Beyond the Feed: Using Instagram Stories to Boost Engagement in 2019

Instagram Stories - Stir MarketingLaunched in 2016, Instagram’s Stories feature has literally exploded in the few years since. If your business has been slow to adopt this creative marketing tool, it’s not too late – here’s how to do it right in 2019.

The definition of engagement on Instagram has changed in the past few years. Engagement on Instagram feed posts has declined, forcing brand managers and business owners to find other ways to amp up the results of their social media strategies. Highly influential Stories are proving to be one surefire way to build brand buzz, connect with followers, drive traffic and reinvigorate reach.

Since we last posted about what was only beginning to expand beyond an on-the-fly supplement to Instagram feeds, the use of Stories has not only grown — it has flourished.

With 400 million of the 1 billion monthly Instagram users using Stories daily (up from 300 million in October 2017), it’s become a unique and compelling platform in its own right; even leveraged as a separate marketing channel for those businesses serious about making the most of Instagram in their social media marketing and content strategies — which, frankly, most companies ought to be doing.

Are you struggling to get more likes and followers on Instagram? It’s probably time to rethink your strategy and join the over 25 million businesses using Stories to more readily engage with their followers. The below steps will help you to get started:

Instagram Stories: The Basics

“Instagram Stories is a feature that lets users post photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours. The feature feels much like Snapchat Stories….And like Snapchat, the photos and videos shared in your Instagram Story are ephemeral and can’t be viewed once 24 hours have elapsed. Content shared to stories also won’t appear on your profile grid or in the main Instagram feed.” (Buffer)

Your Stories can include photos and/or videos and be viewed, shared, jazzed-up (see: stickers) and more. You can create Stories from right inside Instagram or using a variety of third-party tools. Location and #hashtag tracking can be added to Stories, and you can find out who’s viewed it. You can even create a Stories “poll” (among other things) to encourage engagement. Instagram stories can’t earn likes or collect comments like regular posts, but Instagram Business Profiles with 10k+ followers can add links to their Stories to help drive targeted traffic.

These days, we’re seeing Stories not just as engaging (but vanishing) feed features — we’re also seeing them as fixtures in Instagram Profiles, called “Story Highlights”. “You can add stories to appear on your profile as highlights, even after they disappear. Highlights appear below your profile photo.” (Instagram)

Instagram Stories: Best Practices

Maintain Your Instagram Aesthetic

Your Stories should conform to your brand identity and the aesthetic you’ve already established on the channel. Stories content should be consistent with your feed, presenting a cohesive visual and brand messaging whole. Appearing conveniently at the top of the feed, if your Instagram Stories are easily identifiable with your regular post content, it will help encourage brand recall making your content more relevant to followers.

Treat Instagram Stories as its Own Social Channel

Creating quick, snappy updates about your products or services can immediately engage with your audience without having to create an entire Instagram post. Just as you craft and schedule Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook channel posts, you’ll want to be including Stories in your content calendar in 2019.

Post Stories Consistently and Often

Instagram Stories only last 24 hours and are meant to be watched and consumed continuously. Followers will look forward to consistent updates, so the more stories you post, the better. While they should conform to the aesthetic of your feed, it’s not necessary that they’re as perfectly curated as regular posts. Customers love Instagram Stories for the casual, spontaneous approach which invites them in. A story that resonates will allow your audience to relate, appreciating the authenticity and humanity of your brand.

Strive for Authenticity

Authenticity is HUGE — and Instagram Stories are the perfect way to convey and validate it! Stories encourage experiences, relationships and relatability where perfectly composed, overly edited photos simply cannot.

2018 saw the rise of a new breed of Instagram influencer, “laying it all out there” with the focus squarely on authenticity. For instance, body positive Jenna Kutcher embraced a down-to-earth (#nofilter), relatable, approach. The result? Growing her following by half a million followers in one year, from 166k to a whopping 700k+, without paying for a single one.

Count on authenticity becoming an even more popular Instagram marketing trend in 2019.

Behind The Scenes

“Behind-the-scenes” Stories are another way to provide followers a more intimate and authentic perspective of your brand, allowing followers to get to know you, your products and your services on a much more personal level, inspiring a greater sense of investment and trust. It’s a personal touch where your audience can get to know your business beyond the careful curation of your feed.

Make Your Stories Interactive

Helping to drive engagement with your Stories are stickers, hashtags, and location tagging. Include a link (if you’ve got a Business Profile, which you should) or an @mention to connect your brand to other users, creating a valuable spirit and culture of inclusion.

