap on your own Stories icon and take a picture or video (hold down the shutter button to take a video). Add text, stickers, and draw in a manner that's very similar to Snapchat.
What Content to Post
There are quite a few options for content on Instagram Stories — some similar to other apps and others unique to Instagram. Right now I find reverse videos (they are exactly what you're thinking and a lot of fun!) and Instagram live interesting but you can also post video, images and boomerangs (stop motion like photography based on an app Instagram own). If you're brave enough you can even do hands-free posting...
With all these options your content plan can be very varied. I'm seeing a lot of brands stick with video and images right now — that's okay, that's what they're comfortable with — but there are big rewards for those who dare to be bold.
Why to Post
Instagram Stories allow you to interact with your audience in a fun and immediate way. The transient nature of the posts (they stay for 24 hours only — although you can download your own stories before you post them for your records) means you can offer flash deals or run takeovers getting your audience to ask questions of employees, loyal customers, or other social influences running your account for a short amount of time.
In general, Instagram Stories can spice up any digital campaign capturing different kinds of engagement (there are no likes on Instagram Stories, only views, but you could measure engagement by replies).
There's something very genuine about Instagram Stories too — you can't really edit a story. In the age of photo filters and edited content this can refresh your brand and allow you to offer what feels like a genuine connection with your audience.
Authenticity is a key part of any campaign online these days. To see success you need to display a degree of genuineness. When it comes to Instagram Stories the door is ajar, you just have to open it.