When it was introduced, Instagram Stories was regarded suspiciously by Snapchat loyalists. With a very similar format, it’s not hard to see why, however, within its first-year Stories surpassed Snapchat’s usage figures and currently over 250 million people use Instagram Stories daily, far exceeding the 173 million people who use Snapchat every day.

Although it may have started fairly similar to Snapchat, Instagram Stories has now really come into its own with live video features, GIF content, the ability to add locations, hashtags and all other kinds of fun stuff, that we will discuss later in the blog. So, it’s no wonder that it is now leagues ahead of Snapchat. In fact, over 50% of businesses utilise Instagram stories, it’s growing as an advertising and marketing tool and we think people should be jumping aboard to make the most of it now.

The Features

Instagram Stories itself is a feature of Instagram, a very successful feature, as it has increased the user count to 800 million (300 million of which use stories each day) and the amount of time spent on the app to 28 minutes. However, we want to look at the big and important features of Instagram Stories that set it apart.

Of course, everyone was thrilled when they saw the inclusion of AR filters, which had been made famous by Snapchat. Who doesn’t love the puppy filter, right? But there are other elements of Instagram Stories that make it one of a kind. One of them is the live video option. This allows users to broadcast their content live to their followers, it is being adopted well by social influencers and vloggers all over the world as a way to instantly connect with their fanbase. Notifications are sent to your followers once you start a live video and they, and anyone else who wants to watch if your profile is public, can sit and watch you live. It’s pretty crazy when you think about it!

It may not seem it, but a live video function is a great tool for businesses as it could have so many uses. From event coverage to competition draws, the buzz around live content is always a lot more palpable. Like we said, it notifies your audience that you’re live, so it’s a great avenue if you’re looking to directly reach your followers and potential customers immediately. It’s definitely something worth considering as a business, live content could end up being a regular feature of your social media repertoire. However, you should remember that live video is an interactive format, meaning you will need to be regularly acknowledging comments from your live audience and inviting them to participate. It can also take some time for your audience to join before you can start, so make sure you’re able to ramble (with style) for a little at the start to let the audience build up.

Another feature that is being celebrated is the swipe up option. This allows you to attach a URL to your image or video and from there you can use a swipe up CTA, leading your users to swipe and head over to the attached URL. If you’re looking to get more users onto your website, you should be making use of this feature. It’s a very interactive way of getting people to engage with your content, we think a swipe is a little more fun than a click! Take a look at this screenshot of one of Vogue’s recent stories to see it in action.

Vogue magazine's instagram story

Another thing in use on this image is a simpler but appreciated element of Instagram stories, the ability to tag other users and use popular hashtags, making your content more likely to be seen, and also notifying the users you tag that they are featuring in your Instagram stories. Social media influencers are literally making a living from featuring branded content on platforms like Instagram Stories, it’s a pretty powerful tool and it’s currently not too over saturated with ad content. Not only is a great place to promote yourself, it’s also a great place to connect with people like influencers and other brands, opening doors to partnerships and opportunities. If influencer marketing is something you’re interested in, check out this blog by us for some great insights on how to make those partnerships happen.

The fun bits

Instagram Stories shouldn’t just be seen as a business platform for your company, you should also tap into those fun elements to connect more with your followers. There are endless small, fun features on this section of the Instagram app and using them in your businesses story would be a great way to get more people invested and interested in the daily happenings of your company. In these blogs we talk a lot about being more personal and more in touch with your audience, showcasing fun content with your followers, whether that’s an employee birthday or just all of you on a company night out having fun. It’s one of the best ways to break down the traditional barriers and personalise your brand (though still keeping it professional, of course!) to potential customers and the ‘fun bits’ of Instagram stories are a good way to do so.

Gifs, stickers and text can all be implemented into the video or the image that you share on your stories. Take a look at the snapshot from Buzzfeed Tasty’s Instagram Story on Sushi Day.

buzzfeed tasty's instagram story

As you can see, they have taken an already bright composition and made it incredibly eye-catching, with moving content, text and even colour blocking behind the text to make it jump out on the screen. All of these are simple and effective things to make your content seem more accessible, more fun and generally more aesthetically pleasing. There is a multitude of stickers and gifs on there for you to choose from - if you’ve thought of it they will probably have it.

Though everyone in the AD team loves a gif, there is also the option to include polls in your Instagram story, which is a fantastic way to get people engaged with your content. Take a look at the screenshot of a recent New Look Instagram Story.

New Look's instagram story

This was part of a World Cup true or false quiz that they were running (the answer was false by the way), not only is this very topical and well animated, making it immediately stand out, but it is also interactive. It’s hard not to partake in a poll when you see one, even if you don’t care about the outcome. This is also a successful feature on Twitter too (hm... there's a trend here), so think about how you can use polls like this to invite and engage the public.

Try combining these fun elements with the other features to get people to interact more with the content. Looking back at the Buzzfeed Tasty post, you can see they have encouraged people to swipe to see more, which leads us on to a couple of recommendations for great organic Instagram Story content:

  • Have a clear CTA - Instagram Stories are no different to any other social media platform, make sure you have a clear call to action. For example, “Swipe to see more” and “swipe up to read” are great ways to really tell the viewer what you want them to do.
  • Make sure your content stands out - there are so many ways to make the most of this platform, make sure your content is bold and stands out against the competition.
  • Use it to encourage people to head over to your actual Instagram page and engage with your content - something that is being done quite commonly now, particularly in the influencer realm, is taking a screenshot of your Instagram page, covering the most recent post with a fun sticker and then encouraging people to go over and view the content by clicking your username. It’s a little cheeky but we like it!
  • Use multiple stories to tell one long story - whether that’s content all following the same theme, like New Look’s World Cup true or false quiz, or it’s one long video chopped up into bite-size video segments for the platform, you can go further than just posting a bunch of unrelated content in your daily story. Get creative, nobody ever stood out for thinking inside the box.

A new form of advertising

At the start of this year, Instagram announced that they would be supporting full-screen ad content. As you will probably know, Instagram ads run mostly through Facebook’s Ad Manager (with the exception of their promote button on the app), so this update now allows you to upload a photo or video on Instagram Stories to Ads Manager. The ad will take up the full screen on mobile phones, creating a more immersive experience for mobile users who spend a lot of their time scrolling through content.

Then a few months later, they announced that they would automatically alter incorrectly sized ad content to suit their full-screen adaption. This change applies to any content that is either a single photo or a video that is under 15 seconds (and adheres to the Instagram Feed aspect ratios) they will also use pixel matching technology to make the experience seem more native, matching the added content colours to look more intentional. You can see the difference in the example below.

Hugo boss's instagram story

Image from Marketing Land

Social media users are mostly on-the-go, so this full-screen format is a good way to grab user’s attention and there is also the option to include links that users can view by making use of that swiping motion. If you already have an account on Facebook’s Ad Manager, that is putting out content, it’s likely that some of that content will be going out through Instagram and, by extension, Instagram Stories, so why not try some content tailored to it?

Overall, Instagram Stories are a tool that could be better harnessed by businesses, both for promotion and organic content. If this is something that you would be interested in making use of, but aren’t sure of how to get started, you can get in touch with us through the content form below!

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