Instagram is nowadays one of the best social media networks for marketers and advertisers. It has over 800 million users with 500 million users active on a daily basis. We are talking about an audience wider than that of Twitter and Snapchat combined, an audience that grows with approximately 100 million users each month.
Moreover, more than 70% of the total number of US Businesses is already using this platform as their main marketing social media platform. As a consequence, 7 out of 10 hashtags are already branded.
What’s great about Instagram is that the platform is also one of the best channels for a great return on investment.
According to HootSuite, Instagram drives in an engagement rate of 4.21%, which is 120 times higher than what a marketer can achieve on Twitter and 58 times higher than Facebook.
Successful apps and tools are, however, successful because they do not stagnate. Evolution is mandatory and the same thing happens with Instagram. In order to convince your users not to abandon you and spend increasingly more time on your platform, you need to come up with something new once in a while. In this case, that new and interesting thing was Facebook Stories, a featured that immediately caught on and became more popular than expected in a short span of time.
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What is Instagram Stories?
This post has already established the fact that Instagram is great for business. However, there are several types of marketing strategies that a marketer is able to create for this platform only. Instagram Stories constitutes a solid ground for an effective marketing strategy and during this article, I am going to describe the methods and advocate their effectiveness in the short and long run.
So, what is Instagram Stories and why should a marketer include this feature in their campaigns?
Well, Stories was launched last year as a clone of a similar SnapChat feature. However, it managed to quickly surpass its and competitor and get into the mainstream with over 300 million users worldwide in 2018.
Basically, with Stories, users are allowed to share with their fans and followers, slideshows of photos and short videos that are automatically deleted after 24 hours. This form of ephemeral content is not featured on users’ profile grids and neither on the main Instagram feed. As a consequence, in order to be able to view them, you need to be connected with the company or the user who shared them in the first place.
Later, a new feature was introduced, one that allows Instagram users to save their Stories and make them available to their followers for a longer period of time.
Why Include Instagram Stories in Your Marketing Strategy?
While all the important reasons have already been listed in the introductive section of this article, let’s add some other important data a marketer should consider before starting to include Stories in their marketing campaigns.
According to Mediakix, there are 2 times more stories posted by brands on Instagram than Snapchat. This means that marketers are already favoring Instagram as their major marketing channel and at the same time, that there’s a wider audience on it.
The same source suggests that in a single month, at least 50% of the brands active on Instagram have already posted at least one story.
This is not all there is. More and more marketers are becoming aware of the incredible returns of investment Instagram is able to deliver. They invest more in the platform, they produce more content. At the same time, 30% of Instagram users admitted having already made a purchase from a brand after they first heard about it on Instagram.
What Are the Correct Dimensions for Instagram Stories?
Images for an Instagram Story should be 1080x1920 pixels. That means a 9:16 aspect ratio as well. While other sizes can be uploaded, they will be cropped.
How Long Are Instagram Stories?
They run for up to 15 seconds. They disappear after 24 hours.
How to Use Instagram Stories as Your Campaign's Main Content Format
Well, first and foremost, you need a working Instagram account and a content producing strategy. Regardless of your final goals, it’s important to start on the right foot with any of your content marketing plans and in this case, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind before actually starting to post your stories such as:
- Your audience. It’s important to know a thing or two about the audience you are designing your messages for. Who are them? What’s the age group that your followers are a part of? What’s their social and economic status?
- Your goals. What is it that you want to achieve? Is it awareness? Or, do you want to drive in more sales? Maybe you want to gain more influence or to expand your audience? Whatever your goals may be, it is important to have them clearly stated before starting to work on your campaigns. In order to get from where you are now to where you want to be, you need to know what or where your destination is.
- Your visual identity. Stories are a form of ephemeral content which means that you don’t need to spend as much time brainstorming for ideas and designing the best possible slides. This is what the whole idea about this Instagram feature. It allows brands and individuals to be more creative by investing less in designs and more in spontaneity and truthfulness. However, this does not mean that you should neglect your visual identity and not take it into account. If you have such elements and they are popular among your audience or very well known, do not hesitate to include them in your Stories. You may benefit a lot from the awareness that is already there.
Apart from the above, you should also consider the type of content you are going to start publishing. At this point, you have several options such as:
1. Product-Based Content
Online shops and product manufacturers can leverage Instagram Stories by including some of their offers between their slides. Here’s an example from “The North Face” of a clever wordplay and a simple yet effective story that encourage their fans to shop for their bags:
2. Cultural/Social-Based Content
If you are not in the business of selling goods, then you will have the liberty to post anything you want. If you are selling experiences, you can tie your content to the official purpose of your business. For instance, travel blogs or travel agencies can post collages from their most important and valuable destinations.
Here’s an example from National Geographic, which shared a story about the most visited national parks:
3. User-Generated Content
Depending on how big is your fan base, you can leverage them to get even more awareness by challenging them to post on your behalf. You can either ask them to send you their pictures out of which you can design the stories or, you can ask them to publish their own stories. Their inputs can include branded hashtags, photos of products, services mentions and so on.
The greatest example in this case comes from Red Bull, the true king of today’s online user generated content. They’ve created a whole media company to deal with this kind of content. There are however, other great examples as well. Here’s an example from Airbnb:
4. Other Types of Content
There is no limit in what your stories can feature. It depends solely on your own inspiration and creativity and perhaps, the audience you are trying to engage with. For instance, you can announce company related news such as Ben & Jerry did in this example:
Or, you can provide valuable content, as this New York Time’s questions and answers story featured in the next image:
Tips on Driving More Engagement
Instagram provides you with numerous tools that you can use in order to attract more followers and convince them to engage with your brand. You may already know that accounts with more than 10 thousand fans can include a swipe-up slide on their stories and link back to their own web pages. Apart from this option which I am sure it will be more than beneficial for your campaigns, let’s talk a little bit about some other important options featured here:
Polls. One of the easiest and yet most effective ways to drive in engagement and to increase your sales or awareness on your brand, is through polls. You can insert simple and straightforward polls within the slides of your stories and ask people questions and let them answer.
