Social media networking is growing up, and it’s changing faster than ever. Instagram was one of the biggest social media success stories of 2017, forcing the previous image-led favourite Pinterest into the shade. So what, exactly, are Instagram Stories? If you’re into Snapchat Stories, you’ll already be familiar with the idea. Here’s some insight to help you nail Instagram social media marketing in 2018.

About Instagram stories – Reactive, interactive and surprisingly powerful

Instagram delivers smart, super-polished imagery thanks to a host of magical filters designed to make even the most crappy image look fabulous. No wonder it has taken the social media world by storm. As we write the network has 300 million active daily users.

Instagram’s Stories function has been created to let users build a much richer story than a mere series of photos can manage. The stories are temporary, only hanging around for 24 hours before disappearing. The Story feature is very easy to use. And using it means you won’t end up burying your audience under an irritating amount of non-stop content, simply because you can post as many videos and photos to your story as you want without cluttering up your main news feed.

Make the most of Instagram Stories for marketing

A limited 24 hour lifetime means it’s important to pin down the best time of day to upload your Stories, the times when your audience is the most responsive. If you’re in the UK but most of your custom comes from the USA, for example, you’ll want to post your story and updates to it when the people you want to reach are actually awake rather than UK time when the USA is mostly asleep!

Reveal your brand’s creative side

Getting creative is fun. But ‘fun’ isn’t a good enough reason to get creative with your marketing. The idea is to use Instagram Stories to reveal different aspects of your brand: the creative side, the human side, the playful side. Having said that, it probably isn’t the right marketing medium for you if you run a funeral home, a hospice or any other kind of naturally serious business.

If it’s appropriate for your business to show off its creativity, your first step involves taking a photo or a video, then choosing one of three pen options to doodle on your photo, add an emoji or a colour filter. You could think about:

  • Creating a series of behind-the-scenes videos
  • Holding competitions, Q&A sessions, votes and discounts
  • Showcasing staff video bios
  • Providing a sneak peek of a new product or service
  • Giving genuinely useful product guides
  • Making visual jokes
  • Asking for people’s opinions

In short, Instagram Stories lets you humanise your organisation, something that consumers tend to react very positively to.

Perfect for direct response – Get your audience to take action fast

The 24-hour time-frame set in place by Instagram Stories is tailor-made for direct response marketing, a dream for direct marketing campaigns. The limited time-frame helps you to generate a natural buzz, and the deadline and a strong call to action push people to act within a specific time-scale rather than just thinking about acting or shelving it for later.

Let other Instagram Storytellers take over your account

Did you know Instagram Stories lets other people do ‘takeovers’ of your account? It could prove a marketing goldmine, asking loyal customers to act as brand ambassadors via a 24-hour takeover campaign to reveal how they use your product and why they love it so much. It could also be a total nightmare, so make sure your most loyal customers, your ambassadors, really are loyal before letting them loose on your account.

You could also swap accounts with similar brands with whom you’ve partnered, for example, a company that sells complementary goods to yours, or alternatives to yours. This opens the door for ‘story battles’, which can create a huge and exciting impact by combining two follower bases.

How do you make people sit up and take notice of your Instagram Stories?

Want to give it a go? You’ll find the Stories button at the top left of your Instagram feed. But there’s a caveat or two. Just as no other digital marketing medium is a magic bullet, Instagram Stories isn’t magic. It’s only as good as the stories you create, and building stories that real people will spend their precious time interacting with is a proper skill. It takes expertise to create the type of unpolished, casual-seeming content that delivers the best results.