Imagine this: You're on your way to work, headphones in, checking your Instagram to pass the time. With one click on a profile picture at the very top of your screen, you are treated to a series of short films and photos made by many of the fine accounts you follow. These might be funny, informational, promotional... but for the most part, you watch them if they're valuable for some reason.
If you land on something boring or confusing, with a quick swipe left you move on the to the next one. Everything you've already watched or have skipped will disappear within 24 hours.
These are Instagram Stories, and they’re front and center as soon as you log onto your Instagram account. Some Stories are also saved on user profiles as Highlights, maybe from a trip someone's taken or marking a certain holiday. They're usually interesting, they're updated very frequently, and they're not going anywhere (especially since these stories have essentially replaced Snapchat.) So, if you're running an Instagram account for your business, are you using them yet?
This week, we’re looking at stellar Instagram Story examples from different companies that we hope will inspire you to try this tool out. Stories are one more way to keep your followers engaged with you, test different kinds of visuals in a low-stakes way, and let you be creative. They will also give you great information about who is looking at your content (since you can see who's viewed your stories!).
At first look, Instagram Stories seems just like another thing to add to your social media workflow. You might already be pinning, posting, and Tweeting; do you really need to add Stories too? If Instagram is an important part of your social media strategy, yes, you should. They’re awesome for two main reasons:
- They don’t last forever, unless you want them to: How long do you spend composing and filtering your Instagram post so it perfectly fits into the aesthetic of your feed? You don’t have to worry about this with Stories! They only last for 24 hours after you post them, unless you want to save them to your Highlights. You can post more often and and more freely without cluttering anyone’s feeds, and you can try out different creative ideas without having to keep it published forever.
- They offer a new way to engage: When you post a Story, you can add a poll, ask a question, add a link that directs to your website... This is a great way to start a conversation directly with your followers and get instant feedback, especially if you're offering a new product or redesigning something.
📷 8 Ways to Tell an (Insta)Story 📷
- Amp up the engagement: Airbnb goes beyond just posting inspirational travel pics, although those are pretty cool too. They use Instagram Stories for their Travel Tuesday series to post a picture from somewhere in the world and ask users where they are. It’s a fun and low-key way to engage users (and maybe spark some #travelinspo, in which case they can use Airbnb to book their stay).
- Make a sale: Stories are great for showcasing products in a new way. Check out how Nordstrom Rack held a “fashion show” with their Stories, not only allowing them to show off their new products, but to include tips and tricks for styling. Providing value along with style inspo gives users a reason to keep following!
- Be silly: Since Instagram Stories are less formal than your feed itself, it’s a wonderful place to show off a company’s personality. See how BarkBox conducted a “doggie interview." It showed the brand’s creativity and was super adorable and fun. Plus, who doesn't like puppies? Always feature a puppy!
- Amplify your work: NASA regularly uses Stories to offer background, additional information, research, and employee insights. They often ask employees why they’re proud to work at NASA, or tie in current events like the Oscars as an excuse to talk about how they use gold in spacecrafts. Check out their Highlights to see different ways they tie in emojis and gifs to make facts more exciting, and illustrate videos like A Tour of the Moon.
- Link it up: This is straightforward and just a best practice, really: You can add a call to action to your story for viewers so that they click a link or swipe up to view a webpage. This is a great way to drive web traffic to your latest blog post or product! But keep in mind that your followers don't want to be sold to all the time, 24/7; they're part of your community! Entertain, inspire, delight, and tell a good story, and they'll be around for longer than a one-time purchase.
- Showcase your stakeholders: Sometimes it can be hard for your audience to feel connected to the work you’re doing, especially when you’re a global organization. The NGO Care France used Instagram Stories to showcase the everyday lives of seven women from the other side of the world to offer insights into what life is like in a developing country. It showed the value of their work as the women shared their struggles and celebrations of life including seeking asylum, raising their children, and receiving donations. And it helped their followers be able to imagine what a donation could do for women like these.
- Take action: Nonprofits need to both explain why what they do is important AND drive action. They can achieve both in Instagram Stories. DoSomething.org often offers facts about issues in their Instagram Stories and then directly asks the user to message them to learn what they can do to take action. They're immediately available to answer questions via DM and guide you to the next best step, whether you want to volunteer or donate. Stories help them be there when you're inspired to get involved, so it's not a missed opportunity.
- Peek behind the curtain: Instagram Stories are a way you can show your audience what really happens at your office or wherever you might work. Adorable stationary and fashion company Ban.do basically broadcasts their every move on Instagram Stories. They tell their users what’s new at the company, take them behind the scenes at photoshoots, showcase the designers they work with, and offer up sneak peaks of products. Their followers feel involved, almost like they're part of the team, and that helps them invest in the products and the success of the company overall! This is particularly good for anyone making something beautiful or complex (like an artist or a chef), or if you don't have a product, you can bring followers along for a cool event or an inspiring training. Just make sure it's actually exciting.
Are the ideas flowing yet? Give Stories a go if you already know how to make them; if you don't, next week we’ll go over best practices so you can up your Insta-game even more.