A good example, in this case, comes from a cosmetics retailer, Nykaa, who presented their followers with a question and two answers which both led to a possible purchase decision.
Also, you can use the polls to get valuable data from your audience and conduct a simple yet thorough market research about information that you need in order to continue your campaigns or start new ones.
Geotags. There are a lot of stickers available for Instagram Stories. One of the most interesting and yet, more powerful of them is the geotag location sticker. Here’s an example of how a tagged story can look like:
Mentions. You can also use influencer in getting more attention from a larger audience. They can either mention your brand or, you can let them take over your stories and give yours and their followers inside looks at some exclusive content.
Here’s an example that comes from Maybelline New York, a cosmetics brand that used Jordyn Jones as an influencer for one of their campaigns.
Highlights: One of the most acclaimed updates the Stories received during 2017 was the introduction of highlights. This new option allows you to save your stories as an archive that will live on your Instagram Profile. This means that you can easily curate the content posted as stories and choose what your followers will see first when they land on your profile page.
Summary: The benefits of an Instagram Stories Marketing Campaign
- Instagram Stories is a free marketing and engagement tool.
- You can invite people to visit your website via the swipe-up feature.
- Video stories are being featured in the explorer section.
- You have creative and inspirational liberty. No need to focus on the design since the content is automatically deleted after a day.
- You can leverage influencers and geotag your posts.
- You can use Stories to drive in more customers, to raise awareness or in order to engage with your fans.
- You can also use this feature to share company related news, to promote new products or services, to announce new featured articles or podcast episodes.
Instagram Stories for Advertisers
We’ve established the fact that Instagram Stories is a great marketing tool. You can leverage it to expand your pool of fans, to raise more awareness on your brand or to drive in more engagement or sales. In short, Instagram may prove to be one of the best channels for your business marketing strategy. Did you know that Instagram Stories can also be used as an advertising channel? Did you know that you can post ads between the slides of other people’s stories? Well, you can and as a consequence, if your budget allows it, you can try this feature as well.
When you publish a story your reach is as high as the number of people that follow your Instagram account.
Stories Ads are featured on other peoples’ stories and therefore, your reach expands as much as your overall advertising budget allows it.
Moreover, you can take your time and design your ads the best you can. The better they look and the better you CTAs and copy texts are, the more likely is that they will be followed through.
Finally, while Stories can be a great marketing channel, if your reach is less than 10 thousand followers, you cannot make use of the swipe-up feature. As a consequence, you will not be able to drive your followers to your website. Ads do not depend on the number of your followers. As long as you have a budget to spend, you can spend the money the way you see fit. Of course, you can include a link on your advertising slide and drive people to your website, blog or shop.
Step 1: Design Your Banners
In order to get started with an advertising campaign, you need to design the banners you are going to publish on the aforementioned platform. There are many tools you can use at this point if you want to create a professional set of banners. If you are a designer as well, I am sure there are no secrets for you. However, if you are not a professional designer and your work revolves around marketing and advertising only, you might need a tool created especially for you.
My recommendation, in this case, would be Bannersnack. This is a web based professional design tool created for marketers that allows you to create and publish a beautifully looking set of banners for all social media platforms, including Instagram Stories Ads.
Step 2: The Campaign Set-Up
Considering that you have a clear budget and the will to start advertising on Instagram Stories, the first step you need to undertake after you have designed your banners is to set up the advertising campaign. In order to do that, you need to go to Facebook’s ad manager and follow each step that is necessary for setting up your personal approach to this new marketing strategy.
Step 3: Choose Your Main Objectives and the Targeted Audience
Apart from the banner itself, these are – or should be – the first things to be considered upon starting an advertising campaign. You need to clearly state your objectives because everything you will do starting from this point forward will depend on them. And, of course, at the end of the campaign, you will get to evaluate the whole endeavor based on the objectives you were able to achieve.
Once you do that, it’s time to select the channel where your ads will be published. In this case, you should select Instagram Stories. See the below picture for reference:
Also, it’s important not to forget another important aspect that needs to be dealt with in this section. I am referring to the selection of the audience based on the demographics that are important to your brand and to your already set goals. If you need guidance, try answering the following two questions:
To whom am I addressing my message?
Who are the people I should target with this advertising campaign?
It’s important to know the age group, where these people live, their social and economic status and so on.
Step 4: Set Up the Budget and Deliver Your Message
The final step is to set up your budget and start delivering your ads. There is no recommendation on how much you should spend on an advertising campaign of these sorts. However, it would be advisable to start slowly and if you have a big budget, to divide the campaign into a series of mini-campaigns. Thus, at the end of each one, you will be able to collect the stats and analytics and adjust your strategy according to the results.
How Will You Use Instagram Stories?
Instagram is a powerful marketing channel. It comes with a great deal of options for marketers and advertisers alike and it is able to deliver impressive results if used correctly.
Instagram is, however, more than a platform to share images and quotes. With Instagram Stories you can share experiences as well, engage with your audience in effective ways and reach out to new audiences via advertising.
With this article, I have tried to shed some light on the interesting features presented by Instagram Stories and introduce you to some of the benefits of using it as a marketing and advertising tool. Also, I have tried to pinpoint some of the most important and efficient ways you can engage with your audience through Stories.
What do you think about Instagram Stories? Did you already use it as a marketing tool?