  • Stickers: Instagram Stories stickers provide a simple, fun, and free way to engage your followers and encourage investment and trust in your brand, content, and products or services. Some of these include interactive Q&As, polls, and sliders. Enhance user experience by adding poll or question stickers to gauge feedback from your audience and collect opinions. It enables you not only to gather insights about your audience, but it provides your followers with a compelling reason to interact with your posts.
  • Hashtags: Instagram Stories can be an interactive, highly “clickable” space and when viewers see something that they can click on, they are more likely to feel inclined to give it a try – great for hashtag stickers. Hashtags are terrific for grouping relevant content together, and encouraging individuals to become part of a hashtag campaign built by brands. Hashtags present the possibility (not all hashtags get searched, but it’s worth a shot!) of being seen by new eyes and could reach more views through the search of the said hashtag.
  • Locations: Like hashtags, locations have their own Stories too. Tag your Stories with the appropriate place, and your post may be added to the corresponding Story of your location. This opens your content to the potential of a whole new audience so it’s well worth doing.

Create a Sense of FOMO

Stories are a terrific place to share and promote time-sensitive deals and create FOMO (“fear of missing out”). Do this frequently, and your audience will be sure to keep an eye on your Stories looking for great deals. Creating a sense of urgency through marketing has always been an effective technique and it counts with Stories too.

Cross-post to Facebook Stories  

A LITTLE-KNOWN TIP: Keep your Facebook followers up-to-date by cross-posting all of your Instagram Stories directly to Facebook Stories.

Share User Generated Content  

Keep on top of your business’ Story mentions (UGC) and share the best of that content with your own following. It will encourage your audience to make Stories about your products or services, creating something of a free micro-influencer marketing campaign, not to mention free content!

Create Categorized Story Highlights

If you think your Story post only lasts 24 hours, think again! Give posts that most effectively showcase your brand a place to live that can be visited over and over again (see above, Story Highlights). If done well, Story Highlights can educate and impress newcomers (at a glance) as you build that invaluable sense of trust more readily.

Ensure Your Followers See Your Stories

It may seem too simple, but before you share great Story content, make sure you notify your audience. Don’t be shy about announcing to “check out our story” in your regular feed posts.

Apps to Customize Templates that Fit Your Brand Aesthetic

Using pre-made Stories templates is a fast and easy way to upgrade your content. It will also ensure that your Stories are designed and presented consistently — especially if you’ve got multiple team members managing social media. Below are a few popular apps to help you craft quality Stories, saving valuable time as you post cohesive, on-brand content that aligns with your marketing goals and business as a whole.

  • Unfold: Super user-friendly, the Unfold app is one of the most popular template apps for Instagram Stories. It offers a beautiful library of clean and modern templates right from your phone and can help you achieve the same clean and modern design so popular in many influencers’ feeds. Add photos from your camera roll or a selection of stock imagery, as well as text, quickly and easily, ready for uploading to your Stories. Conveniently, Unfold also lets you preview with ‘Story mode’ so you can see how your Story will appear on Instagram before hitting ‘publish’.
  • Canva: Create beautiful Instagram Stories templates for your business on your phone or your desktop with the Canva app. Simple and easy to use, this freemium online graphics tool offers a vast selection of beautiful templates to help your Stories stand out. Choose from millions of backgrounds, 130 different fonts, and tons of graphics to create customized templates to help your business stay on-brand.
  • InShot Video Editor: If you’ve ever been frustrated posting video that’s the wrong size, the InShot Video Editor is for you. Specifically designed to make your content the perfect fit for Instagram Stories, InShot lets you take your existing video and modify the aspect ratios as well as easily resize and crop to fit. You can also place your video on a background – plain or on an image uploaded from your device – to help stay on-brand with each video post.
  • Over: Whether you’re sharing inspirational quotes, tips or tricks, or are just looking to add some creative oomph to your campaign, Over lets you easily overlay text and graphics on your photos and videos. With the choice of a “gazillion” photos, fonts, graphics, templates, and tools to help you create high-quality, on-brand content, you can pick one of their many templates or DIY and build it from scratch.

Third-Party Stories Building Tools

Several of the top social media marketing dashboards offer tools to help with Instagram Stories:

  • Buffer offers free tools for creating both Instagram Stories and Instagram Stories templates.
  • Sprout Social allows for the creation, publication and scheduling of Stories inside the social dashboard.
    • Note: You’ll still have to click “post” manually via the app’s Push Notifications, choosing “Stories” (versus “Feed”) and adding stickers, caption etc.  
  • Using Hootsuite you can publish single-photo Stories, though not schedule them in advance.

Stories Ideas

Want to try Stories but still not sure what story to tell? The following make great Stories content:

  • Limited time offers
  • Countdowns
  • Giveaways, discounts and coupon codes
  • Lists
  • Announcements
  • Blog post/article promotion
  • How To’s
  • Polls
  • Shout-outs
  • Meet The Team
  • Influencer “Take Overs”
  • Behind-the-scenes
  • UGC features

Here are some great Instagram Stories examples via Adespresso — they follow “best practices” and the result in each case is eye-catching and engaging.

Ready to get started amping-up your brand’s performance on Instagram?

An experienced Instagram marketing agency can help to ensure you make the best use of your social media resources and produce Instagram stories that really “sing”. Get in touch with the Stir Team today.