Instagram Stories: Best Practices and Strategies on Sharing Your Brand Story

It’s barely been a year since Instagram released Instagram Stories, “a [new] feature that lets you share all the moments of your day, not just the ones you want to keep on your profile.” With 800 million active monthly users, Instagram’s introduction of stories was a direct play against Snapchat’s nearly identical feature which allows posters to develop photo-based narratives of their days. Just months after Instagram Stories upended the social media status quo, there was evidence it was cutting into Snapchat’s bottom line, with more individuals using Instagram Stories than Snapchat had active users. The importance of this for marketers can’t be overstated as it demonstrates Instagram’s growth as a channel for continually updated content. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first, what exactly are Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories Defined

Instagram rose to fame as the channel for posting high-quality, highly-edited, photos. These photos appear in an individual’s or brand’s “grid,” aggregating over time. Standard practice for most Instagram users is not to post more than one photo a day unless one is looking to build a grid collage, i.e., posting several photos at once that compose a larger image. Instagram Stories is a major shift for the social media site, shifting to transient content that invites users to make multiple posts a day, with the assurance that said content disappears after 24 hours. Now Instagram users get the best of both worlds; with their grid, they get a manicured collection of high-quality images, and with Stories, they’re allowed to rapid-fire images that suit a day. In the case of advertisers, Stories are a great way to highlight time-sensitive campaigns, pushing brands to the top of a viewer’s queue.

Story Basics

Instagram Stories are made for quick and painless positing, meant to incite impulse overthinking. There are two ways you can “add” to your organization’s story. The simplest way is to go to your profile’s page and click on your icon. From here you’ll be prompted to “Open Camera,” and “Add to Your Story.” You can also add to your story from your Main Feed, by clicking on the camera icon in the top left corner. If you’d like to add images or videos to your story from your camera roll, this is also an option, from The Verge, “You will notice a small icon on the bottom left of the screen next to the flash icon. This will have a thumbnail of the latest media in your camera roll. You can click this to unveil your photos and videos from the last 24 hours. The other way to do this is to swipe your screen down.”

Moving beyond simple posting strategy, Instagram Stories has slowly and successfully been adding on to their user interface over the last fifteen-months. Users can post geotagged stickers to their stories, layer in text or color, and of course, add a filter to the image. Verified accounts, those with big follower numbers, can even add URLs to their stories. This is a huge boon to verified accounts, and if your brand hasn’t already, this should push you towards verification. Being able to link within the Stories interface creates a new framework for lead generation since previously your only option for linking came from within your profile.

Instagram Stories: Best Practices Introduction

Because Instagram Stories already have a massive following, our best practice suggestions are multi-sourced, and are for both the novice and practiced poster alike. We’ve also tried to keep our suggestions unique for the Instagram interface; we will leave Snapchat Stories best practices for another post. So, without further ado, here are some ways to capitalize on Instagram Stories:

  • Host Time-Sensitive Promotions: This suggestion fits nicely into the 24-hour window that Instagram Stories cater to. By linking to a given promotion or giveaway, you create a sense of urgency and reward those already following you, since stories will only be visible to those already in your Instagram universe. For this reason, hosting promotions through stories are also a great way to see how active your following is with your story content, and you’ll be able to develop some baseline metrics for measuring the percent of your followers who view your stories.
  • Build a Narrative: It’s hard to get fans of your product to view a video the entire time through, that’s why shorter videos tend to fare better when shared on social media. Stories create a great opportunity to share a segmented narrative that cumulatively builds a unique, you guessed it, story. By using the Instagram Stories feature, you can aggregate different perspectives or parts to your narrative and subsequently see which segments drove viewer engagement. Now that makes for some strong social media analytics!
  • Highlight Your Followers: Instagram Stories allows for brands to break from their more formal posture and be a little bit more silly and creative. Stories are a great opportunity to take follower submissions and highlight them, and people love it when the brands they like show them some love.

There are several statistics that suggest Instagram Stories aren’t simply another micro-fad in the chase for social media marketing dollars. Unlike some social media tools that look out of place when used for marketing, one-third of the most viewed Stories are from business profiles. Furthermore, 70 percent of stories are viewed with the sound on, a unique multi-sensory component that few other social mediums have been able to facilitate. There is little doubt that engaging Stories now, and doing so smartly, will pay unlimited dividends for your organization.